Mentioning Hanoi often evokes images of its ancient town and millennia-old historical monuments. Yet, beyond its historic charm, Hanoi pulsates with the dynamic energy of a city evolving daily. The blend of cultural richness with vibrant, youthful features forms a tapestry of a lively capital, captivating visitors from afar.
Stinky yet delicious, “Bun dau mam tom” is a controversial dish for many travelers and food lovers visiting Vietnam as the pungent shrimp paste is the key to its ultimate flavor. Hanoi locals savor “Bun dau mam tom” a lot since it is one of the best choices for lunch. Is “Bun dau mam tom” that scary? May Silk Path convince you NOT-AT-ALL!
Bun rieu – Small crab noodle soup
|Not a worldwide known dish as Pho, Bun Rieu, small crab noodle soup, is one of the favorites for breakfast of Vietnamese people. It’s another must-try dish for international travelers when visiting Hanoi.
What is Bun Rieu
Vietnamese gastronomy showcases a wide range of “bun”, each with a distinctive taste. Of all the types of this specialty food, “bun rieu cua” (vermicelli and sour crab soup) is famous for its uniqueness. The scrumptiousness of this dish is mainly attributed to its secret recipe as well as the meticulous selection of seasoning to have a nice red color with the sweet taste of crab.
While people may think that its broth is seafood-based, the traditional broth is actually from pork bone (pork bone is boiled for many hours so that the broth is naturally sweet). The ‘hero’ of this dish is the crab mixture (riêu), which is sautéed with tomatoes, contributing to the slight tart and sweetness of this soup noodle. That crab paste immediately melts once it touches your tongue, yet the crab flavor would remain until you finish the portion.
Depending on the region, bun rieu might also come topped with beef, pork, snails or fish. Vermicelli noodles swim in the soup, adding balance to a dish that’s both colorful and light. Add to that the requisite plateful of lime wedges, chili, and greens – like banana blossoms and mint – and you have a perfect meal.
Silk Path’s recommendation
- Bun rieu Hang Bong: 75 Hang Bong Str.
- Bun rieu Hang Luoc: 14 Hang Luoc Str.
- Bun rieu Nguyen Sieu: 23 Nguyen Sieu Str.
Banh Cuon – Steamed rice rolls
|Banh Cuon, steamed rice rolls, is a dish found in many Vietnamese Northern provinces such as Lang Son or Cao Bang. In Hanoi, Banh Cuon is also a popular dish for breakfast.
What is Banh Cuon?
In Vietnamese, Bánh means Cake and Cuốn means Rolled, Banh Cuon is a type of rolled cakes that is made from a thin, wide sheet of steamed rice batter rolled and filled with seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and minced shallots. Besides the pork filling, you can also find 2 other pastes as chicken or shrimp; however, Pork Banh Cuon is the most popular one which can be easily found in many corners of Hanoi.
The dish is served with a separate bowl of clear amber dipping fish sauce. Traditionally, this sauce added “cà cuống” (Lethocerus indicus) essence for a better flavor. “Chả Lụa” (Vietnamese pork sausage) and fresh herbs are served on the side.
By itself, the pale white rice batter is silky smooth and soft but otherwise rather bland. This is where the filling & the sauce comes in to lend a solid texture and adds flavor to the roll.
Silk Path’s recommendation
Banh Cuon can be found in many streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, yet here are some of the famous Banh Cuon restaurants that you can add to your Hanoi food tour list:
- Banh cuon gia truyen Thanh Van: 14 Hang Ga Str.
- Banh cuon Gia An: 16 Dao Duy Tu Str.
- Banh cuon ba Xuan: 16 Hoe Nhai Str.
- Banh cuon ba Hanh: 26B Tho Xuong Str.
Egg Coffee, as strange as it sounds, has become a traditional delicacy of in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi.
Bun cha” (Grilled Pork with Rice Vermicelli), one of Hanoi’s most lovable dishes, has received worldwide recognition after being featured on the show Parts Unknown, in which former US President Barack Obama and the host Anthony Bourdain enjoyed this dish together. Let’s find out more about this food bomb with Silk Path!
Best of the best combination
Usually, there are three components to this dish: a bowl of grilled thinly sliced pork belly and/or minced pork patties served in light dipping sauce with pickled veggies, a plate of rice noodles, along with a basket of fresh herbs such as perilla leaves, coriander, and lettuce.
