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Tet 2020


THE ABSOLUTE BEST THINGS OF HANOI CAPITAL

Hanoi is undeniable history. Undeniable culture. Undeniable resilience. There is no city that I have been to that feels quite like Hanoi did. From the streets of the Old Quarter, to the beauty of Hoan Kiem Lake, to the history that surrounds you on every street, the best of Hanoi is unique until the last drop.

With a population of 7 million people, Hanoi, Vietnam is no small city. Add in the hectic amount of motor bikes and cluttered sidewalks, it can be a city that overwhelms even the most street savvy. This shouldn’t deter anyone from going though, as being a part of the chaos is an important part of visiting Vietnam.

The Old Quarter


THE ABSOLUTE BEST THINGS OF HANOI CAPITAL
Photo by Richard Mortel
A trip to see the best of Hanoi isn’t complete without a visit to the Old Quarter. By just wandering the streets of the ancient city center, you can be transported back in time 1,000 years ago when the city first began.

The Old Quarter is an adventure of the senses. The street food stands that dot the sidewalks start cooking early and don’t stop until they run out of food. The streets are separated into distinct commercial areas, all still in line with what used to be there when the city started. As you walk around, you’ll notice things like gold, silver, paper, and garments on the different streets.

Most of the tourist sights in Hanoi are near the Old Quarter so many travelers choose to center themselves here. There are an overwhelming amount of hotel options in this area. After staying at four different hotels, we finally found what we think is the best of Hanoi on a budget at Luminous Viet Hotel. While the rooms were compact, we were able to walk to everything from here, the hot water stayed on as long as we needed, and their complimentary buffet breakfast was fresh and tasty every morning.

As for places of interest while seeking out the best of Hanoi, most are located in or around the Old Quarter. Definitely check out the quirky neighborhood with a train running through it! We were able to walk to most places, but taxis are also fair and cheap. As a general tip, I would pull up a downloaded map (we use Maps.me) on your phone to make sure the taxi isn’t creating a longer route for a higher fare.

Hoan Kiem Lake


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Photo by CharlieLe
By far one of my favorite parts about Hanoi was the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. While small in size, it is time well spent to walk around the water and people watch. The lake while we were visiting Hanoi was always crowded, but never felt claustrophobic like other tourist attractions can sometimes.

There are piano keys painted on the sidewalk, pretty and well maintained garden areas, and a colorful temple on the water. While just a short walk around the actual lake, the real fun is people watching and enjoying the atmosphere.

While we loved the lake, something that we loved even more were the countless cafes in the area. We stumbled up on The Note Coffee, and walked into a whimsical space covered from wall to wall in colorful post-it notes. There are many other options fore cafes in the area, but this was by far our favorite.

For a cafe with the best view, head to J’Adore Cafe Bistro. The lake views are unparalleled and while the coffee is expensive compared to most, the view is more than worth it. The Cafe Pho Co is recommended in Lonely Planet, but I wouldn’t go there again if I had the choice. It was crazy crowded and didn’t have a great view or people watching as other cafes did in the area.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum


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Photo by shi zhao
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is exactly as it sounds. Here you will find the final resting place for the famous Vietnamese revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh. As a prominent figure in the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam he served as various forms of the country’s leader from 1945-1969 at the time of his death. Anyone visiting Vietnam will understand the significance of Ho Chi Minh.

Temple of Literature


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Photo by chuoibk
Home of Vietnam’s first university, the Temple of Literature is a slice of Vietnamese history. The Temple is a Temple of Confucius, and was established over 1,00 years ago in 1070. The grounds are very pretty, with landscaped gardens and beautiful buildings once used by royalty. While the Temple of Literature is a place of study rather than worship, wearing respectful clothing is still recommended.

Beer Corner


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Photo by collect on the internet
Made famous by Anthony Bourdain in his epic visit to Hanoi, Beer Corner is one of the most unique parts about the best of Hanoi. Every night, kegs are rolled onto the street and tiny plastic stools are set up while locals and tourists alike drink 15 cent beer. No, that is not a typo….the beer is really 15 cents! For the low price of 5,000 (sometimes even 4,000!) dong, you can drink your hearts content of what is referred to as “fresh beer.”

For those who don’t like beer, even just wandering the streets here is entertaining. Beer Corner is an undeniable part of the best of Hanoi. The beer spots all sell various forms of food, or the street food stalls in the area are set up until late. Speaking of street food….the street food in this area is some of the best. Follow your nose, and you won’t be disappointed.

Food in Hanoi


Hanoi is something special for food. We had some of the best dishes in all of Vietnam in Hanoi, all found by wandering around. First off, I highly recommend everyone eat street food, especially in Vietnam. There is nothing better than street food on the streets of Hanoi, and it is all so insanely cheap. Look for locals eating there, long lines of people, and just use good judgement.

If you can find a street food stand selling Banh dau do, stop and get one or three. These freshly made waffle and cream sandwiches are one of the best desserts I have ever had.

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Photo by Guilhem Vellut
Banh Cuon is a Hanoi food specialty, but this was actually one of my least favorite dishes we tried. I’m not sure if it was the spot we tried it, or the actual meal, but I wouldn’t try it again. The dish is a fatty pork dish served over rice, but I just couldn’t get over the hair on the pork fat that I was eating.

Our favorite dish we discovered was Pho Xao Bo. a noodle dish with a thick gravy on top. The gravy was so rich in flavor, and paired well with the thicker noodle used in the dish. While Pho is usually used to designate soups, this is a noodle dish rather than a soup. There are stands that specialize in just Pho Xao Bo, so look for the signs while wandering the Old Quarter area.

Banh Mi are pretty much everywhere, as well as pho soup stands. There are tons of street food stands in Hanoi, but there are also decently expensive restaurants with street seating so be careful at which you choose. You also can’t go wrong with a good clay pot meal. I loved the Clay Pot Chicken I tried at a restaurant in the Old Quarter.

Hanoi Old Quarter is a great place for those who love discovering unique local food. True to the name of Asia's leading culinary destination, Hanoi Street Food tour meets all culinary requirements for you.

The back streets are worth wandering around, as this is where we found the best pork and rice dish we tried. There were no signs, and we were in an alley way of locals. But the food spoke for itself, and was beyond delicious. So wander, use your noses, and find the places you love!

Hanoi is in the northern part of Vietnam, and the weather there during the winter can be moderately cold. If you are planning a trip during the winter months, remember to bring light jackets, long shirts, and long pants.

Hanoi will go down as one of our favorite cities we’ve visited. As far as cities go, there is a little bit of everything that makes a city great. We had so much fun finding the best of Hanoi, and wish everyone going there a fantastic time. Hopefully one day we will return!
Item Reviewed: THE ABSOLUTE BEST THINGS OF HANOI CAPITAL Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Nga Do
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