Wander through ancient streets in the Old Quarter and admire the rich mix of merchant houses, colonial villas and temples.

Hanoi’s Old Quarter first took shape in the 13th century and still forms the heart of the city. The intoxicating atmosphere of the area’s 36 ancient streets offers a vivid glimpse into the past. Amongst its rich mix of merchant houses, colonial villas and ancient temples, you’ll find some of the capital’s best street food and plenty of night life options.

Hanoi is a city born of struggles for independence. Having broken free from one thousand years of Chinese occupation in the 10th century, it faced many years of regional conflict before coming under French rule from 1883 to 1954. That influence is keenly felt, from the wide, tree-lined boulevards, to the deeply entrenched pavement café culture.

A city of contrasts, conical-hat-wearing women shouldering baskets of fruit now weave between pedicabs, armies of motorbikes and growing ranks of high-end cars. The rise of the car, as well as shopping malls and skyscrapers, is testament to the rapid development since economic liberalisation in the 1990s.

In the face of huge change, Hanoians are passionate about protecting their traditions and culture. Most of the high-rises are springing up on the outskirts of the city, while the megamalls are slotting into life with seeming ease, leaving the centre relatively unscathed.

To get the most from Hanoi, take a cue from the city's residents and enjoy it slowly. Locals are seldom rushed – they’ll tell you they leave that to their southern counterparts in Ho Chi Minh City.


When to go

From April to May, Hanoi's trees burst into bloom with purple, orange, white and red flowers. During this time sky is blue and it's not too warm. June, July and August can be extremely hot and wet, while September through November offers some beautiful days. The winter months of December to February are often grey, drizzly and cool. 

Visa requirements

Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Vietnam for 30 days without a visa. Visitors arriving directly from other countries must arrange for a visa in advance.


Vietnam Dong. In town, ATMs can be found easily, while almost all banks offer a foreign currency exchange service.


The best way to reach the city from the airport is by taking a taxi. Numerous firms stand outside - look for the yellow and white Noi Bai taxis. Prices are fixed and written on a board at the rank. In the city cheap metered taxis are everywhere. Some are more reputable than others - stick to Mai Linh and ABC. The other option are the Xe om, motorcycle taxis that can be found on almost every corner. Haggle your price, then hang on tight! 

Health and safety tips

Hanoi is a safe city; crime against tourists remains uncommon and is treated extremely seriously by the authorities. That said, pickpocketing does occur, particularly at the night market, so it is advisable to only carry what you need. Hanoi traffic is notorious, and care should be taken when crossing the road and stepping out of shops. Simply walk slowly when crossing and the bikes will weave around you. Tap water is not safe to drink, but ice is generally fine. Hanoi is not malarial, but there is a small risk of Dengue fever and cases are on the Rise, so take standard bite prevention precautions. 

Emergency details

41-43 Tran Phu Street, Ba Dinh (tel: (84) 4 3848 9168, www.mfa.gov.sg/hanoi).

The emergency number for the police is 113. There are hundreds of small local police stations dotted around the city, each responsible for the local area. 

Basic greetings
English Vietnamese
Hello Sin chao
How are you? Moi vi-uhk te nao?
Fine, thanks Van tot, kam urn
Goodbye Tam bi-uht
Excuse me! (to get attention, to get past) Sin choo i!
Thank you Kam urn
Yes Ko
No Kog
OK Tot
What's your name? Ten ban la ji?
My name is… Ten toi la…
Pleased to meet you Rat voo-i dew-urk lam kwen
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Ban ko Facebook/Twitter kog?
Where’s an internet café? Internet cafe ur doh?
Where can I get a taxi? Toi ko tei goi se taxi ur doh?
Where is the bus/train station? Tram se boo-yit/tram se lur-a ur doh?
A one-way/return ticket to… Mot ve mot chi-yoh/koor hoi den…
Do you have a room for one/two? Ban ko fog kog cho mot/hai gew-ur-i?
When's check out? Ki nao tra fog?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Ban ko te jur-i ti-yoh mot na hag/kwan rew-uru gon kog?
A table for two, please Sin cho mot ban cho hai
A menu, please Cho sem tur-k dur-n
The bill, please Voo-i log cho sem hwa durn
Where's the toilet? Na vei shin ur doh?
Help! Kur-ew toi vur-i!

