15 Free Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam

Cheap & Mostly Free Hanoi Activities

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: October 25, 2019

Travelling is not just for wealthy people, it is also suitable for individuals with meager incomes if they know how to spend money correctly. When choosing Hanoi, Vietnam for your holiday trip, it is a wise idea as this country has cheap living costs. If you are wondering how to enjoy your trip while using only a little money, check out our list of free things to do in Hanoi for more information.

1. Join A Free Walking Tour

Join in free walking tour
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A Hanoi free walking tour is something you may not be able to find in other cities in Vietnam. This kind of tourism benefits both the tourists and the service providers. Normally, the tour guides are local people who want to improve their English skills. Thus, besides saving a large amount of money, you can have a chance to discover the unique parts of the city thanks to that others may not know.

In Hanoi, there are numerous clubs and organizations providing free walking tours such as Hanoi-kids, Hanoi Free Private Tour Guide or Hanoi Free Tour Guide. You can search for their website on the Internet or just ask your hostel in advance.

2. Bike and Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake and West Lake

If you have ever heard of Hanoi, Vietnam, you may have known about the two famous lakes named Hoan Kiem Lake and West Lake. They are such ideal places to have a stroll at any time of the day. 

In the morning, there are locals running, walking and exercising in the vicinity of the lakes. In the afternoon and evening, there are youngsters dancing, singing and doing so many different activities, which creates an energetic atmosphere for visitors to enjoy. 

Besides being a great hub for entertainment, the two lakes also have a lot of stunning attractions that worth a pay to visit such as The Huc Bridge, Pen Tower, and Tran Quoc Pagoda. You can explore what is inside these places and take some pictures if you want. 

3. Night Live Music on Hoan Kiem Lake Walking Street

Similarly to Ho Chi Minh city, Hanoi now has a street that does not allow any vehicles to go through during weekend evenings, its name is Dinh Tien Hoang Street. Thus, you will see this place very crowded with both locals and visitors on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They come to enjoy the fresh air of the city, walk and chat with each other.

At this Hoan Kiem Lake’s Walking Street, there are also a lot of kinds of entertainment organized for everyone at different ages to join. The old will dance or exercise gently, the middle age will demonstrate some jazz/rock performances and the young will play Vietnamese traditional activities or cover K pop dancing.

4. Take Photos of Crazy Traffic on Vietnam’s Streets

Hanoi is among the craziest destinations in Southeast Asia when it comes to the traffic on the roads. There are a lot of visitors getting afraid of the number of Vietnamese reckless scooters along the streets. However, instead of getting impatient, you can find a pleasant place to become an active observer of Vietnam transportation.

It is such a good time for you to practice your photography skills as Hanoi has a lot of beautiful corners to be captured, especially when the sun is going to set. Nevertheless, remember to only take pictures of the view, not the other people who want to have private moments. 

5. Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Twilight at Hanoi Old Quarter
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Hanoi’s Old Quarter is full of colorful handicrafts as well as art pieces made by Vietnamese skillful artists. Your free things to do here will include contemplating carvings, paintings, patterns and ink drawings in several shops along the streets. The products sold here are so appreciative that you may not be able to find in other sites in Vietnam.

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is also a famous place for unique coffee shops that serve a lot of different drinks with chic decor and soothing music. You can also discover more about Vietnamese coffee culture here.

6. Try Out The Thrill of Hanoi Train Street

Updated: has been closed in September 2019

Hanoi Train Street, which is located between Kham Thien and Le Duan Street, is a cool place to visit in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is a narrow alley with houses in various designs around. Every day, there will be a train going through at certain times. And people will stay indoors to avoid being hit.

Because of this unique feature, many coffee shops are opened to cater to a wide range of tourists. Then, from the balcony of the house, tourists can take some pictures to capture the moment of the train passing through.

7. Window Shopping at Hanoi Night Weekend Market

Hanoi boasts for so many active night markets selling a wide range of different items such as clothes, accessories, and fabrics. There will be illuminating lights, colorful stuff and lots of people selling and purchasing at Hanoi weekend night market. There will also be live performances about Vietnamese culture so you do not have to buy a ticket at Hanoi Opera House to enjoy this kind of tunes.

8. Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

This mausoleum keeps the body of Ho Chi Minh, the most beloved president of Vietnam. It is a 2-kilometer walk from West Lake and is surrounded by numerous green trees. When tourists come to visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, they will see a lot of soldiers outside and inside the mausoleum. They wear the same uniform and always remain solemn looks.  

In the vicinity of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, there is a museum that exhibits the things Ho Chi Minh used in the past. Then, tourists will have a deeper insight into the Vietnam war. 

9. Admire Beautiful Vintage Architecture in French Quarter

You may wonder why Vietnam has a French Quarter. This is because, in the past, Vietnam was under French colonization for such a long time. During that time, the French government constructed so many buildings instead of temples and pagodas with an aim to manipulating Vietnamese people. 

Until now, this architecture still remains and are used as tourist attractions demonstrating how the life of Vietnamese people during the war. Some of the most well-known ones are Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi Opera House, and Vietnamese Women’s museum.

10. Visit Pagodas and Temples Around Hanoi

One Pillar Pagoda
(@xxuyeoni)

It is not hard to find temples or pagodas around Hanoi as it is known as a historical place in Vietnam. If you are keen on Vietnamese history and rituals, you can head to Bach Ma Temple, Ngoc Son Temple, and One Pillar Pagoda. They are open for tourists to visit all year round without having to pay fees. 

But the most famous pagoda in Hanoi is Perfume Pagoda which owns a massive entrance compared to the others. Inside the pagoda, there are statues, shrines, stalagmites, and stalactites that are made of greenstone. Normally, tourists coming here to pray for a lucky year with lots of good things to come. The best time to visit this pagoda is between January and April when the locals organize Huong Festival. 

11. Soak in Nature in Botanical Gardens

Being a busy city does not mean Hanoi does not have a place full of green trees and fresh air. If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the central city, you can go to visit some botanical gardens such as Bach Thao Park and Hanoi Botanic Garden. 

The former is located near Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It has existed for over 1 hundred years and is used as nature’s paradise for both local people and tourists from other places. The latter is on the northwest side of Hanoi and is known as the lungs of the whole city. The interesting thing about this park is that you can find some rare plants to conduct research for your study.

12. Practice Tai-Chi Free at Hoan Kiem Lake

Tai-Chi is a Chinese form of martial arts that is used for self-defense. However, Hanoian practices it every day as exercise. When jogging around Hoan Kiem Lake, you will see groups of people, especially the elderly, doing movements exactly like the ones at Kung Fu Hustle movie. Then, approaching them and ask whether you can join them or not. It’s pretty sure that you will be warmly welcomed and taught the simple tai-chi for free.

13. Get on Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien bridge
(@ceciliaenjoytravel)

Long Bien bridge was built to connect 2 districts in Hanoi. Going across the bridge, you will have an opportunity to see some of the best views of Hanoi such as the Red River and the banana fields in the middle of it. You can rent a scooter to drive or just walk across, stop in the middle to relax and grab some food and enjoy the fresh atmosphere on the bridge. 

14. Make Friends with Local

Making friends with the locals in a new country is one of the best ways to immortalize your visit to this place. The locals may not be good at English but you can still hear so many interesting stories about Hanoi from them. They can also take you to some less known areas that others may skip when coming to Vietnam. 

But remember when someone approaches you and tries to convince you to buy some goods such as souvenirs, fruits or pancakes, politely refuse them, only purchase things in case you really want them. 

15. Learn Basic Vietnamese Phrases

Learning some basic phrases in different languages is a staple for every visitor. A new friend from Vietnam can teach you some easy words such as “Hello”, “Good morning”, “Thank You” for free. Just walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and find someone who is enjoying their free time, ask them if they can teach you their language, and then, start your lesson. 

You should ask the students in Hanoi as they are better at English than the older and they are very friendly and willing to help any foreigners.

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