Old Quarter: In the 13th century Hanoi’s 36 guilds established themselves here, each taking a different street. Today there are more than 50 streets with many still focused or specialized on the original guilds or on certain items. There are some with many stores featuring silk, others feature items for weddings or funerals, candlesticks, funeral boxes, flags and temple items while some have paintings and lacquerware items. There is also the Don Xuan Market. There were many food vendors or small restaurants with the locals sitting on small stools while they ate. This area was probably my most favorite of the city.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum plus stilt house: To the west of the old quarter is Ho Chi Minh’s large mausoleum. Ho’s embalmed body was in Russia for maintenance so I missed this weird sight. His stilt house is nearby where he lived from 1958 to 1969. You can also see the presidential palace which is a beautifully restored colonial building.
Hoa Lo Prison/Hanoi Hilton: This was the prison, so named by US POWs during the Vietnam war, which was originally built by the French in 1896. It was very interesting to see John McCain’s flight suit which was on display when I was there.
Water Puppet Theater: A northern Vietnamese tradition, the stage is a square tank of waist deep water. The puppeteers stand in the water behind the screen. The puppets are attached to poles or are on a floating base. You might like it, but I felt it was somewhat touristy.
St. Joseph Cathedral – Old Quarter: This is a neo-gothic cathedral inaugurated in 1886.
Hoan Kiem Lake – Huc Bridge and Jade Mountain Temple: In the center of Hanoi is Han Kiem Lake. You should not miss walking across the Huc Bridge to the Ngoc Son Temple or Jade Mountain Temple. It is a lovely setting as you are surrounded by water and shaded by trees. They also have a nice temple store for small gift items. Also in the lake is the famous Turtle Tower which was built in 1886.
Temple of Literature: Founded in 1070, and dedicated to Confucius, to honor scholars and men of literary accomplishment. It is a rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture.
Chua Ba Da Pagoda: Located in the Old Quarter, it is a charming pagoda built in the 15th century.
Chua Ly Triey Quoc Su: Confucius pagoda in the Old Quarter just north of the cathedral. It contains some attractive lacquer wooden statutes and carved roof beams.
Hanoi Opera House: A beautiful building modeled after the Opera Garnier in Paris. You might catch a performance during the opera season.