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The Old Quarter

North of Hoan Kiem Lake

The Old Quarter is one of the oldest parts of Hanoi. It evolved in the 13th century, when artisan guilds were concentrated along each lane. The guilds developed independently and were separated by walls and gates. Today the streets remain a buzzing hive of frenzied commercial activity. The new tradespeople still cluster along each street by speciality, but the trade doesn’t necessarily match the street name. Silver jewellery and gravestones can still be found on Hang Bac (Silver Street), but they now share the space with tourist spots. Hang Gai is the place to head for Hanoi's famous silk. Best seen by cyclo (pedicab).

Temple of Literature

Van Mieu Street, Ba Dinh District

Built in 1070, the picturesque Temple of Literature is dedicated to Confucius. When it was first built, the Quoc Tu Giam, or School of the Elite of the Nation – Vietnam’s first university – adjoined the temple’s grounds. Nowadays the temple is a popular place for young graduates to have their class photos taken. It is also a magnet for undergraduates who come to pray for luck in their exams. As a result, you can expect plenty of opportunities to talk to young enthusiastic Vietnamese. The temple grounds comprise five distinct courtyards, each of which has its own unique story. You can hire a guide to show you around.

St Joseph’s Cathedral

Ly Quoc Su Street, Hoan Kiem District

Gothic in style, with distinctive square towers, St Joseph's Cathedral was consecrated on Christmas night in 1886. It occupies the site of the Bao Thien Pagoda, which was razed by the French to make way for the cathedral. Celebration of Mass resumed here in 1990 after being banned for more than 30 years. On Sundays, the worshippers are packed inside while the square in front fills with people on their motorbikes. This square is also a popular place to sit with an iced lemon tea. If you head down Au Trieu Street, down the side of the cathedral, you'll find some great little boutiques.

Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Street, Ba Dinh District

Set between West Lake and Truc Bach Lake, Quan Thanh Temple was originally built during the Ly dynasty (1010–1225). It has a huge bronze bell and a 4-tonne bronze statue of Tran Vu, guardian deity of the north, to whom the temple is dedicated. The courtyard is a beautiful open space and makes a great place to take a breather from the city. The street that runs along the perimeter of Truc Bach Lake is famous for its street stalls that serve pho cuon (tender minced beef wrapped in rice noodles with herbs), and is a popular nightspot among Vietnamese teenagers.

Thong Nhat Park

Tran Nhan Tong, Hai Ba Trung District

Thong Nhat Park is a large pleasant area shaded by scores of massive trees. It was built by volunteer workers, many of whom still use the park to this day. Designed around the large Bay Mau Lake (Ho Bay Mau), it operates a number of children’s rides and a small railway during the weekend. Swan pedalos are also available. The real draw here is the atmosphere. The best times to visit are early morning before 8am and around 5–6pm when the park is bustling with walkers, joggers, open-air aerobics classes and badminton games. Avoid the rest of the day when the park is often deserted.

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

Nguyen Van Huyen Street, Cau Giay District

Hanoi’s most modern museum, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology brilliantly details the lives and history of the country’s 54 ethnic minorities. The main area was designed by a member of the Tay ethnic group in the form of an ancient Dong Son drum. Outside, original ethnic minority houses have been rebuilt and visitors can wander freely around them. Climbing the stairs to the tall stilt house is a big hit with kids. Displays are labelled in English and French and, for a small extra fee, a guide is available. The museum is wheelchair-friendly. A free water-puppet show takes place every afternoon.


