More than 1,000 years old, Hanoi is an enchanting ancient city that has retained its rich culture and diverse heritage. Vietnam's capital is blessed with a range of influences, from classical Asian shrines and temples to elegant French colonial architecture, and the exquisite Old Quarter features a maze of narrow streets and markets selling an amazing array of household goods, souvenirs and street food. Autumn is one of the best times to visit Hanoi, as the vibrant colours illuminate the city's streets, lakes and parks.
The Old Quarter
A walking tour of the Old Quarter is an unmissable element of any trip to Hanoi. This labyrinth of ancient streets was named after the 36 trades and crafts that supplied goods to Thang Long Citadel.
This makes it a wonderful place to stroll and soak up the atmosphere, and also to sample Hanoi's famous street food.
Don't miss the unique egg coffee at Café Giang, or local specialties such as cha ca la vong (grilled marinated fish with noodles, dill and peanuts).
Hoan Kiem Lake
At the heart of Hanoi's Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake is an iconic attraction and an idyllic setting to stroll at any time of day or night. Set on a small island in the middle of the lake. Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain") was built in the 18th Century and houses the preserved remains of a 250kg turtle - the symbolic animal of the lake. The island temple is connected to the mainland by the beautiful. bright red Huc Bridge.
Dong Xuan Market
The largest covered market in the city. Dong Xuan sells everything residents and visitors could possibly need, from clothing and household goods to electronics, flowers and even pets.
Set in an imposing four-storey Soviet-style building, it is also an excellent place to try authentic food and watch cultural performances.
Bia Hoi Corner
After dark, the junction of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets has become a hotspot for young people and international travellers to hang out and drink Bia Hoi, the popular Vietnamese craft beer.
Hanoi's largest lake features 17km of shoreline, which makes it a wonderful place to relax. Hire a bike and cycle around the lakeside paths and gardens, then visit Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Hanoi, which dates from the 6th Century and is considered a symbol of Vietnamese Buddhist heritage. No trip to West Lake is complete without a walk down Thanh Nien Street, which is famous for its shrimp cakes, which must be made with shrimps caught from the lake.
Truc Bach Island
Just across the bridge from West Lake, Truc Bach is home to Quan Thanh, the 11th Century Taoist temple, and beautiful Buddhist pagodas. This is also a great spot to eat and drink with a series of coffee shops, lakeside bars and local eateries. Don't miss the famous pho cuon - a large white noodle rolled with beef and fresh herbs. A more indulgent option, pho chien phong, uses deep-fried noodles with strips of pork or beef, topped with a thick sauce.
Phan Dinh Phung Street
Named after one of Vietnam's most prominent revolutionaries, Phan Dinh Phung Street is a charming street lined with ancient trees that lay a carpet of red and yellow leaves in autumn. The wide footpaths and French colonial architecture make it among the most
popular and photogenic avenues in Hanoi.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, where people come to pay their respects to Vietnam's iconic leader, whose body is preserved in a glass box.
Guests can learn more about the life of "Uncle Ho" at the adjacent Ho Chi Minh Museum and his former home, a simple stilted house.
This area is also home to the "One Pillar Pagoda", an extraordinary structure built on a single pillar in the middle of a lotus pond.
Temple of Literature
Founded almost 1,000 years ago by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong as a temple to worship the Chinese philosopher Confucius, the Temple of Literature is considered to be Vietnam's first university. Over the centuries it has educated hundreds of well-known scholars and mandarins.
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the citadel's origins date from the 7th Century and it remained the seat of the Vietnamese Court until the 19th Century.
An excavation in 2004 revealed ancient artefacts and the foundations of palaces, roads and wells.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Water puppetry is an ancient Vietnamese artform with a history that dates back to the 11th Century, when local people created puppet shows in flooded rice fields. It is appropriate therefore, that Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is staged in one of Hanoi's oldest buildings. This exquisite attraction is one of the few places visitors can still see these shows performed, as historical stories are told using handcrafted wooden puppets, accompanied by music from a live in-house band.