I really liked Hanoi, like REALLY liked it.

Maybe because it was our first stop in Vietnam, having chosen to see this part of the world by working from north to south, or maybe it was because Hanoi was my first SE Asian city in almost 12 months.  Either which way, I really liked it and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

Each day began with a smoothy (to wash down the beer from the night before), followed by a walk around town.  We had no set plans as such, but still managed to uncover 5 seriously cool things to do in Hanoi, and which I bring to you now.

Hopefully you enjoy them as much as I did.

Street Scene - Hanoi

Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Sog Temple is top of my list for things to do in Hanoi, and should be your first stop in Hanoi (after your hotel/hostel).

It’s amazing the way we’re drawn to water, and this temple being situated on Hoàn Kiếm Lake saw the girlfriend and I gravitate to this part of the city almost as soon as we landed … and after a good 9 hours flight recovery sleep.

Also know as the Temple of the Jade Mountain, a beautiful red bridge known as the Morning Sunlight Bridge (The Huc) allows access to this picturesque temple. Ngoc Son Temple exemplifies the harmony of Taoist feng shui. It is surrounded by water, which directs energy toward the temple.

The temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, a 13th century Vietnamese military national hero, La To (patron saint of physicians) and the scholar Van Xuong who was a Confucian master who assumed responsibility for extensive additions and repairs made to the temple and the surrounding areas from 1864.


ngoc son temple, Hanoi

ngoc son temple, Hanoi

Water Puppet Show

It was a squeeze to fit my fat backside and long legs in the tiny theatre seats, but once the show started the numbness in my legs became less of a priority.  Number of 2 on my list of thing to do in Hanoi is most definitely to water a water puppets show.

To be honest I’m not entirely sure what happened the night we visited a water puppet show, I just know that the singing was pretty special and the puppets themselves were aestheticly incredible and operated by the puppeteers in an amazing manner.

There was a story in there somewhere too, but that part was lost on my I’m afraid.

Still a very worthwhile, and budget friendly experience though.

Went to see a water puppet show earlier. Very entertaining and very clever #pbvietnam #pbvietnammap

A video posted by Neil Barnes (@packsandbunks) on

Dong Xuan Night Market

Travel and markets seem to go hand in hand, all the good travel spots have em’, and Hanoi is no exception.

The thing is though, I’m not really one for shopping, and if I do NEED to visit the shops I probably already know exactly what I want and so will skip the browsing part.

My girlfriend is the opposite and loves shopping, so naturally we we have a voted around whether we go to any shops and/or market, her votes counts more than mine, so we go.

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

In truth I actually didn’t hate the market, and almost enjoyed it (that’s a recommendation effectively).  It’s covered the basics in terms of knock-off clothing, CD’s and DVD’s.  There were also a few food stalls thrown into the mix, which were my area of expertise.

Of course to visit the market is free, so it’s another budget friendly thing to do in Hanoi, and a good way to kick off an evening in the city.


dong xuan night market

Find A Bar With A View

… and watch the world go by.

Now we’re talking.  A large Hanoi beer on a balcony overlooking a wash or red and white lights below and I’m good to go.

Sitting high above the Hanoi streets, watching the mass of cars and mopeds pass by is pretty much like watching a free light show.

Definitely on the list of things to do in Hanoi.

Hanoi traffic by night. Really quite hypnotic #pbvietnam

A video posted by Neil Barnes (@packsandbunks) on

FOOD (and lots of it)

After a few of those large beers, no doubt the munchies will kick in at some point.

Now is the time to go find some ricey goodness, and a LARGE plate of spring rolls.

With that in mind, might I suggest Newday restaurant as a food establishment worthy of a visit.  We had some of the best food we’d tasted throughout Asia here.

Things to do in Hanoi – EAT!  Eat big.


Where in the world?

Things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam

Disclaimer:  The opening image used within the blog post was supplied by Vietnam travel experts Insider Journeys.