Vietnam capital Hanoi

8 Undeniable Proof Why Vietnam Capital Hanoi is Fascinating

In Travel Destinations by Phoebe Nicolas

If you are looking for a country with fascinating attractions, cheap but sumptuous food, or sprawling nightlife – Vietnam has a lot to offer you.

Vietnam is a destination for all kinds of travelers. Not known to many, this country in Southeast Asia has a certain appeal for travelers looking for a unique travel experience. There are many places to visit in Vietnam, but to narrow it down, let’s talk about the Vietnam Capital city, Hanoi.

The Vietnam capital city of Hanoi has so much to offer to the curious traveler. It is famous for a good balance of quiet parks, museums, temples, French cafes and lively party scenes. If you want a taste of wanderlust and city dust, Hanoi, can be the perfect destination for the fun seekers. Now let me list the reasons why it is one of my favorite cities in South East Asia.

1. Hanoi is known as the Paris of Vietnam

For those of you who don’t know, French colonialism in Vietnam lasted for more than six decades. When you go to the Vietnam capital Hanoi, the very first thing that you will notice is that a lot of architectures are very similar to those designs that you’ll see in Europe. If you go around the city, parts of Hanoi have the Vietnamese vibe, while some parts have a distinctive Chinese-influenced style, but in many parts of Hanoi, it’s easy to visualize that you’re in the most romantic city of France, Paris.

You’ll also be amazed by the Vietnamese active café culture, which is also influenced by the French. Vietnamese people like spending their days out on the street and big or small coffee shops can be found on nearly every block. They like gathering here a lot and it seems as if everyone knows everyone; you’ll see them chit-chatting, talking about everything, drinking strong Vietnamese coffee, and even beer.

The most distinctive aspects of these cafes are the tiny chairs and tables. I asked for the reason behind this bizarre way, and I was told that Vietnamese sit on little chairs along the streets because it is more convenient for everyone to move once the police come (it is not legal to take a seat on pavements in Vietnam).

Other notable attractions in the Vietnam capital Hanoi are the lakes where you can relax and unfurl. The most famous one is the Hoan Kiem Lake. This lake attracts tourists and locals looking to get away from the noise and frantic pace of Hanoi. Serene and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the center on a small island.

The temple entices many visitors and it was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. Hoan Kiem Lake and the temple offer plenty of trees and shaded spots where in you can escape the busy city streets of Hanoi.

There are also smaller lakes surrounded with graveled or bricked promenades, with plenty of places to sit down and unwind, while the bigger ones have coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor seating along the waterside. At night time, the boardwalks fill up with parents and their kids, groups of friends and couples enjoying the romance of the flashing city lights.

2. Vietnam capital Hanoi is a budget friendly destination

Hanoi is a well-known destination among budget travelers. Though the price is climbing monthly at a daunting rate, it is still much cheaper than travelling in other Asian cities, like Tokyo or Taipei. For example, a 5 star hotel in Hanoi will cost you an equivalent amount to a 3 star hotel in Japan. For cheaper options, there are plenty of hostels and guest-houses around Hanoi. This is also the best choice if you’re travelling alone and looking forward to meet other travelers, as most of these hostels and guest houses have small bars and lounges, where you can mingle and make friends with your fellow travelers.

Even if you would like to eat at a restaurant, Hanoi has plenty of vibrant cafes in narrow alleys. You can eat a full meal for as low as $2-3 per meal, and at least $6-7 for the whole day of food from street vendors. Trying the local street food, which is both delicious and cheaper than in many other countries is one of the best experiences you can have in Hanoi.

The cost of food in Hanoi is likewise inexpensive. All around the Vietnam capital, you can find street vendors peddling or selling authentic Vietnamese meals for a friendly price. Satisfying your taste buds in Hanoi will not break your wallet.

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3. Hanoi is perfect for museum lovers

If you love museums, Hanoi will not disappoint you. Hanoi offers plenty of museums where you get to know more about the Vietnam’s rich culture and fierce past. If you want to escape the tremendous pouring of rain or the blazing sun during your visit or just simply want to learn more about Vietnam, visiting the museums around the Vietnam capital is the perfect activity.

If you have limited time but would like a glimpse of the old Vietnam, the best one to visit is Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The museum displays the different ritual and cultural practices of Vietnam’s ethnic groups. It also has an open-air exhibition that shows a few ethnic groups in the country. There is also a fantastic baguette and chocolate cafe at the museum where you can enjoy treats after your visit to this interesting museum.

