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How to Explore Hanoi like a Local

Top Tips for Discovering the Beauty of Hanoi like a Resident

By Anastasia JasonPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Ta Hien Street Early Morning In Hanoi Old Quarter | Image via Needpix

As one of Vietnam's top holiday destinations, Hanoi has long been associated with the country's cultural heritage and tumultuous past. The historic city that has made great leaps forward to catch up with modern times after a decades-long civil war is now a thriving economic hotspot the Vietnamese are proud to call their own. Here are some guidelines on how to steer clear of Hanoi's touristic experiences and instead explore the city's hidden charms only locals are privy to.

1. Tour the Old Quarter at the Crack of Dawn

Although the Old Quarter in Hanoi is one of the city's most popular points of interest, most tourists miss the beauty of these historic streets at the magical hour of dawn. Head out to the Old Quarter as early as 5 in the morning to see the local shops set up for the day and enjoy a fresh bowl of Pho that's been prepared just minutes before. Finish off the tour with a walk over to Hoan Kiem Lake to witness residents dancing and working out to the sound of popular local songs played on loudspeakers.

2. Witness the Solemn Flag Raising Ceremony

Tourists who are based at Pan Pacific Hanoi or any similar Hanoi luxury hotel close to Ba Dinh Square must also catch the daily flag-raising ceremony at the venue. This ceremony, occurring just across the street from the renowned Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, is often missed by visitors. Taking place at 6 am at Ba Dinh Square, only a few local passersby or commuters witness this solemn display of patriotic fervour each day.

3. Enjoy a Quiet Stroll on the Long Bien Bridge

Designed by the iconic French engineer who also famously designed France's Eiffel Tower, the Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi pays tribute to Gustave Eiffel's genius. While many tourists opt to photograph the landmark overpass from a distance, strolling the length of this hundred-year-old bridge, recently refurbished, offers a completely different experience.

4. Spend Time on Banana Island

Known to residents as Middle Island or Bãi Giữa, Banana Island is another must-visit point of interest for those who wish to walk off the beaten path when it comes to Hanoi's attractions. Having once been a large banana plantation, the area is now a quiet oasis that contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, which is just across the Long Bien Bridge. The chatter of local fisher folk fills the air of this space strewn with banana leaves.

5. Discover the City's Mosaic Mural Wall

A trip to Hanoi would be incomplete without witnessing the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural, home to the world's lengthiest mural wall. Just 30 minutes away from the heart of the city, this mural spans approximately 6.5 km along the dike of the Red River.

6. Indulge in a Picnic and Temple Tour by West Lake

Although Hanoi's most famous body of water is Hoan Kiem Lake near the Old Quarter, West Lake remains the most expansive freshwater lake in the city. With a circumference that exceeds 16km, the picturesque lake is far more visually pleasing than the Hoan Kiem Lake and its proximity to the Tran Quoc Pagoda also makes it a must-visit hotspot in the city.

7. Explore the Communities Living Down Hanoi's Train Street

This residential area bordering the train tracks is another must-explore area of the city that's not listed in most guidebooks. It's astounding to see how residents move all of their worldly belongings, including children and wares when the trains are heading towards the street at breakneck speeds. While catching a glimpse of this unique sight is not for the faint of heart, it is a fascinating part of the daily life in Hanoi.

travel tipshow toasia

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  • Test2 months ago

    I'm enjoying this article for its excellent writing and informative content.

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