Things to do in Hanoi

Enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart and soul of Hanoi. Serving as a focal point of public life and a slice of solitude amid the chaotic capital city of Vietnam, the majestic lake and its iconic red bridge is known for its legends, namely the tale of Emperor Le Loi who lost his magic sword in the lake to a turtle. Another place of solitude, but for completely different reasons, is Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and its nearby museum, a must-visit for all travellers and a great opportunity to scope the city's history as the place where Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Over at the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu), the country's first university, rows of stone tortoises line the grounds with plaques detailing the names of former scholars. It's still considered good luck for students to rub the heads of the reptiles as they prepare for exams. Dating back to 1070, the grounds are dotted with peaceful courtyards, lotus-leaf pools and Confucian temples. To see the French colonial legacy, Hanoi's oldest church, St Joseph's Cathedral, was built in 1886 and styled after the Notre-Dame de Paris with Gothic Revival architecture, and there's also Cua Bac Church, which features a strong Art Deco style in keeping with its erection in 1932.

While Hanoi's icons tend to reflect the city's mythological and historical past, Hanoi is also a prime place to get a dose of daily life in Vietnam as well. You can fight the crowds at the city's night markets, relish a night out on cheap bia hoi beer in the quaint Old Quarter, and recover with a spa treatment or enjoy a quiet moment of contemplation or tai chi along the banks of the West Lake.

Here are some that should be at the top of your list on your Hanoi holiday.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Stay in Hanoi for longer than a night and Hoan Kiem Lake is unavoidable. The majestic lake is widely regarded as the heart of the city, with much of public life centring around the lake and it's public promenade.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Stay in Hanoi for longer than a night and Hoan Kiem Lake is unavoidable. The majestic lake is widely regarded as the heart of the city, with much of public life centring around the lake and it's public promenade.

Old Quarter

If museums aren't really you're cup of lotus tea then a trip to the Old Quarter may be more your style. A museum of sorts, the Old Quarter is where Hanoi has been frozen in time since the beginning of the 20th century, with streets and architecture wonderfully preserved and trades still continuing as they did over 1,000 years ago.

One Pillar Pagoda

One of Hanoi's most famous sights and considered to be a shining example of a Vietnamese temple, One Pillar Pagoda is a symbol and a must-see site for an insight of the founding of the city over a thousand years ago.

Vietnam Military History Museum

Vietnam has a few war museums and the most important is in the capital, Hanoi, in the guise of the Vietnam Military History Museum. Here you'll find items used in the Vietnam/American War, propaganda videos and other memorabilia.