Boo – Bo Sua

308, Ba Trieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District

Home-grown street wear brand Boo has stores all over the capital, but this store has the best range for men and women. Funky original T-shirts with slogans in Vietnamese are a great alternative to the touristy offerings on sale in the Old Quarter. Hoodies and jackets are also sold along with a cool range of accessories. The store is right opposite Vincom Mall, which houses a number of international brands, a cinema and a gaming complex.

Budget $


43, Van Mieu Street, Ba Dinh District

Craftlink, a not-for-profit organisation, provides a place where ethnic minority people can sell their crafts and clothing at fair rates. Pick up some beautiful jewellery, embroidery and small souvenirs with the knowledge that your money is going back into the community.

Budget $

Dome Yen The

10 Yen The Str, Hanoi

Dome is a high-end furniture and home-accessory shop and a favourite among Hanoi’s expats. For those not in the market for lusciously thick pillows and sofas, the home-wares section has some beautiful lacquer boxes, bags, shoes and picture frames.

Budget $$$


27, Nha Tho Street, Hoan Kiem District

The French designer who creates the elegant clothing at Song named her boutique after the Vietnamese word for 'life'. The flagship store on Nha Tho features simple but beautiful clothing in international sizes, as well as quilts, blankets and home-decor items.

Budget $$

Trang Tien Plaza

Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District

Built in 1901 and originally named Les Grands Magasins Reunis, this grand building houses Trang Tien Plaza on the southern edge of Hoan Kiem lake. Reopened in 2013 after a major makeover, it is now Hanoi's most luxurious shopping destination, where you can browse the flagship stores of many high-end brands including Rolex, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Cartier.

Budget $$$


Chim Sao

65, Ngo Hue, Hai Ba Trung District

Chim Sao is a Vietnamese boho-chic restaurant that's a big favourite among both expats in the know and locals. Great local food at reasonable prices set in comfortable but low-key surroundings. Upstairs seating is on the floor with low tables, so if you want a normal seat, book downstairs. Menu highlights include the mountain sausage, fish in a clay pot or duck with cashew nuts.

Budget $$

La Badiane

10 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem District

Stylish and contemporary, La Badiane provides exceptional French and international cuisine with first-class table service. Dishes are nothing short of spectacular and it lives up to its claim of being one of the city’s, if not the country’s, finest restaurants.

Budget $$$

Le Beaulieu

Sofitel Legend Metropole, 15, Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District

Le Beaulieu serves top-class classic French food alongside an excellent wine list. The lavish Sunday brunch is an institution among Hanoi’s affluent inhabitants. Housed in the city's most iconic hotel, The Metropole, this is also one of Hanoi's most romantic dining options for a special occasion.

Budget $$$


72, Ma May, Hoan Kiem District

A budget restaurant of two halves: at NewDay, diners can order from a menu or take their pick from the array of dishes lined up buffet-style next to the dining area. Individual plates are available, but the best way to eat here is to order a number of dishes to share, Vietnamese style. Don't miss the ribs and the stuffed crab. The seats outside are good for watching the chaotic traffic roll by.

Budget $

Pho Gia Truyen

49, Bat Dan, Hoan Kiem District

One of the capital's oldest and most renowned pho shops, Pho Gia Truyen serves a classic Hanoi version of beef noodle soup in no-nonsense surroundings. Place your order at the counter for either tai (rare) or chin (well done) beef, then pull up a stool with locals. Add a spritz of lime and some chilli to taste. Pure Hanoi.

Budget $

Quan An Ngon

18, Phan Boi Chau Street, Hoan Kiem District

Quan An Ngon is the best place in the capital to sample dishes from each region of Vietnam. Take a look at the dishes being prepared by walking around the edge of the open courtyard where a series of small kitchens each specialise in two or three regional specials. Try the banh xeo Vietnamese pancake, the whole snapper and the fresh spring rolls. The courtyard seating is more atmospheric than inside, so queue for a table if necessary.

