Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city, the largest being Ho Chi Minh City. The city is located on the banks of the Red River.
Hoan Kiem Lake
ABOUT HANOI CITY
The City of Hanoi has represented the political focus of Vietnam since the Reunification of Vietnam in 1976. Hanoi replaced Hue, which acted as the Imperial capital during the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945.
Hanoi’s population had reached 7.2 million by late 2014, with an annual population growth rate of 2.74% about 200,000 people a year. However, there could be a high degree of variance with these figures given the migration into the city from the surrounding rural provinces, a movement that is unlikely to reduce in the foreseeable future. The majority of residents in the city are of Kinh ethnicity.
Hanoi has experienced a rapid construction boom in recent years. Skyscrapers, and new urban development areas, have dramatically changed the cityscape and have formed a modern skyline outside of the old city centre.
Over the years, investment performance of Ha Noi had developed positively, both in quality and quantity. The total investment capital in the capital city reached more than VND1,400 trillion (US$62 billion), double than that between 2006-2010, with foreign investment playing a key role.
Hanoi is located in northern region of Vietnam, situated in the Vietnam’s Red River delta, nearly 90 km (56 miles) away from the coastal area. Hanoi, often referred to as the City of Lakes, is sited on the Red River that flows into the Gulf of Tonkin. It has 12 urban, 17 rural districts and a town. Hanoi contains three basic kind of terrain, which are the delta area, the midland area and mountainous zone. In general, the terrain is gradually lower from the north to the south and from the west to the east, with the average height ranging from 5 to 20 meters above the sea level. The hills and mountainous zones are located in the northern and western part of the city. The highest peak is at Ba Vi with 1281 m, located in the western part of the region.
Hanoi features a warm humid subtropical climate with considerable rainfall. The city experiences the typical climate of northern Vietnam, where summers are hot and humid, and winters are, by national standards, relatively cold and dry. Summers, lasting from May to September, are hot and humid. The average temperature in summer is 29C but can reach up to 39C.The winters, lasting from November to March, are relatively mild, dry (in the first half) or humid (in the second half), while spring (April) brings light rains. Autumn (October) is the best time of year in term of weather. Hanoi averages 1,680mm (66.1 in) of rainfall per year, the majority falling from in the summer months from May - September. In winter the city is often cloudy and foggy, with little if any sunshine.
Despite a thousand years of eventful history, marked by destruction, wars and natural calamities, Hanoi still preserves many significant ancient architectural structures. Outside of the new high rise developments Hanoi remains a picturesque city with the leafy metropolis sometimes dubbed the "Paris of Asia." With its tree-fringed boulevards, more than two dozen lakes and thousands of French colonial-era buildings, Hanoi is a popular tourist destination and one of only a few Asian capitals to retain its historic charm amid rapid modernisation and population growth.
Hanoi also contains many beautiful lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, and Truc Bach Lake, etc. which are the lungs of the city, with their surrounding gardens and trees providing a vital refuge for some rest and relaxation..
Many traditional handicrafts are also practiced in Hanoi including bronze moulding, silver carving, lacquer, and embroidery. Hanoi has many famous traditional professional handicraft villages such as Bat Trang pottery village, Ngu Xa bronze casting village, Yen Thai glossy silk...
Central City Hanoi
Capital of Vietnam
September 2, 1945
• Total 7,200,000
Top Attractions of Hanoi
The 11th Century Temple of Literature (Quoc Tu Giam), Hanoi’s ancient university has beautiful shady tranquil gardens and courtyards as well as its colourful Confucian temple. This pride of Vietnamese education attracts many local & overseas visitors. The Temple of Literature was originally built as a Confucian Temple in 1070 AD. Six years later on the same grounds was founded Vietnam's first university to educate the administrative and military Mandarin classes.
The Hanoi Old Quarter is the historic soul of Hanoi, located close to Hoan Kiem Lake. Daily routine starts early and builds to a friendly bustle. The Old Quarter, retains much of the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. In the past, each street was named after the specialisation of a particular trade silver, silk, paper etc. Although many of the streets no longer have the products for which they were named, some have managed to keep operating with the original trade. St. Joseph's cathedral bells ring throughout the day, located in the Old Quarter it provides some a striking Neo-Gothic style of architecture. Huyen Thien Pagoda is one of many temples around this part of town. The Old City Gate has survived over 1,000 years and is one of four original gateways to the centre of the City.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is home to the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh where he now lies for public viewing. Liberator and founder of modern day Vietnam Ho Chi Minh is still affectionally recalled though out Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex was built with assistance from the USSR as is evident from the architectural styling. The building stands stands within a well manicured grassy area with concrete walkways. The site is highly revered and respectful clothing and attitude are pre requisites before entering. Due to the popularity of visiting the mausoleum there is usually a long wait and queues for entry. Also nearby is the popular Ho Chi Minh Museum dedicated to his life and work.
