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Hanoi is one of the top places to visit in Vietnam – and one of our favorite cities worldwide. The historic Hanoi Old Quarter is both bewitching and bewildering. Iconic sights, fascinating neighborhoods and poignant museums lie just beyond the Old Town borders. The best way to navigate the riveting city is on foot – and we created 5 easy-to-follow Hanoi Walking Tours to help other travelers experience the best of the city.
Each street is a fascinating scene of motorcycles, shops and local cuisine. There is seldom a moment of quiet; the intense sound is perpetual, mimicking the relentless motion of the city itself. In the middle of the pandemonium, there are top Hanoi sights: Temples, Markets, and Museums. Our walking tours in Hanoi, Vietnam provide the perfect introduction.
Hanoi Free Walking Tours
Hanoi is an old city and history has left its mark on it, from numerous ancient temples to French colonial architecture to war memorials to the shop-lined streets of the Old Quarter. Our Hanoi tours explore the city highlights and top places to visit in Hanoi.
Our Self-Guided Hanoi Walking Tours are designed to introduce visitors to different sections of the city. Rather than trying to tackle sightseeing on one long Hanoi city tour, we created 5 separate tours for bite-sized sightseeing in Hanoi city. That said, each Hanoi walking tour can be easily connected to the next. In fact, ambitious travelers could combine all 5 tours into a full-day Hanoi City Tour.
Walking Tours Hanoi
Our 5 Hanoi sightseeing tours each focus on a different part of the city and include the top places to visit in Hanoi city.
- WALK 1: Old Quarter Sights
- WALK 2: Hoan Kiem Lake and French Quarter
- WALK 3: Traditional Guild Streets Old Quarter
- WALK 4: Iconic Hanoi Sights
- WALK 5: Culture and History
Understanding Hanoi Streets: Synchronized Chaos
Before you set off on your Self-Guided Hanoi Free Tour, it’s important to understand a little bit about the city.
In the heart of the Hanoi Old Town scooters buzz in every direction. Girls sit side-saddle with sparkly high heeled feet delicately crossed at the ankles. Families of four or five – and sometimes six – share one bike. Cars, buses, bicycles and walkers all mingle in. And always, always, always there is the honking of horns. It’s like a never-ending line of ants marching up and down the road.
There are no lane markers and only a few traffic signals. Adventure is a key word when talking about wandering the streets of Hanoi, because even crossing the street can be an undertaking.
Off the streets and on the sidewalks is no less chaotic. Boxes of fresh produce spill from shop doors. Simple pop-up shops – which are nothing more than a blanket spread on the sidewalk displaying goods for sale – squeeze into any spot available. And low, plastic stools are scattered around street-corner kitchens and bars.
Hanging above the sidewalks and across the streets are a tangled web of electrical wires. A fitting jumble to the mess below. The constant motion and horn honking are both captivating and intimidating. But, with our step-by-step Hanoi walking tours, visitors do not need to feel overwhelmed.
Self-Guided Free Walking Tour Hanoi
For each Hanoi free walking tour, we provide all the information you need! In addition to the Hanoi tourist attractions information, we include links to Google Maps with the walking tour route so that you can follow the step-by-step directions to easily get from one place to the next. There is also a specific map for each sight that you can use to get directions from your current location (this helps if you want to skip a sight or make a detour during your walk!).
At the end of each tour, you will find an image of a Hanoi sightseeing map with the complete walking tour route outlined. And, for an overview of all the routes, we included a Hanoi Map of all sights and attractions at the end of the post.
What You Will Need for DIY Hanoi Tours
Don’t head out on our Hanoi, Vietnam Self-Guided Tours without being prepared! Although you don’t need much, we recommend having the following items for your Hanoi adventures!
For each Free Hanoi Walking Tour, we include links to Google Maps for directions. In order to use the maps, visitors will need an internet connection. Tourists traveling with smart phones can adjust their plan with their cell phone carrier to include international data or buy a local SIM card (if the phone in unlocked). However, people traveling in groups might want to consider using a mobile hotspot.
We use the GlocalMe mobile hotspot, which allows us to connect up to five devices at one time. The device also allows us to purchase data online or use local SIM cards. We would have been lost in Vietnam without it!
