Although it is best known for its French influence, the city boasts many beautiful examples of architecture. This is in the form of French-styled colonial buildings which means 1 day in Hanoi may not be enough.
The streets in the Old Quarters are lined with brightly colored traditional Vietnamese bungalows. The city now has five urban centers. And, visiting the Old Quarter is a must during your 1 day in Hanoi stay.
The city also has a lovely lake called Hoan Kiem Lake. This is where the locals experience Hanoi’s peaceful beauty amidst the organized chaos of the city.
In addition, there are many parks throughout the city with bright flowers blooming everywhere. Hanoi’s rolling hills and bright flowers make it a beautiful place to visit. Aside from natural beauty, Hanoi’s architectural heritage merits special attention.
Chào mừng đến với Hà Nội! which means Welcome to Hanoi!
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Where is Hanoi?
This landlocked city is located along the western banks of the Red River in north Vietnam. Hanoi is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. The city has a tropical monsoon climate with four seasons.
While the city has two clear tourist districts, the Old Quarter and the French Quarter. These two districts contrast with the newer western districts of Cau Giay, Thanh Xuan, Ha Dong, and Nam Tu Liem which have skyscrapers and modern buildings.
And, when in Hanoi, make sure to watch the water puppet shows. This tradition dates back to the 11th century when these shows were performed in a waist-deep pool. Get the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater skip-the-line entry ticket to end your 1 day in Hanoi itinerary.
Hanoi is one of the oldest cities in South East Asia. The first Emperor, Ly Thai Lo was the first ruler of Hanoi and named the city Thang Long. Thang Long means descending dragon after he claimed to have seen a dragon descending the Red River.
In the 15th century, the Chinese Ming Dynasty attacked Hanoi. By the time the Nguyen Dynasty was established, Vietnam’s capital was moved to Hue.
It was Nguyen Emperor Minh Mang who named the city “Ha Noi, ” meaning “between rivers”. In the 19th century, Hanoi was the administrative capital of French Indochina.
Vietnam became a unified nation after the war with the nation on the road to recovery. With a rapid construction boom, Hanoi now has new urban areas, gleaming skyscrapers, and a modern skyline of the city.
With well-preserved French colonial buildings, historical landmarks, and several religious sites, Hanoi continues to attract tourists to its streets every year. The two main tourist areas are the Old Quarter and the French Quarter.
Most visitors would require a visa to enter Vietnam. However, citizens from Chile and Panama have a 90-day visa-free entry while citizens from Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar have a 30-day visa-free entry to Vietnam.
You can complete the visa application in 4 easy steps. The first step is to complete the secure application form while the second is to pay for the Vietnam visa fees. The third is the print the approval letter and show it to the immigration officer.
A simpler approach would be to apply using the services of iVisa Vietnam Visa. And, they are always available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your queries or questions.
How do you get around Hanoi?
While the locals buzz around in their scooters, getting around in Hanoi for a tourist is a different ballgame.
As the roads are not meant for pedestrians, walking around Hanoi is the best and cheapest option, especially if you live in the Old Quarter or French Quarter which can be done if you have 1 day in Hanoi or more.
This is the most accessible option when you are in a rush. While all taxis are metered, not all drivers use them. The downside of using taxis is the drivers are not well-versed in English and with Hanoi’s notorious traffic, it may take time to get to your destination.
These are Hanoi’s bicycle rickshaws, ideal for destinations a short trip away. These bicycle rickshaws can fit two people with the driver sitting behind the passenger.
It is best to agree on the price before boarding and don’t be surprised if the driver asks for more at the end of the ride. Be firm and stick with your agreed price.
A tip would make them smile. And, always have small changes with you as they hate to return the balance. Alternatively, you can join an Evening Cyclo Tour With A Water Puppet Show and absorb the city’s atmosphere.
Motorcycle Taxis (Xe Om)
Xe Om or “hug taxis” is when you hug the driver from behind as you ride pillion on his motorcycle. You will find these taxis on street corners. Before hopping onto a motorcycle taxi, bargain hard and wear your helmet.
