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Vietnam has this allure — it’s almost like an open invitation for those looking to get in touch with their senses. At least for me, I’ve never felt so alive as I did when I crossed the streets of Hanoi. I’ve never tasted flavors before like the early morning pho on a corner in the Old Quarter. It’s a country painted with an intensity and passion that is the ultimate destination for those looking to put themselves aside and jump two feet into something completely foreign. 

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam and undoubtedly one of the best spots to not only explore but taste the local cuisine of Vietnam. There’s a vibrancy in the city as new coffee shops open up, creating a space for a new generation. Tradition still reigns, and one early wake up will give you a window into their daily life. 

For those looking to be emerged into a melting post of history, flavorful cuisine, and hip coffee shops, then Hanoi is your spot.

The Ultimate Guide to Hanoi, Vietnam



What to Know Before Visiting Hanoi Vietnam

There’s a lot to go into before visiting Vietnam, so I’ll highlight the main points.
(Checkout this post for more)

  • Visas are required for almost all visitors and it’s not negotiable.
  • Water is not clean, be sure to brush with bottled water pending the hotel you are at.
  • The local currency is Dong, and be sure to not confuse the currency as some bills look alike.
  • The roads may be crazy, but just keep walking, they will go around!
  • For a week itinerary, checkout this post that includes Sapa and Ha Long Bay. 

Where to stay in Hanoi, Vietnam

When we visited Hanoi, I stayed in the cheapest hotel of my life at roughly $30 that is now permanently closed. It was in the heart of the Old Quarter and steps from incredible coffee. Let’s just say, we got exactly what we paid for. On a return trip, here are other hotels I would consider (Old Quarter is an incredible location to be in the heart of the history and food).

For those looking for a more upscale experience, the area near Hoan Kiem District and near the lake is often preferred.


Where to Eat in Hanoi, Vietnam

It seems only appropriate to spend most of your time eating at food stalls, and of course those can be challenging to find. The golden rule when it comes to eating street food in Hanoi is to be sure that water is boiling. If there’s a crowd, then you can almost always be sure you’re set to go. Also to note, though the government passed the law making eating cat and dog illegal, there are still restaurants that serve it so be sure to learn the Vietnamese words: thịt chó,dog meat and thịt mèo, cat meat. *Note most restaurant names are the name of the dish they sell.

  • Pho Bo Ga: One of the best pho spots, it’s undeniable that you’ll return at least twice (address: 32 Bat Dan).
  • Pho Thin: Another solid pho street stall (address: 13 Lo Duc Street). (This post goes more into the pho scene in Hanoi).
  • Banh Cuon Gia Truyen: Head here to try this yummy dish called banh Cuon (address: 14 Hang Ga Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi).
  • Banh Goi: This is a local dish of fried dumplings with a great dipping sauce (address: 52 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi).
  • Cha Ca Phan: Head here for the fish dish of the century, fried fish with a sauce over noodles (address: 20 Xóm Hạ Hồi, Hanoi, Hoàn Kiếm).
  • Xoi Yen: This is the spot to try sticky rice (Address: 35B Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi).
  • Bun Cha Ba Duc: Easily one of my favorite dishes, the tasty grilled pork over noodles is to die for (Address: 103 – C5 TT Giảng Võ (Trần Huy Liệu), Quận Ba Đình).
  • Where to drink coffee: Hanoi Social Club, Loading T, Hanoi House, Cong Cafe (my personal favorite for coffee with condensed milk), and Gardenista. 

What to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Take a day tour with Buffalo Tours that brings you through the city.
  • See Cua Bac Church: Visit a local church and see the architecture.
  • Visit a temple: Quan Thanh Temple is an incredible 11th Century Taoist temple, with major significance for being one of the Four Sacred Temples.
  • Explore the West Lake and Hoan Kiem Lake to experience a look in the local scene.
  • Head to the Temple of Literature for the first university in Hanoi dedicated to scholars like Confucius.
  • Explore the weekend markets: Friday through Sunday around 7 pm, at Hang Dao, the weekend market opens up with incredible food stands and stalls selling goods.
  • Explore the French Quarter (the Old Quarter): this area is incredibly beautiful, and you could spend hours winding through these streets. 

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PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

I use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

I use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

I use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Rental Car

Self-driving is the best way to explore most destinations. I use Discover Cars for our rental cars, select full coverage insurance, and opt for a reputable company like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

I use Priority Pass to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for the travel tips! Vietnam is on my list to visit next year and I can’t wait. I’ll definitely be visiting many of the places you highlighted. It looks like an incredible place.

    • Jessica Wright Reply

      Vietnam is a special place, and so much to do and see there!

  2. we are going in February. I understand Sapa and Halong Bay will be cold and rainy, and it has been suggested we make better use of our time and travel to in and around Hanoi, then make our way south to Hue/Hoi An. Anyone have other suggestions for February? have not made reservations yet, and totally open for an 18+/- trip! thanks

    • Jessica Wright Reply

      I think it would be best to travel to Hanoi and you can always add Halong Bay in at the last minute for weather reasons. From there I would go to to Hue/Hoi An, these regions are beautiful too. Hanoi, for me, is one of my favorite places in the world so I recommend it highly.

  3. Your images are incredible! I’ve heard amazing things about Vietnam, it seems like such a unique and beautiful place. It seems like you really love Hanoi, so I think I need to visit!! XX

  4. Shaukat ali Reply

    It was a very interesting and informative read. Great visual story-telling. Some of the information is already stored for my trip to Vietnam in December. Thankx

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