7 Awesome Things to Do in Hanoi

Hanoi is full of surprises. Don’t just stick to the Old Quarter. Here is our pick of the most awesome hidden gems in Hanoi.

A mess of motorbikes and merchants as well as serene lakes and temples; Hanoi has come a long way from its secretive past and was named as TripAdvisor’s 8th most popular destination in the world in 2017. Peek underneath the surface of Hanoi and layers of history will reveal themselves. You can find vestiges of periods of French and Chinese occupation everywhere, offering a glimpse into the resilience of ambitious, proud Hanoians. There are literally thousands of things to do and see in this vibrant city. However, most tourists never make it out of the shops and bars in the city’s famous Old Quarter! For the essential ‘off-the-beaten-track’ experience, here is our pick of the seven most awesome things to do in Hanoi. Enjoy!

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Visiting a corpse isn’t perhaps the first thing you’d expect of doing whilst on holiday. However, Ho Chi Minh’s indelible impression on the people and history of Vietnam, Hanoi in particular, is a fascinating and enriching thing to observe. To understand Ho Chi Minh’s story is to understand the context of modern Vietnam. His legacy is still very much a part of living history in Hanoi, and his somber mausoleum a testament to the country’s Soviet influences.

Attention, the mausoleum closes every year during several months for maintenance during 2019 it was closed from June to August.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ha Noi
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ha Noi

Price: Free
Open Tuesday – Thursday 7:30 – 10:30 am., Saturday – Sunday 7:30 – 11:00 am
Address: 2 Hung Vuong, Dien Ban, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Museum of Ethnology

Located outside the city center, around 7km away in Cau Giay district, Hanoi’s museum of ethnology is a well-curated and underappreciated tribute to Vietnam’s diverse, beautiful and complicated ethnic heritage. The exhibition is a must-visit along the things to do in Hanoi. Its hall features everyday objects representing each group, a research center, library and auditorium. This fabulous collection includes tribal art, ancient artifacts and helpful infographics. But the true stars of the show are the reconstructed ethnic houses out in the beautiful gardens. Here, you will find an authentic Tay stilt house and a Viet house complete with indigenous foliage, each separated by a small stream and reached via little bridges. Displays are well labeled in Vietnamese, French and English, and multilingual guides are available for an extra 100,000 VND.

Hanoi’s museum of ethnology
Hanoi’s museum of ethnology

Price: adult/concession 40,000/15,000 VND
Open Tuesday – Sunday 8.30 am – 5.30 pm
Address: Nguyen Van Huyen, Quan Hoa, Cau Giay, Hanoi

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

For history lovers, this is a must. Known as the citadel of Thang Long, now a popular spot for the Hanoi tourism, this grand UNESCO World Heritage site marks the ancient political center; a reign which lasted for 13 centuries. It was also Vietnam’s ancient capital, which lasted for eight. The central flag tower of the citadel stands 40 meters tall and was constructed on the remains of a Chinese fortress dating from the 7th century, on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Price: Free
Open seven days a week from 8 am to 7:30 pm
Address: 19C Hoang Dieu, Quan Thanh, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Binh Minh Jazz Club

You will find this small, atmospheric venue behind the Opera house in Hanoi’s upmarket French Quarter. It’s the place to be to catch high-quality jazz. Its neon signs, tiled floors and smoky, vintage vibe will make you forget where you are for an evening, while the country’s top jazz performers, as well as international jazz artists get down to business. As well as world-class music, Binh Minh’s also serves a huge range of top-shelf drinks and even dinner service. Binh Minh Jazz Club is a great stop in this list of things to do in Hanoi. Admission is listed on their website, but keep an eye out for club owner and local saxophonist legend Quyen Van Minh who plays occasionally.

Binh Minh Jazz Club
Binh Minh Jazz Club

Price: Free
Performances nightly from 9 pm till late
Address: 1 Trang Tien, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Attend a Cooking Class

Vietnamese food, while not as famous as its gastronomic cousin, Thailand, is guaranteed to be the thing you miss the most on your return home (second only to $0.20 USD beer). So, why not impress your friends by learning some Vietnamese culinary classics? There are dozens, if not hundreds of different cooking classes to choose from, since it’s a quite popular activity for the Hanoi tourism, and most include a market tour; a fantastic way to learn more about the local environment and culture of Hanoi. Our recommended picks here are the cooking class delivered by Apron Up Restaurant and Rose Kitchen.

Rose Kitchen - one of the most popular cooking classes in Hanoi
Rose Kitchen

Price: from 30 USD
Classes run all day, seven days a week
Address: Various (see links above)

Hoa Lo Prison

This hugely significant and thought-provoking site is what remains of the former ‘Hanoi Hilton’. It’s a prison which held US prisoners of war (POWs) during the American War, including Senator John McCain (the Republican nominee for the US presidency in 2008). Exhibits are divided between relating the use of the prison up to the middle of the 20th century, and the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. The museum features historical artifacts such as an ominous French guillotine, in activity during the first half of the 20th century to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries. The museum also displays Senator McCain’s original flight suit (he was a pilot during the war), along with a photograph of Hanoi locals rescuing him from Truc Bach Lake after being shot down in 1967.

Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi
Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi

Price: Adult/child 30,000 VND/free
Open seven days a week from 8 am – 5 pm
Address: 1 Hoa Lo, Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House

This humble, traditional stilt house was where Uncle Ho lived on-and-off between 1958 and 1969. Located near the center of the city in Ba Dinh district, the house is situated within a beautifully manicured garden with a serene carp pond, and the house’s beautiful views and atmosphere gives you an authentic impression of how Ho Chi Minh must have lived. Unfortunately, it’s now exclusively used for official receptions and isn’t open to the public. However, visitors may wander the grounds using the designated paths.

Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House

Price: 25,000 VND
Open from 8 – 11.30 am, and then 2 – 4 pm Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday
Address: 1 Ngo Bach Thao, Ngoc Ho, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

So, there you have it! We hope that whatever you end up doing, that you have an enjoyable time in one of our favorite cities of all time – Hanoi.