How to Explore Hanoi Like a Local

It is evident that Hanoi is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. It is quickly becoming one of Asia's most modern and cosmopolitan cities in the midst of all this old-world charm. One of the best ways to experience the charm of this city is to blend in. And we’ve got just the guide!

Even though Hanoi's streets are crammed with people and motorbikes, you will discover that the city actually has a unique appeal if you look beyond the commotion. It is a perfect blend of the old and the new. With its French colonial architecture and ancient monuments, the city's Old Quarter transports visitors back in time.

There are not many traditional sightseeing places, but seeing colorful scooters roaming the center of a city full of French and Chinese history, watching the locals enjoy a bowl full of noodles for breakfast, and seeing the usual things of the traditional city. The traveler inside will wake up.

Hanoi, the capital city, is quite overwhelming in every sense of the word. The sights and smell while walking through its many streets and alleys is a sensory overload that will stay with you forever. Hanoi, besides being the capital and the gateway for all those who visit Vietnam, is one of the most interesting, chaotic and exuberant cities of Southeast Asia.

Explore Hanoi like a local with real Hanoi residents. You can usually find the best attractions, eateries, and hidden jewels in the city through a paid tour guide. But in Hanoi, budget travelers are in luck! The enthusiastic residents of Hanoi who are eager to show you their hometown offer free walking tours. Despite the fact that these excursions are offered at no charge, donations are welcomed.

It is a non-profit organization founded by students in Hanoi to help them enhance their English skills. This is a wonderful method to help out the students in the area and explore Hanoi like a local at the same time! Hanoi is a paradise for culture and food enthusiasts.

Two of the most characteristic dishes of Hanoi are the Pho, a kind of very rich noodle soup, and Banh Cuon, a mass of rice. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that the local vendors can prepare in seconds. Generally, all they need to do is put the solid ingredients in a bowl followed by hot water and other liquid ingredients, such as broth. Another of the typical dishes of Hanoi are the Bun Cha.

Jaywalking does not exist in Hanoi. The first time you venture off in Hanoi can be a bit of a shock. There are no traffic lights or pedestrian crossings here. As if they were a flock of birds, traffic moves in unison, and when one goes, they all follow suit. People walking out into the street in front of them is nothing new to the residents of this area.

With confidence, they keep walking while automobiles slow down and weave around them. Because of this, evading, swerving, and fleeing is the worst thing to do, as it puts you and the other drivers at greater risk. Just walk gently, be aware of your surroundings, and look for minor breaks in the traffic when you can.

As far as transportation in this crazy traffic goes, you can grab a cab or a bus. But probably the best way to get around in Hanoi is cycling. Many of the locals commute daily on their bicycles, so to enjoy Hanoi like a local, you can rent a bike. However, this means you can’t carry all your belongings with you all the time. Find a storage facility to store your items during your daily commute in Hanoi adventures. The most important thing is to stay calm!

While you may be used to haggling, whether in Europe or in Asia, haggling as a general rule doesn't work in Vietnam. Shopkeepers will just shake their head at you and say no, and not engage. This means you're paying whatever white person prices they decide to charge you, and there's no recourse. A little bit counter intuitively, shops in tourist traps will actually haggle, but the prices there are going to be terrible anyhow.

If you are traveling through Florida you might be taking a longer trip from one place to another and are not eager to pay rent during that time. If you live in Florida or have a longer layover there, renting storage might be a good idea. You can keep all your belongings in a safe facility in Florida or leave winter clothes that you do not need while traveling through Asia.

Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle. When you arrive in a new city, like Hanoi, the first thing you should do to explore like a local is get out and start walking. For many, this can be the most enjoyable way to spend time. And it is no wonder Hanoi is considered one of the most amazing destinations in Vietnam with all it has to offer. The bustling city of Hanoi, full of locals going about their daily routines in the most conventional and foreign ways possible, is sure to blow you away.

You will find the most picturesque and real landscapes by putting yourself right in the middle of the action. Venture into the Old Quarter’s bustling labyrinth and pick up some trinkets as souvenirs. Other bonuses include exploring hidden restaurants and views like Hoan Kiem Lake. You can even spot some of the local turtles if you are patient enough!

Best Tourist Destinations In Hanoi

Here are our tips on how to explore Hanoi like a local. Here are a few places to see in Hanoi besides things to do in Hanoi, where to stay in Hanoi and many other tips.

1. Long Bien Bridge

Famous French engineer Gustave Eiffel designed the Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi. And if his name sounds familiar, you are right! Gustave is also responsible for the Eiffel Tower. This 100-year-old bridge is a tourist attraction, but only a small number of visitors will actually walk into this structure.

