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Arts Hanoi Travel Guide

Hanoi Travel Guide

hanoi travel guide
By TAMARA DE GUZMAN
July 14, 2011

Here is our recommended itinerary for a short break to this small but dynamic city

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Why go

Go to Hanoi for an exotic taste of Asia in this small city teeming with contrasts. At times you’ll feel it’s old, rugged and just on the brink of modernity with its worn buildings and cluttered, narrow streets, as well as melange of hawkers in their traditional conical hats. At other times you’ll simply be charmed by the peppering of tall, skinny French colonial buildings, mish-mash of local boutiques, tranquil lakes, designer restaurants and temples. 

What to see: French Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake

A couple of days are really all you need in Hanoi. Stroll through the French Quarter found on the south and east of the Hoan Kiem Lake, which is the centrepiece of the city, where you’ll come across numerous boutiques and street markets that is a bargain hunters idea of heaven - just watch out for the overwhelming swarm of motorbikes. We recommend you bring back some of the fantastic ceramics and other homeware.


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What to See: Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Military History Museum, Hanoi Hilton

Get a feel for Vietnam’s rich history by visiting Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. Also drop by the Museum of Military History, with a large assortment of military paraphernalia. The Hoa Lo Prison, also referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton” by American GIs, was once a French-built prison intended to accommodate over two thousand prisoners, but it was demolished to make room for some apartments and offices. However, a small part of the site has been retained in a small museum.

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What to See: The Water Puppet Theatre

With regular shows throughout the day, this is more ideal for kids, but adults will find it cheap and easy entertainment as well.

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What to See: The Hanoi Opera House

Catch a show when you can in order to admire the beautiful interiors as well.

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Where to Stay: The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

This classic and historic hotel is by far the best place to stay in Hanoi. You’ll get a feel for old Vietnam in all it grandeur within the halls of this legendary hotel that has housed dignitaries and luminaries for centuries. Its spa is the best you’ll experience in the city, the restaurants are top-notch, and sunning yourself by the gorgeous pool is an ideal way to while away an afternoon.

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Where to Eat

For such a small town, Hanoi has a dynamic and interesting culinary scene. You won’t want for your share of local, traditional cuisine as well as the more avant-garde and contemporary dishes from Vietnam’s local celebrity chefs.

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For our full list of recommended restaurants, read our dining itinerary here 

Side Trips

From Hanoi, we recommend taking a day trip or even an overnighter over to the famed Halong Bay where you can spend the night in numerous luxury junks. Sapa, up in the hills of the northwest area of Vietnam near the Chinese border, is also ideal for a visit - hop on board one of the many luxury trains available and trek through small tribal villages, hills and waterfalls.

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