As most drivers may not speak English, write down the address you want to go to and hand it to the driver. Speak to the concierge at your hotel who can give you a rough estimate on the cost from one place to another using xe om.
The local buses are decked in red, white, and yellow which cover the routes within the city center. Although these buses stop near Hoan Kiem Lake, the Hanoi Train Station, and Ho Chih Minh Mausoleum, we wouldn’t advise getting on these buses for long-distance travel as they may be uncomfortable.
The easiest way from the airport is to download the Grab app and book your ride to the city center. Turn down the “helpful” people who approach you asking if you need a taxi and head to the official area to hail a cab.
Alternatively, arrange for a one-way private pick-up and transfer from the airport to your hotel. Or, arrange for a pick-up with your hotel where the porter will wait with your name placard at the arrival hall.
You might have to pay extra, but you will be taken straight to your hotel which means you can rest assured that your peace of mind is intact and your luggage is safe.
How do you spend 1 Day In Hanoi?
Just how do you spend 1 day in Hanoi?
Let’s just say, this is one of the many trips which I have tremendously enjoyed. From a temple on a lake to a day trip to Halong Bay, it is no wonder Hanoi is a preferred destination as there is so much to see and do.
Ngoc Son Temple
The first stop in my 1 day in Hanoi was the Ngoc Son Temple or the Temple of the Jade Mountain. This temple is built on an islet and is dedicated to Confucian and Taoist scholars and Vietnam’s national hero, Trần Hưng Đạo.
What was most striking and beautiful was Cau The Huc, the scarlet bridge constructed in the traditional Vietnamese style. Before reaching the bridge, there are two impressive stone features, the Pen Tower and the Ink Slab.
The beautiful five-story Pen Tower means has three Chinese characters which means “writing on the clear blue sky” as it seeks to emphasize that this temple is a Temple of Literature.
From the bridge, I was greeted by the majestic Tam Quan which is simply the Passage Gate. The two Chinese letters you see outside the first gate represent happiness and prosperity. I reached the Moon Gazing Pavillion with a turtle engraved on its left representing longevity.
On its right, look out for the dragon which symbolizes strength and power. As I continued walking further, I reached the Ngoc Son temple proper. The main deity is Tran Hung Dao while Van Xuong De Quan was a philosopher who grasped the knowledge of mankind.
The third statue is Amitabha Buddha who represents the Mahayana Buddhism that is widely practiced in Vietnam. As I walked out of the bridge, the diversity and unity of this beautiful nation strikes me.
With Confucian, Taoism, and Buddhist statues in one place, coexisting in peace, amidst the chaos of Hanoi.
It makes us believe that we can live peacefully, regardless of our religious and spiritual beliefs.
How much is the entrance fee to Ngoc Son temple?
The entrance fee to Ngoc Son temple is VND 30,000 ($1.26) for adults and VND 15,000 ($0.63) for students with valid identification cards. Children below the age of 15 years, enter for free. The temple is open from 8 am to 6 pm from Monday to Sunday.
Hoan Kiem Lake
After exploring the Ngoc Son temple on my 1 day in Hanoi, the next best thing to do was to walk and enjoy the serenity of Hoan Kiem Lake. This freshwater lake is in the historical center of Hanoi.
Another name for this lake is the “Lake of the Returned Sword”. Legend has it that once Emperor Le Loi defeated the Ming Dynasty, he was boating on this lake when the Golden Turtle God surfaced and asked for his magic sword, Heaven’s Will.
Emperor Le Loi then threw his sword into the lake and renamed the lake, Hoan Kiem to commemorate this event. One of the world’s rarest turtles, the Rafetus swinhoei was spotted several times before its death. The last turtle was embalmed and placed at the Ngoc Son temple.
How much does it cost to go to Hoan Kiem Lake?
There is no entry fee to Hoan Kiem Lake and the lake is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You will need to pay an entrance fee to enter the Ngoc Son temple which sits on an islet on the lake.
Why is Hoan Kiem Lake a tourist attraction?
