4 Unique Experiences in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam’s elegant capital, lies on the banks of the Red River and is the country’s buzzing cultural epicenter. Founded in 1010, modern-day Hanoi is a city of contrasts, with European-looking gardens, compact neighborhoods of narrow tube-houses and French-inspired architecture – all combining to give Hanoi a noticeable charm. While nearby Ha Long Bay possesses its own enchantment, the city of Hanoi offers many immersive experiences perfect for delving into its unique history, culture, and cuisine. Here are our destination specialists’ top choices.

  1. Walk the Old Quarter. Once known as the Ancient Merchants’ Quarter, this neighborhood is characterized by its vibrant, bustling atmosphere that’s an experience unto itself. Narrow streets are packed with scooters, bicycles, cars, pedestrians, and peddlers – all moving in what seems to be a finely orchestrated, albeit hectic, surge. The lanes are filled with markets, sidewalk vendors, shops and restaurants, so the best way to experience all that it has to offer is by walking so you can stop at those that catch your eye. As you stroll the streets, you’ll find yourself facing the traffic alongside the locals, immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of this colorful and lively Vietnamese neighborhood.
  2. Attend a water puppet show. A fascinating and important part of Vietnam’s cultural heritage, water puppetry is not found anywhere else in the world. This theatric form evolved over centuries from folk art to a more established art form and has traditionally been connected to earth, water and local rice farmers. Shows often depict events in the country’s history and are infused with poetry and fireworks and traditional music, offering a memorable cultural experience.
  3. Visit Hỏa Lò Prison Museum. This prison was used by the French for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. This is the prison where Senator John McCain spent over 5 years in captivity during the Vietnam War. In addition to exhibits on the American pilots that were imprisoned here during the Vietnam War, many thought-provoking displays focus on the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s, which centered on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France.
  4. Dine in the French Quarter or near Hoan Kiem District. The neighborhood southeast of Hoan Kiem Lake and just surrounding it is home to French-colonial architecture, grand boulevards, art galleries, boutiques – and the city’s best selection of quality restaurants. Many say it’s hard to have a bad meal in Hanoi, but here you’ll have your choice of top-rated cuisine – savor excellent Vietnamese at spots such as Highway 4 and Club de l’Oriental, Vietnamese fusion at La Verticale and classic French fare at La Badiane and the Parisian-style La Terrasse Du Metropole. There are also plenty of cafes and many other European-style restaurants in this part of the city.

Join us in Hanoi this winter!