Vietnam’s capital is not shy and retiring; it’s vibrant and chaotic, historical and modern — and forever on the move.

The bustling metropolis of Hanoi has ancient roots that shine through and blend with Chinese and French colonial flavours. Building on this history is a modern city, full of the famous Vietnamese entrepreneurial spirit and streets teeming with motorbikes like swarms of ants. And rising above all this is the new glitz and glamour of a city emerging onto the world stage. Explore its streets, savour the food, shop for a bargain, and absorb its unique spirit and soul.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hanoi

Where should I go in Hanoi?

The map of Hanoi may look intimidating at first, but most of the city's best sights are concentrated in its centre, known as "old Hanoi". It's made up of four districts, and most travellers don't venture too far out of its orbit. Your first port of call will likely be Hoan Kiem District. Here you'll find the most accommodation options as well as a host of museums and other popular attractions, such as Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple. The political centre of Hanoi, Ba Dinh District, sits to the north. It has a range of impressive architecture, such as the presidential palace and the national assembly building. Hai Ba Trung District is to the south and is known for its numerous universities. The last of the four, Dong Da District, is mostly made up of residential housing.

How do I experience traditional Hanoi?

Compared to Vietnam's other population centres, Hanoi has been relatively unscathed by the ravages of war. The city is filled with beautiful temples and pagodas which you can easily spend days exploring. One of Hanoi's most iconic attractions, Chua Tran Quoc, should be at the top of your list. Surrounded by bonsai trees, sculpted lotus flowers and shimmering pools of koi, this towering pagoda is one of the city's best photo opportunities. If you're travelling with kids, you might like to take them to a traditional water puppet show. Dating back to the 11th century, this unique art form was born out of Northern Vietnam's flooded rice paddies. Today, the puppets are manipulated underneath the water by sticks in a waist-deep pool. Accompanied by orchestral music, these delightful shows keep the stories of traditional Vietnamese life alive.

What's the best way to see the surrounding area of Hanoi?

Outside of Hanoi there are plenty of incredible sights, and lots of ways to get out and explore them. If you like to do things at your own pace, consider heading out into the countryside with a hire car or motorbike. If you'd rather leave the organising to someone else, consider joining one of the excellent tour groups. Cuc Phuong National Park sits 120 kilometres to the southwest of Hanoi. The oldest national park in Vietnam, this lush tract of land offers everything from archaeological treasures to endangered species. Head out on a day trip or even spend a couple of nights there. For a taste of traditional rural life, journey out to the ancient village of Duong Lam. Located 50 kilometres west of Hanoi, it offers scenic vistas as well as a fascinating history lesson. And of course, the splendour of Halong Bay is also within reach. Head a few hours east to take in this UNESCO World Heritage Site's emerald waters and iconic limestone islands.

What's proper etiquette with tipping and haggling in Vietnam?

Tipping is not a traditional Vietnamese custom. However, with the influx of tourists into the country it's becoming more commonplace. You'll never need to tip, but it can be a nice gesture if you receive good service. It will be especially appreciated in bars and smaller restaurants, where it can bolster a worker's wage for the night quite significantly. When it comes to shopping, haggling is the name of the game. Market vendors will often start with quite a high price, especially in busy tourist precincts. Don't be afraid to set quite a low counteroffer and, if necessary, walk away. However, it shouldn't be too hard to reach a price that's fair to both parties.