Hoan Kiem Lake is a tourist attraction because it is a peaceful place amidst chaotic Hanoi. A lake is also a place where the locals go to relax as it has ample space for outdoor activities. The greenery adds to its calming vibe.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The third stop in my 1 day in Hanoi was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This mausoleum is a 40-minute walk or a 15-minute drive from Hoan Kiem Lake. The cheapest way to get here is by getting onto bus number 9 in the direction of Cau Giay and Bo Ho.
The bus stops at station number 91-93 which is on Le Phong street which is a short walk to the entrance to the mausoleum. Or, you can hitch a ride on a taxi, the fare should not cost more than VND 45,000 ($1.90) for the trip.
Although the mausoleum was inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is unique in that Vietnamese elements were incorporated into the design such as the sloping roof.
The embalmed body is Ho Chi Minh lies at the center of the central hall and is preserved in a cooler and is protected by military honor guards.
Is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum free?
Foreigners need to pay an entrance fee of VND 25,000 ($1.05) to visit while locals enter for free. As the visiting hours are seasonal, always check before you make a trip here.
Why is Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum important?
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is important as it was built so that the common man can visit and pay respect to him. This cultural symbol also shows the Vietnamese deep respect for the leader, the man who is the Father of Vietnam.
After visiting the mausoleum, you can visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Presidential Palace, House Number 54, and Ho Chi Minh’s House on Stilts that he lived in and reminded him of the difficult days preparing and leading the revolution.
Did Ho Chi Minh want to be cremated?
Yes, Ho Chi Minh wanted to be cremated with his ashes spread in three parts of Vietnam. He wanted some of his ashes in the north where he worked, in the central region which was his homeland, and in the south where he realized his journey to create an independent Vietnam.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
The fourth stop in our 1 day in Hanoi was the Tran Quoc Pagoda. This pagoda is about 900 meters or an easy 20-minute walk from Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. With its striking red exterior, the pagoda is a must-visit icon of Hanoi.
Tran Quoc is the oldest temple in Hanoi as it was built during the 6th century as a symbol of Buddhism in Vietnam. Walking along its grounds, I saw a Bodhi tree which is believed to be from a branch from the sacred Bodhi tree which Buddha attained enlightenment.
The beautiful stupa is 11-storeys high with six arched doorways with a statue on each floor. Each figure is made with precious stones and resembles Amitabha Buddha.
As this is a living pagoda with monks living within its ground, it is respectful to dress appropriately. This means that your knees and shoulders must be covered. It is always crowded, especially on the 1st and 15th day of the lunar months.
Why is the Tran Quoc Pagoda important?
The Tran Quoc Pagoda is important as a religious spiritual center and is a cultural symbol of Vietnamese Buddhism. The pagoda is also the oldest in Hanoi. And, with its picturesque scenery, the environment is one of peace, calm, and tranquility.
How much is the entrance fee for Tran Quoc Pagoda?
There is no entrance fee for Tran Quoc Pagoda although donations are accepted. The pagoda is open from 8 am to 4 pm every day. As this is a living pagoda, shorts, mini skirts, and tank tops are not allowed.
The fifth stop in our 1 day in Hanoi was the Hanoi Cathedral which is officially the St Joseph’s Cathedral. St Joseph’s Cathedral is about a 40-minute walk from the Tran Quoc Pagoda.
This walk was one of the hardest for me, not because it was difficult. Rather, it was the urge not to stop at every shop to shop for souvenirs or to grab a bite. Take a break at the Hang Dau Garden as you watch the people going about their daily lives.
St Joseph’s Cathedral is just a 10-minute walk back to Ngoc Son Temple where I started.
Now a little bit of history, the cathedral was built in the Gothic Revival style and was built in the late 19th century. The cathedral does strike a pose as its building was inspired by Notre Dame in Paris.
St Joseph is the patron saint of Vietnam and this is the oldest church in Hanoi. Another inspiration from France is that the stained glass windows were made in France before they were delicately transported to Hanoi.
There is no entrance fee to visit the church. While there are no restrictions to taking photos of the exterior, there are limitations when visiting the church as it is only opened when there is a mass. Hence, check in advance for the schedule of the mass.
