Northern Vietnam, a large land owns masjestic mountains (Sapa, Ha Giang, Lai Chau,...), beautiful land (Ha Long bay, Bai Tu Long bay,...), the rich culture lands (Bac Ninh, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh,...) and is place located Hanoi city, thounsand years capital of Vietnam
Located 150km from Hanoi, Halong Bay – Vietnam is a spectacular island waters of Quang Ninh, a top-leading marine tourism site in Vietnam. With outstanding value in the universal landscape and geology, Ha Long Bay has twice been recognized by UNESCO as a world natural heritage.
Halong Bay with nearly 2000 multifold “pearl” islands above sea level, covering an area of over 1500 square kilometers, creating an extremely poetic and majestic natural wonder. The abundance of styles and the diversity in shapes of thousands of islands creates a forest of natural sculptures, a rare natural impression over the world with the fortified attraction and capacities satisfying the rich imagination of humans.
Hanoi Old Quarter (Phố cổ Hà Nội), the oldest area of Hanoi, has been existing for hundreds of years, undergoing many vicissitudes of history. Old Quarter includes 36 streets which Hanoian proudly call “Hà Nội 36 phố phường” or 36 Streets.
I still remember the first time I wandered in the Old Quarter, I got lost and had to take a taxi out. 36 Streets, they’re too similar, like a big maze, and so difficult to distinguish if you visit just a few times. For now, I still enjoy strolling around the Old Quarter in my free times. In this article, I’m going to share with you my experiences, tips and top things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter for a day trip.
The majority of Old Quarter are in Hoan Kiem district, west and north of Hoan Kiem lake, home to 36 Streets and a huge number of people. The names of the streets in the quarter are very unique, most of them have “Hang” (Hàng – store) at the beginning, because long ago (hundreds of years ago), each street focus on selling a distinctive item, and people named the street according to the item that’s sold.
Highlights in the Old Quarter
The Old Quarter area is very large and has many sites to visit, but if you have only one day here, consider checkin out these places.
1. Dong Xuan market (chợ Đồng Xuân) is one of oldest and most famous markets in Hanoi. The market is very bustling with a lot of goods, most of them are wholesale, price is more expensive if retailing. Come here to learn more about the frantic trading scene, so typical of Hanoi.
2. O Quan Chuong (Ô Quan Chưởng) is a short street (75m, 250ft) with ancient gate remaining after war from over a century ago.
3. Dong Xuan alley(ngõ Đồng Xuân) is where you can enjoy most of street foods of Hanoi as Pho (phở), Bun cha (bún chả), Bun dau (bún đậu),… or snacks like chè, tofu (tào phớ),… These dishes are priced from $1,3, snacks are from $0.8.
4. Bach Ma temple (đền Bạch Mã – white horse temple), was built from Ly dynasty (about over 1000 years ago), is one of 4 sacred sites of the old Thang Long capital.
5. Ancient house at 87 Ma May street was built from early 20th century. The house preserves many cultural and architectural values of ancient Hanoi.
6. Lemon-tea, a super-popular drink in Hanoi that permeates Old Quarter (and Hanoi). Youngsters often gathers for lemon-tea in the evening. Go to Hoan Kiem lakeshore, Cathedral (near the lake) or Cho Gao street (phố Chợ Gạo) to enjoy the bustling atmosphere of Hanoi.
7. Ta Hien street, also the beer corner where locals and tourists love to go for a beer on the street; where the ancient and modern meet.
8. Ô mai Hồng Lam, a kind of jam, famous specialty of Hanoi made from many kinds of fruits. Among many similar shops on that very street, you are advised to shop at Hồng Lam, 11 Hang Duong street (phố Hàng Đường). Ô Mai Sấu ( relatively translate to Crocodile fruit) is highly recommended (I love it most and have been a fan of this brand for years), could be a very good choice for souvenir and gift.
9. Snails and shells on Dinh Liet street is sold from 4.30pm. The place-to-go for this kind of food!
10. Bun cha – You must not forget to try this dish. To me, Hanoi Pho is second to this one. It is addictive, especially on Hang Buom or Hang Than (at $1.5). Don’t even try expensive fancy restaurant (not even as good), stop for ones whose enticing smoky haze from the grilling is visible and touches your nose from far away. It is mesmerizing.
