Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, shows a nice blend of eastern and western cultures, mixing its centuries of Chinese influence with the nice French design from its colonial years.
Hanoi is located on the right bank of the Red River, at 1760 km /1094 miles north of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
How to get to Hanoi
Planes arrive on Noi Bai International Airport, located at 35 km/21.7 north of Hanoi. Several Asian airlines link Vietnam to the surrounding countries. To get to the center you can take the public bus, the shuttle service or the taxi.
The capital has the typical climate of Northern Hanoi. The summers are hot and humid, while the winters are dry but warm. The majority of rain falls between May and September (during summer). Although the average high temperature during summer is around 31C/90F, it can get as hot as 40C/104F.
Jan: avg high 18 C/66 F; avg low 14 C/58 F
Aug: avg high 31 C/90 F; avg low 26 C/80 F
Things to do
Hanoi has been a capital for centuries and every dynasty has left their imprint on the city. Although many sites haven’t survived the war, there is still a lot to do and see in Hanoi.
The Old Quarter, located near Hoan Kiem lake, still retains the original street layout and architecture. The area is particularly famous for its artisans and merchants. If you are looking to taste some local cuisine, here you can find some lovely restaurants. And for a taste of exotic, visit the night market, where you can find anything from food to clothes.
Hanoi is also known as “the city of lakes”. There are many scenic lakes, as well as parks, where you can enjoy some quiet time in the nature. Hoan Kiem Lake, located close to the Old Quarter, is one of the popular lakes where you can watch —and why not try – early-morning tai chi or just spend some time reading. Within the area of the park, there is Ngoc Son Temple which extends into the lake. It includes displays of Vietnamese history, as well as giant turtles.
Many museums and war sites also attract tourists interested in exploring the country’s history. Ho Chi Minh Museum is one of the most popular among tourists. It includes photos, old letters and many other exhibits. The giant bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh dominates the top of the stairs on the third floor (be care though that guards don’t allow visitors to take photos of the statue).
Army Museum is a very interesting place to visit. Among other items, there are on display a MiG-21 jet fighter, a T-54 tank and many bombs and other items captured on Indochina and Vietnam wars.
The Tourist Information Center, located just north of Hoan Kiem Lake on Dinh Tien Hoang can provide a rather useful map —although the blow-up of the old town is missing- and other advice (in English). You can also get internet access here.