There are numerous varieties but “Bun cha Hanoi” makes up different memories for this dish as many people believe that the Capital City is its origin. Along with “Pho”, “Bun cha” also stands for Hanoi’s stunning cuisine culture which is the perfect combination of rice products, meat, veggie, spices, and local special dipping sauce.
“Bun cha” can be easily found in the hustling corners of Hanoi, from elegant restaurants to simple street vendors in narrow streets, available for all main daily meals. However, the dish is a perfect option when it comes to lunchtime in the Capital City when the mouth-watering scent of grilled pork pervades the ancient streets, which tempts any hungry stomach after a busy half a day.
Silk Path’s top choices
Bun cha Hang Quat
- Address: 74 Hang Quat Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- Opening hours: 10.00 AM – 2.00 PM
- From Silk Path Boutique: 1km
Bun cha 34
- Address: 34 Hang Than Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
- Opening hours: 7.00 AM – 5.00 PM
- From Silk Path Hotel Hanoi: 1.8km
Bun cha Obama
- Address: 24 Le Van Huu Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- Opening hours: 8.00 AM – 8.00 PM
- From Silk Path Boutique Hanoi: 1.1km
Photos: Heritage – Vietnam Airlines, Bep Xua
LONG BIEN BRIDGE
With a history of over 100 years, Long Bien Bridge is not only a traffic construction but also a meaningful living historical evidence of the courageous of Hanoi during the two greatest wars against the French colonialists and American imperialism.
The Long Bien Bridge was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French colonisation. Though the bridge was designed by French, it was built directly by more than 3,000 Vietnamese workers with indigenous construction materials like woods from Phu Tho, Yen Bai, Thanh Hoa province, cement from Hai Phong, Long Tho lime from Hue. Long Bien Bridge was the most significant work in Indochina at that time. On February 28, 1902, Long Bien Bridge was officially called Paul-Doumer Bridge, named after Paul Doumer – The Governor-General of French Indochina and then French president. After Hanoi was liberated on 10 Oct 1954, the bridge was renamed as Long Bien Bridge.
In 1903, Long Bien Bridge was the second longest bridge in the world, only after Brooklyn Bridge in London, England. The bridge is 2,290m across the river and has 19 steel beams spanning over 20 pillars with unique architecture. It consists of a single rail running in the middle and two lanes for bicycles and pedestrians. During the war of destroying the North by the US air force (1965 – 1972), Long Bien bridge was bombed 14 times and was later repaired in 1973. Hence, the bridge has been a living historical relic and now a famous historical landmark in Hanoi for locals and visitors.
Things to do at Long Bien Bridge
There is a wide range of activities for you to try at this historical landmark of Hanoi:
- Enjoy a panoramic view of the bridge
- Walk along the bridge to enjoy the light wind
- Admire the amazing sunrise and sunset, enjoy the view of the city
- Capture the beauty of the old railway
Address: about 2km from Hoan Kiem Lake
Get directions: https://goo.gl/maps/MsV63WiwkoWvMUmf8
Photo sources: Shutterstock, Google, Unsplash
ONE PILLAR PAGODA (CHUA MOT COT)
Hanoi is famous for many unique architectural works in which the One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot) – an age-old sacred venue carrying cultural and historical imprints of the nation resides. Visitors of Silk Path coming to the capital are amazed by this impressive ancient masterpiece.
Situated in the Ho Chi Minh Museum relics, One Pillar Pagoda attracts numerous tourists annually.
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: Daily | 8.00 AM – 5.00 PM
Address: Chua Mot Cot Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.
- From Silk Path Hotel Hanoi: 2km
- From Silk Path Boutique Hanoi: 4km
This pagoda is distinctive and unique in terms of architecture. The all-laid-on-a-pillar unique feature of One Pillar Pagoda’s architecture is a harmonious combination of spectacular ideas and architectural perfection. The structure includes 3 parts: a single round pillar, Lien Hoa Dai, and a curved pagoda roof.
The round pillar is constructed from 2 stones that connect firmly. This stone pillar is approximately 4m high (excluding the sinking part under the foot) and 1.2m in diameter. The round pillar represents the sky and Yang while the square pond represents the law and Yin, which demonstrates the direction of circulation of the universe.
