What to Visit in Hanoi, Vietnam ? – Page 1

The main pages about Hanoi :

Hanoi – Orientation – Maps

See this interactive Map, with the places mentioned on this page :

  1. Points in Green : City Center (lake, old quarter, cathedral)
  2. Points in Blue : Tourist Attractions
  3. Points in Red : Transport (Train and Bus stations + Airport)

I have grouped the Tourist Attractions in zones :

What to Visit in Hanoi :

Zone 1 (walking distance from the central lake)

The Lake – Hoan Kiem

The lake Hoan Kiem is the heart of Hanoi, people are walking around it day and night.

It is 650 meters long (don’t be confused with the big lake that you see on Hanoi maps, which is the “west lake” and much, much bigger). There are several lakes in Hanoi, and they add a lot to the beauty of the city (in Saigon, no lakes).
It is at sunset that life around the lake is the most interesting, there are regular groups who come to do sports with music or to dance.

And even Salsa, on the week ends :

and there are people who just sit on the benches and watch the lake.

Temple of the Jade Mountain on the lake + Red Bridge

There is a small temple located on an “island”, on the north, right corner of the lake.

There is a small entry fee to access this temple.

There is a Turtle, inside :

It is nice to be there at sunset.

The famous red bridge is leading to this temple :

Some nice gates, before the bridge :

Square “Kinh Nghia Thuc”

It is located on the top, left corner of the lake and it is very, very central.

There is a building with cafés and terraces and these cafés are always full with customers because there is a beautiful view over the square, the lake and the traffic.

Old Quarter – Hanoi

Old Quarter North of the lake :

The most animated area of Hanoi. It is also the main nightlife zone of Hanoi. Don’t miss this area at night.

Market – Dong Xuan

This is the main market of Hanoi, situated on the north part of the old quarter.

There are also stands outside the building. The most sad part of Vietnamese markets, is the animals sold for eating, like these turtles:

The all northern part of the old city, is a big market (between the lake and the building of the market) :

Also at night :

The “night market” is a very long street filled with stands, going from the main building of the market, and almost till the lake :

Water Puppet show

A traditional type of show in Vietnam, in which puppets are moving in a small pool of water. They are manipulated by actors at the back stage, who are invisible to the public.

There is also an orchestra on both sides of the stage, with musicians playing on tradition Vietnamese instruments (quite special music instruments, not common in western countries).
There is also a narrator, telling a story in Vietnamese, with dramatic tone. Although it is in Vietnamese, foreigners are still enjoying the show because the plot is quite simple. It tells stories of the everyday life of traditional Vietnamese farms, like for example a fisherman who is trying to catch a fish. There is often a funny ending.

Manipulating the puppets requires a lot of dexterity and there are some secrets of the profession which are passed from generation to generation.
At the end of the show (after about 1 hour), the puppet manipulators present themselves to the public :

And you can buy a souvenir from the shop :

There are several Puppet shows in Hanoi (and in other Vietnamese cities), but the most popular one within tourists is the one adjacent to the lake, on the north, right corner.

Puppet show - Hanoi

There is a difference in price, depending on the seat position :

Old Quarter Left of the lake :

A lot of budget hotels in this area, cafés and restaurants. However for intense nightlife, the north part is more active than the left part.

Church – St. Joseph’s Cathedral

The church was built in 1886 by the French, in Gothic style.
It is a very central square.

Cafés are all around.

Old Quarter South of the lake :

Opera House – Hanoi

It was built by the French between 1901 and 1911.

It is a “chic” area with French restaurants (not always authentic) and French bakeries. Also a lot of embassies in this zone.

In one of the Patisserie in the area, I found this imported chocolate from France. At the beginning I thought there was an extra zero in the price.

The Opera house is also beautiful in the evening :

Museum – Hoa Lo Prison

It was used as a prison in 2 eras :

  1. By the French colonists, to jail political dissidents.
  2. During the Vietnam war, by the north Vietnamese  to jail captured American soldiers, especially pilots.

Now, it is a museum :

It is in the era of the French colonialism that there were cruelties in this prison :

Prisoners were kept in horrible conditions :

Some were executed :

There are also stories of escape, via the plumbing system.

In the Vietnam war, the prison was used to keep captured pilots. Apparently they were kept in good conditions.

One famous prisoner, was the senator John McCain (who died in 2018).
John McCain airplane was shot and he fell into a lake and was captured :

He was injured and treated :

Later, he returned to visit the prison :

The museum gives quite a lot of information about the Vietnam war

This is a famous bridge in Hanoi :

Ticket price : 30,000 Dong

Vietnamese Women’s Museum

The museum is dedicated to the women of Vietnam :

It is about culture, ethnicity and history, all focused on women :

It is an interesting visit and also emotional :

Especially the section that treats the role of the Vietnamese women during the wars :

Like these women :

Some were tortured

Some were executed at a very young age

The museum is about fashion and culture

About ethnicity (which is also treated in Hanoi ethnicity museum)

It is about working women, in hard labours

Like street vendors :

There are more women than men visiting this museum (at least when I was there)

Ticket price : 30,000 Dong

The Traffic in the old quarter

Yes, it is a tourist attraction, something special. As in all Vietnam, the vehicles have practically the priority over pedestrians :

And motorbikes are parking everywhere :

Making the sidewalk, useless for pedestrians (you need to walk on the road)

For inexperienced tourists, it could be difficult to cross a street :

Luckily, on the week-ends, the area around the lake is closed to traffic :

And then, it is a real feast for pedestrians :

I wish this custom will be extended to other cities in Vietnam

Continue to Page 2 of Hanoi Tourist Attractions 

The main pages about Hanoi :

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If you find incorrect data on this page, like a restaurant that has closed or a big river that has moved or you want to tell me something, please write me to contact.