Looking for fun things to do in Hanoi with your family in 2023? Keep reading for 5 amazing activities you can do in Hanoi with kids of all ages.
Why Visit Hanoi?
Hanoi has been Vietnam’s official capital city since 1945, as well as its cultural capital. Founded all the way back in 1010 AD by Vietnamese emperor Lý Thái Tổ, Hanoi is rich in culture, history, and heritage.
How to Get Around in Hanoi With Kids
The easiest way to get around in Hanoi with kids is by using Vietnam’s version of Uber, the Grab App.
Grab works just like Uber, you can use it to hail cars from Hanoi’s airport or your hotel. In addition, Grab works well in other popular tourist locations in Asia, like Bali, so you only need to download one transportation app for all of your travels in Asia!
You’ll also find pedicabs available for hire on the street once you get to Hanoi, but these are more tourist attractions than legitimate transportation methods.
When is The Best Time to Visit Hanoi?
The best time of year to visit the city of Hanoi in Vietnam is between October and December when there is little risk of Monsoon and the weather is pleasantly cool.
Hanoi has a different climate than the rest of Vietnam. It is not nearly as tropical as some of Vietnam’s southern cities. Because of this, some tourists are surprised to find Hanoi can be “jacket weather”. Hanoi is quite cold in the winter months with lows of 50 degrees Fahrenheit!
Hanoi’s monsoon season stretches from June to August, which is the opposite of its southern counterparts like Hoi An where the wet season runs from September-January.
The cool and dry climate makes Hanoi, and other northern locations like Sa Pa and Ninh Binh, the best locations to visit in Vietnam in the fall months.
Which Area of Hanoi is Best?
While Hanoi is actually a large sprawling metropolitan area with over 5,000,000 residents, most tourists choose to stay in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, which has a history dating back over 1,000 years and was Vietnam’s capital as far back as 1010 AD.
Back then, the capital was called Thăng Long instead of Hanoi. You’ll see references to Thăng Long all over Hanoi, from street names to hospitals. And although most of the original buildings are gone, you can actually still visit the Imperial city of Thăng Long at its historical preservation site near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Staying in the Old Quarter gives you easy access to the most popular sights in Hanoi, from the Weekend Night Markets, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Thăng Long Water Puppet Theater, and many more! Keep reading for the 5 best things to do in Hanoi with kids.
1. Go to the Weekend Night Market
The Hanoi Weekend Night Market is the #1 thing to do in Hanoi with kids. The Night Market is really more like 10 activities in one – there’s street food, shopping, activities like pottery painting, and tons of concerts with live music you and your family can enjoy!
Every weekend you’ll see the entire city pour into the closed-off streets near Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter to attend the night market. Hundreds of stalls selling anything from new jeans to steaming street food on skewers are set up in neat rows with punctuations of street performers on every corner.
It’s a magic experience, so make sure you’re visiting Hanoi on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday so you don’t miss it!
The Weekend Night Market is free and runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night from 6pm-midnight.
2. Visit the Water Puppet Theater
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is an institution in Hanoi that dates back over 50 years!
The Water Puppet show is performed every day of the year with a live musical accompaniment and is dedicated to performing Vietnamese traditional culture for foreigners and local tourists alike.
“Water Puppets” isn’t just the name of the show – the puppet state is actually set on a large pool of water, where the puppets enact dances and mock battles.
Kids of all ages love the Water Puppet shows but do know that they are only performed in Vietnamese. There is an option at the theater to get an audio translator, which is recommended!
3. Try the Amazing Street Food in Hanoi
Street food is a way of life in Vietnam! From the earliest hours in the morning until late at night you’ll see people in Hanoi lining up along the wide sidewalks on tiny stools enjoying treats and full three-course meals alike.
At the weekend night market, you will find classic deep-fried carnival food, along with sweet treats like intricately prepared ice creams and cotton candies.
Outside of the night market, the street food in Hanoi is usually more meal-oriented, you’ll always be able to find a classic Vietnamese Pho stall with locals enjoying a bowl of noodles, as well as many opportunities to enjoy a fresh BBQ dinner.
There’s a very wide variety of street food you can enjoy in Vietnam, and if you have small children or if anyone in your family has dietary restrictions it’s best to join a street food tour with a guide who speaks Vietnamese and can check the contents of your meal for you.
Hanoi street food is very meat-oriented, so if you or someone in your party is vegetarian or vegan it’s also recommended you hire a guide that can take you on a specialty tour.
4. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngọc Sơn Floating Temple
Hoan Kiem Lake is the crown jewel of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Also known as the “Sword Lake”, Hoan Kiem Lake is home to a famous legend known by all Vietnamese people who live in Hanoi.
The legend goes that when Le Loi was the King of Vietnam, he was given a shiny piece of metal that his friend had found while fishing.
The king brought the bar home and it turned into an impressive sword with the words “Thuan Thien” inscribed on it.
In Vietnamese, Thuan Thien means “harmonious with heaven”. The king believed it was sent by the heavens to help him defeat the Ming army, which he did.
Later when the King was boating across the lake, a giant turtle rose from the depths and demanded the King return the magic sword. The king did this immediately. To honor the magic, even the King changed the name of the lake to Hoan Kiem lake, which means “The Lake of the Returned Sword”.
Today tourists visit Hoan Kiem Lake in droves. You can walk the perimeter of the lake and tell the legend to your children. Or for a small fee, you can visit Ngọc Sơn Floating Temple.
At night the temple is lit up bright red, orange, and gold, and is an incredibly impressive sight.
About Ngọc Sơn Temple
Ngọc Sơn Temple has its own history. Ngoc Son means “Temple of Jade Mountain”, and it dates back to the 18th century.
The temple is dedicated to Tran Hung Dao, a famous historical soldier who defeated hundreds of thousands of Mongolian soldiers in the 13th century.
In Ngọc Sơn Temple you can find a 500-pound preserved Giant Turtle, which is the remains of one of the last living giant turtles that inhabited the lake and gives credence to its famous legend.
5. Take a Free Walking Tour of the City
There are a variety of free walking tour companies (tip-based services!) that offer walking tours so you and your family can learn about the rich history of Hanoi.
There are customizable tours that you can cater to your interests. From the Vietnam War, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, or the Old Quarter and French Occupation, there’s a plethora of information you can teach your kids by taking a walking tour of Hanoi.
Best Things to Do In Hanoi With Kids: Conclusion
I hope you enjoyed this guide to the best activities to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, with kids. To recap, the best way to get around Hanoi is by using the transportation app, Grab, which is popular all over Asia as well as in Vietnam.
The top 5 Activities to do in Hanoi with kids:
- Go to the Weekend Night Market
- Visit the Water Puppet Theater
- Try the Amazing Street Food
- Visit Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngọc Sơn Floating Temple
- Take a Free Walking Tour of the City