Wrap or Sarong
Summer visitors will likely be inclined to wear tank tops and shorts while sightseeing, which is fine for some Hanoi sights, but not all. Our Hanoi Walking Tours include visiting several temples – which requires appropriate attire. Shoulders and knees need to be covered. We recommend carrying a lightweight wrap to cover up when you want to enter temples. Pro Tip: It is custom in Hanoi that women dress conservatively. While it is not required, we think it is respectful to dress modestly while visiting Vietnam.
Hanoi summers are hot and sunny…and rainy. The wet season in Hanoi extends from January to September. And it rains during the spring, too. Visitors should prepare for both sunshine – with sunscreen and a wide-brimmed travel hat – as well as for rain – with a packable raincoat and travel umbrella.
Snapping photos with a phone camera is risky business; not only can your device easily be snatched, but most phone cameras aren’t as good as actual cameras. While Hanoi sightseeing, we like using our Canon Rebel, but carry a Canon Powershot as a backup. The slim Powershot camera easily fits in a pocket or purse and has a useful wrist strap, too. Even better, the newest versions of the camera are WiFi enabled so you can share pictures in real time.
While some hotels provide a free Hanoi tourist map, they are seldom marked with street names. We recommend purchasing a good Hanoi Map prior to your trip – like this one on Amazon! A Hanoi Guide book – like this one – can also come in handy!
Travel insurance is essential! Not only can it be used during trip cancellations or for lost luggage, but it also provides coverage against injuries and illnesses. Check rates for your Hanoi trip on World Nomads.
Walking around Hanoi is intriguing…but also exhausting! To get to and from the starting and ending points of our Hanoi Walking Tours, we recommend using the Grab App for a ride (rather than a taxi service). Rides only cost a few dollars – and allow visitors to save their energy for seeing the sights! Download and set up the Grab App before your trip!
Pro Tip: Our Hanoi walks include sights that can be entered. We have tried our best to indicate hours of operation and ticket prices, which were accurate at the time of our visit. However, opening hours and entry fees change often in Vietnam. If there is a specific site you are intent on visiting, we recommend verifying times and prices prior to your visit.
This Hanoi Travel Guide contains everything you need to discover in the city! Save, Pin or Bookmark our Hanoi blog post so that you can easily access it during your trip!
5 Hanoi Walking Tours
Below you will find the best tours in Hanoi for a self-guided introduction to the city. Each of our 5 walking tours for Hanoi include a route map, links to Google Maps for each sight and additional information. So, lace up your shoes and let’s go explore!
WALK 1: OLD QUARTER HANOI SIGHTSEEING
Our first Hanoi Self-Guided Walking Tour dives right into the heart of the city. The Old Quarter is home to charming-but-chaotic streets, enchanting historic sights, pungent markets and a serene lake.
HANOI OLD QUARTER ROUTE MAP LINK for walking directions. These sights are marked in Red on the Hanoi Map of Sights at the end of the post.
Hanoi Market: Dong Xuan Market
MAP. Open 7-6pm Mon-Thur; 7-12noon Fri-Sun. The massive Hanoi market hall was built by the French in 1889. Ranking as the largest market in Hanoi, the 3-story marketplace is a hive of activity. Vendors at the Dong Xuan Market sell everything from clothes to food to household goods…and plenty of counterfeit items, too. Shopping at the market is one of the top Hanoi activities!
O Quan Chuong City Gate (Hanoi Old East Gate)
MAP. The last remaining gate of the ancient Thang Long Citadeal, O Quan Chuong City Gate was built in 1749. It is one of 21 original entrances to the ancient city and was named for an army chief, Quan Chuong. The Hanoi East Gate consists of three arched openings and a 2-story watch tower.
Hanoi Bach Ma Temple: White Horse Temple
MAP. Open Daily 9-5:30pm, but mid-day break for lunch until 2pm. It is claimed that Bach Ma Temple is the oldest temple in Old Hanoi city center. It was built by Emperor Ly Thai To in the 9th century to honor a white horse that guided him to the spot where he was destined to build the city and walls. The temple was renovated in 18th century and contains a shrine to Confucius (which was implemented in 1839).
Hang Bac Temple
MAP. Free. Because of the modest entrance at 102 Hang Bac, many visitors pass by Hang Bac Temple without even realizing it. Tourists who seek out the hidden gem, however, are treated to a dazzling and colorful altar.
