Hanoi is Vietnam’s rapidly developing capital city, and an affordable, picturesque international destination. Nicknamed the “Paris of the East,” this Southeast Asian city is East meets West, with traditional Vietnamese motifs and French colonial-era buildings. Visitors will find layers of history across the city while discovering the big, bold flavors present-day Hanoi has to offer.
Hanoi has more cultural sites than any other city in the country, with almost one thousand years of history as the capital of Vietnam. From architecture revealing the aesthetic of certain time periods to landmark monuments commemorating historic events, the city’s attractions leave no doubt as to Hanoi’s significance as a cultural center. Stroll through the original street layout and see the architecture of old Hanoi in the Old Quarter near Hoàn Kiếm Lake. The artisans, shops and cuisines in the area reflect local specializations, some of which are exclusive to the Old Quarter district. Visit the weekend night market near Đồng Xuân Market in the heart of the district to peruse clothing, souvenirs and local fare. Take a walk, cycle or jog around one of Hanoi’s scenic lakes. The city is called “city of lakes” for its ties to Hoàn Kiếm Lake, West Lake and Bay Mau Lake, to name just a few. Unearth the legend of the magic sword at Hoàn Kiếm Lake, one of the most scenic spots in the city. For a glimpse of East meets West, Phan Dinh Phung Street is lined with remnants of French influence on colonial Hanoi. In addition, the National Museum of Vietnamese History and the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts embody a mix of traditional Vietnamese and French architectural styles.
Take a day trip to the traditional handicraft villages around Hanoi for a break from the busy inner city. Cross the Chuong Duong Bridge to get to Bat Trang Ceramic Village, a region known for ceramic pottery workshops. Not only can visitors buy top-quality, hand-crafted pottery, they can also create ceramic products of their own. For lovers of silk and fashion, Van Phuc Silk Village is paradise, with over 1,000 silk shops, and a range of products for purchase. Stop by one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, a spectacular formation of 2,000 or so limestone islets located in the Gulf of Tonkin. Ha Long Bay’s mountains, caves and grottoes are nature’s magnificence at its finest. Visitors might find a trip to Huong Pagoda another breathtaking experience. The physical exertion of climbing the uphill path to the main pagoda inside Huong Son Cave is well worth a trip to see the dazzling stalactites and stalagmites inside. You might want to block off an entire day to visit Duong Lam Village, about 60 kilometers from Hanoi. Considered one of the most ancient villages in Vietnam, Duong Lam has ancient architecture and relics that date back over 1,200 years.
Travelers in search of low-budget accommodations might find what they’re looking for in the Old Quarter area. Numerous guesthouses and hostels cater to budget travelers and backpackers. For mid-range options, the area surrounding Hoàn Kiếm Lake is abundant with options. There are tons of hotels within walking distance of the city’s main attractions, offering a variety of amenities from bicycle rentals to spa services. If you’re willing to splurge, boutique, serviced apartments may fit your needs, especially for families or larger parties.
Most travelers fly into the Noi Bai International Airport, located around 35 kilometers north of Hanoi. Options for getting into the city include shuttle buses, taxis, the train and public city bus. Taxis are recommended for long distance travel, although fares across companies will vary. For travel within the city, Uber services are available in Hanoi as of April 2015. Single travelers might find motorbike taxis inexpensive and convenient, especially since they can be found on nearly every street corner. Motorbikes can also be rented at a reasonable cost. The public bus system might be difficult to comprehend at first, with over 60 bus lines, but it’s a scam-free, cheap way of getting around the city.
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