The One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot) is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. It is built of wood with a single stone pillar and designed to represent a lotus blossom, the Buddhist symbol of purity. The French forces destroyed the original pagoda but it was rebuilt shortly afterwards.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, the musical stories portray historical Vietnamese legends and folk tales. The highly popular performances are given by a troupe of talented actors and accompanied by a traditional Vietnamese pit orchestra. Suitable for all ages they are charming, and enchanting. Due to their popularity it is advisable to book in advance
The Flag Tower of Hanoi some 200 years old it is a true symbol of Hanoi. Built 1805-12 to a height of 33m, it formed part of the Thang Long Citadel which was later largely destroyed by the French, however, the Flag Tower survived. The tower has since been used in many significant events, including the flag of Vietnam being flewn there for the first time in 1945 and again in October 1954 to mark the Capital’s liberation day. Since 1986 a flag has constantly flown from the Tower.
The infamous Hoa Lo prison (Hanoi Hilton) remains in part, the city prison was built by the French and later used by the North Vietnamese to house captured American fighter pilots. The actual prison was demolished in the 1990s but part remains as museum mainly displaying its use during the French period - including the guillotine room and exhibits of the American prisoners.
Dong Xuan Market is a massive three stories trading many goods, local food and clothes, as well as cosmetics and crafts. Locals and tourists alike fill the crowded aisles and stalls during the day, bartering just about anything and everything imaginable. In the evenings at the weekends the night market opens with a unique feeling of energy, here it is possible to sample traditional foods while watching cultural performances that include music and dance.
A short trip from Hanoi City is the Perfumed Pagoda (Chua Huong) a large complex of Buddhist temples and shrines built into the limestone mountains in the My Duc district. The site also includes the Inner Temple (Chua Trong) which is located in the Huong Tich cave. Large numbers of pilgrims come from across Vietnam to visit this complex.
Hanoi has a rich and varied culinary tradition. Many of Vietnam's most famous dishes, such as Pho, Cha Ca and Banh Cuon are believed to have originated in Hanoi. Probably the most widely known is the Vietnamese signature dish of Phở —a simple rice noodle soup often eaten as breakfast at home or at street-side cafes, but also served in restaurants as a meal. Two varieties dominate the Hanoi scene: Phở Bò, containing beef, and Phở Gà, containing chicken. Vietnam's national dish of pho has rightly been named as one of the top street foods in the world.
There are thousands of street stalls in Hanoi offering a plethora of different dishes as an alternative to Pho. Sampling these eateries is a great way to experience the local food and culture. Food quality, freshness, and hygiene can vary greatly so be aware. Market food stalls also offer an assortment of other snacks such as: fruit portions, sausage and doughnuts.
Western food style outlets are now readily available throughout Hanoi including chicken and pizza restaurants. Usually they are frequented more by local Vietnamese patrons than by visiting overseas tourists.
Phở (Noodle soup):
This universally famous food is best enjoyed in Hanoi, where it was “invented” in the early 20th century. Pho- or rice noodle soup- is omnipresent in Hanoi, appearing anywhere from street vendors to high end restaurant chain Pho 24. Some is served with chicken and some with beef. Each type of meat entails a variety of sub-dish, using from beef tenderloin to beef brisket, chicken wing to chicken thigh. The tip is, look for the place where locals gather the most and you know where you should order and sit down.
If Pho is compatible to linguine in shape, Bun is more like spaghetti. Bun thang is one of the most popular yet hidden fares in Hanoi and one can hardly find it outside of the Old quarters or a few special restaurants scattering across the city. The chicken broth is artistically done and the dish is beautifully served. Bun thang is a harmonious blend of color- the yellow of sliced egg; the white of bun; the off-white of chicken and the green of onions and herbs.
Chả cá Lá vọng:
You think you have read about this name somewhere and yes, you are right. Cha ca La Vong is listed as one of the top 100 things you gotta try before you die by many cuisine experts. It is exquisitely grilled fish served with bún, peanut, green onions, dills and shrimp paste. The fish is carefully chosen so that there are not too many bones and fishy smells. A glass of bia hoi or tra da will definitely give your meal more flavour.
