Top experiences in Hanoi
Vendors on streets
Hanoi is a big tourism center of Vietnam, but it is different from modern cities where people favor shopping and big-scale supermarkets. In contrast, Hanoi people favor vendors on streets.
There are a variety of vendors with goods neatly arranged in bamboo baskets. Such vendors are like mobile stalls that can move anywhere to find customers.
The image of the vendor is usually a woman wearing a conical hat or a man wearing a hard hat.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is one of the most visited attractions in Hanoi. It is the final resting place of President Ho Chi Minh, the most iconic and popular leader of Vietnam. His body is preserved here in a glass case at the mausoleum.
For visitors, a trip to President Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place can be an extraordinary experience as it is not just an average attraction; it’s part of history.
Started in 1973, the construction of the mausoleum was modeled on Lenin's mausoleum in Russia and was first open to the public in 1975. The granite building meant a great deal for many locals as it ensures that their beloved leader ‘lives on forever’.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Thursday and weekends from 08:00 – 11:00. Closed on Monday and Friday
Many sidewalks in the Old Quarter have cool beer shops that attract a lot of foreign customers.
The most familiar place for cool beer is the intersection between Ta Hien street and Luong Ngoc Quyen street.
Ta Hien street in Hanoi’s centre is famous among tourists and expats. This small street in the heart of Phố Cổ - ‘the Old Quarter’ - hosts dozens of sidewalk ‘bia hoi’ (draught beer) sites that draw a diverse crowd of customers.
It is often said of Ta Hien that it is the first street that backpackers visit when they arrive in Hanoi and the last place they see before they leave. Located near the offices of travel firms are dozens of restaurants serving ‘foreign’ food and service centers for travelers. However, in the eyes of foreign visitors and resident expats, Ta Hien is most attractive for its ‘bia hoi.’
Tiny curbside restaurants offer cheap, cool, freshly-brewed beer, priced at only VND5,000 dong per big glass. They are ideal places for travelers to gather from afternoon until midnight.
At the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets, four bia hoi stands are always crowded with a widely diverse group of low budget tourists and other young foreigners who have settled down in Hanoi for a while. When sunset falls, these “international bia hoi corner” establishments come alive.
The Hai Loan bia hoi restaurant is only a little over ten square meters, just enough space for a glass cupboard and several beer buckets. The owners are a middle-aged couple who stay busy from late afternoon until midnight serving bia hoi customers sitting in plastic chairs on the sidewalk.
Within view of Hai Loan are Coolbeer Ngoc Anh, Coolbeer Thanh Thuy and others. Dozens of bia hoi venues extend down side steets like Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hang Bac and the alleys of Sam Cong, Quang Lac and Hai Tuong. They share the same character: small, sidewalk stands serving a youngish foreign clientele.
At Hai Loan Restaurant, owners and customers communicate with their hands. Though the establishment is very crowded, the owners don’t hire workers. Patrons help themselves to a pile of plastic chairs at the corner, the husband pulls the beer and his wife collects the money. The “food” for beer drinkers is very simple: packs of roasted peanuts.
Vendors walk along the street offering grilled squid at between 30,000 and 50,000 per squid to beer drinkers.
The Ta Hien bia hoi sites become more and more crowded as the night grows late. They can sell over 100 liters of beer per evening. Many customers cannot find a free seat, so they have to stand and wait for others to leave.
Though all the bia hoi venues are small and cramped, the young Westerners like them very much and pass along their favorite addresses.
Crossing streets in Hanoi is a strange experience for foreigners. Once you start, it will be dangerous to turn back. The only choice is to step forward and then carefully watch to avoid vehicles.
Hanoi Old Quarter
Inside a modern and dynamic city, there appears an antique quarter, the Hanoi’s Old Quarter – the represented eternal soul of the city.
Located between the Lake of the Restored Sword, the Long Bien Bridge, a former city rampart, and a citadel wall, the Old Quarter (consisting of 36 old streets inside) started as a snake and alligator-infested swamp. It later evolved into a cluster of villages made up of houses on stilts, and was unified by Chinese administrators who built ramparts around their headquarters.
Hanoi's Old Quarter came into being at the time King Ly Thai To selected Thang Long as the country’s capital in 1010, that is, the streets have a nearly 1,000-year old history and became crowded & lively in 15th century. What makes them unique is that many of them remain in their very ancient architecture of the 15th century.
Due to their long-lasting age, they are called “Old Quarter” or “36 Old Streets” (as consisting of 36 member streets). In the past, as artisans moved to the capital city to do business, they gathered together in this area to share the resources. As a result, many of the streets were named after the crafts sold at that individual street. Pho Hang Bun (Vermicelli), Pho Hang Ma (Paper Product), Pho Hang Bac (Silver), etc. are examples of the streets carrying the name of the products sold there.
Long Bien Bridge
The 2,290-m Long Bien Bridge was built between 1899 and 1902 by the French, and opened to traffic in 1903.
The bridge was upgraded twice during the 1995-2010 period with a total investment of VND116 billion ($5.5 million). However, over the past four years, the bridge has continued to deteriorate.
As the only bridge across the Red River that connected Hanoi to the highway leading to the northern port city of Hai Phong, the bridge played a crucial role in many important events in the country's history, including the independence wars.
The bridge was initially called Doumer. At the time of construction, the over-2km-long bridge was one of the world's largest bridges, and one of the most important works of the Far East.
The Doumer Bridge was known as the first steel bridge across the Red River in Hanoi. It was built in 1898 and completed in 1902 by contractor Daydé et Pillé, under the leadership of the Indochina Governor Paul Doumer.
After the country’s liberation, the bridge was renamed Long Bien.
For over 100 years, witnessing many changes since the country's wartime to peacetime, Long Bien Bridge has become a symbol of the history of Vietnam.
Vietnam still maintains the graceful architecture of France of the last century.
In addition, the French style shows in Hanoi delicacies. French bread is varied by being stuffed with pate or herbs. The French style goes deep into the Vietnamese culture.
In Hanoi, coffee and tea are equally preferred by Hanoians. To young generation, coffee is preferred. Coffee is also a favorite of Hanoi people inspired by the French. They like mixing café with milk.
People like to sit at a cafe and wait patiently for every drop of coffee from the coffee filter, look at people and surrounding vehicles. The style of enjoying café is as poetic as the French. Enjoying café on sidewalks is a way of also enjoying the rhythm of life.
Compiled by Pha Le