The museums in Hanoi are home to unique artefacts and photographs, with detailed and often frightening stories of the past and colourful local artworks. If you have more time, other must-visits include the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnam Fine Arts Museum and the Vietnam Women’s Museum. Tickets are priced between VND 10,000 and VND 40,000 per person, depending on which museum you choose to explore.

4. Having four seasons specifically

Hanoi is the most ideal city in Vietnam to describe the tropical monsoon climate with four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. For travel lovers, the differing weather conditions in four seasons make them keener to visit the Vietnam capital plenty of times in a year because it is like in four different places.

Each season has its own facade and characteristics. However, many people think that the best time to visit Hanoi is in the autumn, from September to November before it gets cold from December to February. During autumn, the clear sky and the fresh atmosphere will make you pleased and relaxed.

Autumn in Hanoi is cool and dry but still sunny. You can wear a light jacket or a cardigan when going out. Hanoi in autumn is also romantic and peaceful. You can see the leaves along the streets turning yellow and red, the sky is bluer, and the water in many lakes of Hanoi tends to be greener.

Characterizing the typical weather of tropical monsoon type in Northern Vietnam, Hanoi can be hot during summer with high rainfall and can be dry and cold during winter with average temperature around 15 degrees Celsius, though it sometimes can go below 10 degrees. Vietnam capital Hanoi receives a large amount of sunlight and an almost high humidity all throughout the year. Although the weather in Hanoi is divided into two main seasons: rainy season which is from May to September and dry season from October to April, because of the transition months, Hanoi still experiences all four seasons.

5. Hanoi owns the famous Old Quarter

One of the highlights of every tour in Hanoi is visiting Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Wander all day on 36 streets for 36 trades and roam the antiquated beauty of old houses which still preserves their appearances from the old 19th century. There are a lot of old historical sites associated with the formation and development of the Old Quarter. Historically, the quarter has 36 main old streets, most of which were started with “Hang” which originated from the names of commodities produced and traded there such as Hang Duong which is sugar or Hang Muoi which is salt. Hence, Hanoi Old Quarter is also known for another name Hanoi – 36 old streets.

When you visit this place, you can delve into the inherent peace of the Vietnam capital as well as the modesty of Hanoi people that shows on their friendly behaviour and how they dress.

Throughout more than 1000 years, Hanoi Old Quarter retains a mysterious yet inviting look full of charm. Old Quarter features a local lifestyle in hoary houses and a slow pace of living, dating back to the 15th century.

Visit Old Quarter Hanoi and you will be able to explore a variety of Asian and European architectures which have remained for many years. Furthermore, a day at the Old Quarter gives you a chance to experience the daily life of the Hanoians and have better understanding of their lifestyles. In fact, a lot of people are visiting the Old Quarter more than once. The endless traditional value in the breath of modern life attracts many visitors and makes them curious about the unique Vietnamese culture.

A fun way to explore the Old quarter is by riding a “cyclo” or what many call, a pedicab. Some may say walking is better, but I think the view you get from a cyclo ride is worth the money you’ll spend — plus it’s easier to look around and take photos if you’re not constantly watching where you’re walking the whole time. A reasonable price for an hour ride is 100,000 VND for one person. If you want to share it with a friend, then expect to pay a bit more. Haggling down is OK, but you have to remember these guys are cycling your weight around for an hour or so in the heat or cold and probably only get one or two passengers a day, so please don’t be too hard on them.

Old Quarter in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi is the “heart and soul” of the city. A place to enjoy the ancient culture, the memories of old Vietnam and absolutely one of the best places to visit there!

6. Hanoi is famous for having a diverse cuisines

Not only does Hanoi have a lot of beautiful lakes, parks and French architectures, but the Vietnam capital is also famous for its uniquely diverse cuisines. In your Hanoi tours, you can enjoy the abundance of worldwide famous dishes with low cost such as pho, rice noodles, and spring rolls. In fact, Hanoi has been ranked in the first place on the list of the cities with the most impressive culinary techniques in the world.

The best dishes in Hanoi are not pricey yet delicious and can be discovered within Hanoi Old Quarter’s narrow alleyways and busily street markets. You can find well-known Vietnamese street food such as pho noodles, rolled cakes, banh mi and skewered meat almost every corner. Compared to other cities in Vietnam, the food in Hanoi tends to be on the appealing side as they make use of freshwater ingredients like squids, prawns, crabs, shrimps and clams.