Budget $$


Church Hotel

9, Nha Tho Street, Hoan Kiem District

Church Hotel is a gem of a boutique establishment just steps away from St Joseph’s Cathedral. It features stylishly appointed (though not huge) rooms overlooking trendy Nha Tho Street and the Ba Da Pagoda. Try to get a room facing the back, where it’s quieter. Features free Wi-fi and made-to-order breakfast.

Budget $$

Especen Hotel

28, Tho Xuong Street, Hoan Kiem District

Especen is a well-maintained hotel that features large en-suite single and double rooms. Spotlessly cleaned each day, the hotel also provides free internet. In an ideal location near the cathedral, it offers good-value, reputable tours around the city.

Budget $

Golden Lotus Hotel

39, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem District

The Golden Lotus offers wide range of rooms over its 12 floors on the edge of the Old Quarter. Tasteful dark woods, crisp white linens and old black-and-white photographs lend a refined air. The staff are welcoming and friendly, the breakfast vast and good-quality, and there's a stunning view from the top floor bar over Hoan Kiem lake and the rooftops of the Old Quarter.

Budget $$

Intercontinental Westlake Hanoi

1, Nghi Tam Street, Tay Ho District

The Intercontinental is a luxurious hotel, built over a picturesque part of West Lake and overlooking an 800-year-old pagoda. It features gorgeous rooms and top-notch facilities geared towards business travellers. The rooms are large, comfortable and elegantly outfitted, and the hotel pool and gym are unmatched in Hanoi. Features three restaurants and two bars. Watching the sun go down in the Sunset Bar is the perfect end to a day.

Budget $$$

Phoenix Hotel

43, Bat Su Street, Hoan Kiem District

The Phoenix Hotel features beautiful wooden floors, comfy rooms and exceptionally helpful staff. Some of the rooms on the lower floors do not have windows, so check a few or request windows on booking.

Budget $

Sofitel Metropole Hanoi

15, Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District

Built in 1901 and renovated by the French Sofitel company in 2005, the Metropole has maintained its colonial-era atmosphere while improving on comfort levels. Former guests include kings, princes, presidents and an assortment of celebrities. Rooms in both the original Metropole Wing and newer Opera Wing are beautifully appointed, but the latter has larger and more contemporary-style rooms. It features two excellent restaurants, three bars and a swimming pool.

Budget $$$

Cama Festival


From humble beginnings, this event has become Vietnam's number one music festival, attracting big name acts from as far afield as the UK, the USA and even Brazil. Always features some interesting acts.


25 December

Hanoi's cooler December weather lends itself to snowy Christmas scenes and each year the major malls pour huge sums of money into lavish decorations. Christmas Eve sees the biggest celebrations, with the churches packed to the rafters and thousands cruising the streets on motorbikes.

Mid-Autumn Festival


Second only to Tet, the Mid-Autumn festival, or Moon Festival, is largely geared toward kids. Expect to see plenty of activity around the Old Quarter's toy streets and dragon dances across the city.

Song Hong Half Marathon


A 21-km race run around the northern shores of Hanoi's West Lake. A 10-km race also takes place, plus there is a fun run for little kids. A great community event.



An annual electronic music festival bringing international experimental acts to the capital to perform alongside local talent.



The Lunar Year is a major event in Vietnam – Christmas and New Year rolled into one. For weeks leading up to it, Hanoi's Old Quarter is a shopping frenzy, but then everything closes down for a week, leaving the capital almost eerily quiet. An impressive fireworks show takes place at Hoan Kiem lake on New Year's Eve.


Hanoi has one of the world’s most exciting street food scenes, so planning a trip around your stomach is a breeze. For a truly Hanoian breakfast, hit one of the capital’s oldest pho (noodle soup) joints, Pho Gia Truyen (49 Bat Dan). Place your order for rare (tai) or well-done (chin) beef, then muscle your way to a table with the locals.


Walk off breakfast in the Old Quarter en route to Ly Quoc Su Street, where a tiny hole-in-the-wall eatery sells all sorts of quick snacks, including the addictive banh goi – Hanoi’s take on the meat pasty.


