You’ll find an excellent mix of things to do on your holiday to Hanoi, with history and culture at every turn. The Old Quarter is a great place to start; hire a bicycle to get around quickly, and before you know it you’ll be passing colonial architecture, narrow streets, rickety stalls and eye-catching pagodas. Browse for bargains at Dong Xuan Market, Vietnam’s largest indoor market, visit the city’s famous Silk and Silver Streets, and stay out late to experience the neon buzz of the Weekend Night Market.
Catch a performance at the quirky Water Puppet Theatre, where puppets come to life on the water and retell Vietnamese folklore. Delve into Vietnam’s fascinating history by visiting the sacred Marble Mausoleum – here you’ll be able to honour Vietnam’s first president, Ho Chi Minh (known affectionately as Uncle Ho), before heading to his former residence nearby, the enchanting One Pillar Pagoda which rises out of the water like a lotus. Browse tree-lined boulevards and unwind at Hoan Kiem Lake, where you can enjoy a traditional t’ai chi lesson on the shores, and be sure to stop off at the capital’s stylish designer restaurants and bars.
Hanoi is also a gateway to some incredibly picturesque spots. We recommend hopping on a seaplane for a scenic 45-minute journey to breathtaking Halong Bay, where you can explore the rainforest-topped limestone islets on a day trip or by overnight cruise. If you’re willing to travel a bit further then take an overnight train to the hills of Sapa in the north west, not far from the Chinese border – the rolling green terrain is a popular hiking spot.
GMT +7 hours
Vietnamese. Some speak French and English.
A service charge is usually included in the bill in large hotels and restaurants. In small restaurants and bars, leave a tip for good service. You should also tip baggage porters, drivers and guides.
Tailor shops will make bespoke garments for you in no time. You'll find handicrafts such as bamboo items, lacquerware, ceramics, silk and jewellery. Antiques are available, but can be difficult to take back to the UK due to problems at customs. Be sure to haggle for the best price, except in state-run stores where prices are fixed.
Vietnamese cuisine is similar to Chinese, with lots of noodles and rice. Buy a breakfast soup called 'pho' from street stalls and don't miss the chance to try a delicious spring roll. On the coast you'll find lots of seafood and fish.