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Ideally you’ll have at least three days to explore Hanoi, but if you’re only passing through Vietnam’s capital city our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend the top sights below to make up one full day of exploration.
Though it makes for somewhat of a somber start to your tour of the city, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is usually only open to the public from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., so Uncle Ho’s final (and viewable) resting place should be the first stop on your itinerary. After proceeding past Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body, head to the adjacent Ho Chi Minh Museum to learn more about his life and to check out some fascinating exhibits and a surprisingly impressive collection of modern art.
Next hop in a taxi and hit the Old Quarter to wander through the historic city center, shop for souvenirs and snack on fresh fruit, banh mi sandwiches or a bowl of pho from one of the many restaurants or street vendors. You’ll likely see a number of women wearing conical hats and hauling fruit and other foods on carrying poles — most will be happy to pose for a photo, but might ask for a small tip. After lunch take a stroll around beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, part of the Old Quarter.
Take a breather back at your hotel, then catch one of the early evening performances at Hanoi’s famous Thang Long Puppetry Theater. If you have a taste for more traditional Vietnamese food, dinner at one of the courtyard tables at popular Quan An Ngon is always a safe bet. But if you’re looking for a trendy scene, a well-curated wine list and gourmet cuisine from a seasonal menu, head to hip Restaurant Bobby Chinn. Cocktails at InterContinental Hanoi West Lake’s The Sunset Bar, which is located on its own private island in the lake, is an ideal cap to a busy day.