Hanoi: a vibrant city with a beautiful contrast of the old and new. An exciting city to explore with a camera in your hands if you’re looking to spice up that Instagram feed of yours while in the city. Well, look no further – these 5 beautifully picturesque spots will make your followers and friends jealous of your travels. What’s more, you’ll be inspiring thousands of others to visit the country!
Get to Hanoi first
Make your way from Noi Bai International Airport to the city center, which is a little over 25km from the Old Quarter of Hanoi, meaning you’ll have about a one hour commute without traffic.
You have a few options of making this journey – taking the bus, airport taxi, booking a Grab car through the Grab app, or by pre-booking a private car. These options all have their pros and cons. The bus, while cheap, is inconvenient. Airport taxis often charge a premium, and scams aren’t unheard of. When it comes to booking a Grab car, your language barrier may come in the way. To be on the safer side, it’s best to book your transport in advance so the moment you exit the airport, you will find your driver without the hassle of queuing, negotiating your price or getting lost on the way to your destination.
Pose like royalty at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long (also known as the Hanoi citadel) is a royal enclosure that was built smack bang in the center of Hanoi. Construction spanned multiple dynasties, however, began with the Ly Dynasty in 1010. Since then, the ancient site served as the political center of the country for 13 consecutive centuries, and as the capital of Vietnam for 8 centuries.
There are plenty of corners to explore and snap pictures, as the complex spans 18,395 square meters. Notable structures in the complex include the 40-meter tall flag tower, south gate, Kinh Thien Palace, Princess Pagoda, and the north gate.
Step over stones and finger the cracks as you try to imagine what life may have been like for royalty back in the day within these walls.If you dress up, you could even pretend you’re royalty while posing at any of the structures. Getting a picture at the north gate is an absolute must – it’ll almost look as if you’re about to step into the past.
Entrance fee: 30,000 VND ($1.50 USD)
Opening hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily, except on Mondays
Hoan Kiem Lake offers a peaceful backdrop
Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) adds peace to a hectic and chaotic city. Just by the Old Quarter of Hanoi, this lake is a favorite hangout spot among locals and travelers alike. There’s a pedestrian path that circles the whole lake, perfect for an evening stroll. You’ll bump into health enthusiasts both young and old, see benches claimed by couples in love, and vendors passing ice cream to eager little children.
In the middle of the lake is an island on which picturesque Ngoc Son Temple is built. The island, named Jade island, is accessible by the iconic Huc Bridge (Rising Sun Bridge), a charming scarlet-painted wooden bridge of classical Vietnamese design. The sight is so picturesque that you will likely catch a couple using the backdrop for their engagement photoshoot.
Come sundown, the reflection of the lights on the surrounding buildings and houses dance colorfully on the soft surface ripples. It’s a great place to not only snap a few beautiful Instagram pictures, but also to slow down and escape momentarily from everything else.
Entrance fee: FREE
Opening hours: All day
Color up your feed with the Temple of Literature
Don’t be fooled by the name. This isn’t really a temple, it’s the oldest university in Vietnam. Built in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong’s dynasty to serve as a center for education, it was initially intended for noble, elite, and aristocratic families. It later took a more egalitarian approach to admissions and opened the doors to brighter “commoners” if you will.
This charming and extremely tranquil temple complex is one of the oldest and most beautiful structures in the city. It is so beautiful that this cultural relic is depicted on the 100,000 VND note. There are five courtyards at the temple, with landscaped gardens rich in ancient trees that have witnessed the city’s ups and downs. Ponds, pavilions, and passageways once used by royalty are now open for your exploration. You’ll come across statues, towers, and other little structures, each with centuries old stories to tell. And each one of these makes for a beautiful picture – you’ll not only have all sorts of colors in your pictures, green grass, blue skies, cream-colored pavements, walls and red roofs, but also charm and character.
Entrance fee: 10,000 VND ($0.50 USD)
Opening hours: 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM & 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM daily, except on Mondays
Conquer the world at the Perfume Pagoda
The Perfume Pagoda is in fact a series of temples built into the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich. A maze of alleyways carved into rock connects these various temples and at the heart of this complex lies the Perfume Pagoda itself, in what is known as the Huong Tich Cave. It is believed that the first temple in this giant complex was built in the 15th century, but legend stipulates otherwise. Legend says the site was discovered over 2,000 years ago by a Buddhist monk who was meditating nearby.
Thick forest and gurgling streams surround the complex and you have plenty of structures to explore. Points of interest include the Vong Temple, Thuyet Kinh Cave, and Thien Son Pagoda. Within the complex, you’ll find “hidden” staircases that take you to certain viewpoints. Don’t be afraid to explore but do be careful! You’ll be rewarded with views of mountains, rivers, rice fields, and more. If you want a picture of you “conquering the world” – then this is it.
Getting to the Perfume Pagoda is an adventure in itself! You’ll have to take a long boat ride and a rather strenuous (but doable for all) hike. The views en-route are superb as well – the boat journeys down a narrow stream fringed by rice fields, smaller temples, tall grass, fruit trees, apricot farms, and more. There are plenty of opportunities for that perfect Instagram picture of you on the boat with a beautiful backdrop.
Entrance fee: 100,000 VND ($4.50 USD)
Opening hours: All day
A unique snapshot at the Hanoi Train Street
The Hanoi Train Street is a narrow residential alley located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Through this tight alley runs a train track, bringing trains terrifyingly close, only inches away from the doorsteps of the homes that line up on this residential neighborhood.
Outside of train schedule, life goes on as normal. Residents set up lunch tables on the tracks, enjoy a coffee or a beer on the doorsteps, and kids run about. But twice every day, as if on some silent cue, when the train is due to approach, every resident packs up their daily lives in unison and moves back into their houses. The train arrives, honking its soft horn, reminding people it’s time to take a quick break from their lives. Once the train passes through, drying racks are brought back outside, tables and stools are unfolded and unpacked, and kids resume their games.
You will be joined by countless others looking to witness this spectacle. Colorful trains inch by even more colorful houses. You can even snap a shot of you walking on the train tracks as life resumes behind you. Just don’t do it when a train is due!
Address: Ngo 224 Le Duan
Entrance fee: FREE
Opening hours: Train passes through twice a day: 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM
All these five spots will bring a unique vibe to your Instagram feed, and add a lot of color and culture to it. Get creative with your angles and filters – you’ll undoubtedly garner a new following as everyone will be curious about your travels and keen to follow in your footsteps.