Vietnam's capital city, Ha Noi, is a beautiful city located on the banks of the Red River. It is an historic city with a wealth of attractions to suit everyone. Hoan Kiem Lake sits in the middle of the city and is a focal point around which shops, hotels and restaurants are based.
The French flavour is still very much present in the city and this can not only be seen in the abundance of coffee shops, French restaurants and bakeries, but also in the wide pavements and French colonial buildings. Many of the older generation still speak French to each other and cook French food in their homes. The city's Old Quarter, in the northern part of town, is the place to head for traditional Vietnamese heritage and a glimpse into the former life of this prosperous city. It is a labyrinth which is crying out to be explored and while you are in the city, a day sightseeing this part should not be missed.
The city boasts a wealth of attractions with highlights including the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and museum, the One Pillar Pagoda and the Hanoi Fine Arts Museum. The lake is a major attraction as is the river. Outdoor enthusiasts will not be short of options as water sports, golf and cycling are all popular here.
Once the sun goes down, the restaurants and bars open their doors and the city gets a new lease of life. French restaurants abound although while you are in the city, you should take the time to sample the local delights such as noodle soup, spring rolls and a selection of curries.
Regardless of whether you are a backpacker making your way across the world or having a five-star holiday, you will find suitable accommodation, gain a cultural insight into the city, eat well and enjoy the nightlife.
I n brief
Worth it? Yes. It is the capital of Vietnam and one of the most popular cities in the entire country.
What to do: visit the city's museums, visit the lake and take in all the sights and sounds, sample local food, shop, take a boat trip on the river.
Best time to go: The cool season of November through until March.
How Long? Three days to one week is long enough.
Trivia: archaeologists have proven that the city has been inhabited for over 500,000 years with the Chinese Han dynasty setting up a community in 214 BC.
Most people arrive in Ha Noi by air. The city's airport, Hanoi Noibai International, is 35kms outside the city center and is the main gateway into and out of northern Vietnam. There are connections with a number of Southeast Asian cities as well as many domestic routes available. Taxis are available at the airport to take visitors into the city.
Ngoc Son Temple: is found in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake and is one of Hanoi's most photographed landmarks. It dates back to the 18th century and was originally built as a memorial to a number of important Buddhist figures.
One Pillar Pagoda: this historically significant sight was built as a tribute to Emperor Ly Thai Tong and his wife on the conception of their son. It is believed to have fertility powers so many people who are having problems conceiving visit it in the hope that some of the luck will be passed on.
Old Quarter: located at the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi's Old Quarter is a fascinating maze of alleys which house everything from large hotels to quaint coffee shops and traditional markets. You will find a wealth of shopping opportunities here as well as bakeries, local restaurants and temples.
Quan Thanh Temple: dates back to the 11th century and the rule of King Ly Thai Tong. It is a beautiful building with sacred figures of noteworthy Buddhists.