We arrived to Hanoi, Vietnam via airplane. The 40-minute ride from the airport to the city in a minibus cost ₫100,000(Vietnamese Dong)(approximately 4.50 USD) per person. However, the 40 minute ride, turned into two hours, after waiting to fill the minibus and dropping others off. If you do not have the time to wait, you can take a taxi for around ₫400,000.
If you are traveling to Hanoi with three or four people, remember this means the taxi is equivalently priced as waiting for a minibus.
We arrived in the evening, so we just walked around neighborhood to check out the the mini shops, where you can find pretty much anything.
Hoan Kiem Lake
The next day we woke up early and left to the Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake itself is dirty but has tons of shops around the edges, as well as great picture opportunities across the lake. In the middle of the lake is Turtle Tower, a small temple which you cannot access.
Jade Mountain Temple
The lake also has a beautiful red bridge that takes you to the Jade Mountain Temple, on a larger island within the lake. It provides a beautiful oasis in the center of a bustling city.
The entrance fee is 30,000 dong or 15,000 with a student ID.
Hanoi Opera House
We walked east, away from the lake along the street until we hit the Hanoi Opera House and the Hanoi Stock Exchange building. The Opera house is a beautiful building to see and photograph. It is also centrally located to many of the big shopping centers in the city.
Saint Joseph Cathedral
The Saint Joseph Cathedral is the oldest church in Hanoi, built resembling the Notre Dame de Paris. Around the church are a lot of little shops. We almost missed seeing the church because we had to go through an alley which we thought was a dead end.
Quan Su Pagoda
We then walked to the Quan Su Pagoda. You can get the best photo of the pagoda from through the entrance gate. At first we thought it was closed, but you have to walk past the main gate to enter through the side door. The temple is closed up around colorful walls and beautiful flowers.
Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature was the first national university in Vietnam. The temple consists of five courtyards, each one designed differently. It ranges from different gardens to massive drums and bells. There is also a massive pool between the entrance and the temple.
Tickets cost cost 30k dong or 15k dong with a student ID.
Ba Dinh Square
We then walked to the Ba Dinh Square. The square is the location of President Ho Chi Minh’s Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. It is now home to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The square is also flanked by many other massive government buildings.
One Pillar Pagoda
Next to the mausoleum is the One Pillar Pagoda, one of the most iconic temples in Vietnam. It is a gorgeous area to walk around and explore. It is perfect for a quick fruit picnic while enjoying the view.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Behind the pagoda is the the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The museum is focused on the creation of the modern state of Vietnam and its struggles against
The museum costs 25k dong and is open daily from 8AM to 11.30AM daily and from 2PM to 4PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Truc Bach Lake
We then took a walk to the Truc Bach Lake. When we first got to the lake we saw a beautiful mural of lotus and a heart sign with the word Hanoi in it. There are also many tables with elderly playing chess.
We began to walk around the lake and stumbled upon the memorial for where former presidential candidate John McCain, was shot down during the Vietnam War.
Quan Thanh Temple
We walked towards the beautiful Quan Thanh Temple. The temple is pretty small but majestic. Diagonally in front to the temple is a beautiful park with a magnificent lotus flower statue in the middle of the fountain.
Entrance costs 10k dong per person, but we did not have enough cash at the moment, so we unfortunately could not enter.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
Our last stop was just a few blocks away; the Tran Quoc Pagoda in the West Lake. It is by far our favorite spot in Hanoi, so do not miss it! It is gorgeous temple with a large tower shrine. and it is free. Outside there are several vendors selling handmade crafts. It is the best spot to get a great panoramic view of the city.
Then while I went to the hotel my wife went to a spa near our hotel. The Natural Spa, was a neat place with excellent service and an amazing price. My wife was really happy with her experience there. She got a massage, a facial, her nails done and wax her eye browns for less than 30 USD.
Hanoi Night Market
Every Friday, Saturday and Sundays evening the old quarter of Hanoi has a 3km long street market with live music! The market is open from 7PM to approximately midnight. Along the route can buy souvenirs, food and pretty much anything you want. Just beware that some prices are higher than the stores due to the high number of tourists.
Accommodations in Hanoi, Vietnam
Our first nights in Hanoi we had reservations at the L’Heritage Hotel. Unfortunately when we arrived we were informed that there were no rooms available due to a leaky roof and we were transferred to one of their nearby hotels, Hanoi Legacy Hotel – Hang Bac.
The hotel was technically an upgrade from our original reservations, giving us a bigger room and a ridiculously large bed. They were a bit pushy about us signing up for a tour they offered, but after they accepted we were not doing one, it was much better. It also includes a full breakfast buffet.
The last nights in Hanoi we spent at the nearby Nova Hotel. It was a bit cheaper than the other hotel, and it did show. The room was not much bigger than the bed itself and the TV was broken. It also includes a breakfast menu that you can order one option from. If you are only worried about a comfortable bed, this is the place to stay.
The front desk at our hotel recommend it to eat at Gecko’s Restaurant, an excellent place to try traditional Vietnamese food, with the option for international cuisine. If you or your travel partners are not keen to such new flavors, or if you are traveling with children, this is a good compromise. Jazmin gives it two thumbs up!
We spent 160.000 dong for two meals and one appetizer. The next day we went back and spent 180,000 dong for 2 course meal, with drinks, including a buy one beer get one free special.
While this sounds cheap compared to the US or Europe, we suggest skipping traditional restaurants all together and heading to smaller traditional food servers along the streets.
If we are missing someplace in our travel guide that is not to be missed in Hanoi, please let us know in the comments below!