Hanoi Ancient House
MAP. Open 8:30-5pm Mon-Thur; and late Fri-Sun 7-10pm; small entry fee. The Hanoi Ancient House is a classic Vietnamese Home dating to late 20th century. The well-preserved home features traditional architecture and was once the residence of a wealthy merchant family. Visitors are free to tour the home on their own; information pamphlets in English are provided.
Cho Hang Be Local Food Market Hanoi (Pho Gia Ngu Street)
MAP. No longer an organized market, the busy Pho Gia Ngu street is lined with shops that spill out onto the sidewalks. Popular with locals, vendors sell fresh herbs, live seafood and prepared meals. This “real life” market truly delivers and can bring on sensory overload!
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
MAP. The Thang Long Theater was established in 1969. The theater can accommodate 300 guests for the multiple daily shows. The entertaining performances are based on Vietnamese folklore and culture.
Den Ba Kieu Temple
MAP. The small historic Den Ba Kieu Temple sits inconspicuously along the busy road. The beautiful temple dates to the 17th century – and was once part of the Hoan Kiem Lake waterfront, but the road that was built around the lake now separates it from its original gate.
Sword Monument to the Lake: Thap But Tower
MAP. The Hanoi landmark Thap But Tower stands on the bank of Hoan Kiem Lake at the end of the Dau The Huc Bridge. The name – Thap But – translates to Pen Tower; and the monument depicts the pen writing in the sky.
Ngoc Son Temple (The Temple of the Jade Mountain) and The Huc Bridge
MAP. Open 8-6pm daily; 30k fee. The Ngoc Son Temple, which sits on a small island (Jade Island) on the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake, is one of the top Hanoi places to visit. Accessed via the elegant, red wooden The Huc Bridge, Ngoc Son Temple was built in the 19th century and is listed as a National Monument. Many people go to the temple to pray and light joss sticks, while others are there simply to take in the serene atmosphere…and possibly to get a look at the legendary 250 kg stuffed turtle encased in glass.
Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi (The Lake of the Returned Sword)
MAP. The oval Hoan Kiem Lake sits in the middle of the city, surrounded by manicured gardens – and comes complete with a legendary story that dates to the mid-15th century. According to the tale, Heaven sent a sword to Emperor Le Thai To in order to drive the Chinese from Vietnam. After his success, a giant turtle took the sword to the bottom of the lake to return it to its owners; therefore, obtaining the name Ho Hoan Kiem or Lake of the Restored Sword.
In addition to Jade Island, which is occupied by Ngoc Son Temple, there is a second islet in the middle of the Hanoi lake. Known as Turtle Islet, an ancient stone tower called Thap Rua – or Turtle Tower – stands on it.
In the mornings, the park is full of locals practicing Tai Chi and throughout the day the many benches are occupied with weary travelers and residents taking a break in the relatively cooler shade.
This marks the end of our first Ha Noi Tour. Take a rest and then continue on to our second tour: Hanoi French Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake Sights.
Hanoi Old Quarter Walking Tour Map
WALK 2: HOAN KIEM LAKE AND FRENCH QUARTER HANOI WALK
Use our Hanoi French Quarter Self-Guided Walking Tour to explore the sights of the historic district. This free Hanoi tour can easily be continued from the previous tour, Walking Tour Old Quarter Hanoi.
HANOI FRENCH QUARTER WALKING TOUR MAP ROUTE: MAP LINK for walking directions. These sights are marked in Orange on the Hanoi Map of Sights at the end of the post.
Hanoi French Quarter
Just adjacent to the Old Quarter on the east side of Hoan Kiem Lake is the upscale French Quarter in Hanoi. Home to the Opera House, high-end malls, wider sidewalks and tree-lined streets, the French Quarter is distinctly different from the rest of the city. While the district is identifiable by the grandiose architecture and boutique shops, the Vietnamese people have made it their own, creating a unique blend of cultures. Visiting the French Quarter is a must-do in Hanoi.
Ly Thai To Statue
MAP. The first king of the Ly Dynasty, Ly Thai To ruled from the year 1009 until 1028. As the founder of Thang Long (now Hanoi City) in the year 1010, he is a much-celebrated figure in the history of Hanoi.
