Despite being the capital of Vietnam, travellers often relegate Hanoi to second place in favor of Ho Chi Minh City. This is a mistake you need to avoid making—both cities are worth the visit, and proof of this is in the many activities in Hanoi not found in Saigon and vice versa. The thousand-year-old city is home to the very essence of Vietnamese culture and is where you will discover some of the best sights and sounds in all of Vietnam.
A Thousand Years of Culture and Tradition
Hanoi tours often start at the historical center of the city, Hoan Kiem Lake. This beautiful oasis sets the tone for what you can expect from Vietnam’s capital—a sense of calm. More than just a picturesque body of water, Hoan Kiem Lake is also where you will find Turtle Tower, a structure that juts straight out of the water. Legend has it that the lake is home to turtles that are centuries old. Seeing one will supposedly attract good luck, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled as you make your way around the lake and across the bridges.
Like most other cities in Southeast Asia, some of the top activities in Hanoi involve beautiful Buddhist temples showcasing the ingenuity of local artisans. One Pillar Pagoda is one of two premier temples in the city and is an attraction you cannot go without visiting. At almost a thousand years old, the complex details found on the pagoda atop a single stone pillar do not look a day older and tell of the structure’s rich past.
Discover the Vietnamese devotion to Buddhism with a trip to Huong Pagoda or Purple Pagoda, where you will find shrines and temples built directly into the Huong Tich Mountains. Prepare yourself for the crowds at Huong Tich Cave if you would like to see carvings dating all the way back to 1770. The cave also features a large statue of Buddha, unique because of the green stone used to make it.
Another essential stop on all Hanoi tours is the Temple of Literature, which host the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s very first National University. The sprawling complex is where you will find structures dating all the way back to 1076; buildings that once served as classrooms for Vietnamese royalty and bureaucrats.
Discovering Colonial Hanoi
Your list of activities in Hanoi is not complete without visiting colonial landmarks like the Hoa Lo Prison. This complex served as a prison for political prisoners during the French occupation of the country, and later on for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Although much of the prison no longer stands, the gatehouse is still around and serves as a museum.
End your day with a cultural show in the form of a puppet show. Water puppetry is one of the unique activities in Hanoi that some people automatically dismiss, but come to regret later on. It might not seem like much, but shows like the one at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre are one of the best ways to learn about Vietnamese culture.
Discover all of these and more by planning your Hanoi tours with Travease.