Imagine a city where the exotic chic of old Asia blends with the dynamic face of new Asia. Where the medieval and modern co-exist. A city with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace, an architectural museum piece evolving in harmony with its history, rather than bulldozing through like many of the region’s capitals. Hanoi is where imagination becomes reality.
A mass of motorbikes swarms through the tangled web of streets that is the Old Quarter, a cauldron of commerce for almost 1000 years and still the best place to check the pulse of this resurgent city. Hawkers in conical hats ply their wares, locals sip coffee and bia hoi (beer) watching life (and plenty of tourists) pass them by. Witness synchronised t’ai chi at dawn on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake while goateed grandfathers tug at their wisps over the next chess move. See the bold and beautiful dine at designer restaurants and cut the latest moves on the dance floor. Hanoi has it all: the ancient history, a colonial legacy and a modern outlook. There is no better place to untangle the paradox that is modern Vietnam.
The grand old dame of Asia, Hanoi lay in a deep slumber after Vietnam’s partition in 1954 until the effects of economic reforms kicked in four decades later. The city survived American bombs and Russian planners to emerge relatively unscathed in the early 1990s as an example of a French-conceived colonial city. Huge mansions line grand boulevards, and lakes and parks dot the city, providing a romantic backdrop to the nonstop soundtrack. There are still moments of Paris, as the smell of baguettes and café au lait permeates street corners.
Known by many names down the centuries, Thanh Long (City of the Soaring Dragon) is the most evocative, and let there be no doubt that this dragon is on the up once more.
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in Hanoi
Lapping it up around the world
Soup: a warming staple the world over – but who knew there were so many fine flavours? The ten below are our picks for the finest soups to slurp worldwide. 1. Pho, Hanoi, Vietnam Beef noodle soup for breakfast? Once youʼve tasted a good pho, youʼll crave it for lunch and dinner, too.
Understanding communism in Vietnam
Hanoi destination guides
Top 10 iconic travel experiences
Yoga in India, cooking in Vietnam - in this extract from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we find those 10 iconic experiences that are as special as the place they're from. 1. Surfing in Hawaii, USA Learning to surf here is special.
Vietnam Express Southbound
Capture the spirit of magical Vietnam on this compact tour from the colonial charm of Hanoi to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. Sip coffee with locals in Hanoi and shop up a storm in the Old Quarter, cruise along emerald waters on a Halong Bay boat trip, travel through old-world Hue and Hoi An, and get lost in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City.
From south to north, Vietnam is a kaleidoscope of wonderful people and picturesque landscapes.
Dining for a cause
Food for the body is good, but food for the soul is great. You have the opportunity to get both at these restaurants and cafés, which run vocational training programs for street kids. Good cause, good food, good idea.