Hanoi is a gorgeous cultural and culinary mecca, but if you look at a guidebook, you often find the same handful of activities to do over and over again: go to the temples, go to the markets, eat street food. All of those things are must do’s in Hanoi, but if you’re looking for something a little more unique, weird or unusual to do in the “sleepy” capital of Vietnam, then read on.
1. Release a turtle into West Lake
At Lingyin temple of West Lake you can buy a turtle to release into West Lake for good luck.
2. Go ice skating.
Ice skating in tropical Hanoi? Really? Yep, you can ice skate in Royal City Mall for about 200,000 VND.
3. Get an ao dai.
Ao dais are the gorgeous, long flowing dresses that Vietnamese women wear to special occasions. There are plenty of places in Hanoi where you can pick one out and have it tailored to fit you. It’s a really unique Hanoian souvenir. Here’s a pic of me wearing a shorter, more modern ao dai that I bought in Vietnam.
4. Ride a xe om.
Xe oms are motorbike taxis and Hanoian xe oms are typically a bit of an adventure. I’ve always heard they’re cheaper than regular cabs, and while I disagree with that, they are a lot more fun. Try taking one to your next destination instead of catching a cab for a weird and wild ride. For a good article on xe om taking advice, check out this article at Ho Chi Minh Highlights.
5. Drink alcoholic pho.
The Unicorn Bar at the end of Hang Than street serves up an interesting alcoholic drink that tastes like Vietnamese pho. Order, then get your camera ready for the show. You’ll thank me later. I won’t post a photo here, so you can be just as surprised as I was.
6. Ride a swan around Truc Bach.
Rent a swan boat and go for a paddle. There’s not a whole lot to see on tiny Truc Bach, but it provides some interesting photo ops.
7. See a 4D movie.
The Vincom Mega Mall has a 4D movie theater, complete with moving chairs, wind blowing in your face, weird smells, and surround sound. Buy tickets for an action movie and settle in.
8. Swim in a giant indoor water park.
In addition to an ice rink, Royal City has a giant indoor water park, with utterly terrifying too-fast water slides. Have fun. If you want to do even more swimming in Hanoi, check out this list at Travel Fish.
9. Watch Hanoi traffic with a view.
I’ve never been to a place in the world where traffic-watching is a national past time, but in Hanoi, it can provide hours of entertainment. And if you’ve got a beer in hand, then you can make a night of it. My personal favorite traffic watching destination is Muse Home Bar.
10. Barbecue your own street food.
Why just watch someone cook your food when you can cook your own. Walk to the end of Hang Giay (night market street) or Hang Luoc and look for a tiny alley near the end filled with a bunch of plastic tables and barbecue materials. Yum! (The barbecue places are located in the alleys on either side of the bridge pictured below.)
11. Watch a cock fight.
This is a grim way to spend an afternoon, but if you head to a park on a warm day, you’ll find cock fighting. It’s definitely weird and unique, although ethically questionable.
12. Go see the B-52.
Huu Tiep Lake in Hanoi still contains the wreckage of a U.S. B-52, rotting away in a quiet neighborhood. It’s a startling reminder of the war.
13. Take a cooking class.
I never managed to take a cooking class during my time in Hanoi. That’s the problem with being a broke traveler; you can’t do it all. But when I go back, I’m going to the Bookworm at 44 Chau Long which is a great English bookstore connected to a restaurant and cooking school. Someday I’ll learn to cook bun cha, but in the meantime, here’s a pic of the inviting stacks of books inside the shop portion of the Bookworm.
14. Play in an arcade.
Check out any shopping mall in Hanoi and you’ll be assaulted by colors and lights. You can easily go broke in one of these places.
15. Have a Czech beer.
Vietnam and the Czech Republic have some strong cultural connections because of their shared communist histories. There’s a lot of immigration between the two countries, and therefore you can find several great Czech beers in Hanoi. “Czech” out Hoa Vien Brauhaus, Zubr, or many others. (Zubr actually only serves Polish beer, but Czech cuisine. The people in charge of Zubr speak Czech, and they serve up some awesome Czech soups.)
Do you know of anymore unusual ways to have fun in Hanoi, Vietnam? Help a fellow traveler out and let me know in the comment section!
If you want to read more about Hanoi, check out 10 Weird Things About Vietnam Explained.