Hanoi’s history is evident in its diverse aesthetic charm – with old streets named after craftsmen, architecturally thrilling government buildings, and tree-lined boulevards that are a legacy of the French. Cafes abound, selling spine-tinglingly strong Vietnamese iced coffees and teas. And the food – from street stalls dishing out pungent bowls of noodle soup to high-end restaurants serving exquisitely plated spring rolls – is some of the best in all of Asia.
Start a trip to Hanoi with one of its most beautiful sights, the Temple of Literature. Dedicated to Confucius, this place of study and contemplation dates back a millennium, and a stroll around the pavilions and gardens is a reminder of how highly education is valued in Vietnam.
If you’re an early riser, head to Hoan Kiem Lake just after sunrise, where you’ll find locals practicing tai chi. If you prefer to sleep in, stroll around the lake later in the day (it’s a popular spot for walks), and try to spot one of the legendary turtles said to live in its waters.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is more fascinating than morbid: the body of Vietnam’s most famous leader lies in a tomb through which visitors can pass, ushered along by the guards. Follow a visit here with a walk around the thriving Old Quarter of the city, where each small street is named after a different kind of craft. The buildings are antiquated and low to the ground, and you’ll find everything from flags to hand-turned wooden objects to traditional medicine for sale.
As Vietnam continues to blaze its way into the 21st century, Hanoi is becoming more cosmopolitan by the day, with more and more international restaurants and hotels arriving in the city. It can only be a good thing for travellers to Hanoi, who can stay anywhere from wallet-friendly hostels to the popular Sofitel. Food-wise, there’s something (delicious) to eat to suit every budget.