You will usually only find locals commuting on bicycles here. The bridge, despite this, is a valuable experience and one of the best ways to explore Hanoi like a local. In addition, it provides breathtaking views of the city and the Cau Chuong Duong Bridge. If you want to get some authentic photographs, this is the best way to do it.

2. Ba Dinh

Ba Dinh is a vast area close to the Old Quarter. There are large, tree-lined streets here like Phan Dinh Phung Street, making it one of Hanoi’s greenest neighborhoods. Ho Chi Minh declared independence for Vietnam from France in 1945 from Ba Dinh, the political center of Hanoi since the French rule.

As a tourist destination, Hanoi is also home to a number of notable historical landmarks, including Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, the Imperial Citadel, and the One Pillar Pagoda. There’s so much to see here that you might want to prolong your trip to Hanoi. Valuable online advice regarding storing your items for a longer trip abroad is easily found at AmeriSafe Moving Services, alongside moving tips.

Exploring Hanoi like a local in Ba Dinh is peaceful, quiet, safe, and enveloping. Many people are out and about, and there are a number of cafes and restaurants dishing up some of the greatest Vietnamese food that Hanoi has to offer in the immediate area. Try the native specialty Pho Cuon, thin rice paper with a variety of fillings, which is exclusively available on Truc Bach Island.

3. Gia Lâm

Try pottery to explore Hanoi’s local history and culture. The Hanoi district of Gia Lâm is home to the historic pottery hamlet of Bat Trang. According to folklore, the area is rich in clay, which accounts for the town’s thriving pottery industry. You can actually take a pottery class here! It is a really easy way to make your trip memorable and unique and bring a piece of Hanoi with you. In the pottery class, you can also gain some insight into the history of the ancient settlement and the people who lived there.

4. Hoan Kiem Lake

Undoubtedly the best area to stay in Hanoi is north of Hoan Kiem Lake or the Old Quarter in Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the most recommended places to see in Hanoi. Stay in an oasis of calm and serenity. Not only is it an epitome of comfort, but it gives a stunning view of the Old Quarters of the city! Enjoy the Old Quarters of the Vietnamese capital, take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, and enjoy a bamboo cultural show!

Check into a stay that is an enchanting mix of haute couture and hill tribe culture. It brings with it a strain of classical nostalgia from the French Indochina era. Curl up with a book, or even enjoy the spa. Get to see the highest peak in Vietnam via the world's longest cable car system, enjoy the French district in this colonial hill station, visit paddy fields, and do some brocade shopping.

Spend a night in a comfortable cabin on a luxury, overnight train - with vintage, dark wood furnishings and the mystery of the night and twinkling stars.

5. Ngoc Son Temple

Of all the points of interest that the lake possesses, perhaps the most important is the Ngoc Son Temple, located on Jade Island and dedicated to the national hero Tran Hung Dao. You have to cross the Huc Bridge, a wooden construction whose red color stands out in the surroundings of the lake.

Inside the Ngoc Son Temple is one of the biggest curiosities to see in Hanoi. It is a giant turtle found and dissected in the 60s and which is believed to be more than 500 years old and may be the famous turtle of the world.

6. Train Street

Among all the things to see in Hanoi, perhaps the most surprising is to see the train pass by Train Street, close to the wall and with a Hanoi Beer in hand. If you are planning on visiting the train Market and watch the train zip by you need a local shop owner as a chaperone. You cannot walk on tracks without a shop owner for your safety. The train comes by several times a day at high speed.

One of the most beautiful and popular places to see in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature, built in honor of Confucius.

7. Thăng Long Imperial Citadel

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is one of the must see places in Hanoi. You can see the Tower of the Flag of Hanoi over 33 meters high, and a palace reminiscent of Beijing's Chinese architecture.

8. One Pillar Pagoda

Right next to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the One Pillar Pagoda.

9. Tran Quoc Pagoda

Located on the outskirts of the city, specifically between West Lake (Hồ Tây) and Truc Bach Lake, is Tran Quoc Pagoda, one of the most important to see in Hanoi.

Perfume Pagoda, at the top of the Perfume Mountain is one of the most popular excursions to do from Hanoi.

10. Hang Buom

Hang Buom is an area where you will find an infinity of restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Hanoi. One of the most popular attractions to see in Hanoi is the water puppet show.

Final words

We hope our guide has helped you understand how to explore Hanoi like a local. With its exotic food, rich culture, and beautiful sceneries, Hanoi is sure to capture your heart. Happy traveling!

Kalyan Panja