Day Trip: Halong Bay
The sixth and last stop on our 1 day in Hanoi was a day trip to Halong Bay. A day trip here is a must when in Hanoi. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the Gulf of Tonkin and is known for its spectacular limestone pillars, emerald green waters, rugged islands, and centuries-old rock formations.
Halong Bay is surrounded by Bai Tu Long Bay in the northeast, Cat Ba Archipelago in the south, and Lan Ha Bay in the east.
And, did you know that Ha Long in Vietnamese means descending dragon? I didn’t!
According to local legends, when Vietnam was just developing as a country, the gods sent a family of dragons to protect the new nation. The family of dragons began spewing jewels and jade which transformed into these limestone rocks.
These rocks formed a natural wall against the invaders. In the end, Vietnam won the battle, and to oversee the peaceful new nation, the mother dragon descended onto the earth. The place she landed was named Ha Long.
The place where the dragon children landed was Bai Tu Long and the place where the dragon children wriggled their tails violently was named Bach Long Vi island.
What is the best month to visit Halong Bay?
The best month to visit Halong Bay is during the spring months of March to April when the weather is pleasant with gentle sunshine and little rainfall.
The other best time to visit Halong Bay is during the fall months of September to October. During the autumn months, the weather is cooler with pleasant sunshine. By October, the cool breeze blows frequently.
What is special about Ha Long?
Ha Long is special because it is the only place in the world where majestic limestone mountains rise above the emerald-green waters of the bay. Its beauty has remained untouched as most of the 1,600 islets are uninhabited.
What are the best areas to stay in Hanoi?
The three best areas to stay in Hanoi, in our opinion, are the Old Quarter for first-timers, Tay Ho for nightlife, and Ba Dinh for families.
Old Quarter for First Timers
The Old Quarter is the historical city center of Hanoi and is located outside the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. What I loved about the area was the 36 streets, each representing different trades of the people.
Join the Highlights & Hidden Gems Tour as you walk through the narrow alleyways of the Old Quarter. For a hands-on experience, join a pottery class where you mold, bake and take home your masterpiece.
Our first choice for a 1 day in Hanoi in the Old Quarter is the Peridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel which is a 105-room oasis of tranquility in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. With 3 restaurants and a sky bar, staying here is a gastronomic delight.
And, several key attractions are within walking distance from this hotel. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Hanoi Old City Gate, Vietnam Military History Museum, and Lenin Park is an easy walk from the hotel.
Guests loved the welcoming and helpful staff and the spacious and tastefully furnished rooms. Other reviewers loved the central location of the hotel, the comfortable beds, and pillows, and the spotlessly clean rooms.
Our second choice for a 1 day in Hanoi in the Old Quarter is La Sinfonia Majesty Hotel & Spa which is a 27-room on Cau Go street with breathtaking views of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple, and the Red Bridge.
The hotel combines classic royalty with modern amenities. Head to the sky bar for unparallel views of the city. All rooms feature elegant designs with luxurious amenities. The best rooms begin from the Executive City View while the La Sinfonia Suites come with a terrace.
Guests loved the friendly staff, good breakfast selection, and spacious rooms. Guests also loved the tastefully furnished rooms, comfortable beds, and spotlessly clean rooms.
Our third choice for a 1 day in Hanoi in the Old Quarter is the Oriental Jade Hotel which is a 120-room beautiful view of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Cathedral, and the Old Quarter itself. All rooms are bright and spacious and designed to be a peaceful haven after a day of sightseeing.
We loved the Presidential Suite that comes with a super king bed, both city and lake views, and a bathtub and a shower. What I loved about it was the separate living room area which was perfect for reading a book.
Guests loved the strategic location, the clean and spacious rooms, and the attentive staff who were always helpful and tried their best to meet guests’ expectations. Reviewers also loved the delicious breakfast spread, comfortable beds, and gorgeous views from the rooftop bar.
Tay Ho for Nightlife
Tay Ho is the high-end residential neighborhood of Hanoi. It is home to a large expatriate population and western restaurants and bars. This urban district wraps around West Lake, the largest natural lake in Vietnam.
The three main avenues of this district were named after the early Vietnamese leaders while the names of the smaller streets were named after famous Vietnamese poets, artists, and music composers.
