Anyone who has ever visited Hanoi will probably tell you that it may be the most beautiful city in all of Asia. People have settled here along the Red River for a thousand years. Nestled along wooded boulevards among the city’s two dozen lakes you will find architectural souvenirs left by all who conquered this great valley, from the Chinese who first came in the last millennium to the French, booted out in our own century.
Getting Around the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake is Hanoi's "ground zero." Practically all the city’s economical hotels, tourist shops, and cafés catering to visitors are located here. Not only is it the oldest part of the city, it is the busiest and most interesting.
“Old Quarter," the "Ancient Quarter," and "36 streets." It is wedged between the northern shore of Hoan Kiem Lake, the walls of the ancient Citadel, and the levies that protect the city from the Red River. The 36 little streets in the quarter are each named for a commodity once sold by all the businesses on that street.
Hanoi is very compact, and the city’s most interesting places for tourists are all relatively close to each other, which makes it easy to enjoy the best parts of the city on foot or by cyclo:
Hochiminh's Mausoleum, without a doubt the city’s single most visited site, and one of Vietnam's most revered places. This imposing shrine was built on the edge of Ba Dinh Square, the place where Hochiminh delivered the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Vietnam to half a million of his countrymen in 1945, following the surrender of the Japanese.
The One Pillar Pagoda is about 50 meters away. This little architectural curiosity gets its name because the shrine sits atop a single massive pedestal. The original was built by Emperor Ly Thai To, who was inspired by a dream.
You can not help being overwhelmed by the serenity of Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) and Quoc Tu Giam (National University) from the moment you pass through its towering gates. Together, they make one of Asia’s loveliest spots. Hidden from the humming metropolis behind high stone walls and ancient Frangipani trees are some of Vietnam’s most magnificent religious structures and historical treasures. Great pools filled with blooming Lotus bear names like "Well of Heavenly Clarity". Dating from 1076, this was this part of Asia’s most prestigious center of learning for aristocrats and the children of the Mandarins. The focal point of the site is the Sanctuary dedicated to Confucius, which is filled with elaborate Chinese reliquary. Live performances of traditional folk music by costumed women are ongoing during public hours.
Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart of Hanoi. According to a 15th Century legend, a giant turtle presented Emperor Le Loi with a magic sword with which to defeat Chinese invadors. In accordance with their pact, the Emperor returned the sword to the turtle after a glorious victory in battle. Thus, the lake was named Hoan Kiem, or "restored sword."
Ngoc Son Pagoda sits on an islet at the North end of the lake. The oldest structures in the complex date to 1225, though most of what you see was either built or reconstructed in the 19th century.
Practically across the street from the bridge is the water puppetry theater. Scenes from Vietnamese lore and history (including ancient battles) are elaborately performed by colorful lacquered puppets in an indoor pond, accompanied by traditional Vietnamese folk music. It sounds awfully corny but missing this Hanoi attraction is like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. Tickets for the evening performances are cheap and sell out early in the day. Avoid seats closest to the water or you may get splashed.
Vietnamese silk is among the world’s finest. Hang Gai (thread street) has for centuries been home to some of Hanoi’s best silk shops.
The UNESCO-listed Trangan Grottoes Complex is located in Ninhbinh Province, 100km south of Hanoi. Surrounded by canals and lakes, Trangan Grottoes consist of a variety of caves, rocks, temples and incredible limestone formations. Along the 3-hour tour, your paddle boat will pass through river caves and stop by several ancient Buddhist temples. You may also have a chance to visit the set of King Kong: Skull Island movie, which was filmed in 2017 at here.