7 totally free activities you must do when exploring Hanoi

Travelling on a tight budget can sometimes make you feel like you are missing out on the full experience of a destination. In Vietnam, you don’t need to worry – we’re one of the most budget-friendly countries in the world for travellers to visit.

Travelling on a tight budget can sometimes make you feel like you are missing out on the full experience of a destination. In Vietnam, you don’t need to worry – we’re one of the most budget-friendly countries in the world for travellers to visit.


While it may be one of the most affordable places to explore, it certainly doesn’t mean that there isn’t much to get up to. Here in the capital city of Hanoi, there is so much to see and do but we know it can be quite a challenge to figure out what you can’t miss while also sticking to your budget.


From getting lost in the labyrinth-like lanes of the Old Quarter to strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake and spotting a sea turtle or three, there are tonnes of things to do which won’t cost you a cent.


Check out some of the best things to do for FREE in Hanoi below…


1. Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake


A trip to Hanoi isn’t complete without a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake. Located in the heart of the Old Quarter, this legendary area is known for its peaceful atmosphere, idyllic scenery and gigantic turtles (yes, really!). Whatever time of day you head there, you will find locals walking, jogging, practising Tai Chi and chatting with friends – it is always buzzing with activity. 


Whether you want to sit back and watch the world go by, admire the view of the beautiful Ngoc San Pagoda temple in the middle of the lake or read a book in the shade of the trees, this place is the perfect oasis in the vibrant city.


Tip: Got a few coins to spare? In the daytime, there are some great outdoor cafes to grab a coffee including Cafe Pho Co and if you have time in the evening, try to get tickets to the world famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. While the show has recently become popular around the world, it is a tradition unique to North Vietnam so it’s not one to be swerved if a performance is on during your time here.


2. Head out on a free walking tour


Exploring the city by foot is definitely one of the best ways to keep your costs down. Here in Hanoi, it’s made even easier by the variety of free walking tours you can join. Heading out through the bustling streets, a guide will take you to some of the most historic landmarks across the city as well some local favourite spots and hidden gems. Learn about Vietnam’s capital the best way – from someone who lives here!


Remember though, these tours are usually tip based so if you enjoyed your tour, please do pay the guide for their time.


3. Immerse yourself in the Old Quarter


If you’re staying with us, it will be pretty difficult to avoid exploring the Old Quarter – we’re located right in it! Hanoi’s Old Quarter is made up of 36 ancient, maze-like streets. Browse the shops to find treasures of all kinds can be found to fill your suitcase with including colourful kitschy trinkets, fine silks, paintings, unique lanterns and more.


As you wander around, you’ll catch a glimpse into the daily life of locals amidst old-style narrow streets and well-preserved French colonial houses. Forget taking a map, prepare to get lost and step out from our door to start exploring…


4. Pay your respects at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum


Want to learn more about the history of Vietnam? If so, a trip to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a must. As the resting place for one of the most important leaders the country has ever seen, the mausoleum is a place to pay your respects to General Ho Chi Minh and is now a popular landmark to visit for both domestic and international tourists.


It’s totally free to enter however visitation hours are just a few hours per week so be sure to check on opening times before heading over to Da Dinh Square.


5. Create your own architecture tour


This city is full of grand colonial French buildings such as the Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi Opera House, the Presidential Palace, the Government Guest House and more. If you have a passion for beautiful buildings and want to learn more about the city’s history and culture as you snap some great photos, plan out a walking tour – you could even ask your fellow travellers to join in so you can explore some of Hanoi’s most spectacular sites as a group.


6. Visit a variety of the city’s temples and cathedrals


Did you know Hanoi is packed with some of the most beautiful, ancient Buddhist temples in the world? To find them, simply follow the scent of burning incense and take some time away from the lively streets of the city to reflect on your travels and soak in the calm. While many head to the Tay Ho Pagoda overlooking the city’s large West Lake, the One Pillar Pagoda is one of the city’s most famous sites. During your time strolling around the Hoan Kiem Lake, you literally can’t miss Ngoc San Pagoda temple too which you access by a golden entry gate and a long red wooden bridge.


A large number of the city’s temples and cathedrals are free (or have a very small entry fee) so if you’re into stunning buildings with a huge amount of history behind them, it’s worth visiting a few.


7. Get your photo taken on Train Street


If you’ve been looking at places to visit in Hanoi on Instagram, we can pretty much bet on the fact you will have seen the infamous ‘Train Street’. Hidden in the winding streets of the Old Quarter, each day at around 3 pm and 7 pm a train heading to Ho Chi Minh drives through this incredibly narrow lane – and people flock there simply just to watch. It’s a sight you’ll see nowhere else in the world so don’t miss out on seeing it for yourself and snap a photo while you’re there. Just be careful of the different modes of transport around you!


Visiting Hanoi soon and looking for a place to stay? If you’re looking a social vibe and luxury facilities on a budget, we’re the place for you. Get 10% off your stay when you book for two nights or more on our website.