Join the half-day West Lake route on motorbike or take the West Lake journey by e-bike where you visit some of the historical and cultural points of the area. At the end of the day, relax at one of these hotels which I have curated for you.
Our first choice for a 1 day in Hanoi in Tay Ho is Lotte Hotel which is a 318-room hotel that blends Korean hospitality with Vietnamese culture. The hotel is conveniently located between Hanoi’s Old Quarter and its new Business District.
All rooms come with floor-to-ceiling windows, a safety deposit box, a hairdryer, bath salts, free WiFi, and a work desk. I loved that the rooms were clean and spacious with all the expected amenities within the room.
The hotel was within walking distance of many restaurants, bars, and shops. Guests also loved the welcoming staff, scrumptious breakfast spread, and comfortable beds. The glowing reviews mention that staff go above and beyond their duties to ensure guests are well taken care of.
Our second choice for a 1 day in Hanoi in Tay Ho is the Five Residences Hotel which is a 116-room hotel located in Doi Can street. The hotel is a short distance from the Old Quarter, West Lake, and the Silk Village.
All rooms in this hotel incorporate the five elements of nature, that is, fire, wood, earth, metal, and water which is why you will find a separate living room, dining, and kitchen in each room.
Guests loved the helpful and attentive staff, the excellent location, and well-maintained property. Other reviews mention the spacious and clean rooms, the large indoor pool, and the smooth check-in.
Our third choice for a 1 day in Hanoi in Tay Ho is Le Jardin Hotel Haute Couture which is a 97-room hotel within easy reach from Hanoi’s main attractions via taxi or a short walk. The hotel beautifully combines Vietnamese elegance with a modern charm.
All rooms come with cotton bathrobes, hairdryer, free WiFi, and complimentary breakfast take-away for morning travelers. Guests would also love the complimentary shoeshine service, in-room safety deposit box, and the work desk.
Guests loved the clean and comfortable rooms, the ambience of the hotel which was nice and quiet, and the lovely rooftop pool. Other reviews include the welcoming staff, the pleasant surroundings of the hotel, and the quick check-in.
Ba Dinh for Families
This is Hanoi’s most important historical and cultural district as it is part of the four original urban districts of Hanoi. The oldest structure here is the One Pillar Pagoda that was built in the 11th century.
This district was originally known as the French Quarter as it was the center of politics for Vietnam since the French occupation of the country. Ba Dinh Square is where Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on 2nd September 1945 to a crowd of 500,000 people.
Some of the attractions in Ba Dinh include the Presidential Palace, the One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, and the Temple of Literature.
Our first choice for a 1 day in Ba Dinh is the Hotel Du Monde Classic is a 46-room hotel with each room being individually decorated. All the rooms in this 3-star hotel are air conditioned, has free WiFi, and is a short walk to the Hanoi Old City Gate.
Guests loved that this hotel was new, had cozy rooms, and the enthusiastic staff. Guests also loved that this hotel was right in the Old Town which made its location convenient.
Our second choice for a 1 day in Ba Dinh is the Granferte Hotel is a 56-room hotel conveniently located within Cau Giay area in Hanoi. The hotel is an easy walk to the Lotte Observation Deck and Thu Le Park.
All rooms are equipped with a living and dining area, air conditioning, free WiFi, a kitchenette, a work desk, and a kettle. Laundry and ironing services, airport pick up and drop off, and shuttle services to the city center are available for a fee.
Guests loved the friendly and enthusiastic staff, clean rooms, and beautiful views of the rooms. Guests also loved the convenient location and free parking offered by the hotel.
Our third choice for a 1 day in Ba Dinh is Dolce by Wyndham Hanoi Golden Lake is a 342-room hotel located on the shores of Giang Vo Lake. The striking feature of this hotel is its 24-carat gold plated exterior.
All the rooms are luxuriously designed with imperial golden furnishings in a contemporary style. Deep soaking bathtubs, walk-in rain showers, a sofa bed, and complimentary WifI are some of the facilities available in each of the rooms here.
