Finding out what to do in Hanoi is the easy part, but figuring out which activities to partake in given your time limitations is the tough part. Fret not for we have done our homework and come up with this list of 5 things to do in Hanoi that will leave you with a much better sense of the city and the people who inhabit it.

1. Street Food tour

Hanoi can easily be ranked as the best city for street food in the world. What’s special about these tours is that alongside the local delicacies that you will be sampling, you will also see the famous sights and an up close look at how the locals go about their daily lives. While there are several companies offering these tours, certain dishes like Pho, Ban Xeo, Bun Cha and egg coffee are bound to be on every itinerary. Some of the tour providers even allow you to customize your tour based on your preferences and food restrictions like the street food tour conducted by a passionate foodie who goes by the pseudonym, Bong Beo.

Enjoying a Bia Hoi on Hanoi's signature low stools.

Enjoying a Bia Hoi on Hanoi’s signature low stools.

2. Tour the city on a Scooter

Yes, on a scooter. There’s no better way to see Hanoi than on the back of a scooter like the millions of other Hanoians who do so every day. This quintessentially Vietnamese mode of transport carries just about everything. Here’s heads up, you will see entire families on a one scooter, you will see a scooter being transported on a scooter, you will see butchers transporting whole carcasses on scooters. Essentially anything and everything that can be put on a scooter without flattening the tyres has been put on it by the Vietnamese. This scooter tour will take you to all the popular tourist spots in Hanoi and also the favourite food haunts of locals.

Scooter-ing through Hanoi

Scooter-ing through Hanoi

3. Learn to make conical hats

You’re probably thinking to yourself that this would make for a perfect souvenir to buy for your friends and family, and you’re probably right. But what if we told you that you could actually make one yourself from a local expert? Wouldn’t that be a much better option than just picking one from the shelf. It’ll take you about 4 hours to make one conical hat but it’s sure worth the time and effort, to make the conical hat in the same way that it has been made for several generations.

Travellers with their DIY conical hats

Travellers with their DIY conical hats

4. Cook a typical Vietnamese Dish

Perhaps you’re the type that isn’t just content with eating but you need to know how the food was made too, then signing up for a cooking class in Hanoi is just about the best thing you can do. Vietnamese food is among the finest in the world and some say the culinary history of Vietnam has distilled the best of its colonial and native flavors and settled down today on what is notably the most seductive cuisine on the planet – well, at least for some. Some of the cooking classes on offer like class by Miss Hang take place in their homes and not a pre-set cooking class also includes a local market tour before the class begins.

Cooking with Miss Hang in her kitchen

Cooking with Miss Hang in her kitchen

5. Discover the Backstreets of Old Quarters

If you’re interested in peeling off the layers of touristy shop-houses, the hubbub of the busy streets and go behind the scenes and see how the residents of old quarters live, then join this tour and they’ll show you the most intimate exploration of the old quarters – a first of such access. This will last for an entire day so be ready in the mornings as the streets are up early with vendors already set up with breakfast ready for the early risers. The options are varied and you’ll simply be spoilt for choice. This is also an excellent opportunity for the photo enthusiasts!

Discover the backstreets of Old Quarters

Discover the backstreets of Old Quarters

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Anil likes devouring copious amounts of Pho Cuon in Hanoi, Momos in Kathmandu and Kachoris in Udaipur. When not eating, you will find him bungy jumping off bridges or listening to talks by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Alan Watts.