Though Hanoi is second in size only to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s capital and cultural center still has something of a small-town vibe — and that’s a big part of its allure. Cyclo drivers jockey with armies of motorbikes on the narrow, winding streets of the charming Old Quarter, where an abundance of street vendors and casual restaurants serve hot banh mi sandwiches, rich bowls of pho and other Vietnamese culinary classics. Well-preserved French-colonial mansions on tree-lined streets lend the city a distinctly Old World ambience. In the evening, locals gather around foldout tables and plastic stools to share pitchers of bia hoi (fresh beer). It may be short on standard tourist attractions — the most-visited site is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, home to the embalmed, on-display remains of the former president — but Hanoi is certainly a city long on character and charisma.