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The top 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids

Hanoi is the beautiful and diverse capital city of Vietnam. Hanoi’s rich history, delicious food and French-colonial architecture makes it a fascinating city to visit as a family. Add some ancient pagodas and unique museums into the mix and you’ve got yourself some awesome reasons to visit Hanoi. To get you inspired I’ll share 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids, in no particular order.

Things to do around Hanoi

When you’re done exploring Hanoi, you can use it as a starting point for trips to Ha Long Bay and Sapa. If Hanoi is your home base while exploring Northern Vietnam, spend at least a full week here. The ideal mix being 3 days of exploring Hanoi, before taking a sleeper train to Sapa and spend 2 days here. Lastly, head back to Hanoi for a night to get ready for a trip out to sea, by spending 1 or 2 nights on a boat in Ha Long Bay.

Hanoi is also a great starting point for an ultimate family road trip through Vietnam.

Why Hanoi is a great choice for a family visit

Southeast Asian countries are often chosen by families to road trip through. Countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and of course Vietnam are filled with friendly people. They are easy to navigate through via public transport and there are many things to do that cater to every family member of the pack.

You’re reading about the best 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids, so let’s focus on Vietnam specifically. Vietnam doesn’t get as many tourists as Thailand and large parts of Indonesia do. The cities of Vietnam are filled with millions of inhabitants, which can be quite overwhelming, but the sights are not overrun by tourists yet.

We also experienced lesser chances of tourist scams. Vietnam is depending on tourism, but not as much as aforementioned countries. That must be the main reason. You don’t have to worry about scams in Hanoi’s  touristy areas.

Hanoi with toddlers

Don’t fill up your suitcases with stashes of extra diapers or formula. You can get both in Hanoi and the quality is the same as at home.

Food wise there’s always something your toddler can eat. Fresh fruits can be bought everywhere. And at streed food stalls you can get spring rolls, non spicy soups and banh mi sandwiches. When your toddler loves chicken, order Com Ga Rau Thom, rice topped with chicken broth, shredded chicken and some herbs.

Vietnamese men playing a game at Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi - Vietnam
Shop and street food vendor in one in the Old Quarter of Hanoi in Vietnam

If your toddler is still happy in a stroller, I’ve got some bad news. Hanoi is not built for strollers. The pavement is uneven in many area’s and sometimes suddenly absent causing you to walk on the street. The curbs are also pretty high. Overall, my advise is not to bring a stroller, but a back carrier.

Is it safe to visit Hanoi with kids?

Kid friendly food and fun activities can be found all over Hanoi. I can’t praise it enough! Hanoi is in our family’s top 5 most favorite cities in the world. But there’s one thing that’s hard to get used to and can cause some anxiety: the traffic in Hanoi.

Hanoi’s hectic, fast and furious traffic

Millions of motorbikes, cars and (when in the Old Quarter) rickshaw’s roam the streets. There are lanes and traffic lights, but nobody uses them. Hold onto your kids and carry your small ones, keeping an eye on your surroundings and walk.

Whatever you do, don’t stop! It may not seem like the drivers have spot you, but they do and they anticipate when to pass you. In other words, a sudden stop will only add to danger.

When to visit Hanoi

April is the hottest month and the wet season is from June to October, with August being the wettest month. The best time to visit Hanoi is from November to March. Temperatures are cooler during these months.

Peak season is late October to late Februari when its cooler and drier, know that pre-booking is advised and the prizes are at its highest.

We visited late December and experienced temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, during our 5 days in Hanoi with kids. It was ideal weather for a city trip.

How to get to Hanoi

Fly

You can find lots of airlines flying internationally to Hanoi. Book your international flight from your home country to Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport at Expedia. They usually have some great deals available. Especially if you combine your booking with a stay in a hotel. Do always make sure to double check the flight prices at the website of the airline to make sure you get the best deal!

When you arrive at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, it’s about a 40 minute drive to the city centre.

Train & bus

If you’re traveling to Hanoi by train or bus from other cities in Vietnam or internationally from neighboring countries book your tickets via 12Go.

The trains are all in good condition, with comfortable beds and relatively clean. People eat a lot of food on the trains and cockroaches know that. So don’t be surprised if you spot one here and there.

Taking a night bus is a different story, where comfort is concerned. Yes, they’re clean and there’s airconditioning and a toilet on board. But sleeping in the beds is only fun if you’re below 1m70. It gets really uncomfortable if your longer than that.