Dien Hong Park
MAP. The small park, centered by a large fountain, was established in 1899 as a community gathering spot. Originally called Place Chavassieux, the name was changed to Dien Hong Park in 1945. However, due to the 100-year-old fountain’s water-spouting frogs, locals call it Vuon Hoa Con Coc – or Garden of the Toads.
Hanoi Opera House
MAP. The centerpiece of the French Quarter, the Grand Opera House in Hanoi was built in the early 1900s and was designed in the same style as Palais Garnier (the Old Opera House in Paris). The Hanoi landmark building has seen a slew of performances – both Vietnamese and international – as well as political demonstrations and fighting during the Battle of Hanoi. Pro Tip: The adjacent Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel, which opened in 1999, is not to be confused with the Hanoi Hilton, a war prison during the Vietnam War (which we visit in Hanoi Walking Tour #5).
Nearby Hanoi French Quarter Sights: National History Museum (Open 8-12 and 1:30-5pm. 40k fee. History and artifacts, some signs in English, Audio Guide available); L’Espace (French Cultural Center in Hanoi used for French education, performing arts and cultural events); Geology Museum (Free, many rock displays).
Trang Tien Plaza Mall
MAP. A surprise enclave in Hanoi, Trang Tien Plaza is a luxury mall. The 7-story mall, which features top-end fashion and well-known designers, even has gloved doormen. We recommend stepping inside even if you are not up for shopping; the interior is gloriously air-conditioned and a quiet escape from the chaos of the city.
Hoa Phong Tower
MAP. Originally part of a larger complex, called Bao An Pagoda, Hoa Phong Tower is the last piece that stands. The square tower has doors on all four sides and unicorns decorate the columns.
As you make your way around the south end of the Hanoi lake, consider stopping at one of the cafes along the route. Conifer Bon Mua sits lakeside, while S’Patisserie is an ideal choice for a cake and coffee indoors.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
MAP. Sitting stoically among Vietnamese temples and shrines stands St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The Hanoi cathedral, with sky-high bell towers, dominates the small square it stands on. The neo-Gothic church – built in 1886 – is open to visitors. Inside, sunshine filters through stained-glass windows.
King Le Thai To Monument
MAP. A quiet and peaceful retreat on the west side of Hoan Kiem Lake, the King Le Thai To Monument is situated in a garden setting – and much more understated than the statue across the lake. Pro Tip: Le Thai To and Ly Thai To are one in the same.
Nearby Hanoi Hoan Kiem Lake Sights: Intimex Grocery (a modern grocery store in the city center popular with locals and tourists); Lotus Water Puppet Theater (a second water puppet theater with singing and dancing performances in Vietnamese); Ly Trieu Quoc Su Pagoda (an ornate and historic 12th century temple).
Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square
MAP. Located on the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake, Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square is a popular gathering spot – especially at night on the weekends, when it is closed to traffic. Centered around a fountain, people come to hang out, eat, drink – and even workout (look for the large groups practicing Zumba…and join in if you have the energy!).
Old Town Garden Cafe: A Cafe with a View
MAP. The last stop on our Hoan Kiem Lake Walking Tour is at Vuon Pho Co Cafe – or Old Town Garden Café. The entrance can be a little tricky to find, but it’s worth the effort for the rooftop views. Their Lime Soda is the perfect post-walk refreshment! Pro Tip: Other cafes with a view are City View Café and Avalon.
This marks the end of our Free City Tour Hanoi French Quarter. Take a rest and then continue on to our next tour: The Guild Streets of Hanoi Old Quarter Tour.
Hanoi French Quarter Walking Tour Map
WALK 3: GUILD STREETS OF HANOI OLD QUARTER WALKING TOUR
The ancient Hanoi Old Quarter was established as the city’s center of trade, sitting east of the of the Imperial Citadel. Historically, each of the 36 streets were dedicated to a single, specific craft – and was named for that craft. For example, the street Hang Ga translates to Chicken (Ga) Merchandise (Hang) – or Chicken Merchandise Street…and all the shops on the street sold chicken.
GUILD STREETS OF HANOI OLD QUARTER WALKING TOURIST MAP ROUTE: MAP LINK for walking directions. These sights are marked in Green on the Hanoi Map of Sights at the end of the post.
