Hanoi Sights and POI
Yeah, you can spend days in Hanoi eating one-dollar pho bowls from street hawkers washing them down with cheap and decent beer and yet feeling happy and relaxed. But it would be a shame not to check at least some of the attractions the city has on offer. Hanoi boasts an enviable range of temples, pagodas, palaces and museums, mostly within walking distance of the Old Quarter.
There'll be something for everyone in Hanoi, here are just a few of the city's major sights. It's best to check opening times and prices before you visit as they can change frequently.
(8.30am–11.30and 2pm–5pm (except Mondays); free)
Only recently opened to the public, this is a great opportunity to experience life like a Vietnamese King! Built in the 11th century, when Hanoi became the capital, the shady gardens are a perfect place to escape the heat.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
(7am–11am Tuesday–Thursday and weekends; free)
You can learn more about Vietnamese history at the final resting place of the country's most famous son. The approach to the mausoleum is incredibly atmospheric with its looming pillars and on-duty soldiers. Due to the limited opening hours, there can be long queues. It's two kilometres from the Old Quarter so best to jump on a cyclo or hail a taxi, especially when the temperature rises.
After leaving the Mausoleum you’ll walk through Ho Chi Minh’s vestige where “Uncle Ho” lived for the last 15 years of his life and see his well-maintained houses and gardens.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
(8am–11.30am and 2pm–4.30pm except Monday and Friday; VND10,000)
Located within the Ho Chi Minh complex, this museum chronicles the national hero’s life and includes artefacts and gifts from his travels around the world. It's useful to combine this with a trip to the Mausoleum to get a fuller picture of his achievements.
(8.30am–5.30pm except Monday; VND40,000)
This museum is home to a wide range of cultural displays including instruments, clothes and replicas of traditional houses. Less popular with tourists than some of the city's other museums as its seven kilometres from the centre. You can catch the 14 bus from the lake to Hoang Quoc Viet for around VND4,000.
The tree-lined avenues in this area have a distinctly European feel, ignore the motorbikes and cyclos flying past and you could easily be in Paris. Many of the buildings here hint at Vietnam's colonial past with the Opera House the most impressive.
The area is also home to several interesting museums including:
Museum of Vietnamese Revolution, which has hugely patriotic displays of the build-up to the wars with France and the US (8.30am–5.30pm; VND40,000)
Vietnamese Women's Museum, where you can learn more about women's role in society (8am–5pm except Monday; VND30,000)
Hoa Lo Prison, which has exhibitions detailing its history as a prison for Vietnamese political prisoners as well as US POWs (8am–11.30am and 1.30pm–5pm except Monday; VND30,000)
Hanoi’s largest lake is well worth the trek through the packed streets. Once you reach its shore, you’re rewarded with a refreshing breeze from across the lake. The opposite side of the lake to the Old Quarter is a popular area for expats but there are several sights dotted around the lake such as the 11th century temple in the southeast bank and Tran Quoc Pagoda.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
This famous 6th century pagoda is the oldest in Hanoi and has survived several name changes and even moved locations. Now it's found a home on West Lake and its serene and tranquil atmosphere can make you forget you're in the centre of this hectic city.
If you're feeling unlucky you can buy a turtle from one of the women outside who claim releasing one onto the lake will bring good luck (although, not so fortunate for the turtle as it is hurled into the water from quite a height).
Tay Ho Temple
(6am–7pm daily; free)
One of Hanoi’s most popular temples for tourists and still the most important place of worship in the city, this temple is dedicated to the Mother Goddesses. The temple can get crowded with both tourists and locals so may not be the most peaceful religious site that you visit in Hanoi.
One Pillar Pagoda
(8.30am–11.30am and 1pm–4.30pm daily; VND25,000)
Originally built in honour of the goddess of mercy, this 11th century pagoda was nearly destroyed in 1954. This pagoda can get busy as its popular with tourists so to escape the crowds make sure you don't miss the hidden entrance to the left of the stairs – this will take you to another, far more peaceful, pagoda.
Temple of Literature
(7.30am–5.30pm summer and 8pm5pm winter; VND30,000)
Almost 1,000 years old, this serene temple complex is a haven from the hustle and bustle of the outside city. You'll want to return day after day to relax in the shady courtyards and gardens that make up the temple and stroll around the fish-filled pools.
The temple was Vietnam's first university and it's an opportunity to learn more about how religion and education are linked within the country.