Quick Travel Guide  •  Vietnam, Southeast Asia

How To Explore Hanoi Vietnam Like An Insider


Hanoi is not only the capital of Vietnam but also one of the biggest cities in the country, it is a popular starting or ending point for travelers and backpackers alike. The size of Vietnam is a bit deceiving. If you look on a map you would never think that this small, elongated strip of land hugging Laos and Cambodia from the right could be so long and packed full of hidden travel treasures. The length of Vietnam can be compared to the whole West Coast of the United States and all we had were two weeks to explore. If you talk to anyone who has ever been to Vietnam, they would tell you that this is pretty much impossible, but we tried it anyway. However, sacrifices had to be made and we realized this quickly after talking to some of the locals. There is no shame in visiting fewer places but exploring them properly. So, if you are here reading this post, then you are already a step ahead, educating yourself about the things to do and the places to see in Vietnam before your arrival. Vietnam’s most popular tourist destinations are the majestic rice terraces in Sapa, the archipelago of Halong Bay, the bustling city of Hanoi, the charming riverside town of Hoi An, the rolling sand dunes in Mui Ne.


Currency:

Language:

Vietnamese

Best Time to visit:

February - April , October - November

Capital:

Hanoi. HAN – Noi Bai International Airport


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9 Best Things To Do in Hanoi

If there was one word to describe Hanoi then it would be overwhelming. On the flip side, this is what makes this place so unique, a paradise for every camera junky culture connoisseur. Vietnam was definitely the most hectic place we have traveled through during our 4 months backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. It is said that the most dangerous thing in Vietnam is crossing the street and we tend to agree. The only communication and number one rule in traffic: have a horn that works. A quaint way to get around is by cyclo bicycle rickshaw but be prepared to bargain a lot, the fares are much higher than taxis. The cyclo is a three-wheel bicycle taxi that appeared in Vietnam during the French colonial period after a failed attempt to introduce rickshaws. Taxis are everywhere and they all use meters but I would always double check before getting into your ride another alternative would be to take a 'Grab' (the Asian version of Uber or Lyft in the USA)

What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape
Our friendly cyclo bicycle rickshaw driver in Hanoi

Join a free walking tour:One of the best ways to get familiar with any city is to go on a walking tour. Usually guided by enthusiastic locals, this is your chance to learn about the best attractions, restaurants and hidden gems that would take you days to research and some you would most likely never find on your own. While these tours are free, donations are appreciated. We recommend Hanoi Free Walking Tours, which is a non profit organization established by a group of students in Hanoi to improve their english. This is a great way to support local students. Another fun way to find outstanding walking tours in Hanoi and around the world is Get Your Guide. Visit a Water Puppet Theater show:This might not be for everyone, but it is for sure something you don’t find anywhere. Marvel at the traditional art and get an insight into the Vietnamese culture. Enjoy the performance by the puppeteers along with the musicians and singers, even though you most likely won’t understand a word. The world famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi is the best place to catch a show. You can get tickets directly at their website here. Attend a cooking class or join a food walking tour:Vietnamese cuisine is known to be one of the best cuisines in the world. It is not only fresh but pretty easy to prepare once you know how. To learn all the insights for the perfect authentic and flavorful vienamese meal.

Get purposely lost in the Old Quarter:The first thing we do in a place like Hanoi, is simply start walking. While this might sound crazy to some, it's the most fun for us. Being the passionate photographers that we are, Hanoi was an absolute dream, filled with busy locals going about their day in the most traditional and foreign way imaginable. By throwing ourselves right into the middle, we were able to stumble upon the most photogenic and authentic sceneries. The buzzing maze of the Old Quarter is the ideal place to get lost and shop for local souvenirs. Other perks are finding hidden restaurants, and sights such as the Hoan Kiem Lake which turned out to be a great place to rest our tired feet after grabbing one of the popular Banh Mi sandwiches for lunch from the famous Banh Mi 25. If you are lucky you might spot a few of the resident turtles that call this lake their home.  Visit the Rising Sun Bridge & the Ngoc Son Pagoda on Hoan Kiem Lake:Hoan Kiem Lake is an attraction in itself but there are several structures worthy of seeking out, Turtle Tower in the middle of the lake, Ngoc Son Pagoda on Jade Island located also in the center of the lake and the and the connecting bridge to the temple known as Huc Bridge or the Rising Sun Bridge. The better views and photographic opportunities are from the edge of the lake. The wooden bridge is painted a brilliant red which stands out over the lake.  Admire the Long Bien Bridge:Most locals start their day way before sunrise and we loved capturing just that, the real authentic life of a local. We got up early and made our way to Long Bien Bridge, this historic cantilever bridge connects two districts, Hoan Kiem and Long Bien of the city of Hanoi and is a busy with local daily commuters. Designed by French Architect Gustave Eiffel, the same awesome guy who got famous for building the Eiffel Tower, the bridge was completed in 1902 and was one of the longest bridges in Asia at the time. It crosses the Red River and provides stunning views over the city and the Cau Churong Duong Bridge. It is the perfect way to get a glimpse of the local life and to capture some authentic images.

