Traveling to Hanoi? Good choice! Oh boy, Hanoi. I have never witnessed more captivating chaotic energy in my life. When you walk down the streets of Old Quarter, you just feel so energetically alive. However, you also feel like you might get side-swiped by a scooter. #beepbeep #scootscoot #getouttheway
When you travel to Hanoi everyone is very welcoming and extremely happy. While talking with the locals I would ask if they were having a good day and the response was often “everyday is a good day”. New mantra! Let’s all live this way.
I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in Hanoi, Vietnam surrounding their New Moon New Year, and I have a Hanoi Travel Guide on the 10 absolute must-dos as a visitor:
1. Get lost in Old Quarter
There is so much charm and culture in Old Quarter Hanoi that you will be entertained at every turn. From the toy stores, antique shops, kids-plastic-table dining, happiest Vietnamese women selling produce or donuts, and scooter apocalypse– you will be mesmerized.
I recommend staying in Old Quarter Hanoi because it is the heart of Hanoi and walking distance to so many cafes, restaurants, and shops. We stayed at two different hotels in old quarter for under $60/night including breakfast which I highly recommend both:
A few highlights of Old Quarter: You will find the locals eating at small plastic tables in kiddy chairs on the sidewalk– join them! You will also find so many fun street markets and unique street food.
The shopping in #OldQuarter is also incredible when it comes to quality over price. If you have room in your suitcase, definitely go those made-in-Vietnam retailers for clothing and trinkets.
Hoan Kiem Lake is a sweet escape from the hustling streets of Hanoi. You can take a walk around the lake and stop for a quick break at a lakeside cafe. Thuy Ta lakeside cafe has delicious ice creams, even ice cream infused with alcohol which makes for a perfect afternoon snack.
Walk across the red bridge to the confucian Ngoc Son Temple, the Temple of Jade Mountain. This temple is very photogenic.
3. After a lake walk, stop at Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square
Located on the lakes perimeter here. In the evening, this square lights up with chaos. Then, you can get back into the crowds of Old Quarter.
4. Drink Vietnamese coffee
From egg coffee to coconut coffee, you must try the sweet caffeines!
Here are my top coffee recommendations:
- Coffee A for egg coffee and a comfortable second floor seating area (perfect for working)
- Kalina Cafe across from the lake for amazing coffee and breakfast
- The Note Coffee pictured below is a 4-story coffee shop full of post-its from around the world. Grab a coffee and leave your note on the wall (or ceiling, or chair, or window).
5. Spend time at Beer Street (Beer Circle) in Old Quarter
You must people watch at #beercircle especially on a Friday or Saturday evening when the restaurant employees are competing for potential customers walking through. We witnessed a waiter slap a tourist on his belly saying “I know you’re hungry- come on in”. #nofilter #hustlers
Here is the Beer Circle map for you: drink beer here — Bia Hoi Corner is at the intersection of the streets Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen.
Around the corner from beer corner you must hang out at Blues Bar where they play live music many evenings.
6. #Pho hop
Vietnamese food is honestly amazing and you must eat traditional pho while in Hanoi.
In Hanoi, traditional Pho is a classic dish of just rice noodles and meat-based broths, and the simplicity is delicious. Many of these pho restaurants are holes-in-the-wall serving just one type of homemade broth in one big pot. For beef lovers check out Pho Surong and for chicken-goers check out Pho 26.
7. Go to the railroad track and enjoy a coffee or beer
The train runs directly through the city of Hanoi within extremely tight corridors which makes for some amazing photos. There are multiple cafes lining the train track where you can enjoy coffee, tea, or Tiger beer. The train comes in full-speed around 3:30pm in the afternoon– be careful and stand as close to the walls as possible! Railway Cafe is a great place to stop.
8. Eat a LOT and visit some rooftops:
- Go to Downtown Cafe for Vietnamese fusion. Best spring rolls ever!
- Eat at Hungry Hanoi and indulge in their 2 for 1 happy hour with a 4th floor terrace view. Hungry Hanoi also serves delicious noodle soup before 5pm.
- Central View is a must for lunch and another great view
- Head to Diamond SkyBar to chill on an incredible rooftop and a great happy hour
- Eat lunch at Hanoi Garden for more upscale Vietnamese – the chicken stir fry and fried noodles are BOMB
- Eat at New Day for traditional rice, noodles, and stir fry dishes
- Looking for a traditional brunch?? #Brunch at The Hanoi Social Club
9. Have a cocktail at a few #Speakeasys
10. When in Hanoi, you must take an overnight trip to Halong Bay for 1 to 2 nights:
Halong Bay is so peaceful and SO beautiful, but you have to do it right. We did 2 days on 2 different boats and had different experiences. Depending on what you’re looking for you might like one more than the other.
We left out of #HalongBay proper on an old bay boat called V Spirit and it was classic and rustic (a little gritty). However, there were 25+ boats surrounding us the entire time which made it feel very touristy. For just an additional $30-50/night you can jump from a Halong Bay junk boat to a “luxury boat”. The best boats exploring Halong Bay leave from #HaiphongBay which is a LOT more peaceful and remote.
MonCheri is a floating Ritz C but the value is 10000% — we loved this ship including the private balcony, comfy beds, activities, and delicious food. Here you go: MonCheri
10 1/2: Just embrace everything this city and culture has to offer!
You must visit this beautiful country- please email me firstname.lastname@example.org for any additional tips and guidance for Hanoi, Vietnam.