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Top 5 Things to Do in Hanoi for a Day

train-street-7-things-to-do-in-hn Hanoi Train Street

If you're planning a trip to Vietnam, you should think about making a stop in Hanoi.

Hanoi has served as the capital of Vietnam for over ten centuries. It's also the place where President Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam's independence from France in 1945.

Thanks to the city's rich history and culture, you'll find plenty of things to do in Hanoi. However, you may not have too much time to spend searching for the best spots in the city.

Wondering what to do in Hanoi? This article will take a look at 5 activities you can't miss during your next visit to Vietnam's capital. If you want to know how to soak in the full Hanoi experience in only one day, read on! 

1. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

hcm mausoleum 12 things to do in hn

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the key attraction of Hanoi

We kick off our list with the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is by far one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. Seeing it for yourself should be number 1 on your list of things to do in Hanoi.

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum only dates back to 1975. But it offers a close and personal look at the sarcophagus of Ho Chi Minh himself. Plus, you'll also get a chance to see the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Presidential Palace, and the One Pillar Pagoda.

The appearance of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is similar to many other communist monuments. In fact, Lenin's Mausoleum inspired the design of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Before visiting, keep in mind that you must wear formal clothes to enter. Also, note that you're not allowed to take photos inside. You'll also have to show up before 10:30 AM if you want to go inside and the line can get quite long.

Opening Hours:

  • In the summer: Begin at 07:30 AM to 10:30 AM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and 07:30 AM to 11:00 AM on Saturday and Sunday.
  • In the winter: Begin at 08:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and 08:00 AM to 11:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Closed on Monday and Friday
  • Every year closed from 5th September to 05th November

Location: 8 Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

2. Visit the Temple of Literature

temple of literature 53 things to do in hn

The ancient temple was built to commemorate talented scholars

Once you visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, you can either walk or ride in a cab to see the Temple of Literature. It will take you about half an hour to get there on foot and significantly less with a taxi.

Visiting the renowned Temple of Literature is one of the best things to do in Hanoi. The main entrance is a sight to behold. So are the luscious gardens. You'll also find many stone statues scattered throughout the temple.

temple of literature 67 things to do in hn

The front gate of the Temple of Literature

The history of the temple stretches all the way back to the 11th century. Dedicated to Confucius, the Temple of Literature served as Vietnam's first official university. During its inception, only elite members of society could attend the university.

Eventually, however, the university welcomed all capable students. Over the course of several centuries, thousands of students graduated from the university. You can see many of their names engraved on the stone within the temple.

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 8:30 AM - 11:30 AM & 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Entrance fee: VND 10,000 or $0.5

Location: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Van Mieu, Dong Da, Hanoi

3. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake

hoan kiem lake 4 things to do in hn

The Turtle Tower in the middle of the lake

One thing's for certain: There's no shortage of lakes in Hanoi. In fact, the city is home to a total of 9 lakes. However, the favorite lake of most tourists is Hoan Kiem Lake.

Hoan Kiem Lake is less than 15 minutes away from the Temple of Literature. If you plan to visit both places, you can knock both off your list at the same time.

In the middle of the lake sits Turtle Tower, a small landmark built in 1886 to honor one of Vietnam's greatest warriors. Although you can see the small monument from afar, you cannot access it.

If you're looking for something you can see up close, check out the Temple of the Jade Mountain. Also known as Ngoc Son Temple, this temple rests on an island on the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake. You can access the island by crossing the Huc Bridge, which lights up beautifully at night.

ngoc son temple 7 things to do in hn

The Ngoc Son Temple and The Huc Bridge are also important landmarks of Hanoi

While you're near the lake, you don't want to miss the fun at the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. The theater hosts water puppet shows every day for $3-5 per ticket.

4. Taste the Local Food

Eating Vietnamese street food should be near the top of your list of things to do in Hanoi.

cha ca 4 things to do in hn

The capital is jam-packed with exquisite restaurants. But there are two places you want to visit for the ultimate Hanoi food experience: the Old Quarter and the Snake Village.

When you picture Hanoi, you picture the Old Quarter. It's home to overcrowded streets filled with shops, scooters, bikes, and pedestrians.

You can walk through the Old Quarter and enjoy an endless variety of fresh Hanoi street food. From Vietnamese BBQ to Pho, you're bound to find something that suits your taste buds. Plus, the lively atmosphere will take your experience to the next level.

If you're looking for a severe change of pace, look no further than Hanoi's Snake Village of Le Mat. This village is one of the best places in the world to try snake meat and wine.