If the French has this famous delicious crepe made of wheat, egg and dairy products; Vietnamese and particularly Hanoian is proud of their steamed crepe from rice flour and water. A savoury meal, the inside stuffing contains ground pork, wood-ear and seasoning. Most street chefs make the dish right at door so look for a place that steams are coming up high. Banh cuon is served with nuoc mam, a mixture of fish sauce, sugar and lime.
Chances are you will encounter this dish in almost every outdoors market.
There are even two restaurants dedicated fully to this dish in the Old Quarters. Xoi xeo is sticky rice topped with ground de-hulled mung bean and fried onion. Sometimes it can be served with eggs or steamed chicken breast on request. The serving is really filling and it is good for any time of the day but most Vietnamese have it for breakfast or lunch.
It seems easy to make, but inevitably homemade attempts never satisfy the craving like the restaurants along Phat Loc do. All the restaurant owners claim the secret is carefully selected materials rather than age-old techniques.
First of all, the rice noodles must come from Phu Do in Hanoi's Tu Liem district, where rice noodle production is the village's traditional trade. These rice noodles are much thinner than normal strands of bun you might sample around town. The cha com is made with green rice flakes (com) from Vong village and the mam tom comes from Thanh Hoa province.
People often just eat bun dau for lunch, so the restaurants are only open from 11am till 2pm. A bowl normally costs about $1 so bun dau is universally adored. You can see well-heeled young professional women side by side with vendors in conical hats. You can find bun dau sold on the road side of a number of streets around Hanoi, but ask anyone and they'll surely agree, bun dau mam tom on Phat Loc alley is the bees-knees.
Bún đậu mắm tôm
Bun dau mam tom is basically chunks of tofu served in a hot soup on a bed of rice noodles with a dollop of shrimp paste. It's an extremely popular meal that's often overlooked by guidebooks and seldom-tried by tourists or even long term residents of Hanoi.
A number of street side restaurants down Phat Loc alley in the Old Quarter serve up extremely tasty renditions of this dish, which seems simple, nourishing and healthy.
Its not easy to know which vendor's broth is the best, but first-time culinary adventurers shouldn't worry so much. Each stall is consistent and of a high standard.
The seating is rudimentary – small plastic stools and chairs. But you don't come here to enjoy plush surroundings! As soon as you sit down one of the cooks starts to fry up some tofu while cutting the long rice noodle strings up. The tofu is added before the broth is poured into the bowl. The 'mam tom' – not everyone's cup of tea! – is tweaked with some lime juice and pepper. A few chunks of cha com (grilled chopped meat mashed up with green rice flakes) are also added. Lastly, you get served a plate of assorted greens to add to the mix.
Bánh tôm Hồ Tây (West Lake Shrimp Cake)
There is a cake must be mentioned when it comes to the specialties of Hanoi, which is the West Lake shrimp cake – one of the dishes made culinary peculiarities of Ha Noi. The West Lake shrimp cake is a type of batter-dipped shrimp patties that were originally made and served by a state-owned restaurant next to West Lake in the 1970’s. Originally, freshwater shrimp that were caught from West Lake were used to make the dish, hence geographically inspired moniker. The West Lake shrimp cake is served with sweet and sour fish sauce, green papaya and carrot slices.
The baguette is one of the enduring symbols of French colonialism. It’s given a Southeast Asian twist by stuffing it with pâté, mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeños and gobs of cold cuts. But the bánh mì is basically a blank slate to which cooks can add whatever they desire.
Bia hơi (Fresh beer)
Draft beer is sacred to Vietnam, where tipplers wile away the hours sipping on this crisp, unpasteurized and unfiltered lager—its name roughly translates to “fresh beer”—that’s usually sold for about 25 cents a mug. Go on, have four. You’d need to drink gallons to get drunk.
When lunchtime hits in Hanoi, the air is perfumed with the scent of sizzling grilled pork, the key component to the city’s signature dish. The swine is served alongside a sweet ’n’ salty broth, slices of green papaya, rice noodles and fresh herbs as far as the eye can see.
Nem cua bể: includes crab meat. It is a very nice dish. Having eaten once, one cannot forget it and want to eat it again. Nem ran is the best in the small shops specialized in selling nem. On menu of every restaurant, you can find this dish.