Most of the dishes in Vietnam are always served with fresh greens and herbs. They also frequently come with nuoc cham dipping sauce as condiment, which is commonly a sweet, sour, salty, savoury and/or spicy sauce.

One of the best restaurants in Hanoi that you should not miss is called Quan An Ngon (Ngon means delicious). Serving as a food court, you can find almost every dish in Vietnam in Quan An Ngon Restaurant, from street food to aristocratic cuisines.

Quan An Ngon’s menu is extensive and exlcusive. They focus on the flavors of authentic Vietnamese specialties. Food are prepared in street-stall style open pavilions within the garden courtyard and interior of an impressive French colonial villa. This restaurant is very famous among locals and foreign tourists.

Currently, Quan An Ngon have three branches around Hanoi. The original and flagship restaurant is located in the Hoan Kiem district. The restaurant operates all day from 10am until 11pm. Because of its popularity, it is strongly recommended to have reservation for groups. Visit their website here www.quananngon.com.vn.

7. Hanoi is a relatively safe city with courteous people

Hanoi is one of the fastest growing cities in South East Asia nowadays, which is why there are many changes in the lifestyle of Hanoi people. But despite this, many people from Hanoi still wear conical hats while carrying pole on their shoulders and wandering through the streets to earn a living.

Known as Trang An people, all throughout the thousand years of civilization in Hanoi, the elegance and courteous manner of Hanoians remain and handed down from generation to generation. This is one the reasons why tourists have been attracted by the typical nature of the Hanoians.

Vietnam in general and Hanoi in particular, has sustained the influences of different social standards and values, but also experienced an astounding social change in recent years. As a result, despite the fact that Hanoi people are still conservative like they used to, they become more and more outgoing and extroverted.

When it comes to safety, Vietnam capital Hanoi remains a relatively safe city for visitors and tourists, but being aware of some typical hazards will increase the likelihood of you having a hassle-free stay. Petty theft such as picpocketing, bag-snatching or cell phone theft is quite common but not a big issue in Hanoi and violent crime in Hanoi is also rare.

The main key to avoid trouble is to show respect to Vietnamese culture and to show common courtesy and kindness towards their people, and you’ll avoid any arguments or misunderstandings. Remember the general rule of thumb; if you respect this country’s culture and customs, you should have no problems or incidents in the Vietnam capital.

8. Nightlife in Hanoi should not be missed

In case you take pleasure in having a beer on a little plastic chairs on the sidewalk or into dancing in a trendy nightclub, Vietnam capital Hanoi has got you covered. Apart from being one of the oldest capitals in the world, Hanoi certainly has a reputation when it comes to nightlife.

If you still have some energy left after a day of exploring the streets of Old Quarter and Hanoi’s admirable museums, Hanoi’s bustling culture and art scene is sure to provide you with some entertainment before calling it a night.

Aside from the famous Bui Vien street in Ho Chi Min city, Hanoi Nightlife has certainly the loudest, especially in the Old Quarter. As Hanoi’s nightlife becomes more popular, more and more cool and trendy bars are popping up. A lot of them follow a particular theme or features some form of unique entertainment, food, and drinks.

When the sun goes down in Hanoi, you’ll never run out of something to do. The activities will be broken down into 3 main parts, depending on what tickles your mood:

  • Street Activities: For anyone who likes to join activities with local people. The most famous one among locals and tourist is sitting on small stools on the pavement while drinking, talking and just enjoying the night.
  • Night Bars and Clubs: This activity is perfect for those stylish party-goers who want to have a really fun night out in Hanoi, while dancing to the latest music craze or listening to different bands.
  • Strolling at the Night market: Explore Hanoi’s night market and haggle your way down for delicious food, cute find and souvenirs. The night market attracts a large volume of visitors, including both locals and tourists from all over the world. All people visit the night market in search for cheap finds and to enjoy the easy-going vibe found there.

Final thoughts

Hanoi is simply a magnificent city, known for astonishing natural beauty with a mixture of although dark, but fascinating past, colourful Buddhist temples, and other monuments and cultural history. Being the second largest city of Vietnam, Hanoi is a perfect mix of East and West culture, long-established Sino-Vietnamese concept and French influence.

Vietnam capital Hanoi is reminiscent of Paris, yet exceptionally its very own city. It can be busy and a bit chaotic because of the motorbike culture and drivers disregarding traffic rules, but Hanoi’s many parks, lakes, and coffee shops give it a charming atmosphere which is not very common for a Southeast Asian city.

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Phoebe Nicolas