Plan a Trip to Hanoi and Choosing What Sights to See

Plan a Trip to Hanoi and Choosing What Sights to See

By Ruby ZhaoUpdated Jun. 17, 2021
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Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, attracts visitors with its abundance in culture, diversity of cuisine, and charming scenery (Halong Bay and rural scenery).

It’s recommended to have a 2-day visit in the city or a 3-day visit around the city. But if you would really love to explore Hanoi properly, you can also stay there for 10 days.

Choosing the best time to go

Hanoi’s tropical climate makes it suitable to visit all year round; however, the best times to visit are winter and spring, from October to March. During this time, the weather is dry and cool. From April to September, hot humid air will blanket most of the nation and rainfall is plentiful.

October to March — best time to visit

October to March is in the dry season. The weather is pleasant with sunny and cool days, but please note that it’s cold in Halong Bay and Sapa during this time. If you are planning to visit there, be sure to keep warm.

What’s more, late December to early January is in the peak tourist season. Lots of tourists flock to Hanoi at this time.

April to September — hot and rainy

If you don't mind the rain and humidity, April to September is also a good time to visit. The temperature will increase to 40°C (104°F) and there is a great possibility of rain, but the rainfall is just showers over a very short period of time or at night.

In this low season, tourist numbers are less and the cost is low.

Avoid

During the New Year holiday (normally from later January to early February, about 1 week) and National Day (September 2nd to 3rd), most shops and scenery will shut down. The two-way migration from rural to urban areas will also result in heavy traffic jams. You should avoid visiting at this time. Hot as it is, August is the peak tourist season in Vietnam. If you would like to visit Hanoi during this month, you should make a flight and room reservation in advance.

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Start planning

Spend the day exploring downtown Hanoi. But if you would like to explore Northern Vietnam around Hanoi, we would recommend 2 days for Halong Bay cruise and 3 days for Sapa trekking. Alternatively you can replace Sapa with Mai Chau, which is less-known but good for cycling with kids.

One to two days: downtown Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake, the Old Quarter, and museums

Three to five days: downtown Hanoi and Halong Bay, downtown Hanoi and Sapa, or downtown Hanoi and Mai Chau/Ninh Binh

Six to nine days: downtown Hanoi, Halong Bay, and Sapa, or downtown Hanoi, Halong Bay, and Mai Chau/Ninh Binh

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Choosing what sights to see

Downtown area

  • See the Old Quarter via a rickshaw ride in the daytime or take a walk there in the evening
  • Hoan Kiem Lake, recommended in the morning
  • Dong Xuan Market
  • A water puppet show
  • Some historic sights: the Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum
  • Interesting museums: Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, the National Fine Arts Museum, Hoa Lo Prison
  • Off-the-beaten-track Hanoi: Quang Ba Flower Market (best time to see it is at 5am–6am, on the way to the airport)

Surrounding areas

  • Halong Bay: take a cruise ship to visit various islands, take a dugout canoe, go diving, and visit a floating village
  • Mai Chau/Ninh Binh: explore on foot or by bike. There is a campfire party and a dinner party during the weekend at Mai Chau.
  • Sapa: daily market, hiking in the valley village
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Recommendations on how to get there

By airplane

Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi is responsible for the most international routes in Vietnam. Direct flights are available from most Asian countries but some great international airlines in other countries also provide the service. For more information, please refer to How to Get to Vietnam.

By bus/train

Passengers can get into Hanoi via a daily bus from Nanning or a train.

There are two choices to get into Vietnam from China by train: a daily train going between Nanning and Hanoi, or two to four train services running daily that link Kunming and Hanoi. All train tickets need to be booked in advance and it is recommended to get these via travel agents.

By cruise ship

Many international cruise ships stop and stay at Halong Bay for 2 days. Passengers can get into Hanoi from Halong Bay.

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How to get a vietnamese visa

There are three types of Vietnamese visa requirement:

Transit without a visa/visa-free

Apply for a visa in advance or Visa on arrival with approval letter

For more information, please refer to How to Get a Vietnam Visa.

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Choosing a tour style: privately-guided, in a group, or on your own

It’s recommended that you choose a tour guide for your journey in Hanoi. He/she can plan a unique route for you, lead you to experience the most original parts of Vietnam, and solve the problem of being stuck in traffic jams in the downtown area.

Particularly in the areas of Sapa, Mai Chau, and Ninh Binh, whose transportation systems are inconvenient, your private guide will arrange a vehicle for you, take you to the local market, and guide you to hike on a safe route.

If you go traveling in a group, it may not meet your individual needs. If you go on your own, it will take you a long time to make a plan and organize the transportation.

Find the best place to stay

The best choices of accommodation are in the Old Quarter and around Hoan Kiem Lake and West Lake.

There are several advantages in the Old Quarter: convenient transportation, various restaurants, shops, a spa, and cheaply priced hotels. However, it’s noisy at night and traffic jams are heavy there.

Many tourists will choose the hotels around Hoan Kiem Lake, such as Sofitel Legend, Hotel de l'Opera Hanoi, MGallery by Sofitel, and Hilton Hanoi Opera, from which tourists can enjoy the beauty of the lake. What’s more, these are within walking distance of the downtown area.

Around West Lake is a new urban district. More and more hotels have been built in this district, such as the Waldorf and InterContinental hotels. Luxurious as they are, they are by no means a reflection of the original Vietnam.

You can choose the hotel according to your needs.

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Advice on food

You can find different kinds of food in Hanoi, such as Indian, Chinese, and other Asian food as well as French and other Western food. We don't have much information about gluten-free food. If you can share your experiences about it, please contact us. Thank you!

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