There is every chance that you will begin your Vietnam holiday in Hanoi. It is one of the main two points of entry into Vietnam and you can get your visa to Vietnam on arrival at the airport. There is much to see and do in Hanoi and its immediate vicinity and here are a few ideas of things to do in Hanoi. Some are manmade, pieces of history and culture, others natural, and then there are the people.
• The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the middle of the Old City.
• The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh remembers the man who led the fight firstly for independence and thence inspired the struggle for a unified country which happened a few years after his death.
• Hoan Kiem Lake with the Nguc Son Temple on a small island accessible over a bridge is a place enjoyed by tourists and locals alike, in their spare time.
• Water Puppetry is a tradition performed at several theatres in the City. The most popular one is the Thang Long Theatre.
• The Perfume Pagoda dates back to the 15th Century. Buddhist temples were built in the mountains, a region of forests and streams, 60 kilometres from Hanoi accessed by road before you board a boat to the foot of the Son Mountains.
• Dong Xuan Market is one four floors. The building lacks appeal but the shopping is great, everything from fashion to souvenirs with the food market on the ground floor a mixture of sight, sound and smell.
• Hanoi Opera House in the French Quarter is a contrast; a really elegant building modelled on the one in Paris. It was built in 1911 and there are a range of performances that you can enjoy there; music and opera, dance and drama.
• The Temple of Literature is central Hanoi was built as a centre of learning, dedicated to the memory of Confucius. It is over 1,000 years old and over time became a complex of shrines, pavilions and gardens.
• The Old Quarter of Hanoi itself offers colonial architecture and narrow streets where traders and food stalls vie for business. You will never tire of the atmosphere existing in these streets.
• Ba Vi National Park is nearly 50 kilometres out of the City. As soon as you leave the city boundaries you are in farming country en route to the three-peaked mountain, dramatic scenery, jungle, wildlife and an 11th Century temple.
A Vietnam travel agent in Hanoi will include much of the above in Hanoi tours; there is plenty more. What you go to see is very much dependent upon how much time you have in the City and your specific interests. You can immerse yourself in Hanoi life if you have more than a couple of days there and even if you see most of the attractions, you are still likely to want to return at some time in the future and you will be very welcome once again.