Powered by 12Go system

Getting around Hanoi

The entire city centre can be easily explored on foot. You can combine exploration of the Old Quarter en Hoan Kiem Lake, because they are situated next to each other. From there you can walk to the Temple of Literature in about 30 minutes. 40 minutes with smaller children who walk themselves. Just stop for drinks and food a few times during the day. To give those little legs some rest and also enjoy a yummy Vietnamese meal together.

We loved exploring Hanoi on foot. In the morning we called a Grab (comparable to Uber) to take us to our first point of interest and again at the end of the day to bring us back to our accommodation.

Speaking of Grab, they are the best option by car. Taxi’s are also quite cheap and trustworthy, because they always work with a meter. But we loved the Grab app and it just worked effortlessly.

There are also lots of buses driving around in Hanoi. But we couldn’t get the hang of the way it worked and the two bus drivers we spoke with, didn’t speak English. Maybe you have better luck when visiting Hanoi.

Traffic gets really crazy at rush hours, so avoid buses, Grabs or taxi’s at these time of day.

Now you know how to get around in Vietnam’s second largest city. But where do you have to get to? Here are the most fun 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids!

10 things to do in Hanoi with kids

Get lost in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake

Take a selfie with the plastinated turtles in the Ngoc Son Temple

Buy tickets for the Water Puppet Theatre show

Marvel at the size of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Visit the Temple Of Literature

Eat street food in the Backpacker District

Buy souvenirs at the Hanoi Night Market

Join a food tour

Watch out for the train in Train Street

Get lost in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

The busy Old Quarter of Hanoi - Vietnam
Locals having breakfast in the Old Quarter of Hanoi - Vietnam

No one can deny the charm of the Old Quarter of Hanoi. The streets are filled with endless amounts of shops that sell anything you could possibly need. And you can find hundreds of small restaurants here with a little street food cart in front, selling mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes. Walking around this old part of Hanoi is an incredible cultural experience. The Old Quarter is one of the reasons why Hanoi is a thrilling city to visit with kids. There’s so much to see, taste and hear. In other words, you won’t get bored!

36 Old Streets

The Old Quarter of Hanoi is also known as 36 Old Streets. There are more than 36 streets in the old town. The number 36 refers to something else. And that is 36 guild locations that existed since the 15th century. Han Gai is the street where you can get tailor made silk clothing. Hang Thinh is the wood turner’s street and Hang Ma sells paper products. You’ll notice the street names all start with Hang. Hang means shop or merchandise. It’s really fun to see if you can find out what kind of merchants you can find with your children, when here.

View of the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi at night - Vietnam
Nighttime view over Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi - Vietnam

Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake

After exploring the bustling streets of the Old Quarter it’s time for a bit of nature. There are two scenic lakes in Hanoi, West Lake and Hoan Kiem Lake. Our favorite is absolutely the Hoan Kiem Lake (Hồ Hoàn Kiếm).

Right in the middle of the city you’ll find Hoan Kiem Lake. When walking around the lake you’ll experience peace and serenity when looking at your right. On your left side you’ll see the chaos in the streets, shops filled to the brim with stuff and shoppers and street food stalls catering to rows of people. A weird contrast, albeit a fascinating one.

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi - Vietnam

Things to see around Hoan Kiem Lake

If you’re looking for a cheap thing to do in Hanoi with kids, checking out the Hoan Kiem Lake is a must. This fun family activity in Hanoi is completely free.

Around the lake you’ll find plenty of trees and shady spots that offer an escape from the busy city life. In the middle of the lake you’ll see a mini island with a tower on it, Turtle Tower.

You can also pay a visit to the Ngoc Son Temple, for a small fee. More on that later.

All around the lake you’ll find artisans offering their crafts, locals practicing Tai Chi and vendors selling local snacks.

The pagoda, temple and the bridge are beautifully lit at night. So if you’re looking for a place in Hanoi to take a nice evening stroll, head out to Hoan Kiem Lake.

Newlyweds pose at night in front of the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi - Vietnam

Lake of the Returned Sword

Hoan Kiem Lake means Lake of the Returned Sword. Legend has it that Emperor Le Loi, after having defeated Ming China, was boating here when a Golden Turtle God came to the surface. The turtle asked Le Loi for his magic sword. Le Loi concluded that the turtle wanted to reclaim the sword that its master, the Dragon King, had given the emperor to defeat Ming China. The turtle wanted to give the sword back to the gods.

