The top 8 things to do in Hanoi


Last updated: May 14, 2024

No matter whether you have a few days or a few weeks in Hanoi, you’ll find some exciting things to do in this guide!

Hanoi is a culturally rich and lively capital city. It is worth visiting Hanoi for the food alone, but you will also experience plenty of beautiful sights and fun things to do.

In my list of the top things to do in Hanoi, I have included options for those who prioritise their bellies (like me), those who like to soak up the culture slowly, and those who are avid sightseers. For each, I will provide an overview of the time it will take, so you can create an itinerary to suit your needs!

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Eat great food - one of the top things to do in Hanoi

Eat great food

  • Time required: A few hours

There is a lot of great food for you to discover in Hanoi! The North of Vietnam is known for its phở and bún chả, of which there are also plenty of chay/vegan options.

I’ve had many a great phở in Vietnam, but the best ones have been in Hanoi. The broths are just a bit more intense and they pair nicely with the local’s favourite deep-fried dough snack, quẩy, which I have struggled to find in the South.

The old quarter is jam-packed full of great food, but there is also plenty of tasty food to be found in surrounding areas. If you are looking for some Western vegan-friendly food then definitely check out Tây Hồ.

If you are only in Hanoi for a few days I’d recommend doing a food tour with a local host. They’ll know all of the best spots to take you to.

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Coffee shops in Hanoi - one of the top things to do in Hanoi

Visit coffee shops

  • Time required: A few hours

Hanoi has tonnes of coffee shops for you to discover. Be it hidden down an alleyway, or located on the rooftop of a beautiful and quaint building in the old quarter.

Coffee shop hopping is one of my favourite ways to spend Sunday mornings. I like to bring along a book or a sketchbook, but it is also a great opportunity to take some photos because Vietnamese coffee shops can be so pretty!

I enjoy the strong robusta coffees but most of the coffee shops in Hanoi also offer non-caffeinated drinks or more European-style coffees.

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A day trip in Ninh Binh - one of the top things to do in Hanoi

Day trip to Ninh Binh

  • Time required: One day

Hanoi is surrounded by beautiful countryside locations, like the magnificent Ninh Bình. It is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site that is known for its mossy mountains and beautiful rivers that navigate through caves.

Ninh Bình is just a few hours away from Hanoi and most tours that you book will provide transport from your hotel or apartment. Making this the perfect day trip!

Make sure to book a tour that includes a boat ride as this for me is the highlight of Ninh Bình!

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Sightseeing at the train street in Hanoi - one of the top things to do in Hanoi


  • Time required: A few hours to a few days

There are plenty of awesome sightseeing opportunities in Hanoi. I like to space out my sightseeing as I find it quite tiring, but I know for some there are time constraints. So here is a list of all the things I think are worth checking out whilst in Hanoi, you can plan them in as you see fit!

  • Train street (go in the evening and find a coffee shop to sit in)
  • Ngoc Son Temple and Tran Quoc Pagoda
  • Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
  • Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
  • Hoa Lo Prison Relic
  • Vietnamese Women’s Museum

Weekend visit to Cat Ba

  • Time required: A few days

If you have enough time, I would recommend visiting Ha Long Bay. It is stunning! However, it is a very popular destination. So instead of going for a day-long Ha Long Bay tour which can feel quite rushed and busy, you should head to Cat Ba island for a few days.

From here you can see all of the beauty of Ha Long Bay, but the less touristy spots. The tours are very similar in that you will get to kayak in the beautiful blue waters, underneath caves and surrounded by luscious green mountains.

I would recommend a fully inclusive 2-day Cat Ba cruise for the full experience:

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Beer in Hanoi - one of the top things to do in Hanoi

Drink beer

  • Time required: A few hours

One of the most popular pastimes of both tourists and locals in Hanoi is drinking Bia Hơi which is beer that has been brewed fresh that morning. It is cheap and fun! One particular spot where you can pick this up is in the aptly named, ‘Beer Street’ (Ta Hien Street).

But if you also enjoy craft beer then you’ll be happy to know there are quite a few great craft breweries dotted around Hanoi! My favourite is Pasteur Street Brewing Co (which started in Saigon), but you can also check out Hanoi Cider Co. They make the most insane craft cider that tastes very similar to beer. If you don’t normally enjoy cider I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy these!

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My favourite place for beer in Hanoi Arrow for MyVeganTravels blog

The lakes in Hanoi - one of the top things to do in Hanoi

Walk around the lakes

  • Time required: A few hours

Hanoi is known for its beautiful lakes that are lined with trees and pagodas. They are great places to go for a wander. There are also plenty of benches dotted around for you to chill out, draw, read or even people-watch.

I would recommend going on a cooler day as it will be a lot more enjoyable to mooch around.

Whilst the lakes themselves are beautiful, some parts are a bit dirty (particularly in Tây Hồ) so I wouldn’t go in them nor dip your toes in.

Jazz club in Hanoi - one of the top things to do in Hanoi

Visit a jazz club

  • Time required: One evening

If you are looking for a spot of evening entertainment then you should check out one of Hanoi’s jazz clubs. My particular favourite is Long Waits in Hoàn Kiếm. It is set in a dark and moody venue, perfect for a night of jazz. Their drinks are delicious and the service is excellent.

The house band usually play on Fridays and Saturdays, and they’ll often play one artist’s work in an evening. If you head there on any other day I believe it just operates as a bar. But it’s still a pretty cool bar in itself!

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Discover all of my other useful content about Hanoi and Vietnam. Happy travels!

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