12 Must-See Attractions in Hanoi

The capital of Vietnam is a melting pot of centuries-old culture and modern influences alike. Ancient temples dot the city, alongside havens of natural beauty and distinctive neighbourhoods shaped by a tumultuous history. From cathedrals to lakes, here are 12 attractions that are a must on any visitor’s list in beautiful Hanoi.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Trong

This freshwater lake at the heart of Hanoi holds a significant place in Vietnamese lore and culture, with stories marking it as the source of a legendary sword, earning it the moniker of the “Sword Lake”. An important temple sits on a small island at the centre, connected by a small bridge that allows visitors. Today, it is also a tourist hub with walking and biking trails, turtle-watching experiences, and a flagship water-puppet show done in the traditional style.

Address: Hang Trong, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam

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Timings: The lake remains open 24x7. 


Imperial Citadel, Ba Dinh

Constructed a full millennium ago, Vietnamese history is palpable in the complex of buildings that form the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. While the initial structure dates back to 1010, additions were made over time as early as the Vietnam War, and all sites are open to visitors. Explore the imposing monument alone or take a guided tour - and be sure to stop by the museum for a complete trip through the years.

Address: 19C Hoàng Diệu, Điện Biên, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

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Timings: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Sunday 

Entry fee: 30,000 VND (approx USD1.3).
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St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Hang Trong

Dating back to the early years of France’s colonisation, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a grand structure built in the style of the Notre Dame, and serves to this day as the centre for Vietnam’s Roman Catholic faith. As the oldest church in the city, it holds multiple masses daily, with some attracting crowds large enough to spill out into the street. With stunning architecture and delicate stained glass windows, it’s a sight that shouldn’t be missed.

Address: 2RHX+FHX, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

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Timings: 8a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday; 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ba Dinh

Located in the centre of Ba Dinh Square, where the revolutionary leader read the Vietnamese declaration of independence in 1945, the Mausoleum is a tribute to Ho Chi Minh’s role in shaping the country’s history. The nearby museum offers a detailed narrative of his life and death through objects and documents, along with guided tours.

Address: 8 Hùng Vương, Điện Biên, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

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Timings: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday to Sunday.

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Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem 
As the urban hub that gave rise to the rest of Hanoi as we know it today, the Old Quarter is a jam-packed reflection of the city’s heart and soul. It comprises 36 streets, formerly home to guilds of craftsmen, tradesmen, and builders of all walks. Today, the area remains a commercial centre, and makes for an excellent shopping destination alongside its sightseeing opportunities. 


Address: 99 P. Hàng Gai, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 10000, Vietnam
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French Quarter, Hoan Kiem
A living legacy of the French colonisers’ mark on Vietnam, the French Quarter is a charming neighbourhood of wide pavilions and 19th-century French architecture. Nicknamed “Little Paris” by locals, the area pairs a distinctively old-world aesthetic with modern experiences and amenities. Choose from a variety of upscale restaurants, art galleries, and several sightseeing options for a complete day out.


Address: French Quarter, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam
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Opera House, Phan Chu Trinh

Built by the French in the early 1900s, the Hanoi Opera House is a vision of Neoclassical beauty. Modelled after the Palais Garnier in Paris, they nevertheless used local materials and adapted the style to better suit Vietnam’s tropical climate. Today, it houses the Vietnam Opera and Ballet Theatre, which performs an extensive repertoire of Western Classical as well as Vietnamese entertainment.

Address: 1 Tràng Tiền, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

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Train Street, Hang Bong

Nothing symbolises the harmony of the old and the new Hanoi quite like the famous Train Street, made famous for the cafes, restaurants, and shops built mere feet away from a railway line. Unfortunately, owing to the risky behaviour of overzealous tourists, the authorities have shut it down for visitors. However, it is possible to walk alongside for some distance and get a feel for it from P Tran Phu.

Address: 05 P. Trần Phú, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam 

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Ceramic Mosaic Mural, Ly Thai To

Created for the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi in 2010, the Ceramic Mosaic Mural along the Red River runs for over 6 kilometers. Constructed from locally made tiles, the mural features work from several important Vietnamese and international artists. Make time to stroll along at least a portion for a glimpse of thoughtful, authentic public art.

Address: 11 P. Hàng Vôi, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

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Temple of Literature, Dong Da

This aptly named Confucian monument has a storied history as a place of worship that was developed over centuries into a hub of intellectualism and learning. It was home to Vietnam’s first university, the Imperial Academy, the remnants of which can be seen even today. Dynasties of construction and reconstruction have been carefully preserved to produce a true architectural medley. 

Address: 58 P. Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

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Timings: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Sunday.


Hoa Lo Prison, Tran Hung Dao 

With its name translating to the Vietnamese words for fiery furnace, this prison was almost certainly incredibly unpleasant for its revolutionary inmates during French colonial times. After Independence, it saw use once more during the Vietnam War as a Prisoner of War camp, gaining the American nickname ‘Hanoi Hilton’. Today, what remains is a museum that charts Vietnamese military history, paying homage to the country’s hard-won freedom. Address: 1 P. Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

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Timings: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Sunday

Entry fee: 30,000 VND (approx USD1.3)

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Dong Xuan Market, Hoan Kiem

Established as the trading hub of Hanoi, the Dong Huan market has been through trials and tribulations to get to its current form today. Shops hawk everything from wholesale household goods to clothing, fabrics, and furniture. Drop by after sundown for the Night Market, which caters especially to visitors and features a variety of traditional handicrafts and souvenirs.

Address: Đồng Xuân, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi 100000, Vietnam

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Timings: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day; night market on weekends from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.  

Published on: Jan. 19, 2023, midnight Last modified on: Jan. 19, 2023, 2:33 a.m.
Anita Rao Kashi
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Anita Rao Kashi

I am a Bangalore-based independent journalist and travel and food writer with over 25 years of experience writing for domestic and international publications including BBC, Nikkei Asian Review and South China Morning Post. I love my city to bits, but am always looking for an excuse to travel. When not travelling, I can be found writing, reading, cooking or eating - and not necessarily in that order!