Lien Hoa Dai is a square wooden structure with each side of 3m width. There is a statue of Guan Yin Buddha worshiped inside the pagoda. The statue was designed following the dream of King Ly Thai Tong – Guan Yin Buddha sitting on a lotus.
The roof is considered the most important part of the work, especially in religious buildings. One Pillar Pagoda’s roof is curved on all 4 sides with a 3m width.
It is decorated with traditional patterns of two dragons facing the moon. This pattern, to Vietnamese people, symbolizes the holy power bringing the wish for wisdom and vitality to human beings. From a distance, One Pillar Pagoda looks like a lotus flower emerging from the water’s surface. The delicate beauty of the lotus is a symbol of intelligence, elevated personality, and simple virtue of Vietnamese people.
According to legend, Emperor Ly Thai To, who had no children, used to go to pagodas to pray to Buddha for a son. One night, he dreamt that he was granted a private audience to the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who was seated on a great lotus flower in a square-shaped lotus pond on the western side of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and gave the King a baby boy. Months later, when the Queen gave birth to a male child, the Emperor ordered the construction of a pagoda supported by only one pillar to resemble the lotus seat of his dream in the honor of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.
According to a theory, the pagoda was built in a style of a lotus emerging out of the water.
Vietnam National Museum of History
Home to rich and diverse collections of historical relics and thematic exhibitions on Vietnamese culture and history, National Museum of History gives visitors a comprehensive view of the development of the country from the prehistoric period through the national formation period.
The Vietnam National Museum of History was built in 1926 under the name Louis Finot Museum by the Ecole Française d’Extreme-Orient and finished in 1932. After being taken over by Vietnamese Government, the museum changed its official name to the National Museum of Vietnamese History and opened to the public on 3 September, 1958. The National Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution was originally the Department of Indochinese Commerce that built in 1917 under the French time. The Museum was officially opened for visitors on 6 January, 1959. After more than half a century of operation, the entire resources of the former National Museum of Vietnamese History and the National Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution have been merged into a unique museum – The Vietnam National Museum of History as of today.
This is is a place to preserve, display, and introduce Vietnamese history from prehistoric to present through a system of extremely rich and valuable documents and artifacts, including many National Treasures. Housed in a colonial French building which is a cupola-shaped edifice, the museum was designed as a combination of French and Chinese architecture. The building designed by Hebrard, an eminent French architect, and urban planner, incorporates double walls and balconies for a natural airing system and protection from sunshine.
Features & Exhibits
The National Museum of Vietnamese History is spread across two sites and houses various artifacts from Vietnam’s history. Site One is home to the prehistory of Vietnam, right up onto the reign of the Nguyen dynasty. This exhibit is over 2,000 square feet and is divided into 4 major sections:
- Section 1 covers the Stone Age (30,000 – 40,000 years)
- Section 2 displays the time during the Tran Dynasty
- Section 3 is about the Ho Dynasty to the August 1945 Revolution
- Section 4 has Champa stone sculptures
The main permanent exhibition is comprised of 18 pieces from the 7th to the 20th centuries – they were selected by the Prime Minister of Vietnam as “national treasures”. The collection includes bronze drums and Ho Chi Minh’s prison diary. The museum itself houses around 200,000 items, spanning the Neolithic age, Bronze age, Sa Hunh, Oc Eo, and Hung periods, the Nguyen dynasty, the Cham period, and northern Vietnam’s Dong Son, a culture that existed about 1000 BC-100 AD. It was earlier used as an archaeological research institution of the French School of Asian Studies.
As one of the best National Museums in Vietnam, their exhibition system is always updated with new information and materials. At Vietnam National Museum of History, visitors will experience outstanding representations about the history and culture of Vietnam that was formed during the process of constructing and defending the country.
