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Bonkers and brilliant

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Vietnam was the clear favourite of a nine month round world trip, and Hanoi has left the clearest memories. Having spoken to other experienced travellers, this is not a unique response. To quote a friend: Hanoi is the best of all kinds of crazy. From the colourful whirlwind of the centre to old colonial architecture to bars that mix locals, expats, travellers, and, of course, to the relics of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese war, this city is a one stop shop for an ever enchanting and historically important region. Here's a few tips on how you can get a good taste of it all. If queuing up to see the preserved corpse of Uncle Ho is too much then at least go to the HCM Museum which though past its Soviet designed glory is still an education for a small price. Complement that visit with Hoa Lo Prison or Hanoi Hilton, a remanent of both colonial cruelty and the Vietnamese War, focusing more on the former. You can walk to both but if you do so take a map as routes are not as obvious as you'd hope in Hanoi's layout despite this being one City that does provide signs. If you have a good few days and want to absorb more history then either the Museums of the Revolution or of Vietnamese History have a lot to see and read. If you want a change then do not miss the Fine Arts Museum which is highly recommended for a visual feast that may surprise even those who don't do art much. This is close by to the Temple of Literature, actually the old University and another insight into the cultural approach of Vietnam. As you travel round the city you will get a feast of different architectural styles, some now hidden as almost squatted houses but worth a pause. There's splendour in buildings like the old Opera House as well as government buildings or embassies etc though you won't get much of a close up look at these. Increasingly, Vietnam has learnt the value of preservation so look out for places like the Ancient House on Ma May Street and a few other little gems that have good tourist information. You'll see recommendations too for Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. This will be an hour of your time well spent. Don't worry about following the commentary: just enjoy the colour, the skill and a bit of comedy besides. When you do this is a personal choice but I recommend jumping feet first into the centre of the city and is unavoidable for a few of the above sites that'll take you through Hanoi itself. It is basically one big, crowded, busy market of little streets that each focus on largely one set of goods. This reflects the origins of the old guilds which you'll read about in guidebooks. I'll just focus on the benefits of zig zagging around (street map handy or at least learn to orientate back to landmarks) and drinking in the buzz and colour. Stop occasionally for a strong Vietnamese coffee at any one of many street side cafes (well, little shop spaces really). Weasel is the most famous (produced via civets though not all is what it's advertised as). If you fancy a beer instead then you may be surprised by the choice available if familiar lager brands are all you've found in some countries. For bottled beer do try Huda, brewed by Danes its light & refreshing. Draught beer is Bia Hoi but mostly manufactured & I found less of the almost home brew that used to be famous at street side outlets here. A revelation was the amount of craft beer made now by Czechs and other European expats. You can sample a few at Legends overlooking Lake Kiem or go to beervn.com. There's a host of other bars listed on Tripadvisor so just note ones where you're going to be and give them a try. Last but by no means least, be a foodie during your stay. One of the most satisfying meals I had was a random street side vendor, helpfully with English on the menu if comically translated in parts but while more expensive than that you should check out some French cuisine as chefs may well have been trained in France and while not budget priced the food will be as good as Paris or Lyon but at a fraction of the price. While you're doing all this, do try and speak to some Vietnamese people. There's more English spoken than you may expect, and they are really lovely, friendly people. This is a happening country that has managed better than some of its neighbours. I can't wait to go back.

Good for
  • Solo
  • Like a Local

11 Places

3 City Tips

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Map

11 Places

Fine Arts Museum (Bao Tang My Thuat)

Art Museums

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Points of Interest & Landmarks

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Theatres

Hoa Lo Prison

Historic Sites

Motown Gastropub

Restaurants

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Art Museums, History Museums

Green Mango

Restaurants

Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake)

Bodies of Water

Temple of Literature & National University

Sacred & Religious Sites, Historic Sites

Hanoi Opera House

Architectural Buildings, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Theatres

Ancient House

History Museums, Speciality Museums

Mik W's City Tips

  • Hanoi is pretty safe but even so it is a city and there will be opportunists with an eye on your bag so be sensible.
  • Hawkers are less rapacious than elsewhere & usually do take no for an answer. In the end, the dollar for the cyclo is small change even if the destination is walkable.
  • Ask at your hotel about reliable taxis. Mine found one that gave me an advance price for the airport that was cheaper than the pickup the hotel had provided in advance.
  • Save
    Fine Arts Museum (Bao Tang My Thuat)
    Art Museums
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    Lots of visually stimulating art from ancient to modern that'll open even the jaded eye.

