These free things to do in Hanoi can make even the tightest of budgets stretch. Vietnam’s capital city is a popular holiday destination amongst backpackers and budget-conscious travelers, thanks to its affordability in terms of currency, food, travel, and sightseeing opportunities. Tucked down the narrow winding alleys of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you’ll find that many temples and museums are free to enter, but donations are highly welcomed.
Exploring on foot is also the best way of getting around Hanoi, where travelers can stumble across hidden alleyways filled with shops selling antiques, handicrafts, and paintings. Meanwhile, roadside vendors offer fresh juices and authentic Vietnamese street food such as banh mi, pho, and spring rolls at attractive prices – perfect for snacking on the go.
From bargaining for souvenirs at a morning market to visiting the preserved remains of Vietnam’s leader, read on for our guide on the best free attractions and activities in Hanoi.
1. Enjoy A Morning Stroll Around Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake (Turtle Lake) is a central feature of Hanoi and is a popular hangout spot throughout the day with locals and tourists. In the early morning and late evening, this area becomes especially busy with joggers, couples enjoying the relaxing views across the lake, and the elderly practising Tai Chi and line dancing.
In here, you can easily catch the sights of many elderly couples walking hand in hand, doing exercises, midnight joggers working up a sweat and children speeding round in their toy cars.
2. Ngoc Son Temple & The Huc Bridge
Ngoc Son Temple is a very unique temple which nestled in the center on a small island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. The temple was built in commemoration of the 13th-century military leader Tran Hung Dao who made a considerable contribution to the battle against the Yuan Dynasty.
- Location: Hoan Kiem Lake
- Opening hours: 7 a.m to 6 p.m
- Entrance Fee: 30.000VND/person
The Huc Bridge is known as a charming scarlet-painted wooden bridge of classical Vietnamese design. In the sunlight, it’s filled with the bright sunshine, forming beautiful scenery in Hoan Kiem Lake.
Ngoc Son Temple and The Huc Bridge are 2 of the most popular places in Hoan Kiem Lake. You can’t miss the opportunity of visiting these places.
3. Visit Hanoi’s Morning And Night Markets
Visiting markets in Hanoi is a great way to experience the local culture, where you can find hundreds of stalls selling fresh produce, quality textiles, and household supplies as early as 06:00. The most popular markets are conveniently set within prominent districts such as Hoan Kiem and Tay Ho, making them easily accessible on foot, cyclos, and taxis.
- Opening Hours: Friday – Sunday 20:00 – 23:00
- Location: Hang Dao Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Our favourite local market in Hanoi is the Hanoi Weekend Night Market, due to its endless rows of food vendors offering exotic Vietnamese street food. During special occasions such as Mid-Autumn Festival, you can also catch traditional Vietnamese music performances.
4. Visit Ho Chi Minh’s Preserved Remains At Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, located in Ba Dinh Square, is one of the few attractions in Hanoi that doesn’t require an entrance fee. Arguably the most popular political figure in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh is known to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’ and his body is preserved in a glass case at the mausoleum (albeit against his wishes).
Started in 1973, it was modeled after Lenin’s mausoleum in Russia. Do dress appropriately out of respect for Vietnam’s departed leader and photography is not allowed at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 07:30 – 10:30, Saturday & Sunday 07:30 – 11:00
- Address: 8 Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
5. St. Joseph’s Cathedral resembles the Notre Dame de Paris
Saint Joseph Cathedral is the representative evidence of the French colonial architecture in Hanoi. It was built based on the design and architecture of the Notre Dame de Paris.
Familiarly called by the locals as “The Big Church”, Saint Joseph Cathedral is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic of Hanoi. It ‘s free to go to the church and discover around. You can enter the church and admire the Neo-Gothic design of this church.
- Location: 40 Nha Chung Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi – French Quarter
- Opening hours:
- For Outside visit: all time.
- For Inside visit: visitors can only enter the Cathedral in Hanoi in the opening time of ceremonial practice as the following schedule:
- Weekday: 5:30 am and 6:15 pm
- Saturday: 6:00 pm
- Sunday: 5:00 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm
- A special ceremony is on 19th March every year.
6. Join A Free Walking Tour
Hanoi Free Tours are a great way to discover Hanoi city in the eyes of a local. Hanoi Free Tours are organized by OneTrip Hanoi ( One trip with local )to help travelers know more about our country, and Local University students have chances of improving themselves. The tours can be customized to meet your interests, include the Hanoi French Quarter , Old Quarter Tours, Temple of Literature, and West Lake. Although its main goal is to help these students to improve their language and social skills, feel free to tip your guide after the end of your walking tour.
7. Cross the Red River on Long Bien Bridge
Long Bien Bridge is a destination to experience a quiet escape from central Hanoi’s hectic traffic and congested walking lanes. Despite having endured two grim wars of Vietnamese with the French and American, the bridge’s original foundations remain relatively intact, offering a popular spot for photography.
The bridge is a perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the sunset and you can pick up fresh fruit and veg from the sellers on the side of the road. Trains are still used to cross the famous Red River and you can walk all the way along with incredible views. Walking through the bridge and take some pictures deserve to be another Hanoi free things to do in your list.
- Location: free space, Cau Long Bien, Phuc Tan, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
8. Check Out Authentic Handicrafts in Hanoi’s Old Quarter for free
The vendors along Old Quarter are fascinating places for shopaholics or simply people trying cloths without purchasing. The narrow alleyways of Hanoi Old Quarter boast a variety of shops selling authentic artifacts including paper lanterns, paintings, wood and stone carvings, silk, and paintings by local artists.
- If you don’t intend to buy things, you can try these artifacts out.
- You can see the daily lives of locals here with plenty of selling and purchasing activities. Watch out of pickpockets and thieves
- Besides shops selling outfits, you can enjoy various local cuisines in here at a reasonable price.
9. Visit a B-52 Bomber Wreckage
Offering a bleak reminder of the Vietnam War, the wreckage of a US B-52 bomber can be found in the middle of one of Hanoi’s residential neighbourhoods. Set in the centre of Huu Tiep Lake in Ba Dinh District, it was shot down during a bombing raid in December 1972 and is highly regarded as a war trophy amongst the Vietnamese.
Huu Tiep Lake is a twenty-minute walk from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. After visiting the B-52 bomber wreckage, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the quiet neighbourhood or watch people go about their daily lives at a café next to the lake.
Location: Hoang Hoa Tham, Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
10. Explore Temples and Pagodas everywhere
Tran Quoc Pagoda – the most ancient and beautiful pagoda in Hanoi. Vietnam is a multi-religious with many religions such as Buddhism and Catholicism, so temples and pagodas are omnipresent, most of which don’t require an entrance fee.
Free and cheap things to do in Hanoi here:
- Normally, temples are relatively tranquil, but on occasional events including Tet, Mid-Autumn Festival and Buddha’s Birthday, the vibrant atmosphere here will surprise you.
- You can observe the images of prayer ceremonies, traditional music, and dance performances and fireworks display.
- Simply, you just sit silently to keep your soul restful, getting out of your speedy pace of life.
- Address: Some famous temples and pagodas in Hanoi: The Perfume Pagoda, Cau Dong Pagoda, Ngoc Son Temple, and Bach Ma Temple.
- Opening hours: Most temples open daily from 7 am to 6 pm.
- Dress code: You should wear a suitable outfit when visiting worshipping areas.