What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape
Happy local crossing Long Bien Bridge
What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape
Early mornings at Long Bien Bridge

Shop like a local in Hanoi:For some reason traveling and shopping always kind of go hand in hand for us. After exploring all the sights and must sees, I am ready to spend some money on souvenirs.Once you get a little bit more familiar with the city you will notice that the streets are somewhat organized. For example all shops that sell leather related products will be in one street, mattresses will be in another, etc. Cau Gia Street is the hipster shopping street in Hanoi and fun to meander through on a nice afternoon. Here you will find a great selection of local Vietnamese fashion brands. The prices are reasonable and often influenced by the Korean fashion. Here are a few shops we recommend: Cobi Shop, Germe Shop or In Here.  Visit Dong Xuan Market & the Hanoi Weekend Night Market:The Dong Xuan Market is located in the French Old Quarter and housed within a four-story building at the edge of the Old Quarter. Here you will find everything from clothing, souvenirs to fresh produce. Open daily from 6 am to 7 pm, this market is likely to overwhelm but very fun to explore. Night markets are our absolute favorite. There is nothing more fun than trying new food, while browsing through countless colorful and vibrant roadside stalls. The night market in Hanoi takes place in the Old Quarter and is outdoors. The Weekend Night Market runs all the way from Hang Dao Street to the edge of Dong Xuan market. The night market happens only on the weekend from Friday to Sunday from 7 pm - 11 pm. Crowds are to be expected and while it is safe, make sure to watch your belongings.

What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape

What to eat in Hanoi

The majority of travelers we’ve met always raged about the cuisine and how it was their favorite part about traveling through Vietnam. But for us it was the exact opposite. We had the hardest time figuring out where and what to eat and I wish I would have known then what I know now. Our biggest struggle was trying to find vegetarian food. While I don’t mind eating meat here and there, when I travel I tend to stick to a vegetarian diet. Who knows where the meat is coming from and often it's not even clear what kind of meat is swimming in my soup. So with the language barrier and all, I usually don’t even take the risk. If you happen to be a vegetarian traveling through Vietnam it might be helpful to learn a few words to bust out while ordering: “Chay” – means that you eat vegetarian food. While many Vietnamese dishes have meat in them, they can often be made without the meat. So you can add the word “Chay” to request meatless versions. Other helpful words:"Tôi ăn chay” – to let someone know you’re vegetarian“không thịt” – to ask for no meat in your food.“Không nước mắm” – no fish sauce (trust me when I say this, fish sauce is vegetarian in their minds) With that said, here are a few popular Vietnamese Dishes and how you can try to order them without meat, it will depend on the food vendor and his willingness to change his menu for you: Banh mi – A popular French Vietnamese sandwich than can usually be ordered in lots of different variations. The typical Banh Mi is stuffed with various marinated meats, herbs, cucumber, pickled veggies and chili paste.Bánh mì chay – Vegetarian French baguette Pho – The National dish of Vietnam is cheap, tasty and available around the clock. A typical bowl of Pho comes with a spiced broth from either pork or beef bones, fresh flat noodles & meat such as chicken or beef and a dash of fresh herbs. If you are lucky you can order it with tofu as well.Phở chay – Vegetarian pho Gỏi Cuốn – Fresh spring rolls filled with noodles/ meat/ prawns crab and greens. Wrapped in rice paper and some mix of fresh vegetables, bun noodles, pork, shrimp and tofu your chances are pretty high that this can be ordered with bun noodles, fresh greens and tofu only. These are best when served with peanut sauce.Gỏi cuốn chay – fresh vegetarian spring rolls Banh Xeo - Sizzling pancake. Imagine a giant crispy savory crepe but made from rice flour and turmeric powder filled with sizzling pork, shrimp and bean sprouts and dip it into a special sauce.Banh Xeo Chay – veggie versionI think you get the gist!