Pro Tip: Because this Hanoi Walking Tour is all about discovering the streets – not specific sights – we provide written step-by-step walking directions from one guild street to the next rather than relying on Google Maps for directions.
The 36 Guild Streets Today
Among the traditional shop houses, with low sloped roofs, temples were nestled between stores. The communal temples were places of worship for the tradesmen – and each temple was dedicated to the craft.
On some Old Town Hanoi streets, the street’s universal craft is still prevalent; all shops on one lane sell jewelry and, on another, children’s toys. However, as current times (and the economy) have encouraged change, many of the streets no longer bear witness to the trade for which they were named. Temples have been demolished and dilapidated storefronts have been renovated using more modern architectural styles.
Be that as it may, walking through the historic district down centuries-old streets is an enthralling way to discover the city. The guild streets are still occupied by merchants – and it’s fun to tour Ha Noi streets and seek out the historic lanes to see how they have – or have not – changed. Pro Tip: Although the district is often nicknamed The 36 Streets, there are actually 76 streets that constitute Old Quarter Hanoi.
This Old Quarter Hanoi Walking Tour is designed to provide a base for navigating the ancient trades streets. Don’t be afraid to take detours or browse inside the shops.
Start your Hanoi Old Quarter Guild Street Walk at the intersection of Luong Van Can and Hang Gai. Walk west on Hang Gai.
Once part of the city’s silk trade, Hang Gai features numerous silk shops, tailors and elegant evening wear stores.
Walk west on Hang Gai to Hang Hom and turn right (north).
Hang Hom Street was historically occupied by box makers, who designed coffers and trunks.
Walk north on Hang Hom to Hang Quat and turn right (east).
Known as the Street of Fans, another popular trade on the street was ornate altars and Buddha statues.
Walk to east to Luong Van Can and turn left (north).
Luong Van Can
Rather than being named for a trade, Luong Van Can Street is named after a famous educator. Today, however, it is known as Toy Street.
Walk north to Hang Bo and turn left (west).
Hang Bo Street is home to numerous Bamboo Basket shops and tools to create bamboo products, although the street seems to be evolving.
Walk west on Hang Bo to Hang Thiec and turn right (north).
Long known for the tinsmiths that occupied the shops, Hang Thiec also has mirror shops, conical hats, lamps and candlesticks. More recently, shops started selling tanks for the local beer, Bia Hoi.
Walk north to Lan Ong and turn right (east).
The small street, Lan Ong, is dedicated to ancient herbal remedies and traditional medicine. It is named for a well-regarded Vietnamese doctor.
Walk east to Cha Ca and turn left (north).
Named for the popular Hanoi Fish Dish, Cha Ca, the street has several restaurants serving the signature dish. Most famous is Cha Ca La Vong (however, for Cha Ca, we like the food and atmosphere at Cha Ca Thang Long, which we discuss in our Hanoi Food blog post! Coming soon!)
Walk north to Cha Ca to Hang Ca and turn Left (west).
Although named Fish Street, Hang Ca is now home to numerous Bahn Mi shops, including the extremely popular Bahn Mi 25.
Walk west to Thuoc Bac and turn right (north).
This section of Thuoc Bac Street was once called Hang Khoa Street (Lock Merchandise) and then Hang Sat (Iron Merchandise) – and was home to the city’s blacksmiths and locksmiths. Today, many of the shops sell items typically found in hardware stores.
Walk north to Hang Ma and turn right (east).
Hang Ma is one of the most interesting and colorful streets in the Old Quarter – and vendors have been selling paper votives from the shops on this street for hundreds of years. According to Buddhist traditions, joss paper – which resembles real-life items, like cars, mobile phones and paper money – are burned as offerings to the deceased.
Walk east, crossing over Dong Xuan Street and continue walking east on Hang Chieu.
Traditionally, hang Chieu was the street where straw mats and ropes were sold.
Walk east to Hang Giay, Turn right (south) and follow the street where it curves east, changing name to Luong Ngoc Quyen, and walk east to Ta Hien.
Best known as Bia Hoi Corner, the intersections of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen is the most famous drinking corner in the city – and one of the top Hanoi, Vietnam tourist spots. Although rather tame by day, after dark the intersection is clogged with low plastic stools and lots of thirsty tourists.
Walk South on Ta Hien Street to Hang Bac.
