Hanoi is a favorite city among the locals as well as international visitors in Vietnam. It is indeed the most charming and most liveable city that is both intimate and inviting. For the first-timers in Hanoi, it is recommended that they spend two full days or a long weekend to cover all the major sights in Hanoi.
Getting to Hanoi is very easy as the city is well connected by air and land to other cities. Noi Bai International Airport of the city is about 45 kilometers from the central city. The main train station is not far from the center, and one can always make use of public bus services or private taxis to reach the city.
If this is your first time in Hanoi, it can indeed be challenging to cover the neighborhoods and major attractions such as ancient pagodas, colonial buildings, and unique museums. The good part is that the city is easily accessible on foot, and the multi-cultural community is sure to keep you fascinated.
Here are some of the absolute must-see highlights that you must cover in your first trip to Hanoi.
- Explore the historic Old Quarter that boasts of many of the city’s sights. As the area is crowded, start early and explore the prime shopping district and enjoy some shopping.
- Visit the Hoan Kiem Lake and spend some time here to relax and look at the 18th-century Buddhist temple, Ngoc Son Temple, in the center of the lake.
- Another popular tourist attraction in Hanoi on Train Street and take the pictures of the train tracks that run through the residential corridor. Explore the popular cafes at different sections along the tracks and find many Instagram worthy spots on the way.
- Hoa Lo Prison is another tourist attraction and makes for an exciting experience. It was here where the Vietnamese political prisoners were kept by the French and American POWs during the Vietnam War.
- Enjoy a water puppet show that is indeed unique and can be enjoyed at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, which is situated near the Hoan Kiem Lake. It is interesting to see the Vietnamese folktales and legends reenacted by the water puppets supported by a live orchestra.
- Take an overnight trip from Hanoi is Ha Long Bay, which is not only one of the most popular tourist destinations, but also a UNESCO world heritage site. Wake up early to catch the sunrise above the rocks and islands.
- Visit Mai Chau, a rural area a short distance from Hanoi, and enjoy the picturesque views of nature filled with rice fields, mountain roads, and greenery. Look at those beautiful stilt houses made of bamboo!
- Phung Hung Mural Street is a popular backdrop in Hanoi and runs parallel to Train Street. Located on Phung Hung Street, the walls on the street are filled with everyday Vietnamese life scenes and filled with life-like actual size figures that look very realistic.
- Many first-timers end up taking a cooking class in Hanoi, and nothing can beat the experience of a cooking class and know more about the local cuisine. There are many booking platforms where you can book a one-day cooking class.
- When in Hanoi for the first time, go on a food and coffee tasting tour. After all, Vietnam is the second-largest creator of coffee in the world after Brazil. So, visit those interesting coffeehouses in Hanoi and take a food tour to explore the local cuisine. Try out the classic Vietnamese dishes and go cafe hopping to enjoy the unique homegrown coffee creations.