4 Ways to Unwind in Hanoi While Also Seeing the City
Most people associate Hanoi with images of tranquil lakes and peaceful beaches, or perhaps charming cobblestone streets and old French mansions. Yes, the capital of Vietnam doesn’t run at the same frenzied pace as Ho Chi Minh City does, but it can still feel a tad overwhelming. Well-known tourist attractions are spread out all over the city, and the traffic congestion can be a heavy deterrent towards sightseeing.
Thankfully, you can start your strip stress-free by opting for a Hanoi travel package, like those found here: https://www.traveloka.com/vi-vn/packages/vietnam/region/ha-noi-city-10009843. Opting for travel combos is a great way to travel without having to agonize over some of the essential details of going on vacation, such as booking flights and accommodations.
Once you’ve picked the right package for you and your travel retinue, all you have to do is to pick the things you want to do and places you want to see in the city. This short guide serves as a sampler of some of the relaxing things you can do in Hanoi.
Explore the Old Quarter
Sometimes, the congestion in Hanoi can feel downright claustrophobic. Escape the hustle and bustle of the urban areas by stepping into the relatively quieter streets of Hanoi’s timeless Old Quarter. This is the city’s former urban and commercial hub, and the buildings here have withstood both the test of time and the steady march of modernization and development.
Although motorcycle traffic in the Old Quarter can be hectic during rush hours, the place remains very walkable, and there’s a lot to marvel at: the French Indochina architecture, old shophouses, temples, and pagodas. Indeed, no visit to Hanoi is complete without seeing the serene Hoàn Kiếm Lake and the striking red wooden bridge to Jade Island called Thê Húc. Afterwards, you can get in touch with the city’s spiritual side at Bach Ma Temple, located at the heart of the Old Quarter. This is the oldest temple in the city and is said to date all the way back to the 18th century.
Visit the Temple of Literature
This Confucian temple is said to be the most scenic attraction in all of Hanoi. It is an excellent representation of traditional Vietnamese architecture and a living piece of history. The Temple of Literature was built in 1070 to honour the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Six years later, Vietnam’s first university, the Quốc Tử Giám or Imperial Academy was established there.
Being a place of study, the Temple of Literature has an unmistakably peaceful aura and energy. Manicured lawns and shaded trees offer plenty of spots to read and relax, as the scholars of the academy did back when they still occupied the grounds. It’s also soothing to walk around and just take in the scenery of the meticulously-maintained temple and its gardens while browsing the artifacts housed within: the large bronze bell above the main gate, the altars that honor Confucius and his followers, and the 82 steles called the Stelae of Doctors, which bear the names of 1307 successful graduates of the academy.
Discover great cafes
The coffee in Vietnam is excellent, and the café culture in Hanoi is thriving because of it. Small, independent coffee shops have sprouted up all over the city, offering a quiet place to sit and rest your feet after a full day of sightseeing.
Aside from the great coffee, you can find terrific food at these places, all served amidst Instagram-worthy backdrops. Many of them offer free Wi-Fi, too, so order up a cà phê sữa đá – that’s iced milk coffee—and take a load off to upload all your vacation photos onto social media. Try Tranquil Books & Coffee, with its library of books and acoustic music nights, or Xofa Café & Bistro, a perennial favorite among Hanoi’s digital nomad population with its comfortable couches and warm ambience.
Head to a spa
Spa treatments and massages can feel like the ultimate treat for yourself after days of hectic exploring. It can also be a great way to center and prepare yourself for going back to the real world after your vacation. Vietnam’s hotels and resorts are famous for providing world-class service at reasonable prices. Here, you can get your tension and worries kneaded away, and you can spend an entire day at some very picturesque locations.
Try Le Spa du Metropole for unmatched luxury. It is Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi’s in-house spa, and the service here is reflective of its five-star status. Choose from a number of signature treatments, from indulgent floral baths and rejuvenating facials to decadent body scrubs and invigorating massages. They only use products from premium brands such as Sothys, Ytsara, and French perfumer Laurent Severac. For something a little more accessible, head to Orient Spa in the Old Quarter. They offer a variety of services including hot stone and Thai massages, as well as foot and nail care packages at a more affordable price.
Locals say that the best way to experience Hanoi is to do nothing—to let its charms speak for itself. Take it easy and absorb the city’s gifts as they come. Walk without rushing. Smile at people and watch them smile back. If you make a commitment to live a little slower while you’re in this city, you might just be able to appreciate it all that much more.