Lined with hundreds of jewelry shops, Hang Bac originated as the city’s silversmith street. Although several shops now sell jewelry made with modern tools, there are a few remaining silversmiths that are dedicated to their craft – just as their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were. Among the shops is the Hang Bac Temple – also called Dinh Kim Ngan Temple – which is dedicated to jewelers and is decorated in silver carvings. Most of the Guild Streets once had a temple dedicated to their craft, but Dinh Kim Ngan is one of the few remaining. Pro Tip: Another craft on the street is Gravestone carving.
This ends our Hanoi Old Quarter Walking Tour of the 36 Guild Streets Tour Hanoi. Continue exploring on your own – or move on to our next walking tour: Iconic Sightseeing in Hanoi.
Old Town Hanoi Map of Streets
WALK 4: ICONIC HANOI SIGHTSEEING
Some of the most iconic sights in Hanoi are outside of the Old Quarter. From the ancient Thang Long Imperial Citadel to the final resting place of President Ho Chi Minh to long-standing religious structures, our Iconic Hanoi Sightseeing Walking Tour visits top city attractions.
FREE TOUR HANOI ICONIC SIGHTS MAP ROUTE: MAP LINK for walking directions. These sights are marked in Blue on the Hanoi Map of Sights at the end of the post.
Thang Long Imperial Citadel
MAP. Open 8-5pm, closed Monday. 30K fee. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi is a must-see attraction. The complex is comprised of multiple historic buildings that were constructed over a span of 10 centuries. The first structure on the site was built in 1010 as the royal palace for the newly founded capital. Pro Tip: Don’t miss the war bunkers!
Nearby Sights: Vietnam Military History Museum; Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum; Temple of Literature (which we include in our Tour #5 Culture and History of Hanoi Walking Tour).
Chua Mot Cot (One Pillar Pagoda)
MAP. One of the most iconic temples in Hanoi, One Pillar Pagoda resembles a lotus blossom – a Buddhist symbol of purity. Built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong, the temple was the site of many religious celebrations. However, the original temple was destroyed in 1954 by the French and only rebuilt in the 1960s. Pro Tip: Chua Mot Cot, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Presidential Palace (the next two sights on our Hanoi Walking Tour) are all accessed from a single security checkpoint on the south side of Ba Dinh Square. All visitors need to be dressed appropriately (modest attire; shoulders and knees must be covered) and bags are scanned.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Quang Truong Ba Dinh Square
MAP. Tues-Sun 8-5; Mon 8-11am. The dominating building on Ba Dinh Square houses the embalmed remains of the revered Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh. Visitors willing to stand in the long line are able to see Uncle Ho for themselves. Interesting Fact: Ho Chi Minh never wanted to be preserved in a mausoleum; he wanted to be cremated. The on-site Ho Chi Minh Museum, to the west of One Pillar Pagoda, is dedicated to the late president and features artifacts and photographs – entering requires a small fee.
Van Phong Chu Tich Nuoc (Presidential Palace) and Nha San Bac Ho (Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House)
MAP. Open 8-11 and 1:30-4pm. 40k fee for entry onto the grounds; visitors are not permitted inside the Presidential Palace; the entrance is on the north side of the mausoleum (before you exit the square). Built in the early 1900s by the French, the Presidential Palace is a supreme example of classic French Colonial architecture. The yellow palace served as the residence of the French Governor of Indochina. During Ho Chi Minh’s presidency, he refused to live in the palatial building and instead built a traditional, simple Vietnamese stilt house on the grounds where he resided until his death.
Quan Thanh Temple
MAP. Open 8-5pm daily. 10k fee. The 11th century Taoist temple, Quan Thanh, is one of the Four Sacred Temples in Hanoi. Inside the main shrine, visitors can find the bronze statue of Tran Vu, which is considered a Vietnamese masterpiece. Pro Tip: Before continuing to the next sight, make a quick stop at Highlands Coffee Truc Bach. The Starbucks-esque coffeeshop is a popular Vietnamese chain…but this location has superb lake views.