Your snake options include dishes like snake spring rolls and snakes wrapped in seaweed. However, you can also drink snake blood if you're the adventurous type. Rumor has it that this increases the male's testosterone level.

egg coffee 7 things to do in hn

Egg coffee is also a must-try drink in Hanoi

5. Visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

thang long citadel 13 things to do in hn

Thang Long Citadel is a remnant of the feudal era in Hanoi

Top off your list of things to do in Hanoi with a visit to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

It won't take you long to get there from Hoan Kiem Lake.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is chock full of towers and buildings. You'll quickly notice the fortress's impressive walls and vivid walkways. The flag tower will also catch your eye.

thang long citadel 24 things to do in hn

Lots of ancient buildings are still in great shape

The original fortress dates back to the 11th century. However, much of the fortress remains unexcavated.

Visiting the Imperial Citadel gives you a chance to look at other historical Vietnamese landmarks, too. If you walk another 20 minutes, you can also see Cua Bac Church. You can even catch the Vietnam Military History Museum.

Opening Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM (closed on Mondays)

Location: Quan Thanh, Ba Đinh, Hanoi

Entrance fee: VND 30,000 or $1.5

Find travel insurance to visit Hanoi


Additional Note: Transportation Systems in Hanoi

Apart from wandering around the corners on your foot, backpackers can choose various means of transportation to travel to the Capital of Vietnam.

1. Taxi

Same as the majority of the large cities in the world, taxi is one of the most common forms of transport for travelers in Hanoi.

There is a vast amount of taxis driving around the city days and nights, so it is extremely convenient to grab one as you need.

Further and more importantly, catching a taxi is a highly recommended choice if you are overwhelmed by the unstoppable flow of traffic on the first time of arriving in this city.

For your additional travel tips and info, check out our blog on common scams and annoyances in Vietnam.

2. Bus

If you plan to travel on a budget, take a bus, which is the most popular public transport in Hanoi.

You can find buses at every station along the streets.

Moreover, this is a reasonable solution to enjoy the city when the traffic of Hanoi is so unfamiliar to you. Just ask the bus driver’s mates, and they will show you the routes to the destinations that you are looking for.

3. Cyclo

One traditional way of Vietnamese transportation that you should not miss is riding a Cyclo/Rickshaw. Similar to Tuk Tuks in Thailand, Cyclo is a unique vehicle that you only see in Vietnam.

Nowadays this means of transportation is commonly experienced by foreigners rather than the locals. The reason is that the Cyclo is no longer convenient to suit the rushing lifestyle of Vietnamese people.

However, it is still worth having a go at a Cyclo if you are only going a short distance and would like to be immersed in the city's traffic and take beautiful photos at the same time.

4. Motorbike taxi

The motorbike is the most popular vehicle of the Hanoians in particular and Vietnamese citizens in general. Hence, if you would like to discover most of the local life, driving a motorbike on the street is highly recommended. However, if you've never ridden a motorbike or are unfamiliar with Vietnam's streets, motorbike taxis are the best options.

Local drivers are skillful and know all of the shortcuts that could easily get away from the blocked streets in the city.

Further and more importantly, most of the motorbike taxi drivers can speak English and are even ready to support you on a private tour if you want a local experience with a professional guide.

See also Where to Stay in Hanoi:


Final Thoughts on Top Things to Do in Hanoi

There's no shortage of things to do in Hanoi.

From century-old temples to snake restaurants, Hanoi has a lot to offer tourists. The capital of Vietnam is sure to provide you with a unique experience. It's one you won't find anywhere else in the world.

The list above should provide you with plenty of ideas to put together fun-filled day trips from Hanoi.

Look for discounted tickets to travel to Hanoi below:

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Unfortunately, you won't be able to explore every nook and cranny of the city in just 24 hours. If you plan to stay longer, you should also visit the Ba Vi National Park as well as the Dong Xuan Market.

If you're preparing a trip to Vietnam, make sure you look through our list of tours in other regions of Vietnam!

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Guest - Soleil Bathh on Friday, 20 December 2019 19:35

Such a charming city. I got carried away all the time when I walk past an ancient building. I'm sure this city has a lot of to tell about its past and culture

Such a charming city. I got carried away all the time when I walk past an ancient building. I'm sure this city has a lot of to tell about its past and culture
Guest - Raymond on Tuesday, 26 November 2019 13:30

the cyclos are fun to get typical tourist picture haha, but I would recommend walking if the weather is not too hot, especially around the lake and the old quarter area so you can capture more the authentic sides of the city. And Hanoi is not that big of a city also.

the cyclos are fun to get typical tourist picture haha, but I would recommend walking if the weather is not too hot, especially around the lake and the old quarter area so you can capture more the authentic sides of the city. And Hanoi is not that big of a city also.
Guest - Lance Sharp on Saturday, 26 October 2019 13:20

Get your cup of egg coffee when you're in hanoi

Get your cup of egg coffee when you're in hanoi :D
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