December is the coldest month in Vietnam where the northern part takes much of the chill. Though temperatures can go as low as 10 degrees, – not a biggie for Westerners – there are still a lot of things to do in Hanoi in December. If you’re planning to spend the Christmas season here or just a plain vacation, the cold can’t stop your itchy feet.List down your itinerary and add these activities you shouldn’t miss on the capital.
1. Don’t let the annual Hanoi Flower Festival pass
Before the year ends, you shouldn’t miss the annual Hanoi Flower Festival. During the last days of December, Hoan Kiem is adorned with beautiful flower arrangements with cultural installations. The place is flooded with tourists every year with flowers occupying the pedestrian areas of the district.
In Dinh Tien Hoang Street, you’ll find flower statues while there are traditional performances and folk games at Le Thai To. These places are also a sight of cleverly arranged musical instruments, florals, and local symbols.
This flower festival also serves as the opening fete for the country’s Tet or New Year Celebration, which falls in the month of January or February. The floral fair started in 2008 and also known to locals as Flower Street Festival. If you want to catch this on your vacation, you have to arrive in the last week of December until the first week of January.
Christmas Day isn’t a public holiday in Vietnam, nevertheless, they still celebrate the spirit of the season with concerts in different institutes and theaters. The Goethe Institut usually conducts a concert with classical music and carols at the institute’s courtyard.
If you like, you can join a Christmas Party get-together at Ca Phe Thu Bay.They’re also packed with good music and a lot of tourists. Aside from these, organizations and establishments also have their own gimmicks to attract visitors. You can join a tour and ask the locals to stop by a celebration.
3. Buy beautiful scarfs in the Old Quarter
Since it can be very chilly in Hanoi than any other parts of Vietnam, you should be ready with your wardrobe. The Old Quarter is the quintessential sight of the Yuletide season in the city where you can find glittering stores and tons of Christmas decors. This thing to do in Hanoi in December is necessary so you won’t freeze on your hotel.
Walk through the shops – though it can be a bit squeezy at this time of year – and find your own taste of clothing. If you’re traveling alone, you can buy at least a simple lantern to décor your hotel room. Just so you won’t feel lonely during Christmas.
4. Visit the in Halong Bay
Before, kayaking was allowed here until the local government banned it due to environmental damages tours had been inflicting. Anyway, you can still enjoy the beautiful scenery here while fishing in one of the villages.
The limestone and caves here are very alluring and the indigenous people are also accommodating. Since this is a setting far from the city, you can really immerse yourself in nature. You can also ask the locals for a boat ride inside the cave. The place is also a good sunbathing choice or a tai chi spot.
5. Join a cruise
For about US$469, you can already have three days and two nights aboard a junk boat cruise on Halong Bay. With that, you’ll get to see the spectacular islands of Halong while experiencing luxury on the boat. If the tour permits, they’ll let tourists explore the secluded lagoons. Though a bit pricey, experiencing the World Heritage of Hanoi is worth every cent.
Aside from exploring the caves, the cruise also includes tanning decks, five ensuite cabins, food and drinks, night fishing, and free hotel pick-up. If you want to get some booze, you’ll have to pay it separately.
6. Visit the Hanoi Cathedral
Though Christians comprise only 7% of Vietnam’s population, the churches here still celebrate the Yuletide season. Tourists and locals flock the St. Joseph’s Cathedral also known as the Hanoi Cathedral to see its spectacular interior and exterior architecture.
The neo-Gothic church is full of things to do in Hanoi in December with restaurants nearby also offering special menus. I suggest that you come here earlier than the scheduled mass because the church gets crowded easily. Mass schedules are posted on the gates. But if you’re dropping by on a regular day, you have to enter through the Diocese of Hanoi and ring the small bell on the upper-right side of the door.
7. Go shopping at the Christmas Market in Tay Ho
Go at Tay Ho District and be overwhelmed with the number of restaurants, bars, and shopping stores. From flowers to fashion apparels, West Lake is known to be a shopping powerhouse next to the Old Quarter. Since many tourists and expats are here, expect the place to glimmer on December vibes. Also, haggle your heart out; they have big discounts during this month.