Come lunchtime, the air is filled with the scent of pork belly and herbed patties grilling for the capital’s quintessential lunch – bun cha. For one of the best, jump into a pedicab for quick ride to the French Quarter’s Huong Lien (35 Le Van Huu Street).


After lunch, veer north to Truc Bach lake and the Chau Long fresh produce market (Chau Long Street). Not for the squeamish, everything from skinned frog to pig's head is graphically displayed. Staying local, grab an afternoon bite on the Truc Bach island. Ngu Xa street is always buzzing with people out to share a plate of pho cuon (tender beef and herb rolls). The spot opposite the beautiful Than Quang pagoda is a winner. 


Every evening, nearby Tran Vu Street comes alive with a crop of excellent lake-side BBQ seafood stands – the perfect way place to round-up your Hanoi food odyssey.

Places to visit:
Pho Gia Truyen, Ly Quoc Su Street, Huong Lien, Chau Long Market, Tran Vu Street.


With its scores of lakes, tree-line avenues and intimate cafes and restaurants, Hanoi is a top choice for a weekend of romance. Kick-start your day with a cycle ride around the streets of the Old Quarter. Cosy up in one seat for added romance and make like a local and pose for some photos around Hoan Kiem lake. 


Get dropped off in front of St Joseph’s Cathedral. Here, a small square is surrounded by ice lemon tea places that are hugely popular with young couples. Take a seat or head up to the tiny balcony of the Hanoi House café – a great spot for people watching over a sinh to – fruit shake.


Next, strike north and hire bikes at the Hanoi Bicycle Collective (Alley 31, Xuan Dieu Street). Ride the shores of West Lake, past flower gardens, lotus ponds and peaceful temples.  For lunch, try Da Paulo (Dang Thai Mai Street) for a perfect Italian pizza. Either head up to the wood-beamed second floor, or – even more romantic – order take-out and sit on a lake-side deckchair out front. 


Back at the southern edge of the lake, hire a swan pedalo. No matter if your energy is running low - nobody pedals too far or too fast. This is all about idly drifting out onto the water and enjoying the late afternoon light. 


Get off the water just before sunset and take a stroll between Truc Bach and West Lake to the Sofitel Plaza Hotel. Up on its top floor, the Summit Lounge has the best sunset views in the city and serves up great cocktails.

Places to visit:
Old Quarter, St Joseph’s Cathedral, West Lake, Sofitel Plaza Hotel.


To get a fix on the capital’s contemporary art scene, first head to Manzi Art Space, a café-cum-gallery housed in a beautifully restored colonial villa. Works by Vietnamese and international artists hang and a small shop on the second floor is the place to pick up a piece by emerging talent. 


Next, make your way to the Museum of Fine Arts, the capital’s primary exhibition space. Works by Vietnam’s most renowned artists are on show, many of which depict the conflicts that plagued the country throughout the 20th century. This is also a great place to bag a propaganda poster – originals and re-prints are sold. 


Just over the road, the Temple of Literature was once attached to Hanoi’s first university and now functions as a place of worship. Hordes of students come here to pray for luck in their studies and they’re always keen to chat with visitors to practise their English skills. 


Next visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum (36, Ly Thuong Kiet). Here you’ll gain an insight into the pivotal role of women in the country’s recent history and also learn about some of the 54 ethnic minorities that make up the nation’s rich cultural tapestry. 


Come sundown, those hungry for some traditional culture should take a seat at the intimate and atmospheric Ca Tru Theatre (87 Ma May St). Set in an ancient house, just 25 pond-side seats are available for each show. For something more contemporary, check out the schedule at L’Espace (24, Trang Tien) which stages regular live events. 

Places to visit:
Manzi Art Space, Museum of Fine Arts, Temple of Literature, Vietnamese Women’s Museum , Ca Tru Theatre, L’Espace.