Just like any other travel lover, I too understand that travelling to a new place is not at all as easy as it seems without the valuable tips from the localites. In fact, each traveler has his/her own travelling style. For instance, some might be into discovering only famous touristic attractions, no matter how crowded they are; while the others might prefer exploring offbeat paths. Therefore, it seems to be impossible to give absolute advices that would satisfy every traveler. In this article, I would like to pinpoint the “Top 3 Worthwhile Things to Do” when you are in Hanoi. These recommendations are not only based on my personal view as a Hanoian, but also verified from my expat/ traveler friends who have either been to or are currently living in Hanoi. Let us see how this beloved city has enriched their travel experiences.
1) Walking Tour in Hanoi’s Old Quarter – Hanoi 36 Streets
Believe me! This definitely has be the top most activity on your to do list when you are in Hanoi. The Old Quarter is considered as the most crowded spot attracting the local young people as well as the tourists throughout the day. Whenever my friends from different countries visit my city, I always bring them here to discover the best part of Hanoi by going for a walk around the streets.
The Old Quarter consists of 36 Streets each of which are named according to skilled work that was carried out on that particular street. Some of these streets continue to remain exactly the same as they were in the past. For example, Hang Bac Street is well-known for selling valuable jeweleries made from silver and gold which can dazzle your eyes as you pass by. Hang Vai has traditionally been Hanoi’s main textile street, while Hang Ma has been famous for decades for selling toys, paper goods and in particular paper votive offerings.
The bustling life of Hanoians is reflected in the most vivid way on these streets where you can see a large number of people engaging in buying and selling activities with each other. This area is also the eternal soul of Hanoian cultural architecture, historic relics and also a acts as religious center.
2) Exploring Dong Xuan Night Market
Dong Xuan Market is the largest market of Hanoi where the wholesale traders sell everything from clothes, household goods to foodstuffs. Originally, it was built by the French invaders back in 1889 and has been renovated several times thereafter.
On the evenings of the weekend (starting from Friday and lasting until Sunday), the Dong Xuan Night Market creates a stretch from Hang Dao Street to the night market that turns into such a splendid walking street. The night market boasts of with various types of cheap clothes, Vietnamese handicrafts, souvenirs and street food. Everything can be bought here with relatively affordable prices if you are a good bargainer. This would indirectly mean that the prices thrown at you by the vendors would definitely be higher and it is here that your bargaining skills would come handy.. It is also a clever move to first go around and ask for the prices from different vendors before you finalize on one for your desired product.
Visiting this night market on the weekend is not only a fascinating experience for shopaholics but also a great opportunity to enjoy Hanoi’s dynamic nightlife as you submerse yourself into the Vietnamese culture. Here you will also see many folk art performances that take place. You can see the performances by The Tru singing, Xam singing and Cheo singing on the Ma May street or take a walk around HoanKiem lake which turns into a pedestrian street during the weekend. Along the streets, you will also see many activities held by young people like folk games, music shows or dance performances.
3) Hanoi real life – Discovering the streets with a motorbike
As you might know, Vietnam in general and Hanoi in particular is renowned for its crazy traffic scenarios as 45 million motorbike users in Vietnam and 5 million in Hanoi ride up and down the streets all day long.
Does this fact scare you to drive a motorbike when you’re in Hanoi?. Or does it bring out the adventure monster in you? Even though I am here to entice you into trying out this crazy adventure, being safe is definitely going to be your primary option.
Reason why you could try renting motorbikes in Hanoi: Most of the worthwhile attractions in Hanoi are distanced from the center of the old town. This means that you might have difficulty traveling from one spot to the other by foot as well as be super time consuming if you use the public transport. Unlike any other transport mode, having a motorbike at your disposal would save ample amount of time as well as be useful to keep your plans flexible.
Some of the must-visit attractions that I would recommend as a localite would be Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, West Lake, Bay Mau Lake, Flower Market and Long Bien Bridge.
Tips for renting a motorbike:
- Price range: $6 – $50/ day depending on the motor type. ($50/month for long renting)
- Renting shops: located mostly in the old town area (Hang Be, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, DinhLiet)
- Required documents: A hard copy of passport + driving license
I hope you may find these above recommendations helpful for your upcoming trip to Hanoi. Stay tuned for more articles that will help you gain valuable insights for your trip to Vietnam.