Before you go shopping, I suggest that you stop at Don’s oyster bar and get a spot on their deck. There, you can have the perfect view of the lake glittering of the building lights nearby. The cold weather may result to fewer tourists but in warmer days, you have to keep your valuables in mind.
8. Join the Hanoi Run for Children
Aside from having a good time in the city, joining a charity event will also make your stay more memorable. Because of Canada and Vietnam’s partnership, this run is a highly-anticipated December event in the capital since 2000.
In one fun run, they can attract 10,000 participants and raise one billion VND to help children with cancer and heart disease. Remember that this isn’t a race and they discourage roller blades or any competitive nature. They give coffee and water for free during the fun run which you can book on the run day itself.
9. Watch ballet at the Hanoi Opera House
If there’s another place where Christmas vibe is buzzing, it will be at the Opera House. You can catch the Nut Cracker performance of the Vietnam National Ballet that really exudes the elegance of the season. Meanwhile, you can also take pictures in the foyer of the Opera House with its giant Christmas tree and gifts at the foot.
I suggest that you come with someone – a local friend or traveling buddy. Exploit this season and dress your best, the place is an image of sophistication.
10. Eat Pho and sip hot egg coffee
The cold weather can give you a runny nose, so to keep yourself warm, stop on one of the street stores and have a bowl of Pho noodles. You can share a table with fellow tourists sitting on the colorful stools. The noodle is best paired with a mug of egg coffee that is manually whisked.
Just make sure that the soup isn’t sitting for long already and the meat is fresh. Some tourists had stomach problems with some unsanitary food so I suggest that you choose the place with lots of customers. The Old Quarter is teeming with nice choices for things to do in Hanoi in December including this foodie.
11. Spot hotel buffets or restaurants discounts
Hotels like Melia and Metropole is known for their Christmas Eve dinners. Aside from these upscale hotels, restaurants like Moose & Roo Smokehouse and Don’s Bistro offers festive menus for their customers. Though a special menu, some can cost more than US$44.
Anyway, not everything here is about Christmas. Some establishments – non-Christian – also take the season’s opportunity to lure more customers through menu gimmicks and discounts.
12. Ride a cyclo and savor the breeze
If you happen to be strolling in Hoan Kiem, you can rent a cyclo for US$6 or lower depending on your bargaining skills. Riding a cyclo is the best way to appreciate the beauty of Hoan Kiem District without getting too tired from walking. This will save you more instead of taking a cab. The ride is usually an hour-long but don’t expect this to be a long-distance transport.
13. Visit the Mosaic Wall
Visiting the world’s largest mural wall can be the highlight of your December vacation. It’s the design of Nguyen Thu Thuy, a local journalist and artist. In every 100 meters of the 800-year old wall, you’ll see a different design. Dozens of artists and children helped in the decoration of the wall that started in 2007.
It’s also a perfect spot to do photography or just appreciate art. The mural is located at the Dyke Road near Old Quarter.
14. Sit on a bench at Hoam Kiem Lake
Simply strolling in Hoan Kiem Lake is every tourist’s to-do when they arrived in Hanoi. The place is massive and the scene of the place on a misty, cloudy morning is a relaxing one. You can sit on one of the benches on the lakeside and just appreciate the beauty of the place. If you want, you can do a daily morning jog here.
Locals are friendly and if you like, you can join them in their tai chi sessions.
15. Spend the Christmas Eve at Ta Hien Street
Ta Hien is known as the “foreign streets” to locals because of the expats and tourists flocking the place. There are many bars and restaurants along the area where they allow visitors to sit on the pavement freely. It can be crowded at times, but during Christmas Eve, it’s the best place to chat with fellow tourists.Ta Hien buzzes even more whenever a song is played on the loud speakers. If you aren’t interested to spend the night in the church, you can go here for a humble party.
Things to do in Hanoi in December aren’t hard to find. Though many of the locals don’t celebrate Christmas, they’re still good hosts to tourists. Christian or not, your December vacation here will still be awesome since Hanoi has a thing or two for everyone to enjoy.
Are you planning to have a December visit at Hanoi? A Hanoi local with other ideal spots, letting it out, share some regardless of month. No discrimination here as many other night life options like these are valid every month as well, not just December!