Family travel: Exploring Hanoi with kids

This vibrant & busy city was a highlight of our trip in Vietnam. It was a great introduction to Viatnamese life and the scooters!  Soooooo many scooters!! We were based in a fun area, called the Old quarter. It had lots of eateries, pubs and people. Oh my goodness I couldn’t get over how many westerners we saw in the first hour when we started exploring Hanoi.

I didn’t find there to be a huge list of ‘exciting things to do in Hanoi’ but there is definitely enough to keep you and the kids entertained for a few days. It’s mainly a hub for visiting areas such as Sapa mountains, Halong bay or heading south to Ninh Binh. 

Where to stay in Hanoi

We based ourselves in the old quarter. This feels like a backpacker area and had a number of hostels (some noisier than others!) and lots of cheap eateries and bars.

We stayed at a lovely homestay called Hanoi old quarter homestay. The staff were very friendly, but not pushy. We had a nice sized family room with a large double bed and bunk beds. The room had good air conditioning, a TV and a fridge.

The only downside was that the bathroom/toilet, although for our sole use, was a separate room next door. But it wasn’t a major issue.

We had a delicious banh mi breakfast every morning with fruit and Vietnamese coffee, which was included in the price! Perfect start to the day! 

 

Where to eat in Hanoi

You will be spoilt for choice within hanoi’s old quarter. But one thing we did learn while travelling Vietnam, is that the cuisine changes so make sure you try the local dishes while we in the area.  Here’s where we ate during our stay:

  • Street food – dotted around the side streets you’ll see lots of little karts offering a banh mi. These were our go-to lunchtime meal upto £1 (20,000 to 30,000) depending on your choice!
  • Luxury backpackers hotel – I can’t comment on the accommodation but we received great service, cheap cold beer (only 5,000 – about 20p) and cheap snacks.  It was a bargain and the staff were very attentive too!
  • Au Lac family restaurant – we only stopped here for a cheap drink but the good menu looked varied with a cheap price.
  • Cafe tour – we had our first Pho Bo (which is a fresh beef noodle soup with vegetables). It was very tasty and all the meals we ordered here tasted very fresh. Again, the price of meals were very reasonable and service was very attentive! 

  • Peachy bar – although not an eatery we enjoyed a delicious (albeit slightly expensive) craft beer and gin and tonic in this small but quaint pub with the Wyld family! 
  • Pub Street – At night the street comes alive with eateries dotted along the alleyways. The plastic tables and chairs fill the area and restaurants offer cheap food with endless beers and cocktails on offer.  Most of very similar so pick one you like the look of and sit down, grab a bite to eat or drink and watch the world go by!

 

Things to do in Hanoi

Train Street

Without a doubt the craziest thing I’ve seen in a while! I mean, where else would you find cafes lining a train track waiting for a speeding train to roll just inches past your feet! 

 

If you type in train Street into Google a marker will appear. This area is very touristy and filled with prior and backpackers. But actually if you walk further along the track you’ll find quieter tracks. It’s amazing to think that this train flies past peoples houses and at such speeds! 

We arrived in the afternoon as we’d read that trains pass through ‘Train Street’ around 3pm. But after reading the main timetables dotted around. It appeared that only happens at weekends! Instead, weekdays are only around 6am and 7pm! DOH 🚂. But we went back and watched the evening trains.

We sat at a cafe, were handed a menu and then we heard a whistle. All the staff immediately whisked us onto our feet and huddled us into a room. This train literally does come inches from your feet! Everyone was ordered to stand back.

Before we knew it a huge train came hurtling (no it didn’t slow down) past us!! We were giggling with the excitement and adrenalin. Wow! We could have left then, but decided to stay and have a drink with the owners who kindly took out safety very seriously. We sat down and got our cards out. But then… another whistle and the same thing again… A total of 3 trains hurtled past us while we sat there!! Brilliant.

 

Hoan kiem lake

A focal point in Hanoi city its circumference is used by many as an exercise track. Lots of people milling around either walking, running or doing tai chi. 

The lake itself wasn’t anything special, but there is a wooden bridge leading to Ngoc son temple and a small pagoda.

We didn’t visit the temple. Cost to enter is 20,000.  But the best time to visit the lake is at the weekend when the road closes and the locals dance and sing and socialise. It’s almost like a street party every weekend!

Water Puppet show

I hadn’t realised but the ancient art form of water puppetry is closely linked to Hanoi. There are several theatres within Hanoi that you can visit. We didn’t go as we had a water theatre show as part of our halong bay cruise.

 

Halong bay cruise

Hanoi is the stepping stone for most halong bay cruises, even though it’s a 4 hour transfer away. We had a wonderful time with Indochina on Dragons Pearl 2. You can read all about our adventures here.

Wandering around the Old quarter

As I mentioned, we were staying in the old quarter, but the area is huge. We spent a few mornings getting lost in the alleyways and stopping along the way for a banh mi (French baguette with egg or pork or beef and viatnamese vegetables) & viatnamese egg or coconut coffee! 

Just getting yourself lost and pass St Joseph’s cathedral.

There are a number of museums and pagodas for you to visit if you want to venture further out of the town. However, we were washed out with the heat and found that a morning activity was enough. The humidity in Vietnam in July is challenging so get out early morning or late afternoon. 

Hope you enjoy Hanoi as much as we did! 

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