5 Free things to do in Hanoi

5 Free Things To Do in Hanoi was written by travel blogger Charlie Metcalfe of Undiscovered Guide.

Traveling can be pricey which often limits how people travel, where they go and what they do whilst they are away. Some cities are cheaper than others. Hanoi, our home for close to two years, happens to be one of the cheaper cities people enjoy visiting. And it’s always nice to know that there are lots of free activities you can enjoy. Here are five of our favorite free things to do in Hanoi.

Walk around Hoàn Kiếm Lake

free things to do in Hanoi - The Turtle Tower Hoan Kiem Lake -photo Undiscovered Guide

The Turtle Tower Hoan Kiếm Lake -photo Undiscovered Guide

Hoàn Kiếm Lake is at the heart of Hanoi, both geographically and culturally. There are a number of legends on how the lake got its name, which translates to “Lake of the Returned Sword.” I read this version at the temple: a turtle rose from the waters of the lake and gave Emperor Le Loi a sword which he used to win a fierce battle before returning it to the turtle. The legend also explains the small Turtle Tower (Thap Ruá) in the lake which was built to honor the turtle. Tourists and locals alike used to enjoy trying to spot the lake’s resident turtle, believing that seeing her would bring good luck. Unfortunately, she died a few years ago; although your chances of seeing her probably haven’t changed too much. Even people who live and work near the lake seldom saw her.

A view of Hoan Kiem Lake, photo Undiscovered Guide

A view of Hoan Kiem Lake, photo/Undiscovered Guide

A walk around the lake is pleasant and relaxing. People are often working out or playing badminton (perhaps Vietnam’s favorite sport). Whilst enjoying a stroll around the lake you’re pretty likely to get chatted up by students hoping to practice their English. If you have a spare five minutes, grab a bench and have a chat. You’ll get to learn more about Hanoi from a local and they get to practice their English: win-win!

Visit Dong Xuan Market

free things to do in Hanoi - The crowded and bustling Dong Xuan market, photo Undiscovered Guide

The crowded and bustling Dong Xuan market, photo Undiscovered Guide

Dong Xuan Market is the largest covered market in Hanoi. You can find anything from wholesale packs of socks or dried mushrooms to live fish. Inside the building it’s pretty hectic and can be claustrophobic. Head for the escalators in the middle to get a view of the bustle from above. Outside, the market sprawls through the surrounding alleys and streets. The market is a real look into daily Hanoi life and you can also pick up some awesome street food.

Visit the B52 Museum

free things to do in Hanoi -A small remnant of the crashed B52, photo Undiscovered Guide

A small remnant of the crashed B52, photo/Undiscovered Guide

Hanoi has several museums that are dedicated to the war with America but only the B52 Victory Museum is free. Like many of the museums in Vietnam it isn’t amazingly well put together but it is interesting to look around. The huge B52 wreck on the front lawn is certainly worth the visit.

Watch Chinese chess

free things to do in Hanoi - Men playing Chinese chess in a park, photo/Undiscovered Guide

Men playing Chinese chess in a park, photo/Undiscovered Guide

The old boys and xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers around Hanoi love a game of Chinese chess and they only choose the prettiest spots to play. Head to a park, temple or lake to find crowds of men gathered around a board watching as a game quickly unravels. The games are fast paced and intense, as each man slams his piece on the board followed by roars of approval or disappointment. One of our favorite places to watch chess battles is next to Truc Bach Lake. There are always fellas there having a game and it’s a gorgeous place to stop for a rest. This is the lake where Senator John McCain’s plane crashed during the Vietnam War.

Explore the Night Market

free things to do in Hanoi - The fun, lively night market is popular with both locals and tourists, courtesy Undiscovered Guide

The fun, lively night market is popular with both locals and tourists, courtesy Undiscovered Guide

Hanoi’s weekend night market is great fun to explore. The streets in the Old Quarter are closed to motorbikes and cars on weekends, making it the perfect time to wander and explore without fear of a youth on a scooter hitting you. At the market, you can find all sorts of locally produced goods and souvenirs. There are great food stalls and you can usually hear buskers playing somewhere.

There’s a surprising number of free things to do in Hanoi; this just scratches the surface. If you stretch your budget a little you can also get in a bunch of parks and the botanical gardens for about 25 cents USD. While not free, you can do lots of things in Hanoi while spending very little money.

What are your favorite free things to do in Hanoi?

Charlie Metcalfe is a blogger, explorer and teacher. She left England, her home country, in 2013, along with Graham, her partner in crime. The two have traveled to 15 countries. They are currently living in Hanoi. You can find out more about their travels and get advice for your own on their blog Undiscovered Guide. Follow them on Instagram.

Read more post in our free things to do series

Free things to do in Santa Fe
Free things to do in San Diego
8 free things to do in Melbourne 
5 free things to do in Seattle
5 free things to do in London
Free things to do in Ipoh, Malaysia
Free things to do in Budapest
11 free things to do in Edinburgh
Free things to do in Lisbon
Free things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Free things to do in Ottawa
7 Free things to do in Rome
5 free things to do in Copenhagen
5 free things to do in Barcelona
Free things to do in Paris the City of Lights
Free things to do in Toronto, Canada
Free things to do in Buenos Aires
9 Free things to do in Jerusalem
Free things to do in Shanghai
7 Free things to do in Taipei
Top 9 Free Things to do in Auckland, New Zealand
5 Free things to do in Amsterdam
5 Free things to do in Hong Kong
Free things to do in New York City
Free things to do in Geneva, Switzerland
Free things to do in Sydney

Comments are closed.