It’s big, it’s busy, and Vietnam’s capital is filled with intriguing attractions
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the traditional heart of the Vietnamese capital with each of the 36 streets in this rustic enclave dedicated to a particular trade . There’s haberdashery street, hardware street, porcelain street — and visitors can spend hours wandering the network of narrow lanes.
HOAN KIEM LAKE
Hanoi’s Old Quarter lake sits at the very heart of the city, and while a stroll around the waterway is almost compulsory for every visitor, it’s best to pass by early in the morning when locals assemble to exercise, read the paper, and drink rich Vietnamese coffee sold by footpath baristas.
There’s a quiet corner of the Old Quarter that comes to life several times a day when racing trains rattle along tracks jammed between houses. While the iPhone generation dashes to snap selfies, it’s best to linger after the carriages pass to observe how locals manage life right beside the rails.
HA LONG BAY
Gliding past the famous limestone peaks that rise from the emerald water in Ha Long Bay is a must-do for any trip to Vietnam. It’s possible to reach the bay on a day trip from Hanoi, but the long drive means it’s better to linger longer with an overnight cruise.
NGOC SON TEMPLE
Stroll across the red wooden bridge to Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi’s most visited religious retreat. The temple occupies an island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, with the landmark dedicated to a 13th-century war lord, the patron saint of physicians, and an old-time scholar.
TWO WHEEL TOURING
Riding on the back of a vintage scooter is a wonderful way to explore a bygone settlement where so many people still get around on two wheels with Vespa Adventures offering a half-day tour called Hanoi Insider that not only takes in top sightseeing locations but samples the city’s cool cafe culture.