He gave the turtle the sword back and renamed the lake in honor of his meeting with the turtle. The name changed from Green Lake to the Lake of the Returned Sword, or Sword Lake. He also had a tower made on a small island in the lake and named it Turtle Tower.

Take a selfie with the plastinated turtles in the Ngoc Son Temple

While you’re at Hoan Kiem Lake you can’t skip a visit to the Ngoc Son Temple. This temple was built in the 18th century on Jade Island on Hoan Kiem Lake. You get there by crossing a beautiful scarlet bridge, Cau The Huc.

The Temple of the Jade Mountain, the English translation of the name, is Hanoi’s most visited temple. The gate is beautifully ordained. You will spot tigers, fish and turtles on the gate and around the pathway leading you to the temple.

embalmed turtle inside the Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi - Vietnam

Inside the temple you will see two plastinated turtles. The first one has been on display since 1968. The second became its neighbor in 2016. They used to live in Hoan Kiem Lake. Both are Swinhoe softshell turtles, a critically endangered species. There are only two turtles left of this kind. A female that lives in China and one in Vietnam, its gender is unclear.

The turtles are huge and impressive to look at. Ideal subjects for a selfie.

Buy tickets for the Water Puppet Theatre show

The Water Puppet Theatre is a definite top thing to see for kids and can’t be left out of this list of 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids. Right next to the lake, on the other side of the Ngoc Son Temple, you’ll find the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

Water puppetry is a true Northern Vietnamese art form and Hanoi is the best place to see it. The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is known all over the country for having the best puppeteers. They stand behind a temple facade and move their wooden puppets through and over the water.

Water puppet theatre in Hanoi - Vietnam

The story is told via song, musicians and singers perform live, right next to the stage. And everything is beautifully lit.

A water puppet show lasts about 50 minutes and costs about 8 euros. Money very well spend!

Marvel at the size of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh is the President that is responsible for the independence of Vietnam and is seen as a hero in Vietnam. Under his reign the French, Japanese and Americans were defeated. He’s seen as a revolutionary leader and you can find his face on money, buildings and many pieces of art all over the country. They even renamed Saigon after him in 1967. It’s now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

The impressive Ho Chi Min Mausoleum in Hanoi - Vietnam

His final resting place is not in Ho Chi Minh City, but can be found in Hanoi. In the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This mausoleum was built at the exact same place where Ho Chi Minh read the declaration of independence in September 1945.

The mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh looks like a colossal cube and consists of marble from the Marble Mountain in Da Nang. Right in the heart of the cube you will see a glass coffin with the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh inside.

Checking out his body might not be an activity you want to do with young kids. But in any case you should definitely head out to this square and check out this impressive mausoleum. Even if it’s only from the outside.

If you do want to go in, then dress appropriately. Like when you visit a temple. Long sleeves and long shorts or dress. Open toe shoes are also not allowed, so don’t wear your flip flops,  wear decent shoes instead.

The Ho Chi Min Museum in Hanoi - Vietnam
10 things to do in Hanoi with kids - blog post

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Will you’re in the neighborhood, you should check out some other attractions. The Presidential Palace and the One Pillar Pagoda, for instance. Or the Ho Chi Minh Museum, also known as the Bao Tang Ho Chi Minh. This museum is dedicated to the life of the Vietnamese leader.

All these sites are grouped together around Ba Dinh Square.

Do you enjoy this list of the top 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids?

If so, read more about family travel in Vietnam

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The Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam
Inside the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam

Visit the Temple Of Literature

Next on this list of 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids is a cultural treasure: the Temple of Literature. Van Mieu in Vietnamese, is considered to be the birthplace of Vietnamese higher education. Founded about a thousand years ago. You can still see lots of Vietnamese students admiring the grounds. Or graduates taking group pictures in front of the beautiful buildings.

After entering the complex via the gorgeous gate you get to enjoy the nature around Van Lake. Then another gate brings you to the next courtyard. And another, and another. A total of four courtyards and equally as many gates eventually bring you to the Shrine Area.

The entrance gate at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi - Vietnam
Girls taking their class graduation pic at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam

When entering the courtyard in the Shrine Area, you’ll see the  Dai Bai Durong house and the Upper Shrine. The latter is a place to worship the masters of Confucianism. You’ll find an altar here in honor of Confucius, as well as beautiful thrones and ancient artifacts.

When visiting the Temple of Literature, know that there’s a dress code. Cover up knees and elbows and wear shoes that don’t show your toes.