    Good for
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • If you're short of time focus on the lacquer work.
    From the community
    Ranked #21 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Do not miss 28/11/2017
    • Very nice 28/11/2017
    • Fine Arts Museum (Bao Tang My Thuat)
    Address:
    66 Nguyen Thai Hoc St
    Hanoi 10000
    Vietnam
    Phone:
    +84 4 3733 2131
    Other:
  • Save
    Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    Less left to see of the ancient site but a restful walk and the former Viet Cong HQ is evocative.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    From the community
    Ranked #44 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    • Not much to see 14/12/2017
    • Imperial and Wartime Stronghold 14/12/2017
    • Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
    Phone:
    +84 4 3734 5927
    Other:
  • Save
    Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
    Theatres
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    This put a smile on my face with its zip, colour and skill. I even recognised a tale or two after visiting a few of the temples.

    Good for
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    From the community
    Ranked #20 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    • Interesting concept 16/12/2017
    • Fascinating water puppet show 16/12/2017
    • Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
    Address:
    57B Dinh Tien Hoang
    Hanoi 10000
    Vietnam
    Phone:
    +84 4 8249 2222
    Other:
  • Save
    Hoa Lo Prison
    Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    Pretty well laid out, focusing more on its use by the French and for good reason and the displays adequately explain.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    From the community
    Ranked #18 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Interesting piece of history 16/12/2017
    • A worthy place to visit in Hanoi 16/12/2017
    • Hoa Lo Prison
    Address:
    1 Hoa Lo St
    Hoan Kiem
    Hanoi 10000
    Vietnam
    Phone:
    +84 4 3934 2253
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    08:00 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Motown Gastropub
    Restaurants (Steakhouse, Mediterranean, Grill, Pub, Vietnamese, Gastropub)
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    Out of town but a friendly little place where I enjoyed good music, welcome bar food and free wifi.

    Good for
    • Nightlife Seeker
    From the community
    Ranked #0 of 0 restaurants in
    • Cool place 19/05/2016
    • Cool 02/02/2015
    • Motown Gastropub
    Address:
    39 Ven ho Thuy Khue, West Lake, Tay ho District, Hanoi
    39 Ven ho Thuy Khue, West Lake, Tay ho District, Hanoi
    Hanoi 10000
    Vietnam
    Phone:
    +84 97 738 08 30
    Price range:
    US$4 - US$15
    Hours:
    Sun
    08:00 - 00:00
    Mon - Sat
    14:00 - 00:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Ho Chi Minh Museum
    Art Museums, History Museums
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    It's past its prime but still the best overview of the independence struggle.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    From the community
    Ranked #52 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    • 8 days Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa trip 13/12/2017
    • Interesting experience. 10/12/2017
    • Ho Chi Minh Museum
    Address:
    19 Ngoc Ha St
    Ba Dinh District
    Hanoi 100000
    Vietnam
    Phone:
    +84 4 3846 3757
    Other:
  • Save
    Green Mango
    Restaurants (Asian, Vietnamese, International)
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    A relaxed place to eat and undoubtedly good food if not as good value as some others.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    From the community
    Ranked #73 of 1,961 restaurants in Hanoi
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Lovely setting food and staff. 16/12/2017
    • Great Place 16/12/2017
    • Green Mango
    Address:
    22 Tong Duy Tan
    Hoan Kiem District
    Hanoi 10000
    Vietnam
    Phone:
    +84 4 3928 9916
    Price range:
    US$3 - US$20
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 - 00:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake)
    Bodies of Water
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    On a sunny day, wander around the locals. You'll pass by anyway to get to a few places of interest so may appreciate a place to sit away from the hustle and bustle.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    From the community
    Ranked #14 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Relaxing 16/12/2017
    • Early morning walk around the lake 16/12/2017
    • Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake)
  • Save
    Temple of Literature & National University
    Sacred & Religious Sites, Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    How cool is it that graduates had their names carved in stone?

    Good for
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Try to see if there's a graduation ceremony on.
    From the community
    Ranked #17 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Vietnam Family Holiday - Hanoi 16/12/2017
    • Peaceful and lovely grounds 16/12/2017
    • Temple of Literature & National University
    Address:
    Quoc Tu Giam Street, Dong Da District
    Hanoi 100000
    Vietnam
    Hours:
    Tue - Sun
    07:30 - 11:30
    13:30 - 16:30
  • Save
    Hanoi Opera House
    Architectural Buildings, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Theatres
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    Just splendid colonial architecture, close by some important museums.

    Good for
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    From the community
    Ranked #24 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Easy to spot 09/12/2017
    • Beautiful Building 06/12/2017
    • Hanoi Opera House
    Address:
    1 Trang Tien Street
    Hanoi 10000
    Vietnam
    Phone:
    +84 91 105 30 30
    Price range:
    US$30 - US$30
    Other:
  • Save
    Ancient House
    History Museums, Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Mik W Says:

    One of the few preserved places that is worth a half hour or so of your time.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    From the community
    Ranked #36 of 285 things to do in Hanoi
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Nice house among the bustle and hustle of Hanoi 29/11/2017
    • Interesting place for a quick visit 27/11/2017
    • Ancient House
    Address:
    87 Ma May Street
    Hoan Kiem District
    Hanoi 100000
    Vietnam
    Other:
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