We stayed in Hanoi for a few nights before and after our journey to Sapa. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is know for its architecture and rich culture. We stayed in the Old Quarter, where the narrow streets each represent a different trade. We stayed on Hàng Buóm, which is the street of “sails merchandise,” meaning years ago all of the stores on the street only sold sails for boats. We thought the traffic in NYC was bad, but nothing compares to the craziness of the motorbikes going in every direction on the confined streets in the Old Quarter.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: We went here with a local guide who spent about 30 minutes describing how important Ho Chi Minh was and still is to the Vietnamese people. The country takes so much pride in their former president that they actually have his body on display within the building. We were unable to go into the building because the week we visited was the one week per year that the professionals go in and restore the body.
- Ho Chi Minh’s Vestige in the Presidential Palace Area: After visiting the Mausoleum, we went to the palace area to see where Ho Chi Minh lived.
- One Pillar Pagoda: This is one of Vietnam’s most important Buddhist temples. It is close to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex.
- Lacquer Arts Center: The art of lacquer is considered to be the national art of Vietnam. At the Lacquer Arts Center, we saw how meticulous and talented the workers are at creating beautiful pieces!
- Van Miêu – Quôc Tu (The Temple of Literature or The Confucius Temple): This temple hosts the Imperial Academy which is Vietnam’s first national university. It has many beautiful pavilions, statues, and gardens.
- Bát Tràng Village: This village is over 500 years old and is located about 30 minutes outside of the city. There are many workshops in the town focused on ceramics and pottery. The people that work in the workshops are extremely talented!
- Trân Quôc Pagoda: This is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi and is located on a small island near the West Lake.
- Hanoi Water Puppet Show: This was entertaining and interesting to say the least. There are water puppets in the middle of the stage and musicians and singers on each side of the stage singing in Vietnamese.
- Vietnamese Women’s Museum: This museum is dedicated to Vietnamese women. It has powerful displays of their role in the family and their leadership in wartime. It is very powerful and we highly recommend it.
- Hoa Lò Prison (commonly known as The Hilton Ha Noi): This prison was built by the French colonists in 1894 for political prisoners and was then later used by North Vietnam for US Prisoners of War, primarily pilots. It was interesting to read the Vietnamese perspective and propaganda.
- St Joseph Cathedral: This is the oldest church in Vietnam and was built on the land of what was once a Buddhist temple. We stopped by here and were surprised with how much open space there was compared to the rest of the areas in the Old Quarter!
- Ride in a Rickshaw: Although it’s touristy, it almost feels safer than walking!
- Hoan Kiem Lake: We went here a lot to run in the evenings and to just sit and relax on the benches along the lake. There are many locals that sit near here and wait for tourists to come by to practice their English.
- Whenever you see a lot of locals eating at low tables on the side of the street, go and eat there (and don’t think about hygiene 🙈)!!
- Bahn Mi 25: The TripAdvisor reviews say it all. This spot is incredible.
- Orchid Restaurant: Go here for a full, Vietnamese meal.
- HN Time Coffee: This place is very hidden and absolutely amazing. Make sure to get the famous Vietnamese egg coffee while sitting on the balcony looking over the lake.