Essential Hanoi

Tour Creators

Sean is a freelance writer, journalist and editor from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. A former student of Queen’s University, Sean is now a part time resident of Belfast, splitting his…Read More Bio »
Sophie is a travel writer and history buff from Hanoi, Vietnam. She's been traveling extensively around Vietnam in the past 5 years.  Read More Bio »



Remote Tour Included



On our tour through the center of Hanoi, we’ll take a stroll through 1,000 years of history and culture, gaining an insight into the many changing faces of Hanoi, from foundation, to European colonization, to 20th century revolution and to modern day peace and prosperity.  As the characteristic sights, sounds and smells of this enchanting city wash over, we’ll visit relics of millennia gone by and heritage sites of a more modern history, all the while allowing ourselves to be totally captivated by Vietnam’s enigmatic capital.

Avoid the Crowds

Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group

Created by an exceptional travel writer

Written by a travel writer, who lived in Vietnam for six years

GPS Directions

Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour

Highlights include:

Bach Ma Temple, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater and Temple of the Jade Mountain

Remote Tour Included

As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home


Essential Hanoi

  1. Quan Chuong City Gate & The Old Quarter - Since we’re taking a journey through time on this walk, it’s profound that we’ll start by passing through an ancient gate in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The Quan Chuong City gate dates back to a time when Hanoi did not even go by the name! For almost a thousand years, Hanoi was known as Thang Long, and this gate is the last remaining point of entry to the ancient citadel. Here, we’ll gather some background info on the city as a whole, and dive into the history of daily life in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
  2. Bach Ma Temple - Just a few hundred meters from the city gate rests another relic of another era - Bach Ma Temple. Legend has it that the ancient King who founded the citadel was led here by a great white horse. And so, upon constructing his great fortress 1,000 years ago, he had a temple built to honor his animal guide. Still, used today, Bach Ma Temple provides great insight into how the people of Vietnam show faith and honor their heritage.
  3. Ma May Heritage House - Set amidst the high energy of the Old Quarter, this  beautifully preserved piece of architecture is the last remaining example of late 19th century life in this neighborhood. We’ll stop and take a look at the life of a typical affluent merchant in a part of town that was as bustling then as it is now.
  4. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater - Staying steeped in ancient history for the time being, the Water Puppet Show at Thang Long Theater is the longest running show in town! It’s based on a tradition that goes back to the 11th century, using puppets and a traditional orchestra to regale the audience with folk tales and legends. While stopping to appreciate this characteristically North Vietnamese art form, we’ll also learn of how it is inextricably linked to the farming of rice...
  5. Temple of the Jade Mountain & Hoan Kiem Lake - As we emerge from the narrow streets of the old quarter, we find ourselves on the peaceful banks of Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi’s centerpiece. Here, we’ll learn of the legend of Hoan Kiem lake -- an epic tale involving an emperor, a dragon king, a magical sword and a giant talking turtle that may, or may not, have lived until 2016! A fiery red bridge over the green water of Hoan Kiem Lake brings us to Den Ngoc Son, or The Temple of Jade Mountain, Hanoi’s most popular place of worship. It was built to honor the ancient military leader Tran Hung Dao, who fought off a 300,000 strong Mongolain Horde in the 13th Century.
  6. Ly Thai Tho Garden - As we move away from Hoan Kiem lake into the French Quarter, we’ll stop to take a look at the huge bronze statue of Ly Thai Tho, the founder of the long reigning Ly Dynasty and old citadel of Thang Long.  Here we’ll learn of how the Ly Dynasty rose and fell, and since we’re right on the periphery of the French Quarter, we’ll also take a brief look at how this country transformed from a feudal system of emperors, citadels and courts into a colony of France.
  7. Tonkin Palace - Also known as the State Guest House, this was the residence of the French governor of Tonkin, the old name for the north of Vietnam. As France was consolidating power here around the turn of the 20th century, orders were given to build in their own country’s image, and so buildings like this became common in this corner of Asia.
  8. Grand Hotel Metropole - Open since 1901, the Hotel Metropole is one of Asia’s most iconic hotels. Built at a time when this part of the globe was still being referred to as “The Exotic East”, it was opened to offer opulent lodgings to the wealthy who would pass through the region. Hear of how the historically rich hotel has housed foreign presidents and celebrities alike, including the great novelist Graham Greene and a honeymooning Charlie Chaplin. We’ll even hear of how singer Joan Baez performed shows in its bunker in 1970s, as American bombers raided the city during the Vietnam War.
  9. Hanoi Opera House & August Revolution Square - We’ll finish off our tour at the French Quarter’s crown jewel -- the Hanoi Opera House. A grand spectacle of neoclassical architecture, the Opera House reflects the swift change that overcame the country at the beginning of the 20th century. But perhaps even more profound is the name of the location where the building stands -- August Revolution Square, named for the mass rebellion of the Vietnamese people led by Ho Chi Minh in the mid 20th century. We’ll end our tour by finding out just how revolution began in Vietnam, and how it devolved into 30 years of perpetual conflict.

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