the POSH Guide

the best of travel destinations and gear


Hanoi P O S H Travel Guide

One Pillar Pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi

The capital of Vietnam is a city of lakes and tree-lined boulevards. Although the transition to a market economy was perhaps most resisted in Hanoi, it's now well under way, and the city is as vibrant as its more well trodden southern counterpart. This guide to POSH Hanoi provides an overview of what to see and do in the Vietnamese capial. For all the detail about the sights, see my complete guide to Hanoi at

Hanoi was founded around 1010 AD, shortly after the Vietnamese had attained independence from nearly 1,000 years of Chinese domination. The city was founded by Emperor Ly Thai Tho, who built a citadel and a surrounding walled city just northwest of the current Old Quarter. Hanoi served as Vietnam's capital until the Emperor Gia Long decided to move the capital to Hue in the nineteenth century. In 1902, the French made Hanoi the capital of French Indochina and the Viet Minh declared the city the capital of independent Vietnam in 1945.

While much damage had been done to the city during the American War, much of it has been repaired. The city still retains a number of sites dating back nearly to its founding, as well as architectural treasures from the French occupation.

The sights of Hanoi are concentrated in two main areas. The Hoan Kiem Lake area is the "heart" of the city, both literally and figuratively. The lake itself is a favorite gathering place for locals in the evening. On a small island at the north end of the lake is the Ngoc Son Temple, dedicated to some of the heroes of Hanoi. Near the lake is the Water Puppet Theater , where you can see a performance of this unique Vietnamese art form. North of the lake is the Old Quarter, full of buildings dating back to its thirteenth century founding, as well as many shops to browse.

The other area is the district south of the West Lake. Here are some modern sights, such as Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the One Pillar Pagoda. A few blocks further south is the Temple of Literature with the Fine Arts Museum and Craft Link Shops near-by.

When to go to Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is one of the few major destinations in Southeast Asia that has four full seasons. While it rarely snows, winters can be cold and miserable from December to February. The best time to visit is spring - around April to June - and Autumn, which is best around October and November.

Getting to Hanoi

You can get to Hanoi over-land from elsewhere in the country via train or car, but most people chose to come by plane. Hanoi's small international airport (code: HAN) is a little less well served by international airlines than Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors coming from Europe may fly into Bangkok and then on to Hanoi via Thai or Vietnam Airlines. From the Americas, there are flights via Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Malaysia Air System
The Malaysian national carrier flies internationally between Kuala Lumpur and major cities around the world.
Singapore Airlines
The Singaporean national airline flies daily between Singapore and Hanoi.
Thai Airways
The Thai national carrier flies daily to Hanoi from Bangkok.
Vietnam Airlines
The Viet national carrier flies to Hanoi (Saigon) from major cities around the world.

Hanoi Airport Arrivals

Passengers on international flights should be given a two-part customs form to fill out before arrival. On entering the terminal, follow the signs to immigration. You'll need your passport with the visa along with the customs form for immigration. After passing through immigration, you can collect your bags. There's only one baggage carrousel for international arrivals, so there's no confusing where to get your bags. Once you retrieve your bags, you must stop at the customs counter and submit your passport and customs form there. They will keep the top white copy and return your passport along with the yellow copy to you. Be sure to keep the yellow copy with your passport. You will need to submit it on your departure.

Hanoi Airport Transfers

Taxis are easy to get at Hanoi airport. There is a queue just outside the terminal, at roughly the center of the drive. As at all international airports, you should avoid any touts who approach you in the terminal building. Taxis are metered, with the cost of transport to a city center hotel running about 200,000 Dong () for the 45 minute trip.

In this section

Hanoi Hotels

List of hotels in Hanoi recommended by the POSH Guide.   Continue reading

Hanoi: Practical Information

Practical information for visitors to Hanoi, Vietnam, including visas, airport formalities and money.   Continue reading

Recommended Hanoi Maps and Guides

Recommended maps and guides to Hanoi by the POSH Guide   Continue reading