Beef pho in a bowl.
Beef pho is one of the many delicious dishes you should indulge in while in Hanoi.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Best Ways to Soak in the Sights, Sounds and Tastes of Hanoi

What Will You Find in Hanoi?

Hanoi is an exciting city where age-old traditions and modern developments exist side by side. There’s no better way to experience the city than getting lost in the Old City, dining on street food, shopping and strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake.

While the country is so small you could easily pack all the highlights into 10 days in Vietnam, if you want to really soak up the Vietnamese culture, you should spend a good chunk of your time in Hanoi.

To help you get the most out of your trip, we’ve rounded up our picks of the best things to do in Hanoi.

Eat Street Food

The street food in Hanoi is some of the best in the world. Indulge in Vietnamese specialties on tiny stools at street food stalls, or grab some for takeaway and enjoy it at one of the lakes in Hanoi for a more laid-back experience. Some of the more familiar dishes will be pho and banh mi, which are both popular in the West.

You’ll certainly want to get your pho fix and whether you go for pho bo (beef) or pho ga (chicken) — you’ll find both on offer at plenty of establishments around the city, especially early in the day. Pho Gia Truyen is our favorite place for beef pho, whereas we choose Pho Lam Nam Ngu when we are looking for chicken pho.

Bun cha, a fried seafood roll, is one of the most famous dishes in Northern Vietnam. One of our favorite places for bun cha is Nha Hang Thanh Hop, but expect it to be busy. Banh mi enthusiasts will find plenty of options as well. We always make sure to stop by Hoi An Banh Mi when we are in Hanoi. It’s a chain with several branches around the city.

Wash it all down with a delightfully strong Vietnamese coffee. There are tons of hip cafes and street stalls selling variations of the signature drink.

Busy Streets in Hanoi Old CityShopping in the Hanoi Old City is a quintessential experience — don't be afraid to get lost!Photo Credit: Getty Images

Shop in the Old City

Shopping the tiny shophouses and bustling markets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is one of the quintessential activities for visitors. You’ll find virtually everything from chintzy souvenirs to coffee beans to coffins (no joke!). Each type of good is lumped together, so you will find streets that specialize in one specific item.

You’ll definitely feel lost your first time wandering the shops, but we feel like that’s part of the experience. Make sure you pay close attention where you are walking as the car and motor bike traffic can be a bit intense.

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Stone building on small island in middle of lake.Hoan Kiem Lake is a popular place to relax and get away from the busy city streets.Photo Credit: Melanie Grosjean

Hoan Kiem Lake

Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the best ways to experience Hanoi just like a local. The lake is popular place to relax, stroll or enjoy a peaceful moment away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets. The lake is surrounded with tourist attractions and beautiful architecture.

After enjoying a relaxing afternoon stroll, watch the sunset from a cafe with a view of the lake. There are plenty of cafes on the fourth and fifth floors in the areas surrounding the lake.

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