Truc Bach Lake and an American War Memorial
MAP. Once part of West Lake, Truc Bach Lake was separated from the larger lake by a dike in the 17th century as a means to raise fish. Today, it is one of the most polluted lakes in the city. The lake is best known as the place John McCain landed when his plane was shot down in 1967 during the Vietnam War. After he parachuted into the lake and nearly drowned, he was captured by local residents, beaten and taken into custody as a POW. A waterfront sculpture commemorates the capture of the future US Senator and celebrates the 10 planes shot down that day.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
MAP. Open 8am-4pm daily; Free entry. The 6th century temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city. Originally located on the banks of the Red River, the Tran Quoc Temple was relocated to Golden Fish Island in Ho Tay (West Lake) in the year 1615. Numerous shrines grace the complex, however, the most astounding feature is the tall pagoda (renovated in 2004) that holds the ashes of many celebrated monks.
Truc Bach District and Pho Cuon Huong Mai
MAP. The Truc Bach neighborhood is the perfect enclave to escape the madness of the rest of Hanoi. The unassuming district is laid back and filled with charm.
Truc Bach is also the birthplace of two iconic Hanoi dishes: Pho Cuon (beef, lettuce and herbs rolled in a rice noodle sheet and served with dipping sauce) and Pho Chien Phong (puffy deep-fried rice noodles served with beef, lettuce, herbs and gravy on top). Most restaurants on Truc Bach Island (located on the east side of the small lake), have both items on their menu – but we recommend eating at Pho Cuon Huong Mai, where the locals eat. Pro Tip: The Truc Bach District is rife with cafes and shabby chic hangouts. One spot we wanted to check out, but never got around to, was Standing Bar, which has 19 Vietnamese craft beers on tap…and lake views, too.
Cho Chau Long Market
MAP. A traditional wet market, Cho Chau Long features fresh meat and still-wriggling fish. The interior is dark and set low, creating a unique market experience.
Cua Bac Church (Roman Catholic Church of Martyrs)
MAP. Open 8-8 daily, closed mid-day for lunch. The bright yellow church, Cua Bac Church, was built in the Art Deco style in 1932 by the French. The main features are the bell tower and stained-glass windows. In 2006, President George W Bush visited the church during an official visit to Vietnam.
This ends our Hanoi Walking Tour of Iconic Sights. Continue exploring on your own – or travel by Grab Taxi to our final walking tour: Hanoi Culture and History.
Iconic Sights Hanoi Walking Tour Map
CULTURE AND HISTORY OF HANOI WALKING TOUR
Vietnamese culture is captivating – from the history to the food to the people. Use our Culture and History Walking Tour to learn more about the intriguing city and nation – and see a few lesser-visited Hanoi tourist spots.
HANOI CULTURE AND HISTORY TOUR MAP ROUTE: MAP LINK for walking directions. These sights are marked in Purple on the Hanoi Map of Sights at the end of the post.
MAP. The coffee culture in Vietnam is unmissable! There is no shortage of coffeeshops in Hanoi, but Cong Cafe (or Cong Caphe) is one of the best places to go to have a coffee and get a history lesson! The throwback coffeehouse has multiple locations and features classic Communist memorabilia and décor throughout. Pro Tip: Order the signature drink: Coconut Iced Coffee.
Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature)
MAP. Open 8-6pm; 30k fee. Dedicated to Confucius, the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is the city’s historic center of education and was the country’s first national university. Built in the year 1070, the meticulous grounds feature 5 courtyards, pavilions, halls and stelae bearing inscriptions. Fun Fact: The Temple of Literature appears on the 100,000 VDN bill.
Nearby Vietnam Culture Sights: Bao tang My Thuat Vietnam (Fine Arts Museum): Open 8-5pm; 40k fee; Bao Tang Lich Su Quan Su Vietnam (Military War Museum): Open 8-11:30, 1-4:30; 40k fee.
MAP. Train Street is a perfect example of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Vietnamese people…and the Instagram-crazy world we live in. Since 1902, trains have rattled down the tracks along the western edge of the Old City. With the limited space, houses were built along the tracks sparing just inches for the locomotives. Although living on the train tracks was considered undesirable and the area was seedy, tourists started flocking to the tracks to capture the trains barreling through the narrow neighborhood.
It wasn’t long until homeowners along the track started capitalizing on the tourists’ peculiar fascination with something they have always accepted as a way of life. The clever residents converted their doorsteps into cafes and opened their balconies as makeshift bars. For visitors, it was thrilling…for locals it was cash-flow.
