Vietnam’s capital is a sensory overload kind of place where ancient architecture, age-old traditions and vibrant street life synchronise beautifully.
Eat and drink
This place began life as a no-frills distillery in the late Nineties. Named after the road that connects the city with its mountain country to the north (where many of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities live), it quickly garnered popularity with locals and tourists alike. Serving up traditional country-style cuisine amid authentic Vietnamese surrounds, dishes are complemented by plenty of local herbs. Go for the catfish spring rolls, or try one of the daily specials, which always come highly recommended.
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On tree-lined Lo Duc in the historic French Quarter of the city, squeeze onto the wooden benches in this tiny eatery that dates back to 1979 and be prepared to taste some of the best pho in all of Vietnam. Bowls of steaming broth flow from the kitchen piled high with shreds of meat, delicate green onion and lots of garlicky goodness. Make like the locals and add a squirt of lime, pickled chillies and hot sauce in this family-run eatery that will keep your wallet heavy.
Pots n Pans
If you want to splash out, then a visit to this well-frequented spot makes sense. Taking Vietnamese cooking and doing it differently is the motto at this fine-dining fusion that blends methods from the east and west. It’s pricier than a lot of other eateries but the open kitchen is staffed mostly by alumni of KOTO – a Hanoi non-profit initiative that prepares former street kids for careers in the world of hospitality. Try the vegetarian cannelloni or go for the beautiful braised duck – you won’t be disappointed.
Hilton Hanoi Opera In trendy Hoan Kiem, this hotel certainly has the wow factor thanks to its marvellous old-world architecture. Right next door to the Opera House, it’s smack bang in the centre of the city and exudes a faux-colonial elegance that blends well with its neoclassical neighbour. Great service, spacious rooms and an excellent Vietnamese restaurant make this a good choice for your stay in the City of Lakes. Sofitel Legend Metrople Hanoi A historic luxury landmark since 1901, this place evokes feelings of glamorous bygone eras thanks to its grand persona. For something different, explore the hotel’s recently discovered wartime bomb shelter. Otherwise, dine in Spices Garden for fine examples of Vietnamese specialities.
See and do
Explore the French Quarter
A world away from the chaos of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, this area is all wide-open streets, majestic buildings and tree-lined promenades. Easy to walk around, start at the statue of Ly Thai To and head east along Le Thach Street. Be impressed at the grand government buildings, then marvel at the imposing Opera House, where you might be lucky enough to catch a performance. The National Museum of Vietnamese History is also well worth a visit and just around the corner is the Army Hotel, where the swimming pool is open to the public.
Finish up with a scoop of Hanoi’s most famous ice cream, Trang Tien, at the bottom of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Cross the Red Bridge
Peaceful and quiet, Hoan Kiem Lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda that sits proudly on a small central island. One of the city’s most visited sites, it was built in and is accessible via the iconic Huc Bridge, a scarlet-hued wooden bridge that’s a must for photo opps. Explore the temple on the other side then sit back and watch the locals. Discover the Old Quarter If you want to get a real feel of Hanoi’s history, then the Old Quarter is a must-visit. Let yourself be immersed in the hustle, bustle, colour and noise as you wander ancient streets. Take a walk through Dong Xuan Market to see locals going about their daily business and haggle for interesting souvenirs. Take a seat on one of the small plastic chairs on the sidewalk and tuck into tasty street food at next-to- nothing prices, and don’t miss the colourful water puppet show, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.
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Every year on 3 February, the streets of Hanoi are draped in red as the city celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party. Expect parades, music and celebrations with all houses facing the main streets hanging giant national flags – making it a great photo opportunity. commemoration of the 13th-century military leader Trang Huan Dao who was known for his bravery in his battle against the Yuan Dynasty. The island that the temple is built on is called Jade Island.