Nem Vuong – 58 Dao Duy Tu
Quan Nem – 123 Bui Thi Xuan
Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim – 67 Duong Thanh
Bun Cha Nem Cua Be – 1 Pho Hue
Slow-moving sea snails are cherished in Hanoi, where they’re served in a steaming noodle soup with a tomato-based broth.
Bun Oc Ba Sau: 73 Mai Hac De
Bun Oc – Pho Hue Nhai
Bun Oc – Pho Doi Can
Bun Oc – Phu Tay Ho
Bun Oc co Them – 6 Hang Chai
Miến lươn: vermicelli dipped in boiling water, eel meat boned and fried with onion and assorted kinds of vegetables (mint, mixed greens, and poured with consomme. It is a light and refreshing food. Mien luon is often sold in small sidewalk kiosks. This dish also appears on hotel menus, either with consomme or fried dry. Eels, snails, and fish are considered refreshing food, advisable for people of "hot blood".
Mien Luon Dong Thinh – 87 Hang Dieu
Mien Luon Yen Ninh – Junction at Le Dai Hanh street
Mien Luon 34 Le Dai Hanh
Mien Luon Tan Tan – 14 Tue Tinh
Consider this the love child of phở, tomato soup and the sea. The noodle soup is composed of a tomato-based broth filled with plenty of crab and bobbing chunks of tomato.
Bun Ruou Quang Trung
Bun Ruou Thai Phien – Hai Ba Trung
Bun Ruou Hang Buom (15.00 – 19.00)
Bun Ruou Duong Thanh
Bun Ruou Tran Xuan Soan
Various kinds of lẩu (hot pot): a turban shaped pan containing consomme; in the middle of the pan is a charcoal stove (now alcohol fuel or electricity is used). The consomme is boiling throughout the meal. The lau pan is placed in the middle of the table, around it are a variety of food which can include noodle, vermicelli, pig heart, liver and kidneys, goat meat, eel, onion, vegetables. Eaters serve themselves; taking the food into a large spoon and dipping ti into one's bowl . Depending on the ingredients used, it is called lau de (goat meat), lau luon (eel meat) or with many different kinds of meat, it is called lau thap cam (assorted meat). This dish always figures on the menu of deluxe restaurants and bear the name mixed hot pot-steamed boat.
Cà phê sữa nóng/sữa đá
Jumpstart your nervous system with a steaming cup of cà phê sữa nóng—that is, potent coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk. It’s an electric jolt to the nervous system. (If you prefer your coffee cold, order cà phê sữa đá—with ice.)
Hanoi is not world famous for its nightlife and some visitors find it outright staid but there are some places worth checking out and – as everywhere – it's all out there if you look for it.
1. BIA HOI (FRESH BEER)
Perhaps the most prolific side to Hanoi's after-work activities is its many beer bars selling 'bia hoi (fresh beer) where a glass costs a fraction of what it would in the west. One famous travel guide claims that US$10 will buy you (and hopefully your friends) 100 beers!
‘Bia hoi’ refers to the refreshingly light, chilled, straw-coloured draught beer, as well as the no-frills neighbourhood drinking spots where you’ll finding yourself throwing them back. For instance, your new friends might say to you “Let’s go for bia hoi!” or “Let’s head to the bia hoi!” Befriend some Vietnamese and that’s what you’ll hearoften.
Bia hoi is so popular in Vietnam it apparently dominates some 30% of the country’s beer market. Considering roughly half of Vietnam’s population of over 90-something million people are in the peak beer-drinking ages of 20- to 40-years old, that’s a lot of bia hoi being downed each day.
Several shophouses have plastic stools spilling out onto the streets, with beers being served for as little as VND10,000 (less than US$1) and street vendors serving steamed peanuts, beef jerky and other exotic snacks. The beer is quite weak compared to European standards, but for an all round experience it is quite something. Open throughout the day and late into the night.
Its popularity is also explained by its taste. Lightly carbonated with a fine white head that quickly disappears, the light golden brew is clear, crisp and clean to taste. The thirst-quenching beer is so easily quaffed because it’s so low in alcohol — just 2.5-4.5%.
Served icy cold, it’s consumed fast and in large quantities during summer— which is why you’d expect it to be more popular in Vietnam’s sultry southern city, Saigon. Yet nowhere is the drinking of this zingy beer as ubiquitous as it is in Vietnam’s northern capital where there seems to be a bia hoi joint on nearly every block, and in Hanoi’s labyrinthine old quarter on almost every corner.