UPDATE: Sadly, as of October 2019, the government shut down the small enterprises and the “street” itself. The tracks are guarded and tourists are blocked from entering the area. However, intrigued visitors can still get a peak down the tracks and – if timed right – can watch the train blaze through the intersection and grind traffic to a halt.
Quan Su Pagoda
MAP. The picturesque 15th century Buddhist Pagoda is spacious and airy – and an ideal reprieve while sightseeing Hanoi. It serves as the Head Office of Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha.
Hanoi Hilton: Hoa Lo Prison Museum
MAP. Open daily 8-5pm; small entrance fee. Built in the late 1800s by French colonists to imprison Vietnamese political prisoners, the detainees experienced severe overcrowding, brutal torture and execution. However, it was during the Vietnam War – when the Vietnamese ran the prison and American POWs were held in Hao Lo – that it got the nickname Hanoi Hilton.
Many American pilots, whose aircraft were shot down in the region, were held at Hao Lo Prison for years – most notably, Senator John McCain. The prison was used until the late 1980s, when it was transformed into a museum. The museum is one of the top places to see in Hanoi for visitors who are interested in learning another version of the War in Vietnam.
Interesting Fact: Hoa Lo translates to Hell’s Hole, which seems appropriate for a prison name. However, it was named for the street it was built on, Pho Hoa Lo – which is where wooden stoves were once sold.
Vietnamese Women’s History Museum
MAP. Open daily 8-5pm; 30k entry; 30k more for audio. Opened in 1995, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum features exhibits detailing women’s contribution to Vietnamese society. Displays include women’s role in the family, their part in the country’s history and traditional fashions.
Lunch at a Local Spot
Hanoi food is legendary…and some of the best eats in the city are south of the Old Town. Choose one – or both! – of these classic places to eat in Hanoi.
Bun Cha Huong Lien
MAP. Originating in Hanoi, Bun Cha is a savory dish of grilled pork, noodles, herbs and dipping sauce, which is usually accompanied by a fried seafood roll. The best place to eat Bun Cha is at Bun Cha Huong Lien – which was made famous when President Barrack Obama and the late Anthony Bourdain shared a meal at the restaurant. Pro Tip: The table they sat at is encased in protective glass in an upstairs room – ask the waitstaff and they will point the way!
Pho Thin – local excellent pho
MAP. Pho is a well-known Vietnamese dish worldwide – but many people don’t know that it was created in Hanoi. The staple meal is sold in practically every restaurant and on every street corner in the city. However, for an authentic Pho experience, we recommend heading to the hidden Hanoi restaurant, Pho Thin. Pro Tip: There is another restaurant of similar name nearby; to get the best pho, ensure you are at the correct address!
Want more recommendations for where to eat in Hanoi? Use our guide to Hanoi Food – coming soon!
This concludes all 5 of our Hanoi Walking Tours! Find tips on themed Hanoi tours below.
Free Tour Hanoi Culture and History Map
Use this link to Google Maps for our Hanoi Attractions Map online.
More Hanoi Tours
Our free Hanoi walking tours provide an excellent introduction to the city! Visitors interested in learning and seeing more might want to check out one of these guided Hanoi tours as well.
Hanoi Street Food Tour
A Hanoi Food Tour is a great way to learn about the local cuisine. Join a local guide on a small-group tour to the best street food in the city! Read the rave reviews!
Hanoi Motorbike Tours
Cover some ground on two wheels on one of the guided Hanoi scooter tours! The highly-rated sunset ride features the city’s top sights! Book it now!
Guided Walks and Vietnam Private Tours
Some visitors might be more comfortable touring the city with a Hanoi, Vietnam tour guide. Arrange for a Hanoi private tour guide in advance online on Viator.
Hanoi Free Tour Guides
Visitors will often see tour guides advertise Hanoi FREE Local Tours – but it is understood that the tours are not, in fact, free. Hanoi Tour Guides work for tips – and they should be compensated appropriately. Our above outlined self-guided Hanoi tours, however, are completely free of charge!
Pro Tip: Interested in Hanoi Day Trips – like Halong Bay? We provide information on day trips from the city in our Hanoi Itinerary – coming soon!
We Want To Know: What sights would you add to our Free Hanoi Walking Tours? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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