Did you know that North Vietnam has winter? Me neither! I went to Hanoi straight from Bali and it’s been a physical/mental shock! I went from 30 degrees to 10, which made me think I was going to die hibernating (I know drama queen). In this blog post, I will tell you the absolute best things to do in Hanoi for Solo Travellers. I will also add some notes about where to stay and how to get around! Are you ready? let’s dive in!
Before we start… Going to Hanoi does not mean wearing a cone-shaped hat and riding a bike in the rice fields (although you could if you wanted to). Going to Hanoi means being in a city where everyone’s parents have witnessed at least one war. Hanoians are fearless, strong, protective, caring and creative. I don’t want to generalise but this is the feeling I got from them and I loved it!
Top things to do in Hanoi
#1 Visit the Temples
Just by walking around, you will find many temples and pagodas. You can visit the most famous ones (such as the Temple Of Literature or Bach Ma Temple) but the reality is that this experience is not going to be about ticking the boxes but the sensation that a temple would give you by stepping inside. The wind goes through the lanterns outside, the perfume comes from the incense and the chanting comes from inside the temple.
#2 Walk around the market
There are different markets every day so I would suggest asking your hotel if they can recommend the closest market to you. I particularly enjoyed the Weekend Night Market which takes place at 8 P. Hàng Đào, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm. I loved that it was in the evening and it was a lovely place to go after dinner.
#3 Evening stroll at Hoan Kiem Lake
Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake is always a nice experience because it’s treated like a town square. Everything happens around the lake. Every weekend in the evening, they would close the roads heading to the lake and set up a stage for singers, there would be markets and street shows.
#4 Check out the museums
History museum: this museum is mainly focussed on the wars that Hanoi has been through. It doesn’t provide a lot of information for tourists so I would recommend doing your own research before going. That will make it easier to follow each room.
Fine art museum: This museum was probably one of the highlights of this trip. It’s been very inspiring looking at different painting techniques I’ve never seen before and how the subjects/stories behind each painting are so different from the European standards.
#5 Head to the Water Puppet Show
The Water Puppet Show is very unique and fun. The show is actually on the water and it’s very colourful! The dialogue wouldn’t be in English but there are 2 screens on the sides of the stage which would explain each scene in English. The Water Puppet show is not only entertaining but it actually gives you a taste of the local culture and traditions.
Cafes and restaurants
By walking around Hanoi you will see that eating is the main activity in town. Everyone eats at any time during the day until late at night. Unfortunately, I got the “Bali belly” before my trip to Hanoi so I wasn’t able to eat most of the local food. However, I still have some tips for you:
My absolute favourite cafes were: Skyline Coffee and Loading Cafe. The first one is because it gives you the best view over Hanoi and it’s a beautiful cafe. Perfect if you also want to try the famous “coffee with egg”. The Loading Cafe is absolutely stunning. It’s within a French building surrounded by amazing plants. The interior design is vintage and they play old French songs which makes you think you are on the French Riviera rather than in the heart of Vietnam.
Must-try restaurants: The options here are close to infinite! However, the street food is delicious. I just stopped at wherever I fancied and got some snacks on the way. So don’t be afraid to have chicken broth noodles or anything that inspires you! That being said I would suggest The Hanoi Social Club for the lovely atmosphere and Uu Dam Chay which is perfect for vegans or anyone who is up for a healthy meal.
Out of all of them, I have to say Pizza 4P’s blew my mind! I had it twice in one day! It’s a Japanese pizza place with super fresh ingredients and amazing sourdough. I know it sounds odd, but trust me on this one!
Must-try Airbnb experiences in Hanoi
I saved something like 15 experiences on my Airbnb App, but the weather was too cold for me to do everything so I only picked 2 Airbnb experiences. I’ve been incredibly lucky because both of them were absolutely unforgettable.
- History tour of Hanoi: This tour has been one of the best I’ve ever had. The tour guide, Cong, will drive you through the history and present of Hanoi. It will give you a real taste of what is it like to be born and raised in Hanoi.
- Night photoshoot with a local: As a travel blogger I also need to make sure I have my trips documented. So I booked this experience with the only purpose of having pictures taken. It turned out to be an amazing night through the most beautiful places in Hanoi feeling like I was talking to an old friend rather than a stranger! The photographer, Long, is extremely talented and passionate about his job making the photoshoot very relaxing and natural.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Golden Legend Boutique Hotel in the Old Quarter which is very central in Hanoi. The price was around £27 per night including breakfast! It’s actually a nice place with super helpful staff, who is happy to book cruises, trips and theatre for you. Each room also comes with a kettle which was a lifesaver when I went as I was freezing to death!
How to get around Hanoi
Hanoi is generally walkable, however, the traffic is insane and it’s difficult to cross the road. So although there are sidewalks everywhere, bear in mind that crossing the road might be a mission. There are nearly no traffic lights and if there are any, they are not really considered.
If you don’t want to get run over, there are other ways to get around easily. Quite similarly to Bali, going around by scooter is your best bet unless you want to spend hours sitting in traffic. The most used apps for scooters and car taxis are Grab and Gojek.
Move to South Vietnam for a warmer and sunnier climate if you are visiting in winter. You’ve probably seen that Train Street is one of the most famous attractions in the city, however, the government has taken the decision to close the street to tourists. That being said, you can still see some of it from the sides of the street. If you are not sure about what and how to pack for this trip, check out my blog post on packing tips!
I hope you enjoy your time in Vietnam!
Ciao for now,
-> This post contains ad affiliate links. Read my full disclaimer here