Eat street food in the Backpacker District

Right on the edge of the Old Quarter, at the point where it meets Hoan Kiem Lake, you’ll find the Backpacker District. Here you’ll find fellow travelers meeting each other over food and drinks. A great place to share Vietnam travel tips with other travelers.

Backpacker street in Hanoi - Vietnam
Nightlife in the Old Quarter of Hanoi in Vietnam

The area around Beer Street is filled with bars, restaurants and street food carts. The name of this street might suggest that it’s highly inappropriate with kids, but that’s only partially so. From breakfast to about 4pm/5pm this is a great place to share stories with others about your Vietnam family vacation over breakfast and/or lunch. After that the first drunk tourists can be spotted and it’s time to go.

Sit down on the incredibly low, but quintessential for street life in Vietnam, plastic chairs and look around. Enjoy cheap and delicious Vietnamese dishes like a Banh Mi sandwich, Pho noodle soups and spring or summer rolls. After a meal here your family is all fueled up and ready to continue exploring Hanoi.

Buy souvenirs at the Hanoi Night Market

Visiting Hanoi Night Market - Vietnam
A toy store in the Old Quarter of Vietnam's Hanoi

The Hanoi Night Market is located right in the heart of the Old Quarter. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6pm to 11pm you can find this night market at a 3km long street from Hang Dao Street to the gate of Dong Xuan Market.

Thousands of stalls sell souvenirs, groceries, toys, crafts, art and of course street food. It’s a vibrant atmosphere and quite busy. But if your kids can handle the crowds and the late hours, don’t skip it.

On Saturday nights you can check out traditional performances on both ends of the market.

Join a food tour

Pho is a popular soup that you can get from street stalls in the Old Quarter of Hanoi in Vietnam

You probably already noticed from reading this article, but Hanoi is very much known for great food. Much like the rest of Vietnam. Food is extremely important in this culture. Warm dishes are eaten multiple times a day. You will spot locals eating hearty soups at 8am for breakfast.

You can book countless of food tours, from hours long experiences to 45 minute tours. The latter being more appropriate for smaller kids, since it’s not that long. Make sure to ask your local guide to add some child friendly places to the itinerary and it will be a great experience for all. What kid will turn down a fluffy pancake?

A woman making Bun Rieu in Backpackerstreet in Hanoi, Vietnam

Watch out for the train in Train Street

Last but not least on this top 10 things to do in Hanoi with kids is a visit to a very special street known as Train Street. Right in the middle of a narrow street with houses built on either side, you can spot a train track. This is not just for show. A train runs through it multiple times a day.

The railway runs from through the Old and the French Quarter and Train Street is one of the places it runs through. People sell food and groceries along the tracks and at the sound of the honk, they quickly pick up there stuff and move it away, so the train can pass.

Locals only

Until 2019 tourists could enter Train Street, but because the crowds kept growing the situation became dangerous and authorities closed the street for tourists. It’s still seen as a temporary measure, but in 2022 selfie spots were closed, so it’s probably not going to change soon.

Tourists enjoying a drink in Hanoi's famous Train street - Vietnam
Train passing through train street in Vietnam's Hanoi

So why should you still go? You can still wait for the train to pass Train Street at a few points along the track. Head on out to 5 Tran Phu Street or 222 Le Duan Street for the best views.

On weekends the train passes about 9 times a day. Check out the timetables at Hanoi Train Station to get specific times. Note that you should add about 10 to 20 minutes to your waiting time. They’re never on schedule.

The pictures I’ve added were taken in 2018 when we could still enter the street as tourists. Now only locals may enter.

That’s a wrap on the best 10 things to do in Hanoi with your family. If you want to check them all out in one visit, make sure you have at least 3 days here.

If you only have 2 days in Hanoi with kids, let me share the top 5 things to do in Hanoi with kids. Our 5 must sees when in this beautiful city.

5 things to do in Hanoi with kids

  • Get lost in the Old Quarter of Hanoi
  • Visit the Ngoc Son Temple and check out the view of Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Go to the Water Puppet Theatre show
  • Visit the Temple Of Literature
  • Eat street food in the Backpacker District
About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripVisit our travel shop!Become a member of my private family travel Facebook group


You might also like


About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripVisit our travel shop!Become a member of my private family travel Facebook group

Get my FREE eBook!

The Ultimate Beginners guide: Planning a Family Road Trip

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