They’re easy to spot. Look for shin-high red or blue plastic stools spilling out of a neon-lit interior onto the footpath and street. Although this scattering of seating will periodically be tidied up and packed inside causing patrons to scramble when the word spreads that a police patrol is on its way.
The occupants of bia hoi joints will be holding green-ish recycled-glass tumblers, complete with bubbles and chips that easily crack — take care — and nibbling on pumpkin seeds, peanuts or rice crackers.
The bia hoi interior might be tiny — little more than an area for storing kegs, pouring beers and washing glasses — or it could be enormous, crammed with stainless steel tables and kid-size plastic chairs.
Sit inside and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals who’ll soon be showing you how to eat and, later, shouting you glasses of the amber stuff.(Yes, we know from experience.)
The low price is what has made bia hoi the people’s beer, which is fitting for Hanoi, the city where communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on Ba Dinh Square on September 2nd 1945, leading to North Vietnam’s secession from the South.
At 19c Ngoc Ha Street in Ba Dinh, on the road running behind Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Presidential Palace, the Ngoc Ha Bia Hoi is one of Hanoi’s most pleasant, located in a sprawling, shaded beer garden. Groups of boisterous local politicos and office-workers order plastic jugs of bia hoi and dishes of everything from fried eel to grilled frog.
“Half past eight in the evening and it is closing time in the large Bia Hoi behind Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, which locals know by its address, 19A Ngoc Ha, rather than its name.
The shouts of “mot, hai, ba – uong!” (One, two, three – bottoms up!) are getting fewer and further between. An hour later the last red-faced patrons stagger out and the staff sit down for a quick meal before the final clean-up.
This uniquely Hanoian experience dates back to 1961, when the Hanoi Brewery decided to make bia hoi, literally ‘fresh beer': a low-alcohol, unpasteurised brew without any added preservatives – a cheap and refreshing drink for those hot summer months.
Since then, the raucous, open-air beer gardens, which the brew’s success spawned, have become an integral part of Vietnam’s vibrant beer culture.
Many bia hoi spots serve food and in those that do waitresses will drop menus at your table when they deliver your first round beers — which generally arrive automatically — and tiny plastic packets of aromatic peanuts.
Other popular snacks include grilled dried squid, and in the bia hoi joints without kitchens, fermented sausage neatly wrapped in banana leaves, and — a bewildering favourite of young Hanoi hipsters — hot cheese sticks and French fries sprinkled with sugar. Yes, sugar. The food is not as cheap as you’d expect considering the price of the beer, but this is where the businesses make their profits.
For the tastiest bia hoi food, head to our favourite local at 2 Duong Thanh on the edge of the Old Quarter in a mustard-coloured building with chocolate shutters. The hot pots here are beloved by locals, especially during Hanoi’s chilly winter, however, we found ourselves ordering the fried tofu, a bia hoi stalwart, time and time again. We think it’s some of the city’s best, and we got to try a lot over three months.
There, the fried tofu is accompanied by a mountain of fresh basil leaves and a tiny dish of pepper and salt (or just pepper) and quarters of lemon. You need to squeeze the juice of the lemon into the tiny dish, mix it up, and dip in the tofu. You have to eat it while it’s hot. It’s sublime — as are the plates of grilled pork ribs and morning glory with garlic.
This joint is often mistaken for the bia hoi diagonally opposite, which I have a feeling is due to a guidebook error as we frequently saw tourists standing on the corner with their Lonely Planets looking from one to the other and trying to figure out where they should go. Our favourite is the one with the red and yellow name on the canvas awning that says “Bia Hoi Ha Noi — Cua Hang Ngoc Linh”.
If you find a bia hoi you like and want to note down the name, don’t simply scribble down ‘Bia Hoi Ha Noi’ or ‘Bia Hoi Lan Chin’. These signs mean they sell fresh beer from the Ha Noi or Lan Chin breweries. You’ll need to look at the menu for the full name, see if they have a business card (some do), take a photo of the awning sign, or simply use the street address.
Or do as Hanoi’s expats do and name your bia hoi after its distinguishing features.
Glenn Phillips of Explore Indochina, who was about to launch Hanoi’s first ever bia hoi tours when we were there last year (we were the first to test his tour out), directed us to the “cage bia hoi” (1A Trang Tien, in front of the Revolutionary Museum and opposite the History Museum), contained with an iron fence, and “boat bia hoi” (9 Duong Ven Ho), on West Lake near the Water Park.
