Activities Things To Do in Hanoi
Making the most out of your Hanoi visit includes listing things that you should try. There are many things to do in Hanoi and some are free with locals volunteering to accommodate guests. The capital is a big city where you will not run out of things to do and places to explore. So before you embark on your flight, here are some of those that you need to include on your tour plan.
1. Join a free walking tour
There’s no best way to discover Hanoi life than to walk around as it happens. Non-profit touring groups like Free Walking Tours (FWT) voluntarily walk tourists around the city to promote their lifestyle, sceneries, and a millennium-old cultural identity. Students run FWT and they’re eager to make new friends as they let you explore the beauty of their place.
The locals are the best people to be with in discovering Hanoi and the great takeaway here is that they give it for free!
2. Ride a motorbike
Hanoi is plagued with much traffic that renting a car isn’t a smart idea. Still, you can go to different places here by renting a motorbike from shops like Phung Motorbike in Hoan Kiem. You can choose either from brand new or used models that can range from US$ 6-12 for a day’s use.
Just a tip before you hit the road: Always use your honk so other vehicles will know that you’re there. There are a lot of reckless drivers out there (just like here in America) so keep your cool at all times.
3. Discover and buy art
Everyone buys souvenirs and that’s the reason why the night market is flooded with key chains and local produce. But for a unique one, try discovering art in the Old Quarter where galleries line up. You can also visit the Art Shop at Hanoi’s National Museum of Fine Art. They have exhibits and they allow tourists to buy one. Prices vary depending on the piece.
4. Visit HanoiKids Food tour
Things to do in Hanoi should go as far as your stomach. HanoiKids is another student-run organization that gives free tours for tourists. This includes a food tour that starts with them picking you up at the hotel and bringing you to the Old Quarter. It usually starts at 6 pm where they will allow you to try five dishes out of their eight choices namely Banch Cuon, Bun B o Hue, Trung Ngai Cuu, Fresh Roll, Bun Cha, Kem Xoi, Café Trung, and Beer Hanoi.
You can book the tour on their website.
From your taxi fare to night market purchases, haggling is a typical scene in Hanoi. But remember that you cannot haggle everything. When something has a price tag on it that means you should be decent enough not to bargain. You can start your haggling at Dong Xuan Market in Old Quarter until 7 pm.
Just remember that haggling shouldn’t be a heated fight between you and the merchant. Stay kind and use your charm for a couple thousand of dongs for a discount. If they insist on the original price, you have to deal with it; at least you tried!
6. Attend a flag ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Hanoi locals have a sacred practice of lowering the flag at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum every 9 pm daily. A group of 34 soldiers will do the rites accompanied by a local tune. Some tourists are puzzled whenever they saw locals stop and flock at the mausoleum. It’s easy to catch this rite as loudspeakers will not announce the start of the ceremony. Be a polite tourist by joining them in the short rite.
7. Tasting a bowl of Pho
Aside from the other things to do in Hanoi, you should make sure that you’ll get to taste a bowl of pho at least once during your stay. Remember that a good pho is judged by how its broth tastes. If you want to eat pho like a local, it’s okay to slurp it with your face on the bowl. You should eat the noodles and meat first before bringing the bowl to your lips to finish it off. Don’t feel like you’ve lost your table manners here. In Hanoi, they prefer it this way.
8. Join a Hanoi night tour
There are many night tours in the city that you can choose from but try at least one. I suggest that you book a Hanoi Sky at Sunset Tour in Old Quarter so you’ll be able to discover the place together with wine and food tasting as well as meeting new people along the way. The tour costs US$49 but I think it’s worth it than roaming the streets alone at night.
9. Learn basic Vietnamese words!
You don’t actually have to pay for a class to learn a few Vietnamese words. During your free walking tour, you can ask your guide to teach you a word or two. But to have your greetings handy, you can buy a guidebook in a local store. Vietnamese words are actually hard to pronounce so you can ask a little help from the Vietnamese Teaching Group (VTG). They offer lessons for US$3-9 per hour. That’s if you’re really serious about it.
Tours are tiring and to soothe your aching muscles, you should get a Hanoi massage. You can head to Yakushi in West Lake if you want a healing treatment. You can try stone shiatsu, aromatherapy, acupressure, and lymphatic drainage. Massage prices range from US$11-12 and they strictly implement a no-tip policy for the staff.
Anyway, if you want a lavish massage in an upscale spa, get ready to spend US$100.
11. Rent a cyclo to go around
Cyclo is like a rickshaw and one of the basic means of short-distance transportation in Hanoi. You can rent one for an hour and go around the Old Quarter. The price can be around US$4.5 per hour, but if you’re good at haggling, you can get a lower price. But considering that the driver will be cycling your weight on the tour, I guess it’s just right to give bargaining a pass. Things to do in Hanoi don’t have to be free always.
12. Watch a puppet show
Puppet shows are part of the Vietnamese culture and serve as a form of art for the locals. I suggest that you catch one show at Thang Long Water Puppet Show near Hoan Kiem Lake. They perform about 500 shows a year so there’s no excuse not to watch at least one. Most of the performances display the daily life of Vietnamese people like tending buffalos, cultivating, and even communal forms of entertainment. Tickets cost around US$3-5 that you can buy on the door if you weren’t able to book in advance.
13. Experience traditional music at Hanoi Opera House
One of the spectacles of Hanoi is their theatre performances. They are performing plays like “Lang Toi” or “My Village”. It’s an hour long show with acrobats, music, dance, and jugglers. You can book a ticket on the ground floor perimeter for US$25.5; this is inclusive of complimentary beverages before the play. I suggest that you arrive an hour early to get the drinks and have a short tour of the opera house.
14. Join an early morning tai chi
If you had jogged around Hoan Kiem Lake once, you surely saw a group of locals or expats doing tai chi. You can politely approach them and ask if you can join. Though most of them are old folks, it’s still interesting to experience how Hanoians get ready for a day’s work.
15. Attend a Vietnamese cooking class
Vietnam has a very rich culinary history and looking for a cooking class in Hanoi isn’t really that hard. Top choices are the courses in the Hanoi Culinary Centre. Australian Chef Tracey Lister is the one who will give you the hands on training together with other enrollees. You can choose from northern highlands, street food, spring rolls, salads, and barbeque. All these courses cost US$ 59.4 each.
Having a list of things to do in Hanoi will make every day of your visit more worth it. Free or not, these activities are sure to give you fun and make you experience the beauty of Hanoi deep within. All these are wonderful activities, which one did you find the most enjoyable? Share your travel stories with us!