The grand old dame of the Orient, Hanoi is perhaps the most graceful, atmospheric and exotic capital city in Asia. Its appeal is instant, with sweeping boulevards, tree-fringed lakes, ancient pagodas and a relatively compact historic centre that’s best explored on foot. A constant tide of motorbikes swarms through the quixotic web of streets in the Old Quarter, the city's cauldron of commerce for almost 1000 years, and still the best place to take Hanoi's pulse. Life here is carried out on the street, with hawkers in conical hats plying their wares as locals sip drip-coffee and bia hoi (beer). Witness goateed grandfathers tugging at their wisps over the next chess move, while groups of t’ai chi enthusiasts go through their synchronised paces on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake. The elegant heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake is just south of the Old Quarter. Most visitors prefer to base themselves in this part of town thanks to its incredible energy and atmosphere, its narrow winding streets and alleys that are too narrow for cars.
Recommended things to do & see
Our top picks for Hanoi
Temple of Literature: A well-preserved jewel of traditional Vietnamese architecture in 11th-century style, this temple is an absolute must
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum: Hanoi's best museum - set aside a couple of hours to appreciate its amazing collection
Tran Quoc Pagoda: On the eastern shore of West Lake, this is one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam
Municipal Water Puppet Theatre: This fascinating art form originated in northern Vietnam, and Hanoi is the best place to catch a show
Green Tangerine: The chaotic Old Quarter is not known for refined dining experiences, but Green Tangerine is the shining exception
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