Hanoi's truly unique cultural tapestry has threads of French and Chinese influences woven in. Designated "The City For Peace" by UNESCO, Vietnam's capital is a bustling metropolis that always seems to be in a hurry. You're likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of exotic attractions and experiences waiting for you in this city.
Start your trip with one of the main attractions of the city: the imposing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of Vietnamese Revolutionary leader, President Ho Chi Minh. This striking granite structure is a standout at its height of 70 ft.
Once you dip your toe in the fascinatinghistory of Hanoi, you won't be able to stop from delving in deeper. Swing by the Ho Chi Minh Museum to learn more about the man and his role in the Vietnamese independence struggle.
Next, for a change of pace, head to the west of Hanoi, till you reach the lush tropical paradise that is, the serene Ba Vi National Park. Spread over 26,700 acres, it makes for a fun hike through the foggy wilderness near Hanoi.
Not far from Hanoi lies the stunning Halong Bay and its 59 hidden caves. If you have time enough for just 1 cave, it should be the magnificent Sung Sot cave you visit. It sprawls over 107,639 sq ft of cavernous darkness!
The surreal beauty of Halong Bay and its thousands of towering islets is perhaps best experienced on a peaceful riverboat ride.
Very soon, you'll be drawn back to Hanoi. You should check out the most beautiful building in town: the Presidential Palace. French Colonial architecture may seem out of place, but it serves as a reminder of Vietnam's time as a European colony.
Hanoi's beautiful surroundings have inspired its spiritual side. You should visit the oldest Buddhist temple in town: the Trấn Quốc Pagoda. Find inner peace at its shrine, or sit for a while under the big Bodhi tree.
Another tourist favorite would be the iconic One Pillar Pagoda. It rises out of a lotus pond, balanced on a single pillar of stone!
For a taste of familiar Western culture, drop by the historic Hanoi Opera House. Classic western operas and ballet recitals are infused with a Vietnamese twist that make for fascinating performances.
On Hanoi's Sword Lake, an old structure stands tall: the Turtle Tower. This structure had a special role in the story of a local legend (warrior Le Loi), and is deeply rooted in the people's history.
Next, check out the stunning Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long. Perhaps better known as the Hanoi Citadel, this royal palace is a remnant of Vietnam's pre-colonial period.
Don't miss a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show, at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. This 11th Century art form has been revived in Hanoi and it tells tales of local folklore.
During your stay, you'll find out why Vietnamese street food is well known around the world. And the best of the best, is a bowlful of Hanoi Pho.
Delicious Vietnamese cuisine is such a big draw, that some restaurants in Hanoi offer Vietnamese cooking classes for tourists. Learn the art of cooking, straight from the master chefs!
Come evening, visit Hanoi's gorgeous Temple of Literature. It's a different kind of temple - one dedicated to philosophers and scholars. You may recognize this landmark from the backs of official Vietnamese banknotes.
If you time your Vietnam visit to coincide with the first day of the Lunar Calendar, you'll get to see Hanoi celebrate its biggest holiday: the Tet Nguyen Dan festival. The elaborate dragon dances that take over the streets are a sign of Chinese influence on Vietnamese culture.
Deep within the city's Old Quarter, you should shop for souvenirs at the ever-vibrant Hanoi Night Market. It's a maze of outdoor stalls packed with fashion accessories and sumptuous street food.
Right there in the Old Quarter, you can buy traditionalVietnameselanterns, to take home with you. There's a staggering variety of different shapes, sizes, pretty designs and bright colors to choose from.