Vibrant culture, easy-going nightlife
and an atmospheric Old Quarter
At the city’s heart is the Old Quarter, where quaint shophouses, Buddhist pagodas and French colonial-era buildings line meandering alleys. Open-fronted eateries serve up steaming bowls of bún chả noodles, a breakfast favourite, while hip art galleries and courtyard cafés sit alongside shops selling silk and lacquerware. Standing amid buzzing scooters, roadside kiosks and covered markets, landmarks like Hoa Lo Prison and the neo-Gothic St Joseph’s Cathedral narrate Hanoi’s past.
Offering respite from the city’s bustle are its lakes. Tree-lined walking paths dotted with benches surround Hoàn Kiếm Lake, while a red wooden bridge extends over the water to peaceful Ngoc Son Temple. Pedal boats criss-cross West Lake, and stylish cafés mingle with ancient pagodas on its shimmering waterfront.
With its rich cultural heritage, it’s no wonder that Hanoi offers everything from traditional water puppet theatre shows to contemporary performing arts. You can take in classical music concerts, as well as opera and ballet performances, at the magnificent Opera House, and the Central Circus mesmerises with acrobatic feats, magicians and jugglers.
Dip into the laid-back yet cool nightlife scene, which ranges from mellow jazz bars to pounding dance clubs with a well-heeled vibe. Rooftop lounges offer cocktails with sunset views, while craft beer spots and music bars with tiny dance floors dot the Old Quarter. Cold beers and local snacks are the order of the day at Bia Hoi Junction, where street-side plastic tables and stools keep the party going into the early hours.