6. Ta Hien Beer Street
What is it? A popular Hanoi hangout spot that overflows with visitors eating and drinking well into the night.
Why go? On the corner of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets in Old Quarter is one of the best nightlife spots in the city. Bia Hoi Junction is open throughout the day, but when night comes the streets quickly become crowded. Locals and tourists bustle about between small bars, street food carts and shops. The numerous street food stalls have prices so low that it would be silly not to eat a bit of everything. Some local delicacies include barbecue pork and rice noodle soup, fresh rich noodle rolls, beef pho, flame grilled skewers of vegetables and meat, and Vietnam’s iconic banh mi baguette. Pull up a plastic stool, order a cheap pint of beer and start people-watching.
7. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
What is it? A traditional puppet show dating back to the eleventh century.
Why go? Seeing a Thang Long Water Puppet show is a cultural highlight of Hanoi that should not be missed. Performances include a series of short sketches, often depicting traditional Vietnamese folk tales or illustrating special events such as the rice harvest season. What makes the show so unique is that the puppets perform over a shallow pool of water, controlled by skilled puppeteers hidden behind curtains. Accompanying the performances are traditional bands playing drums, bamboo flutes, wooden bells and small cymbals. Designed for people of all ages, the shows are typically narrated in Vietnamese but it’s easy to decipher what’s going on if you don’t understand the language. Tickets often sell out, so be sure to get there early.
8. Hanoi Opera House
What is it? The architectural highlight of the French quarter.
Why go? Charming and elegant, the French Quarter is easily accessible by foot from the Old Quarter. Inspired by the Opéra Garnier Theatre in Paris, the perfectly preserved Hanoi Opera House is a reminder of the city’s colonial past and one of the most impressive buildings in the area. After strolling the streets past stylish French bistros and galleries, heat to the very cute Tranquil Books for an unusual local coffee. Single origin pourovers and European style espressos are available, though we suggest trying a delicious ca phe trung, or egg coffee. Somewhere between a coffee and a dessert, this sweet concoction of fluffy egg whites, condensed milk and strong black coffee will leave you buzzing.
9. Ha Long Bay
What is it? A bay dotted with huge limestone islands and caves, best experienced on an overnight cruise.
Why go? Perhaps Vietnam’s most recognisable sight, Halong Bay is a vast bay strewn with tiny islands and fascinating caves. Most journeys into the bay will include sailing through the unusually shaped islands, climbing through the cathedral-like Hang Thien Cung caves and kayaking around the floating fisherman villages. While it’s possible to do a day trip from Hanoi, we highly recommend staying for at least one night on a boat. The age old saying of you get what you paid for rings true here, and it’s worth splashing a little bit more cash for a truly remarkable stay.
There is a lot to love about Hanoi, and here are our top tips on how to make the most of your time here.