This post was last updated on February 13th, 2020 at 12:27 pm
We have said it before on our blog, and would like to say it again; Hanoi is one of our favorite cities in Southeast Asia. You have those places that leave a certain impression on you. Whether that depends on the atmosphere, the sights, the people you meet or just the experiences you gain. We had that with Hanoi, a great city. In addition to the fact that there is much to see and do, there is also a cozy atmosphere. Partly due to the famous Old Quarter with nice markets, cozy bars, and delicious food.
Are you going to Hanoi soon? Or do you happen to read this while you are already in Hanoi? Then read on. We have made a list of 4 not-very-known things to see in Hanoi.
1. Bach Ma Temple
The small Bach Ma temple is located in the middle of the famous Old Quarter. Allegedly this is the oldest temple in Hanoi. It was originally built by Emperor Ly Thai To in the 11th century but much of the current structure dates from the 18th century. Upon entering you will walk through beautiful old wooden doors that adorn the pagoda. Inside you will find a statue of the white horse that brought Emperor Ly Thai To to this location.
2. Imperial Citadel
The Imperial Citadel is also in the old center of Hanoi. They also call it the Citadel of Thang Long. The citadel was added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 2010. The Imperial Citadel has been the center of Vietnamese military power for more than 1,000 years. Archaeological excavations are still being carried out and objects are being found from old palaces.
You will also find fascinating military command bunkers from the American war – complete with maps and communication tools from the 60s, used by the legendary Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap.
Hanoi Travel Guide
Do you want to know everything about Hanoi? Then check our Hanoi page where you will find much more information such as other highlights, how to get there, the best travel time and much more.
3. Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Market was established in 1889! It is an indoor market consisting of four floors. By the way, don’t expect an architectural wonder, because the building does not look that great from the outside. Fortunately, the inside is a lot nicer. It is the largest indoor market in the country and it offers a wide range of products such as fresh produce, souvenirs, accessories, and clothing, as well as electronic and household appliances.
You can really buy anything here, even pets (cats, dogs, and goldfish). If you are looking for souvenirs you should be on the top floors, where you will find countless stalls with t-shirts, rugs, handbags, etc.
4. Water Puppet Theater
Long ago, poor farmers from northern Vietnam started playing Mua Roi Nuoc, also known as “water puppets.” This is for entertainment, and for unclear reasons, it’s always performed in ponds. You can still visit these shows today. One of those places is the Hanoi Water Puppet Theater (it is also possible to see the water puppets in Hoi An).
The Hanoi Water Puppet Theater is located on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake. The puppeteers stand in water up to their waist, behind a cloth. They control the dolls, which sometimes weigh up to 15 kilograms, with bamboo sticks. Special lighting effects are used and there is always a live band to accompany the show musically. Don’t expect an opera.
Hanoi Old Quarter – a MUST see
You cannot miss the Old Quarter in Hanoi. It is full of charming colonial architecture, Buddhist temples, and pagodas. Located near Hoan Kiem Lake, this old neighborhood is the most important commercial area of Hanoi. In the Old Quarter, you will find small companies, some of which are around 1000 years old. Although most of the specialties have changed over the years and have been replaced by the trade of contemporary goods and services, visitors can still enjoy some of the original crafts.
The old shops, buildings, and houses along the narrow streets provide a nice atmosphere. The old center always stood behind huge walls and heavy wooden gates until well into the nineteenth century. Apart from a gate on the east side of Hang Chieu, the walls have disappeared. The best way to discover the Old Quarter is by walking or by stepping into a cyclo.
Extra Tip – City View Cafe
If you are in Hanoi and you want a nice location to have a drink or something to eat then visit the City View Cafe. This is located on Hoan Kiem Lake at the roundabout (opposite the KFC). You can sit on the 4th floor and overlook one of the liveliest parts of the city.