Generally, the best time to hit a bia hoi for the most boisterous atmosphere is around 5-6pm, although each bia hoi buzzes at a different hour depending on its customers.
You’ll find old blokes in berets with wispy Uncle Ho-style beards sipping beers soon after dawn when the stainless steel 100-litre kegs arrive from the breweries and are unloaded from the backs of motorbikes. Late at night, when the last keg is emptied, you’re more likely to see tipsy groups of colleagues piling into taxis and young hipsters zooming off on shiny Italian Vespas.
The old-timers start early because they believe the unpasteurised, preservative-free beer — brewed daily and made to be consumed that day — tastes freshest first thing in the morning. Most of Hanoi’s fresh beer comes from three big breweries — Hanoi Brewery, Viet Ha Brewery and South East Asia Brewery — although smaller, backyard, home-style brewers also provide beer to bia hoi joints around the city.
Like baguettes and beef apparently, it seems the French were responsible for bringing beer to Vietnam, introducing it in the 1890s when the Hommel brewery was established. After the French left in 1954, the Hommel brewery became the Hanoi Brewery.
Although it wasn’t until the Vietnamese lightened the beer and made it their own — like the baguette, which they turned into bahn mi, and the beef, which they used for pho soup — that bia hoi drinking really took off.
Now, quaffing the brew is as quintessential a Hanoi experience as sipping egg coffee and slurping pho. For visitors to Hanoi, an evening sipping beer at a bia hoishould be right up there with visiting Ho Chi Minh’s tomb.
OUR FAVOURITE HANOI BIA HOI JOINTS
Bia hoi Hanoi – Cua hang Ngoc Linh: 2 Duong Thanh Street
Bia hoi Thien Nga: 86 Tran Hung Dao Street
Ngoc Ha Bia hoi: 19C Ngoc Ha Street
Bia hoi Junction: Cnr Ta Hien & Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets
Bia hoi Hai Xom: 22 Tang Bat Ho Street
Bia hoi Nha hang Truc Bach: Beside Nha Khach Truc Bach restaurant, 1 Tran Vu Street
Bia hoi 1A AU CO: Near the InterContinental Hotel
Bia hoi Cuong Hoi: 264 Thuy Khue Street
Bia hoi Ngo Huong: Ngo Huong Alley, between Ly Nam De & Phung Hung Streets
2. WATER PUPPET THEATRE (57B DINH TIEN HOANG STREET)
The world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi has its roots in an art form that dates back to the 11th century. The tradition of water puppet theatre stems from a time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers would make entertainment by standing in the waist-deep water with the puppets performing over the water.
Using large rods to support the puppets it appeared as if they were moving across the water with the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. This tradition is unique to North Vietnam but has recently found fame on stages all over the world; so it’s a rare treat to see the puppets perform in their original location at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Performances are accompanied by a Vietnamese orchestra playing traditional music using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. There are also authentic Vietnamese operatic songs telling the story that is being acted out by the puppets. Most of the shows recount Vietnamese folk tales and legends with topics including the celebration of the rice harvest depicted in a humorous fashion.
Local people often visit concerts in their free time. And Hanoi has many things to offer for music lovers: from jazz and swing to rock music! The only thing you have to do is to decide how you would love to spend your evening!
Hanoi Opera House
The beautiful Hanoi Opera House was built in 1911 by the then ruling French. It’s a phenomenal piece of neo-classical French architecture featuring Gothic themes on the doors and domes with pillars, shuttered windows, balconies and a glass room. Musicians, actors and dancers play to a 600-strong audience delivering powerful operatic and classical performances, making it a very popular theatrical attraction.
The Hanoi Opera House is the biggest theatre in Vietnam and speaks volumes as historical and cultural evidence of Vietnam under French rule. The interior is even more magnificent than the exterior with many arguing it is aesthetically even more appealing than the Paris Opera House. Visitors today will be entertained at this architectural landmark which features a range of events including local Vietnamese opera, traditional folk music, ballets and many international concerts.
Hanoi Opera House Highlights
Following the end of the August Revolution in 1945, The Hanoi Opera House reverted from entertaining the French elite to becoming the centre of major historical events including the first session of the National Assembly of the Republic. The Hanoi building went into a state of decline prior to being renovated and brought up to date in 1997 which included the installation of state-of-the-art equipment and the renewal of some of the interior decorations.
