Welcome to Hanoi
Between maze-like streets, a never-ending sea of traffic, and crowded marketplaces, Vietnam's ancient capital can be overwhelming at first. But just beneath the surface, you'll find Hanoi's rich heritage and proud cultural traditions are waiting to be discovered. Start your city tour in the atmospheric Old Quarter, where countless craft shops and food stalls line dozens of narrow "trade streets." Around Hoan Kiem Lake, beautifully restored, French Colonial buildings, including the Grand Opera House and the Presidential Palace, flank wide, stately boulevards, and a painted footbridge leads to the antique Ngoc Son Confucian temple on the lake. Learn more about Vietnam's most influential leader at the Ho Chi Minh complex, where you can see "Uncle Ho's" former house-on-stilts, as well as his earthly remains (housed in the mausoleum). Don't miss the Temple of Literature, built in the 11th century as the country's first university, or the excellent Museum of Ethnology. Take a tasting tour to sample some of Asia's best street food, which might include classic bun cha (slow-roasted pork served with rice vermicelli, herbs, and lettuce), followed by thick, sweet, and highly addictive Vietnamese coffee. Enjoy a traditional water-puppet show and a cyclo (three-wheeled taxi) ride, and you'll soon feel right at home in Hanoi. When you're ready to explore farther afield, Hanoi makes an easy transport hub: Junk boat cruises on UNESCO-listed Halong Bay are just a few hours away, while south of the capital, highlights include the Perfume Pagoda, Bai Dinh Pagoda, and the Trang An grottoes.