Hotels in (or near) Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi Old Quarter is the heart of Hanoi’s culture, commerce and tourism, hence packed with a variety of accomodation choices, from motels to 5-star hotels. Go for Hang Be (Hàng Bè), Ma May (Mã Mây), Thuoc Bac (Thuốc Bắc), Hang Ma (Hàng Mã), Hang Bac (Hang Bạc). These streets have many hotels for good prices.
Itinerary exploring Old Quarter for 1 day
7.30am. Leave (walk, by taxi or cyclo) for Dong Xuan alley on Hang Chieu street (phố Hàng Chiếu). to have breakfast with Pho, bun cha, bun rieu, etc.
8.30am. Visit Dong Xuan market right besides, stroll around the market.
9am. Keep walking to O Quan Chuong, take photos with the only remaining ancient gate of Hanoi.
9.30am. Head for Bach Ma temple. Remember to avoid short, sexy or too exposed clothes.
10.15am. Get to the ancient house at 87 Ma May street ($0,5/entrance ticket). If it’s already 12 p.m when you’re done with the house, you can go to Hang Buom street nearby to eat Bun Cha for lunch, or visit Nola cafe, very close to the house (in a alley), to have a rest. This cafe has a very impressive decor.
11am. Visit Kim Ngan temple at 42 Hang Bac street (phố Hàng Bạc – Silver Store street), where worship the ancestor of jeweler.
12am. Have lunch at Bun dau restaurant on Phat Loc alley (ngõ Phất Lộc). Note, the Bun dau is authentically dipped in mam tom (mắm tôm – shrimp sauce), a super-smelly sauce even to locals. If you can’t eat shrimp sauce, you can totally eat with fish sauce, which I do all the time. Still tasty as much. Don’t forget to order Cha Com (chả cốm – a very tasty dish eaten Bun Dau).
You can also eat Bun Cha in other restaurants (on Phat Loc alley, near Hang Mam street).
1pm. After lunch, you can rest in Shot cafe at 60 Phat Loc. The cafe has airy space and beautiful decor.
2pm. Keep going to Hoan Kiem lake and Ngoc Son temple (đền Ngọc Sơn).
3pm. If you want to watch Water Puppet, you can buy ticket at Thang Long water puppet nearby Ngoc Son temple.
4pm. Wander to buy souvenirs, eat snail in Dinh Liet street or drink beer in Ta Hien.
7pm. Eat Cha Ca (widely translated to Fish cake) at Thang Long fish cake – 21 Duong Thanh street (phố Đường Thành).
8pm. Stroll on streets. Hanoi at night is even more beautiful when social life starts moving and importantly the cool breeze evokes a lovely delight. If you travel on weekend, you can visit Night Market (Chợ Đêm) on Hang Ngang (Hàng Ngang) and Hang Dao street (phố Hàng Đào), or drink a cup of coffee or lemon-tea on the lakeshore, Cathedral or Cho Gao street (phố Chợ Gạo).
Tip: If get lost in Old Quarter (which I am almost so certain you will), use Google Map or get a taxi. Of course you can ask locals but it will end up really hard to follow for you don’t clearly understand the language.
Tam Dao (Tam Đảo), a small mountainous town of Vinh Phu province, is favored by many young locals. At 1000m (3000ft) high, Tam Dao has a cool weather throughout the year like Da Lat and Sapa. In addition, the 70km (44miles) from Hanoi has made it an attractive place for Hanoi people on weekends and holidays.
Ban Gioc waterfall, located on the Vietnam – China border in Cao Bang province, is considered the most spectacular waterfall of Vietnam. Standing at the foot of waterfall, the cool atmosphere from the dense water vapor will literally bring you to the heaven of freshness and relaxing. It will be very big regret if you miss this attraction during your stay in Vietnam. So pack up together with some of my experience and get to Ban Gioc Waterfall now!
While Ban Gioc Waterfall is the absolute final destination and the main highlights of the day, Cao Bang also offer its visitors a generous number of destinations to incorporate with the trip to Ban Gioc Waterfall. Check out Thang Hen lake, Nguom Ngao cave (động Ngườm Ngao), Pac Bo cave (hang Pắc Bó – where Ho Chi Minh president used to live). If you have enough time, consider combining Ba Be lake and Ban Gioc waterfall to make a circular trip to include all of the main attractions in Cao Bang.
