History comes alive in this city, so when you’re considering what to see in Hanoi make sure you give yourself time to explore the past, as well as the modern day metropolis. Tree-lined streets are an inheritance from Hanoi’s French Colonial past, while more stark reminders of the city’s recent history can be found in places like the Ba Dinh residential district, where part of a crashed B52 bomber sits in a watery grave.
Beautiful buildings like the Dong Xuan Market contain shops selling handmade crafts that are worth a look when souvenir shopping, while the museums, galleries and theatres like the Water Puppet Theatre will give you a Hanoi cultural experience.
An early morning visit to Hoan Kiem Lake allows you to see this beautiful scene before it gets busy with tourists and while locals are practising tai chi. Join them, or continue your walk across the famous red bridge that leads to a small island where you’ll find Ngoc Son Temple. As you walk, keep an eye out for turtles. Locals believe that seeing one will bring you good luck.
Built by the French on the site of a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in 1886, the Roman Catholic Saint Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi is the oldest church in the city. While the outside is typically French in design, the inside is decorated in Vietnamese style and colours. A trip here will reveal more about its colourful history.
If the tropical weather becomes too much for you, visit Ho Tay Water Park, located inside West Lake Park. This swimming pool complex has slides, pools, and a lazy river to enjoy. After a day playing in the pools, stick around the West Lake area to enjoy a beautiful Hanoi sunset.
A must-see in Hanoi, the Lotte Tower Observation Deck is at the top of a 65-storey skyscraper that also houses a hotel, spa, and department store. The Observation Deck offers the best panoramic views of the city. There are four themed zones to enhance your experience, each offering something a little different depending on whether you visit during the day or at night.
Bach Ma Temple is the oldest structure in Hanoi's Old Quarter. This small building has a rich history dating back to 1010. Legend has it that a white horse showed the reigning king where to build the walls of his citadel. In gratitude, the king dedicated Bach Ma Temple to the wise creature. Visit the pagoda and you’ll see a statue of the white horse and a shrine to Confucius.
While Bach Ma is the oldest temple in the Old Quarter, Quan Thanh Temple is the oldest in all of Hanoi. This Taoist place of worship has statues of its many deities, including the God of the North. He's a patron of martial artists, so expect to see martial arts classes held on the temple grounds when you visit.
No visit to Hanoi is complete without a day trip to Ha Long Bay. Dramatic islands with limestone cliffs emerge out of emerald waters. Hop on a boat designed to look like a traditional Chinese treasure ship (a junk vessel), or a small private cruise houseboat and explore nearby caves and floating villages.