Top free things to do in Hanoi


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Hanoi, like the rest of Vietnam, is not at all expensive. And if you are looking for free things to do in Hanoi, it is actually not that difficult. To fit into the budget -friendly theme, lets take a look at some activities you can do in Hanoi without spending a single VND.

1. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle tower.

Hoan Kiem Lake - Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake – Hanoi

 If you Google what to do in Hanoi, this must be on top of the list. Thankfully, the most iconic spot of Hanoi is absolutely free. Just make your way to the lake, take some photos and look around to experience the life of Hanoi, as authentic as it can be.

The Ngoc Son temple, which is situated on a little islet in the middle of the lake, comes with a low fee. If you don’t want to pay, however, it is still ok to walk on the famous red bridge and snap some more shots of the lake. The ticket check is at the temple gate on the other end of the bridge.

Red Bridge to Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi
Red Bridge to Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi

2. The Hanoi Cathedral

Hanoi Cathedral
Inside the Hanoi Cathedral

The central of Hanoi is heavily influenced by French architecture and culture. And what is a better place to experience the French/European influence than the most prominent religious symbol. Enter the church as you wish – outside the service hours – and pay attention to the gorgeous details of this building.

3. Visit a Market

Not too far from Hoan Kiem lake is Dong Xuan market, a wholesale centre of Hanoi. While some shop refuses to sell items in small quantities, its worth a walk through to see the day to day bustling activity of a market in Vietnam. On the weekend, the whole street turn into a night market after dark, so you can take a stroll and keep yourself entertained with the knicks and knacks sold there.

After the market, it’s also fun to walk around the Old Quarter of Hanoi, which used to have exactly 36 streets. The streets are named after a goods that was sold there. Now only a few streets still keep it traditional business, but you can recognize them just by walking around.

Hang Ma street Hanoi during Moon festival
Hang Ma (Paper craft) street Hanoi during Moon festival

 4. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – Hanoi, Vietnam

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is probably on top of all visitor’s to-do list in Hanoi. If you are wondering where to go, what to do in Hanoi to learn about the city and its story, this is the place to be. The place is also on this list of free things to do in Hanoi because there is no ticket required. Do check for opening hours before visiting. (Everyday except Monday and Friday, from 7:30 AM to 10:30AM in the summer, and 8:00 AM to 11:00AM in winter months). Every night around 9:00pm there is also a flag ceremony when a group of ceremonial army will march out and do their salutation in front of the mausoleum.

Note that because this is one of the most secured and most respected site in Vietnam, there is a dress code (no shorts, no tank top, etc.) and a security check spot. No camera is allowed inside the mausoleum, but once you get out of the building, you are allowed to take out your camera from the storage locker to take pictures of the ground.

One Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam
One Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam

 Also right next to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the One Pillar Pagoda, another symbol of Hanoi. The pagoda itself is very small and there is often a line of tourists waiting to climb up the stair. It is an interesting site, however, from architecture point of view.


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