After 3 days in Hanoi we did not want to leave. Even at the end of our 4 week journey through China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, we still looked back at Hanoi with a special fondness. 

Whether you’re spending a week here or, or just have a long layover in Hanoi, you’re bound to fall in love with it like we did. It’s a friendly city, welcoming people whether they’re young English teachers ready to party, curious travellers interested in the local history, or gay and looking to celebrate Pride.

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The first place we went, the place on every ‘to-do’ list, was Old Town. Old Town is aptly named with the obvious age of the buildings and architecture. Being an old French colony it is like being in a French chalet town, very narrow streets bustling with activity.

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A busy street with people and motorbikes in Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi’s busy streets are fun to explore

In this maze of avenues and alleys you can buy anything you want, but the one thing you must have a look for is the local traditional Bia Hoi. This is a local beer that is delivered daily to small street corner shops and is a fraction of the cost of any other beer in the whole country.

You can buy a glass for 5000vnd (0.15GBP). It is not brewed to any specification so you don’t know how much alcohol is in it (people generally say around 3%) but at the cost it’s difficult to ignore.

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2 people drinking very cheap beer calld bia hoi in hanoi
cheap beer = smiles all round

Then there is the food, again being an old French colony there is a lot of influence. Everywhere throughout the city you can buy small baguette sandwiches for 20,000vnd (0.66GBP).

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I thought that these really hit the spot but if you need something more substantial there are so many street food vendors and small restaurants with very affordable food. I loved the chicken kebab stalls which were amazing.

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A chicken kebab from a street vendor in hanoi vietnam
I could eat this every day!

We then decided that our shoulders hurt, being the hard-core travellers we were…. 1 week into the trip. So we got a Vietnamese massage.

Now I come from a sports background so I know massage isn’t supposed to be relaxing if you want it to have any significant benefit.

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However, knowing and prior experience never prepares you for the pain! Personally, I think they did a very good job, you’re sore for at least 24 hours but I felt much better for it. It cost us 120,000vnd (4GBP) each so not a bad price either.

3 massage chairs in a row in vietnam
£4 for a massage! £4!!

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Now we went throughout the city in search of some of the many historical sites, all were very interesting but I’ll leave you to find the small ones whilst exploring the city. However I would recommend definitely having a look at the Hỏa Lò Prison.

This is the prison that French colonist used to detain the Vietnamese and where some American POW’s were kept during the Vietnam War. It is very well preserved in some areas and lets you take a little glimpse into the past and the not too distant past.

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A monument inside the famous Hanoi Hilton war prison
a horrible place but well worth a visit for the education

Finally we ventured out during the night to have a look at the relatively famous Hanoi Night market. Now the night market itself wasn’t my cup of tea completely. You couldn’t move and even though there were 1000 stalls, they seemed to all sell the same crap.

However we were very lucky that it was nearing the Tết holiday so we ran into a music and dancing show that was brilliant, had some more Bia Hoi, grabbed a chicken kebab and finished the trip on a high.

A group of vietnamese dancers in hanoi vietnam
street performances are always fun

Never been to Vietnam? Be prepared and research everything you need to know before you go to Vietnam!

Have you been to Hanoi? Is it one of your favourite cities too? Let us know below either way and why!