Hanoi has no shortage of compelling museums, temples, and other attractions, but here are four sights—and one highly recommended day trip—not to be missed.
French Quarter: With its alluring mix of wide tree-lined boulevards, quiet alleyways, and French-colonial structures, Hanoi’s stately French Quarter is perfect for a leisurely afternoon wander. This is the city’s most upscale area and an enduringly popular place for wedding photoshoots—it’s not uncommon to see multiple sets of newlyweds striking a pose near the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoï hotel.
Ha Long Bay: Hanoi is the gateway to spectacular Ha Long Bay, famous for its dazzling landscape of thousands of limestone karsts peeking out from the Gulf of Tonkin. Located a few hours outside of Hanoi, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is best experienced on an overnight cruise, though shorter (and longer) tours are available. Ask your Somerset concierge for tour operator recommendations and rates.
Hoan Kiem Lake: Located smack dab in the middle of town, near the Old Quarter, scenic Hoan Kiem Lake is home to a number of temples and pagodas and is surrounded by shops and restaurants. In the morning you’ll often see groups of tai chi practitioners here; it’s particularly beautiful at night once the lights come on.
Old Quarter: Hanoi’s most popular tourist area retains plenty of charm despite the crowds. This is where you’ll find the city’s densest concentration of street food vendors and restaurants; indeed, you can’t go more than a block without smelling something that makes your stomach growl (despite having already had two breakfasts and three lunches). Watch for corner bars serving bia hoi (“fresh beer”), too.
Temple of Literature: Founded in 1070, the Temple of Literature is both a sacred Confucian place of worship and tribute to Vietnamese scholarship. In fact, it actually housed the country’s first university.