Naming all of Hanoi's attractions would take a lot of time, so we tried to extract those that should be visited, as well as a few of the many day-trips and excursions organized by local agencies. Whichever one chooses, they certainly won't regret it, that's for sure.
Hoan Kiem- a beautiful Lake located in the middle of the core of Hanoi, right in the center of the city. It has a beautiful wooden bridge in red color, a Pagoda and interesting stories about a turtle that inhabits the Lake (the famous Turtle of the Hanoi Lake). According to the legend, this turtle helped Emperor Le Loi to fend off the attack of the Chinese Ming Dynasty and to honor it, Le Loi built a pagoda on the lake in its memory, called Pagoda Hoan Kiem Lake.
The One Pillar Pagoda- also known as Single Pillar Pagoda, it is said to represent a lotus flower growing up out of the water. Built between the years of 1028 and1054 during the reign of Emperor Ly Thai Tong of the Ly Dynasty, the One Pillar Pagoda is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. The little temple is constructed from wood based on a single stone pillar crafted into the shape of a lotus blossom and has been rebuilt several times. The shrine inside the pagoda is dedicated to the Vietnamese Buddhist deity Quan Am with her effigy nestled inside the tiny three square meters temple. Entrance is free and the pagoda is open daily from 08:00-17:00.
Hanoi Old Quarter-Packed with charming colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and pagodas, the Old Quarter, located near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hoan Kiem District, is Hanoi’s major commercial district. Its heart and soul is exposed in the ancient commercial streets which are named after their original businesses dating back about 1,000 years. Though most of the specialties (cotton, jewellery, herbs, and silk) have changed over time and have been replaced with a variety of modern-day commodities and services, visitors can still appreciate some of the original goods as well as get a feel of rich old Vietnamese customs. Many of Hanoi’s major attractions are within or nearby the Old Quarter, including Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Opera House, National Museum of Vietnamese History, Ba Dinh Square, a former Governor-General of French Indochina’s mansion, the One Pillar Pagoda, Bach Ma Temple, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and Dong Xuan, Hanoi’s largest market.
Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi- The world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi has its roots in an art form that dates back to the 11th century. Using large rods to support the puppets it appeared as if they were moving across the water with the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. Performances are accompanied by a Vietnamese orchestra playing traditional music using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. There are also authentic Vietnamese operatic songs telling the story that is being acted out by the puppets. Most of the shows recount Vietnamese folk tales and legends with topics including the celebration of the rice harvest depicted in a humorous fashion. The puppets are controlled by no more than eight puppeteers hiding behind a bamboo screen. Shows are displayed during the day and evening at 14:00 and 20:00. There are two types of inputs: first class and second class. The price of a first class ticket is $2 and $1 for second class. The special pass for Sunday costs half a normal day pass.
The Perfume Pagoda- known locally as Chua Huong or ‘inner temple’, it is at the centre of a very revered and sacred site featuring a maze of mainly Buddhist temples built into the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich. At the heart of this complex lies the Perfume Temple or Perfume Pagoda in the Huong Tich Cave. There are many pagodas to visit, each offering a different shrine, most of which are Buddhist although one or two are animist. The Perfume Pagoda attracts pilgrims and tourists seeking good luck from the stalagmites and stalactites inside the cave which have been named according to the individual blessing they can bestow. Dun Tien offers prosperity and Nui Co offers the chance of giving birth to a girl whilst Dun Gao translates as a ‘rice stack’ to those hoping for a bountiful harvest.
The Dong Xuan market – it is located at the end of the network of streets that make up the old quarter of Hanoi. The Dong Xuan market, built in 1889 by the French, is the largest in Hanoi and one of the most popular and crowded city markets. The Dong Xuan market entry is free and the opening hours are from 7:00 to 21:00 hours every day of the week. Tourists can buy practically anything here, and, as a general rule in Vietnam, and in particular for the Dong Xuan market, prices are negotiable.
Tran Quoc Pagoda – it is found on the outskirts of the city of Hanoi between West Lake and Lake Truc Bach. It is the oldest Pagoda built in the central part of Hanoi dates from the year 545 a.C. As a curiosity we will tell his name; Tran Quoc means National defense. It has 11 levels totaling 15 meters in height. Each, in turn, has 6 doors guarded by a statue of Amitabha, forged in precious stones. Its original name was Khai Quoc, which means National founder and its original location was on the flanks of the Red River, until, in the 17TH century, the Emperor Le Kinh Tong changed its name and its location. This change was motivated by the danger of collapse that the Pagoda was exposed to because of the River.
Day trips and excursions
Traditional Villages - Full Day Excursion -Hanoi's traditional villages scatter around the city and they have been an essential part of Hanoi culture. The tour starts with a visit to Bat Trang pottery village where visitors can learn about the ceramic making process that date several centuries ago. Afterward, visitors visit Dong Ho folk painting village and meet with local artists who make paintings. Next is the Van Phuc Silk village. Tourists can purchase some silk product which will make nice souvenirs for friends and families at home.
Hoa Lu - Tam Coc Tour - Full Day- Recently recognized by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site, Trang An complex is known for its ecological and cultural value. A day trip will take tourists on a sampan ride along the river to witness the glorious beauty of this wonder. They will also visit the ancient citadel of Ninh Binh. Side trip to Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Vietnam, is also available upon request.
Cycling to Bat Trang Village - Full Day- Visitors here cycle past the rice fields, visit Bat Trang pottery village and learn how to make pottery themselves. Tour starts at 8:00 AM and ends at 4:00 PM.