Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. During French rule over Asia, it even was the capital of French Indochina. You can still spot a lot of French influences in Hanoi, like the broad boulevards and the majestic old villas. Despite the thousands of motorbikes, the constant street noise and a general lack of special points of interest, Hanoi is a bustling city. There are numerous great restaurants, but it is highly recommended to look for the small food stalls where you can feast on delicious Vietnamese food for only a few dollars.
Hanoi is home to a couple of Vietnam’s better museums, such as Hoa Lo prison. This prison was used by the French to detain Vietnamese political prisoners and during the Vietnam War – or American War as Vietnamese people say – it was home to imprisoned American pilots. At the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, an impressive marble construction, you can look at the preserved body of Vietnam’s most important man. If you need a break from Hanoi’s busy traffic, beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake is the perfect place to go to; you can even join the locals in an early morning tai chi session on the lake’s shores. One of the most pleasant things to do in Hanoi is to stroll around the Old Quarter without a particular purpose. Participate in local life but be aware of busy traffic.
Hanoi’s central location and good infrastructure make it a perfect departure point for nearby destinations, such as Sapa’s green rice paddies, Ninh Binh’s mysterious landscape and Halong Bay’s limestone pinnacles.
Hanoi has a humid subtropical climate, with a wet summer and a cool, dry winter. March, April, October and November are good months to visit, with mild temperatures and less rainfall.
If you like bustling cities, need an ideal departure point for exploring surrounding areas or want to taste Vietnamese food, Hanoi is certainly worth adding to your itinerary.