These improvements returned the opera house to its former glory which now sees international artists including violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Wolfgang Glemser take to the stage in addition to home-grown talent. Vietnamese entertainers perform songs, classical music, dance, drama and contemporary performances from superstars such as singer My Linh. The Hanoi Opera House offers a superb setting in which to see any live show. The stage is three metres high and there are three storeys in total so a wonderful experience is guaranteed regardless of your seating arrangements.
Good to Know about Hanoi Opera House
The Hanoi Opera House is located near Hoan Kiem Lake on August Revolution Square. There are superb views of the opera house at the Hilton Opera House hotel which is very close by.
You will need to purchase tickets to see the inside of the opera house although there are usually a host of concerts to choose from including drama, ballet and symphonies in addition to opera. The Hanoi Opera House is also the first choice for international meetings and conferences so check online when you are visiting to ensure a performance is scheduled.
Ca trù Music (28 Hang Buom), which has survived among a small community of historians for hundreds of years, is performed at a handful of small temples throughout the city. Performance at 8pm Tue, Thu and Sat. Book seats at Thang Long Ca Tru Guild, which seats about 30 guests (mainly tourists) on folding chairs to watch the three to five musicians alternate between vocals—a high-pitched vibrato—and wooden clappers, a three-stringed lute and a praise drum.
Swing Lounge ( No. 21 Trang Tien Street)
Swing Lounge is a fancy retro-style cafe by day and a popular live music venue by night. Surprisingly, the music played here is not only swing! In the evenings you may enjoy live performing of Vietnamese songs, as well as worldwide English hits! It also hosts concerts of famous Vietnamese singers and cabaret-shows. Open till late night, this is definitely a “must” if you are searching for a place with a style!
Opening Hours: 7 am – 3 am
Hanoi Rock City (No. 27 To Ngoc Van Street)
Hanoi Rock City is the capital of Vietnam’s independent music and is one of the most popular concert venues nowadays. Every weekend it holds special events and concerts, so you can have a great time and discover the local nightlife having a drink and enjoying actually great music!
Opening Hours: 4 pm – 2 am
Visiting pubs/bars is, probably, the most common way of spending free time among locals. People come here with a company of friends, for a drink after work or for any other occasion. The pubs/bars are usually pretty full during weekends and open till late night or early morning.
Le PUB (No. 25 Hang Be Street)
The bar is located in the heart of the Old Quarter, and it also has outdoor seatings, so you can enjoy watching the street action while having you drink. It has a good selection of drinks and several options for a lunch/dinner, including the variety of Vietnamese food. Le PUB is definitely the place with a friendly service and positive atmosphere.
Opening Hours: 7:00 am – 12:00 am
Mao’s Red Lounge (No. 7 Ta Hien Street)
Another great spot in the Old Quarter of Hanoi with a cozy and ambient atmosphere and a big choice of well-priced drinks. Plays a wide range of rock, dance, funk, Latin and reggae music. Moreover, if you don’t like the choice, there’s a possibility for you to play music from your own CD! A good place for meeting with friends and chilling after a long day.
Opening Hours: 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
The Rooftop (No. 83 Ly Thuong Kiet Street)
The Rooftop is a bar on the 19th floor of the capital’s Pacific Place Tower. It has a fantastic view on the Hanoi, especially during the night time, when the city is illuminated with millions of lights. The bar has an elegant interior design, fine cuisine and a good choice of drinks, It also regularly hosts special events and DJ’s performances.
Opening Hours: 11 am – 2 am
R & R Tavern (No. 10 Tho Nhuom Street)
An older expat crowd frequent R&R (Rock & Roll) Tavern for a chance to catch up and relax to classic rock. Live music packs the tavern out every Thursday and Saturday. Drinks include cocktails, draft beer and the usual selection of spirits. There’s also a Tex-Mex bar menu and regular ‘all-you-can-eat’ specials. There are big couches upstairs, a rooftop area, a pool table and live rock music at the weekends, including occasional open – mic sessions.
Opening Hours: 10pm – midnight
Hanoi is served by Noi Bai International Airport, located in the Soc Son District, approximately 45 km north of Hanoi. Depending on traffic the journey is approximately 1 hour by car from central Hanoi. Noi Bai is the main international airport for the northern regions of Vietnam. Terminal 1 services the domestic flights from Hanoi to Danang, Dien Bien, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Nha Trang, etc. and Terminal 2 the international flights to countries all over the world. Noi Bai airport also handles air freight and carries out logistics and exporting activities, with direct scheduled flights to all continents.