Best street food in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape

5  best street food vendors in hanoi

The capital of Vietnam is not only known for its historic buildings and ancient charm. If you look inside of some of these old doors you will find a culinary mecca. From secret street food vendors to elevated and unique dining experiences we got you covered.


Pho Bat Dan

Known to serve one of the best Pho soup in the Old Quarter. They only serve 3 types of Pho. Expect a line, since this restaurant is popular amongst locals and tourists alike.


Bánh Xèo Sáu Phước

It is pretty common in Vietnam for a restaurant to have the name of the food they serve. They stick to what they know and this place serves the best Banh Xeo in the most authentic way possible.


Bun Cha Ta

Bun Cha is a simple yet famous dish, combining savory and fresh flavors. You will be served a bun which are vermicelli noodles and a bowl of broth with grilled pork and a basket of fresh greens. You can use the big leafy lettuce to wrap the vermicelli, pork and herbs and dip it in the sauce and take a big bite. Bun Cha Ta is the best street food place in Hanoi that serves as the name already says the best Bun Cha.


Cha Ca Than Long

Cha Ca which means basically turmeric fish, is a popular dish in Vietnam. Cha Ca Than Long only serves one dish and is famous amongst locals and tourists alike for a reason.


Giang Cafe

This cafe is the most famous place in Hanoi to try the Egg Coffee locally also known as Cafe Trúng. The coffee tastes like a sweet strong and creamy coffee. They also serve other drinks if Egg Coffee is not really up your alley. Just stop by and see how adventures you feel.


What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape

7  best restaurants in hanoi


Uu Dam Chay

This vegan restaurant offers a cozy and quiet vibe. Enjoy healthy and nutritious cuisine in a peaceful and relaxing environment.


Home Hanoi Restaurant

The colonial history of Vietnam shines especially through the world of food. It is therefore not uncommon to find a blend of traditional Vietnamese dishes with a touch of french influence. This beautifully decorated and homey restaurant is situated between the historic labyrinth of the old trading quarter and the perfect place for lunch and dinner in good company.


Bao Wow

This restaurant boasts a super nice outdoor courtyard seating area and serves the cities best rice buns. The freshly assembled rice buns made from locally sourced ingredients are not only the talk of town but also incredibly instagramable.


Chestnut Restaurant & Sky Bar

Located at the rooftop at the Delicacy Hotel, this is a great spot for a drink, dinner or even lunch in the Old Quarter. Expect fine dining for an affordable price serving asian fusion and international cuisine alike.


Opera Garden Restaurant

Situated in the heart of Hanoi, the restaurant features an inspiring and modern approach to french colonial architecture. While not cheap, the food and ambience is worth paying extra for. Why not treat yourself.


Green Tangerine

What makes this restaurant so one of a kind is the adorable and romantic outdoor seating with its French Indochina ambiance. Set in a colonial building right in the Old Quarter, this restaurant offers the perfect blend of French cuisine with a gentle touch of the Vietnamese culinary art. Reservations are recommended.


Skyline Bar & Restaurant

To get the best view of the Old Quarter you should visit Skyline Bar & Restaurant, located t the top floor of the Skyline Hotel of Hanoi. With a 360’ view of Hanoi this is the best place to enjoy a drink poolside during the day, a romantic dinner at night or simply a few cocktails at the bar.


Best Cafe in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape
The stunning interior at Cộng Càphê
Best Cafes in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape
Iced coffee at Cộng Càphê

9 most hipster Cafes in Hanoi

We are all secretly looking for them, the kind of cafes that are designed in an aesthetically pleasing way and preferably serve more than just coffee. We have picked out our favorite places in Hanoi, try them and let us know what you think.


Cộng Càphê

It really can't get anymore hipster than this. The eclectic interior is pretty old school, co-opting communism as its theme, the walls are covered in vintage propaganda material and the military colour palette brings out the kitschy decor. It’s the ideal spot for a slow afternoon while enjoying some great Vietnamese Coffee.