Every year, during grain season, thousands of flocks of tourists and photographers go to mountainous areas in Northern Vietnam for the most scenic rice terraces in the world. Mu Cang Chai(Mù Căng Chải),Yen Bai province, is one of most attractive destinations of all. Personally, I think Mu Cang Chai’s rice fields are even more beautiful than Sapa‘s.
You will not only enjoy the majestic and beautiful terraces but also learn the unique and rustic life of H’mong ethnic group. A hard but warm-hearted life – a rare thing in the modern world. Mu Cang Chai’s highlights include: majestic rice terraces, sticky rice in Tu Le (xôi Tú Lệ), Tu Le hot stream and unique life of ethnic H’Mong. Read on to see what you should do to get the best trip!
The best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is from Mid-September to Mid-October during the season when rice fields are turning yellow and ready for harvest. This can be different each year (depending on weather), so be sure to check out first. BUT from May to Sep is also no less impressive when the rice fields are green.
You can travel to Mu Cang Chai for 2.5 days with motorbike, or 3 days by bus (overnight on bus).
After my blog post on Hanoi travel itineraries for 1 or 2 days, many of you asked for recommendation of good restaurants in Hanoi. I couldn’t believe I actually forgot about this!!?? Food is sometimes the reason you travel (and I’m one of those), right!. So this is the list of famous restaurants in Hanoi, adored by both locals and tourists.
Hanoi cuisine is not only mesmerizing but also diverse and distinctive, so you may have to prepare a really good room and strength for your stomach ready to actually spend a couple days to indulge in all of Hanoi’s specialties.
1. Pho Hanoi (Phở Hà Nội). If you’re finding out about Hanoi tourism, you may have got to know this specialty. There’re lots of Pho restaurants in Hanoi, but if you want authentic and traditional taste of Pho Hanoi, go for 49 Bat Dan street (near the Old Quater) or Pho Thin at 11 Lo Duc street – 2 best Pho in town.
Ninh Binh is one of 3 most visited destinations in Northern Vietnam, the other two are Sapa and Halong bay. Ninh Binh tourism is famous for the charming and majestic nature in Trang An, Tam Coc, Phat Diem church, Bai Dinh pagoda, Hoa Lu ancient capital and Cuc Phuong national park.
Sound like a lot to squeeze in just a few days? Don’t worry because I will help you with a complete itinerary with reasonable time schedule from my experiences in Ninh Binh.
Bac Ninh (Bắc Ninh) is a small land in Northern Vietnam, but very rich in culture and tradition. Bac Ninh is also known as “The land of Quan Ho”, a folk music exclusively to the local.
Bac Ninh tourism is more famous for cultural and historical sites: Do temple (đền Đô – where worship the Ly kings, a big dynasty in Vietnam’s history), Dau pagoda (chùa Dâu), But Thap pagoda (chùa Bút Tháp), Dong Ho painting village, Dai Bai casting copper village and so on
The sites of Bac Ninh are scattered and there are too many sites. To visit all of attractions, you need at least 3 days. So you should divide attractions into regions then pick the suitable one, depending on your time and preference.
I’ve lived in Hanoi capitalfor 3 years and already visited most of the attractions within and without the city. Hanoi is famous for its historical and traditional sites. Some notable sites include Temple of Literature – the first university of Vietnam, One-pillar Pagoda – a small pagoda with the most unique architecture I’ve ever seen, Hoan Kiem Lake with the legendary story about King Le Loi, Long Bien bridge – a “witness” of history, Hanoi Old Quater with 36 streets existing for thousands of years, or Thang Long ancient citadel – a thousand-year-old citadel, etc.
It would be a mistake when talking about Hanoi without mentioning its cuisine. The city is well-known for its beef noodle (Phở bò Hà Nội), bun cha (Bún chả – vermicelli with grilled pork balls) or La Vong fish balls, etc.
To have a comprehensive view of the city, you should spend at least 2 days discovering it: 1 day for places inside city and another day for some places in the suburb (such as Bat Trang ceramic village, Huong pagoda, Co Loa citadel, or Duong Lam ancient village, etc.).
As I mentioned in the article of Moc Chau travel guide, Mai Chau (Mai Châu) is a beautiful valley in Hoa Binh. It is located in the middle of the road from Hanoi city to Moc Chau. Mai Chau – Hoa Binh is famous for its beautiful and majestic landscape as well as diverse culture. Most tourists spend at least 1 day in Mai Chau before getting to Moc Chau. In this article, I will provide you with a preliminary schedule for a trip in Mai Chau.