Location, Opening hours & Tickets
Address: The first building is at 1 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi (Vietnamese History from Prehistoric period to Nguyen dynasty, 1945) and the second building is at 216 Tran Quang Khai Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi (Vietnamese History from the mid-19th century to present)
- Adults: 40,000 VND/ person
- Student from college and university: 20,000 VND/ student
- Pupil from School: 10,000 VND/ student
Free Admission for: Children under 6 years old and Disabilities, according to the current regulation
Reduced Admission: 50% discount for the beneficiaries of preferential policies, the elderly, disabilities, according to the current regulation
- Photograph fee: 30,000 VND/ camera
- Video fee: 400,000 VND/ camera
Opening hours: Monday (Closed), Tuesday – Sunday (8.00 am to 12.00 pm, 1.30 pm – 5.00 pm)
Get directions: https://goo.gl/maps/JPxQ6XDHnrdqxWpZA
Photo sources: Unsplash, Google, Flickr
Other museums that you want to visit
- Vietnamese Women’s Museum
Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hang Bai Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Ticket: 40,000 VND/ adult and 10,000 VND/ children (6-16 years old)
Opening hours: From 8.00 am to 5.00 pm everyday
Get directions: https://goo.gl/maps/yxJ8cRmnq9EKDmF89
- Vietnam Military History Museum
Address: 28A Dien Bien Phu Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Ticket: 30,000 VND/ person with an optional extra camera fee of 20,000 VND
Opening hours: 8.00 am – 11.30 am and 1.00 pm – 4.30 pm daily except Monday and Friday
Get directions: https://goo.gl/maps/ApPcCm8C2ujGVttD8
- Vietnam Museum Of Ethnology
Address: Nguyen Van Huyen Street, Cau Giay District, Hanoi
- Adult: 40,000 VND/ person
- Vietnamese students: 15,000VND/ student (valid student card required)
- Pupils (age 6 – age 18): 10,000VND/ pupil
- Beneficiaries of preferential policies on cultural enjoyment (elder people, severe disabilities etc.): 50% of ticket price
- Minority ethnic people: 50% of ticket price (valid identity card required)
Free admission for: Children under 6 years old, special severe disabilities, ICOM members (valid membership card required), friends of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (valid card required), journalists (valid journalist card required), donors
Opening hours: 8.30 am – 5.30 pm everyday (except Mondays and New Year’s Holiday)
Get directions: https://goo.gl/maps/WU1EmXXQhonVsbSS8
TA HIEN STREET
Ta Hien Street – The Hanoi Beer Street, “Pho Tay” (Foreigners’ Street) or “international crossroad”, is one of the most famous local hubs for visitors coming to the Capital City.
Stretching 200 meters between Luong Ngoc Quyen and Hang Buom Streets, Ta Hien is one of the most crowded streets in Hanoi Old Quarter, embracing both significant ancient and modern features of the Capital City.
Also known as the beer street, this venue attracts numerous visitors daily as a recreation and entertainment hub with local “bia hoi” shops, minibars, lounges, and restaurants.
Ta Hien Street nightlife
Hanoi’s nightlife around Ta Hien Street has a multitude of exciting things to see. There are some lively bars and glitzy nightclubs conveniently set around Hoan Kiem Lake or in the Old Quarter, where you can enjoy great tunes and all sorts of booze as well as mix and mingle with fun-loving locals and expats.
However, a night out in Hanoi can not be fulfilled without sitting on plastic stools and enjoying “Bia Hơi” (Vietnamese draft beer) along the bustling streets. A must-visit for any first-time visitor to Hanoi, Bia Hơi Junction is widely regarded as the quintessential nightlife spot in Hanoi.
“Bia hoi” culture
Located at the corner of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets in the Old Quarter, this ever-bustling beer haven opens throughout the day and late into the night, where you can see hundreds of people sitting on plastic stools with pint of “bia hoi” in hand. Being available at numerous makeshift bars within that junction, “bia hoi” is a Vietnamese draft beer containing about 4% alcohol. Although it is not strong as European beer standards, “bia hoi” is incredibly cheap, and you can enjoy a tall glass between VND 10,000 and VND 15,000.
“Bia hoi” junction attracts a steady following of locals, expats, and tourists who are looking to down some ice-cold beers all night long. Alternatively, several bars sell soft drinks and imported beers for about VND 30,000. In addition to numerous “bia hoi” joints with colorful plastic chairs spilling onto the streets, you can also find makeshift stalls selling various snacks such as steamed peanuts, fried tofu, skewered meats, and delicious beef jerky.
Silk Path guidance
- Opening hours: Daily | 11.00 AM – Til late
- Price: VND 10,000 – VND 15,000/ beer cup
- Price range: VND 100,000 – 150,000/ person
- From Silk Path Boutique Hotel & Silk Path Hotel Hanoi: 1.5km