24 hours in Hanoi
Hanoi, the bustling capital of Vietnam, has a rich history and is a compelling mix of the ancient and modern. With distinct French influences on this city, it has its own unique identity. These are the highlights.
1. Visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum
An important centre of pilgrimage for many Vietnamese, the mausoleum houses the remains of Vietnam's founding father, Ho Chi Minh. This pedestrian area around it is full of gardens and walkways and attracts visitors from around the world who come to pay their respects. Please note that the dress code is formal and the mausoleum closes in October and November each year.
2. See Hoan Kiem Lake
At the centre of the city is a special lake, which has an important place at the cultural heart of Hanoi. With the Old Quarter around it, this is a picturesque place to relax, walk and watch the world go by.
The name of the lake means 'Lake of the Returned Sword' and is based on a legend about a magical turtle that gave the future emperor a sword from the lake to help him fight off Chinese invaders. There are actually rare giant turtles living in the lake too, although sightings are infrequent.
3. Explore the Old Quarter
One of the highlights in this city is walking or taking a cyclo (a trishaw) around the charming Old Quarter. There are 36 old streets full of ancient history, historic architecture and a diverse range of shops to explore. This is a top food hub so try some of the delicious street food including the pork crepes and head to the Don Xuan night market in the evening from Friday to Sunday.
4. Visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see complex for any traveller who loves historical sites. It was built back in the 11th Century and includes the remains of the royal palaces. It was once the centre of political power in the country and is a prime example of Hanoi’s architecture and history.
5. Float away on West Lake
West Lake is a perfect spot to see some of Hanoi’s beautiful landscape and natural wonders including the Tran Quoc Pagoda, (which means 'Stabilizing the Nation' in Vietnamese). You can also hire a boat and float along at your own pace. Once your day is over, grab a bite at one of the seafood restaurants nearby.
6. Go to the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu)
The Temple of Literature is nearly 1,000 years old, built in 1070 and houses the Imperial Academy, Vietnam's first national university. It is dedicated to Confucius and has been restored back to its original splendour after war almost destroyed it in 20th Century.
7. Enjoy the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
After a busy day of sight-seeing, enjoy a traditional puppet play at this popular theatre, which attracts many visitors and is located close to Hoan Kiem Lake. This is an art form in Vietnam and tells tales of historical legends and stories of daily life, all with the beautiful effects of lights and music.