Hidden Gem Coffee

This quirky vegan cafe features multiple floors of recycled interior. Located on a small alley just off Hang Tre Street in the Old Quarter, this might be your chance to try the famous Egg Coffee.


Baked by Julie

This extra cute and instagrammable cafe is covered in pink from the walls to the velvet covered seats. This is the kind of place you go to when you are looking for an extra sweet afternoon.


Lá Studio

This all day brunch vegan cafe is the perfect place to spoil yourself. It serves the most instagrammable meals and they don’t only look amazing they taste delicious. They are known for their nourishing smoothy bowls, colorful sandwiches, and the softest cinnamon buns.


Bancong Hanoi

Houses in a traditional french colonial building, this cafe is divided into seperate rooms boasting stunning indoor and outdoor spaces. The rooms are dotted with French antiques and make you feel as if you are sitting in a French artists livingroom. Listen to french music and enjoy a relaxing atmosphere over delicous food.


The Note

Grab a coffee and get lost reading a million sticky notes from people all around the world. It is almost impossible to find an inch of wall that is not covered in posttest. The staff here is extra friendly and deserve every customer, they are also always happy to provide you with their local insights and recommendations.


Hanoi Social Club

This Melbourn inspired cafe is offering an impressive array of vegan and vegetarian meals and is the perfect place to go to if you are looking for something else than Vietnamese food. Located in a quiet side street of the Old Quarter this multi level 1920s colonial villa is here to impress. It's the city's artist hub and features live music every Tuesday evening.Don't miss out on the "Sticky Date Pudding".


Chốn Manual Coffee Makers

A beautiful coffee space away from all the hustle and bustle of the everyday life of Hanoi.


Where to stay in Hanoi, Vietnam, Southeast Asia | Bare Escape

where to stay in hanoi

The Old Quarter in Hanoi is historic, vibrant and picturesque. However the streets are often busy and overwhelming for people traveling to Asia for the first time. The outskirts of the Old Quarter are slightly less busy, but also further from most sights. You can find accommodations such as hostels as cheap as 7$ a night. However, stunning boutique hotels and luxury hotels can be as cheap as $40 a night, so why not treat yourself.  I am personally a big believe that beautifully designed spaces and outstanding customer service add so much to your overall experience abroad. Especially in places like Hanoi, where daily adventures can be quite exhausting due to all the new impressions, cultural differences and simply way more chaotic lifestyle.The airport is around 30km from the Old Quarter and can be reached easily by taxi or bus.


Affordable Boutique Hotel

Essence Hanoi Hotel & Spa

Located in the center of Hanoi's Old Quarter this boutique hotel is stylish and only steps from Hoan Kiem Lake, making this perfect base for exploring.


Affordable Boutique Hotel

Delicacy Hotel & Spa

This 4-star hotel is walking distance to many sight such as the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, Hoan Kiem Lake and the temple of literature. The hotel rooms have a dark yet elegant feel and the hotel boasts an incredible rooftop bar overlooking the streets of Hanoi


Affordable Boutique Hotel

Hanoi Paradise Center Hotel & Spa

This chic boutique hotel with it's classic design features comfortable and clean rooms for families and couples alike. Located right in the heart of Hanoi, it is a great location for exploring the Old Town and other popular sights.


Luxury Hotel

Peridot Grand Hotel & Spa by AIRA

This elegant hotel offers all the luxury one can expect from a 5-star hotel.  A true oasis of tranquility in the hustle and bustle of the busy Hanoi Old Quarter. Depending on the time of year you can expect to pay only $80 - $160 per night for 2 on-site restaurants, 2 bars, a rooftop bar and infinity swimming pool with stunning views and much more.


Affordable Boutique Hotel

La Siesta Premium Hang Be

The boutique hotel overlooks one of the Old Quarter’s vibrant streets. The design embodies classic charm with an Asian touche and the hospitality is simply amazing.


Hostel

Old Quarter View Hanoi Hostel

This is by far one of the best hostels in Hanoi. The location is great, the rooms are clean and the hostel offers a free walking tour through Hanoi. Phuc, your guide, will bring you to all the important places and will give you great suggestions of where to eat and what to visit.


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