Start with a buzz by delving into the hubbub of Hang Be market, one of the Old Quarter’s vibrant local wet markets. Wet means fresh, so expect picture-perfect mountains of vegetables, a rainbow of tropical fruits for you to sample, and fish that couldn’t be fresher (because it’s still alive and kicking).
You’ve seen where it’s bought, now you’ll see how it tastes! Dive into an alley and settle down to some bun ca and ca cuon (noodles with fried fish and fried fish cakes) served with or without soup and with plenty of vegetables. Then sample some of the local brew with a refreshing glass of cold street beer before a tour of the fabled craft streets. Once you’ve made room, time for some more noodles (bun means noodles) with a visit to one of the Old Quarter’s most famous food streets. Take your pick from chicken noodle soup, crab spring rolls, or even snails. Then finish with a traditional Vietnamese coffee and some local sweets for dessert.
In many ways, women are the unsung heroes of Vietnam’s story, which is why the superb Vietnamese Women’s Museum is an essential visit while in Hanoi. Explore the role of women in the war effort, the colorful reflections of Vietnam’s ethnic diversity, and you may even catch a temporary exhibition from a woman artist. Then explore one of the Old Quarter’s most picturesque houses, with tiled flooring, ancient wooden beams, and antique furniture.
Finish the day with a water puppet show, an ancient Red River Delta art that has existed for centuries. Watch as the puppets seemingly dance on the water to a soundtrack of traditional Vietnamese music, from royal chamber music to countryside tunes.