Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and located in the north of the country. Besides an insane amount of buzzing scooters and constantly blaring horns the city offers lots of history. The war and periods of French or Chinese occupations shaped the city. Hanoi is constantly on the move – do not miss your chance to get lost in a city full of street kitchens, friendly people, sample markets and good accommodation. All for very little cost.
How to get there?
If you want to fly to Hanoi you should choose the Noi Bai International Airport located approx. 30 km outside of Hanoi city center. From the airport you can take bus 7 or 17 (public bus) or bus 86 (express).
Our absolute highlight was the Orchid Cooking Class. The private cooking courses are offered twice a day at around 50 EUR per person. There are five different menus to choose from, including an awesome range of traditional Vietnamese dishes. Besides receiving the recipes, cooking the food and eating it in the end you also get to go to the Dong Xuan Market to buy most the ingredients. Asking questions and trying stuff included.
How long to stay?
With its 7.5 million inhabitants Hanoi is quite a large city. And you sometimes get the feeling that there must be almost twice as many scooters, bicycles or motorbikes buzzing around. So if you are looking for peace and quiet Hanoi will definitely be not the place to go. Besides crazy traffic there are lots of things to do. We would recommend to stay for 3-4 days.
Where to stay?
The best place to stay is the Old Quarter. Here you have bars, shops and street kitchens right in front of the door. Rooms are available from 4 EUR for a hostel dorm and 12 EUR for a double or private room with own bathroom. Free WiFi is very common and most of the places also have air condition or at least enough fans to keep you cool.
Hanoi Chic Hotel A bit more pricy (80 EUR for three nights/two people) but for us it was a good choice to start our trip with no worries. The personnel is incredibly helpful and kind. Air condition works perfect and the WiFi as well. Breakfast is included and offers a good variation of Western and Vietnamese dishes. Cooking class with a local Just in case you are looking for a rather personal cooking class you might want to give this one a try: In cooperation with a Vietnamese lady, Ms Hang (who is an experienced chef with +25 years of experience), Ultimate Adventures Hanoi offers a truly special cooking class. Ms Hang will welcome you to her traditional Vietnamese home, take you to the market and teach you some delicious typical recipes. Her home is located just a bit outside of the Old Quarter, so getting there is pretty easy. For us bringing recipes back home as a souvenir turned out to be a great way of capturing our memories and we can always go back by cooking some of our favorite dishes. Hanoi Old Quarter Homestay This is the place we stayed at during our second visit in Hanoi. It is located in the Old Quarter as well, quite close to the Sword Lake and the St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The rooms do look like hotel rooms or dorms, but you still live with an absolutely nice local family. The whole place is very clean and you immediately feel like home. We had a great time during our stay and enjoyed getting in touch with the whole family and the other guests. One night the grandad, who is a retired chef, usually cooks a dinner for the new arrivals. He is also responsible for cooking breakfast. If you book via Airbnb breakfast is included. Hanoi Free Local Tours A free and awesome way to get to know the city and meet local people at the same time. Tours are offered by local students who want to improve their English. Bookings can be made quite spontaneously. Botanical Garden In case you need a break from all the buzz in the city the botanical garden is a nice place to hang out in a relatively quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Lotus Water Puppet Theater A funny and unique way to learn about the history of Vietnam. Especially because it is in Vietnamese and you hardly will understand anything you see. Do not forget to grab one of the English leaflets telling you about what you will see before you take your seat. We did not take it…making our experience very special. Dong Xuan Market It is the largest covered market of Hanoi where wholesale traders sell everything from clothes, household goods to food. Hanoi Lakes There are three lakes located close to the city center: Hoan Kiem Lake, Truc Bach Lake and West Lake. All lakes make great spots for taking a walk, although the walk around West Lake is quite long (approx. 20 km). We suggest to walk around Truc Bach Lake and make a detour through Nam Trang street. Here you can peacefully sit under some trees next to the lake and enjoy a drink. Women’s Museum There are lots of different museums in Hanoi. We chose to visit the Women’s Museum as so many travelers recommend to go there. It gives you a good insight in the role of women within the Vietnamese society and their families. Especially the stories of the many female heroines who made a great impact during the many wars and occupations deeply impressed us. Tran Quoc Pagoda The pagoda makes a great spot for a break when walking around Truc Bach Lake or West Lake. Entrance is for free. Make sure to bring a pair of long pants as visitors are asked to not wear shorts when visiting the pagoda. Hoa Lo Prison Today the former Hoa Lo Prison has been turned into a museum. It mainly focuses on the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s when the Vietnamese were struggling for independence from France. There are also exhibits that deal with the time when the Vietnamese took over the prison and used it for American pilots who were arrested during the American War.