Grand boulevards, centuries-old pagodas, serene lakes and modern luxuries-Hanoi is a beautifully enchanting blend of ancient traditions, natural beauty and modernity. The capital and heartbeat of Vietnam is one of the most intriguing cities in the nation. With all of its old-world charm, this is a 21st century metropolis that’s emerging into one of the most desired travel destinations.
Founded in 1010, Hanoi is a truly mystifying city, in which at moments, time seems to have stopped – ancient temples stand well preserved amongst densely forested parks, 13th century marketplaces still keep the smells, sights and tastes of days long ago and beautifully ornate French buildings serve as a reminder of the country’s colonisation. Yet, the city is embracing the new and quickly changing as it looks towards the future. Streets where the military once practiced drills are now replaced by fervent teens and motorcyclists whizzing by, traditional food stalls stand next to world-class restaurants, and locals get their daily fix of noodles in the morning and then head to trendy cafes for coffee in the afternoon. Showcasing ancient temples, colonial architecture, modern museums, theatres and uncompromised beauty, the city is nothing short of amazing.
While the city’s many sites and attractions are awe-inspiring, it is the people – wonderfully warm and richly diverse – that provide the city with its allure. A fascinating heritage stemming from Vietnamese, French and Chinese cultures creates a unique atmosphere. At the heart of Hanoi’s ancient charm is its Old Quarter – the oldest neighbourhood in Vietnam. The labyrinth of narrow, congested, and chaotic streets pulse on as they did centuries ago. Among the few remaining walls of the Hanoi Citadel, vendors clad in conical hats market their goods of the day – fresh fish, silk, candlesticks, silver and bamboo rafts. Hidden between storefronts and homes are communal houses in which elaborate interior courtyards and temples pay homage to local gods. Along the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, men delight in a ritual game of chess while others can be found practicing tai’chi. A wander around these bustling streets will reveal so many hidden treasures and rewarding experiences.
Undoubtedly, the main attractions of Hanoi are its temples, museums, and monuments that display stunning architecture, artefacts and memorabilia that represent the nation’s multi-layered past. Set against the west lake is the Tran Quoc pagoda, which is considered the most important Buddhist temple in the nation. The Temple of Literature is a well-preserved and beautiful structure that is quintessential traditional Vietnamese architecture. The Museum of Ethnology displays a terrific array of Vietnamese artefacts that represent nearly 54 ethnic groups. The National Museum of Fine Arts showcases an array of traditional Asian and contemporary art. The Palace and Hanoi Opera House are shining examples of the distinct French architecture of the era. Meanwhile, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum/Museum is a granite edifice that stands as a memorial to President Hõ Chí Minh as well as Vietnam’s independence. Other important sites include the Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnam Military History and Women’s museums.
Known as the “City of Lakes,” Hanoi is woven around many parks and bodies of water. Hoan Kiem Lake, known as the “Lake of the Restored Sword,” received its name based upon a legend that the Vietnamese scared the Chinese away from their land with a magical sword that was then stolen by a giant tortoise that took it into the lake. Just outside the city in the Gulf of Tonkin, dramatic limestone cliffs and pillars protrude out of the beautiful, azure waters to create stunning views. These 1,600 islands and islets in Halong, known as “where the dragon descends into the sea,” are like something out of a fairy tale with their forested hillsides, mystical grottoes and abundance of wildlife. While this World Heritage UNESCO site is an absolute joy to visit, most of the islands are uninhabitable.
Thousands of years of history is evident throughout Hanoi – a 200 B.C. fortress-like citadel, an 11th century pagoda and a 13th century neighbourhood serve as reminders of the city’s past and its Vietnamese heritage. However, The French colonisation (1883 to 1954) had a strong impact on the city, as evidenced by the architecture, language and cuisine. Now, as this city emerges into small, yet powerful metropolis, it once again is embracing the new while effortlessly maintaining old traditions and its charm.
Brimming with modern museums and monuments, temples, street stalls, fine dining eateries, elegant parks and breathtaking bays – Hanoi’s vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, exquisite cuisine an elegant, exotic and energising experience unlike any other.
Things to do in Hanoi
For more information about Travelbag’s custom holidays to Hanoi, please contact us at 0871 702 9516 Costs 13p/min + network extras.
The weather in Hanoi varies greatly, depending on the seasons. As a result, be sure to pack plenty of lightweight clothes for the summer. During the cooler months, it’s essential to pack layers that include sweaters, a coat and rain gear. Bring comfortable shoes for walking and hiking. Also keep in mind that Vietnamese dress conservatively.
Pack plenty of sunblock, a hat and sunglasses, especially when visiting during the warmer months. Small first aid kits are always beneficial. Be sure to include anti-diarrhea medication, pain relief, antibacterial cream, water-purification tablets, insect repellent and rehydrating solutions.
Pack extra sweaters or even a blanket if visiting during the winter. Remember to pack light and that most items can be purchased in Hanoi. Cash is king here, so there are numerous ATM’s throughout the city and U.S. dollars are widely accepted.
Hanoi has a mild, tropical climate with plenty of sunlight and high humidity levels. While the there are primarily two seasons – rainy (May to October) and dry (November to March) – Hanoi still experiences four distinct seasons.
Summers in Hanoi can be veryhot, with temperatures reaching the lower 30s, heavy rains and high humidity. Therefore, the best times to visit are often during spring (February to April) and fall (September to November). Springtime temperatures average 15°C to 20°C, with light rains. This is the best time to experience the diverse flora of the region as well as the most important Vietnamese festival, Tet (New Year’s). For many, fall is considered the most beautiful time of year. Temperatures are pleasantly mild with an average 25°C.
In general, the best time to visit is between October and April, as there is little rain but pleasant temperatures.
Check out our Blog to see some of the amazing experiences Hanoi has to offer
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