Though it may seem like the most chaotic of urban sprawls, the old city of Hanoi has a lot to offer as the core of the second-largest city in the country. The Old Quarter of this historic capital city in the northern part of Vietnam, with its narrow, dizzying streets, is most probably where you will stay as this is where the tourist district lies. Hotels, hostels, guesthouses, travel agencies, and restaurants line the streets, with accommodations ranging from backpacker joints to mid-range properties such as the Conifer Boutique Hotel and the Maison D'Hanoi Hanova Hotel, to higher-end accommodations such as the historic Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. French colonial architecture mixed with Vietnamese and Chinese aesthetics make this district an interesting destination in itself.
With a past stretching as far back as antiquity, Hanoi keeps visitors busy with its cultural, historical, and religious attractions. Many of these draws are within or close to the Old Quarter.
The main landmark of the Old District is Hoan Kiem Lake, a small lake south of the Old Quarter. The Old Quarter is, in fact, officially referred to as Hoan Kiem District. The lake is an important site for the people of Hanoi as it is said to be the home of the city’s mythological creature, the turtle.
A cultural and religious landmark worth checking out is the Temple of Literature. The temple stands on the site where Vietnam’s first university was housed in 1076. Though it is no longer the prestigious learning institution it once was, the temple today features beautifully landscaped courtyards and pavilions which make for worthwhile sightseeing.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the imposing gray building which contains the body of the great leader himself. It is possible to enter the mausoleum but cameras are not allowed. Close to the mausoleum is the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which has photographs and personal artifacts of Vietnam’s revolutionary leader.
Hoa Lu Prison, famously called the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War, is now a museum with exhibits telling the story of Vietnam’s struggle against the French colonisers. Some of the displays here may smack of propaganda but the museum still makes for a great visit.
The tradition of storytelling, which originated in the flooded paddy fields of Northern Vietnam, lives on today in the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. An intricate system of sticks and strings which control the puppets is hidden underwater. Folk stories accompanied by traditional live folk music are told through puppets show at the theater.
Northern Vietnamese food is distinct from food in the rest of the country, with signature dishes such as bun cha (grilled meat eaten with rice noodles) and banh cuon (a rice paper roll filled with shallots, mushrooms, and pork) found on many menus. Nightlife is especially lively in the Old Quarter as the street-side cafés turn into bars where both locals and tourists sit down to the local Vietnamese draft beer called bia hoi. The local nightlife is as lively as it is partly due to the affordability of this popular local beverage. The Old Quarter is also the place in Hanoi to shop. Traditionally, each area in the district was dedicated to a trade: shoes, bags, metalware, woodwork, and so forth, and some parts remain this way to this day.
Noi Bai International Airport is the main gateway to Vietnam's capital city. It receives flights from all over Asia as well as direct flights from London via Vietnam Airlines. The central attractions of the city are conveniently located in Hoan Kiem District, where most hotels are situated. For those venturing away from Hoan Kiem, the most practical mode of transport is taxi cabs, which are plentiful and cheap. Make sure to use reputable taxi brands such as Hanoi and Mai Linh. The more adventurous, meanwhile, may hop on the back of a motorcycle taxi. Agreeing to a final fare before getting on is strongly recommended.
Hanoi is one of Vietnam's largest and most visited cites and there is a multicultural and traveler-friendly...
Hanoi is a real paradise for visitors who love to shop until they drop as the city features a large...
When it comes to entertainment, Hanoi has plenty to offer. In addition to seeing the sights, visitors...
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