The Gia Lam Airport, located on the eastern bank of the Red River, is used for chartered helicopter taxi flights for travellers visiting nearby attractions such as Halong Bay or Ba Vi Mountain. The airport is due to become a fully functional civilian domestic airport, and it is planned to offer regional flights throughout Vietnam.
Railway, Hanoi is the point of departure for many Vietnam Railways train routes in the country. The Reunification Express runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi station, with stops at cities and provinces along the line. The train route between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City covers a distance of 1760 kilometres and takes approximately 33 hours. In addition, there are several arterial railways for freight transport, including railways to Hai Phong, Lao Cai and Lang Son.
Taxis are the best way to travel long distances,Taxi fares are not always consistent, and the rates for each taxi company have not been standardised. Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. It has also become common for the drivers of some of the less reputable taxi companies to "fix" their meters to run faster hence running up a high bill very fast! The recommendation is to only use the reputable and reliable taxi companies. These include Hanoi Group Taxi and Mai Linh Taxi.
Motorbike drivers ("Xe Om") can be found on many street corners, especially in the Old Quarter. Always negotiate a fare in advance. so know the distance you are travelling or understand that you have no real basis for negotiating a fair rate. Walk away towards the next street filled with motorbike drivers if you don't like their offer, as this is an incredibly reliable bargaining technique.
Cyclo, Negotiate first or avoid using the cyclos services, if not, they can demand a high price for a short distance. If you chose to travel by cyclo, be clear on your destination, negotiate your fee first.
Motorcycles can be rented for around USD5-6 a day, and can be arranged by most hotels. Take care though as Hanoi traffic is not for the feint hearted.
Park on the sidewalk with other bikes, and be sure to lock the front wheel. Locals will help arrange the bikes near their stores. Many shops that have bike attendants will give you a ticket in exchange for parking your bike. This may or may not come with a fee.
Bus city bus rides are cheap but a bit difficult to comprehend at first, the buses in Hanoi are now relatively fast and comfortable. If you are unfamiliar with the city, make sure to request from the the mostly helpful conductors where you wish to get off. Some newer buses are equipped with LED displays and voice announcements of the next stop.
There are 4 bus stations in Hanoi:
1. My Dinh Terminal, (Ben Xe My Dinh). My Dinh is 7 km to the west of the city. There are departures to dozens of northern cities, and a number of destinations to the south and east in Hanoi.
2. Southern Bus Terminal, (Ben Xe Phia Nam) terminal is located 5 kilometres south of the Old Quarter on Duong Giai and is dominated by private coach operators running comfortable vehicles on long distance routes, including to Vientiane in Laos. Departures run to the north, east as well as the south.
3. Gia Lam Bus Station, (Ben Xe Gia Lam) This station is located east of the Red River on Ngo Gia Kham, 2km from the far side of the Chuong Duong or Long Bien Bridges. Busses run to Thai Binh, Hai Phong, Hong Gai, Lao Cai, Lang Son, Mong Cai etc
4. Luong Yen Bus Station (Ben Xe Luong Yen) For most travellers, this is the main bus station required. It is convenient to the Old Quarter and provides sleeper coaches to the further destinations. Departures are to Hai Phong, Dong Ha, Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and Ho Chi Minh City etc.
River Hanoi has a small river harbour located on the Red River (An Duong harbour) with a number of barges and other shallow-draft vessels. The dimensions of these vessels are relatively small, with a limited capacity, due to the shallowness of the Red River. There is no known river taxi service at present but there are several cruises that take travellers to sites of interest along the Red River.
By car, Hanoi’s traffic is chaotic and driving yourself around is not to be recommended. The International Driver's Licence is not recognised in Vietnam.
Metro, Part overground and part underground the Hanoi Metro is under construction. The first phase is due to open in 2016.
Hanoi's dramatic economic transformation has led to a boom in new hotels. Hanoi now offers a wide range of accommodation options including, budget, mid range, luxury and high end are all available. Much of the cheaper accommodation including the boutique hotels is in or around the Old Quarter.
There are many internet cafés all over Hanoi. Rates vary but are generally very cheap. There are also cafes that offer free wifi as long as you order something from their menu you can use their wifi for as long as you want. There are restaurants and cafes with Wi-Fi hotspots everywhere in the city. Most restaurants and cafes that offer Wi-Fi readily advertise their Wi-Fi password.