Guests loved the spacious and well furnished rooms and the helpful staff who are always ready to help, although communication may be an issue. Guests also loved the large bed and bathtubs and the convenient location of the hotel.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Hanoi
What is Hanoi famous for?
Hanoi is famous for its tree-fringed boulevards, French colonial buildings, lakes, ancient temples, citadels, and colorful markets. Hanoi also has a far more authentic vibe than other major cities in Vietnam.
Do they speak English in Hanoi?
Yes, they do speak English in Hanoi with about 50% of the population having a grasp of the language. However, as English is compulsory in schools, English is more widely spoken amongst the younger generation than the older generation.
That being said, having knowledge of basic Vietnamese such as xin chao for hello, chao buoi sang for good morning, chao buoi toi for good evening, khoe khong for how are you? and tam biet for goodbye.
Is it safe to travel to Hanoi?
Yes, it is safe to travel to Hanoi. With tourism as its main source of income, the safety of tourists is a major concern for the authorities. However, as with any other major city, there are some basic things to keep in mind.
- Travelers have been robbed while withdrawing from ATMs and credit and debit card scams happen. So, always keep your bank cards in sight and only withdraw at banks and shopping centers.
- Petty theft such as snatch theft and pickpocketing happens in crowded places. Thus, hold your bags and backpacks in front of you and always walk against traffic.
- Always keep an eye on your drinks at any bar or pub as sexual assault and aggravated assault can happen.
The above are just some of the things that tourists should look out for. Hanoi remains one of the safest cities to visit in the world and continues to attract tourists any time of the year.
What is the best month to go to Hanoi?
The best months to go to Hanoi are during the dry season from November to February when the temperatures drop with January being the coolest month. From October to November, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum sends the body of the revered leader for touching up. The Tet Nguyen Dan or the Vietnamese Chinese New Year is the major festival during this time.
Is it safe to walk in Hanoi at night?
Yes, it is safe to walk in Hanoi at night. The safest areas in Hanoi at night are the Bia Hoi Junction at the Old Quarter, the West Lake area, and the Historical Center. For a relaxing night, head to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre or the Hanoi Opera House.
As usual, take precautions and avoid walking alone in dark alleys after 10 pm, avoid over-friendly gestures, and make sure your personal belongings are with you and within your sight always.
Is Hanoi a walkable city?
No, Hanoi is not a walkable city as the city is not pedestrian friendly. The two places that are walkable for tourists are the Old Quarter and the French Quarter.
Can you drink the water in Hanoi?
Hanoi’s tap water is not safe to drink and for tourists, it is better to buy bottled mineral water instead. Chlorine, petroleum, and pesticides are found in Hanoi’s lakebeds and rivers.
What month is the hottest in Hanoi?
July is the hottest month in Hanoi with average temperatures around 29°C (84°F) which makes it the warmest month of the year. When visiting in summer, look out for the purple Phoenix & red Lagerstroemia flowers on the streets of Hanoi.
Is Hanoi worth visiting?
Yes, Hanoi is worth visiting. With beautiful architecture, gastronomic cuisine, and many historical and cultural sites, you have to visit Hanoi at least once in your lifetime. Here’s why a trip there is worth your time.
- Budget-friendly destination. Hanoi is way cheaper than Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An with a hostel for one costing VND 500,000 ($21) and a bowl of pho costing VND 20,000 ($1).
- Year-round destination. With four distinct seasons, the beauty of Hanoi is that you can visit the city any time during the year. Each season brings its beauty to the city.
- History lover’s delight. With a history that dates back to the 3rd century and has been occupied by the Japanese, French, and Chinese, there are many sites to keep history buffs happy.
- Perfect base for day trips. Some day trips from Hanoi include Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Hoa Lu, and Perfume Pagoda which is a 2-hour drive from Hanoi.
- Street food paradise. From pho to banh cuon, Hanoi is where you can get a taste of authentic Vietnamese cuisine, at an affordable price too.
With buzzing motorbikes, lemon-hued French colonial buildings, and endless places to shop, it’s not surprising that it is a popular destination for tourists. So, if you haven’t been to Hanoi, let’s go!