Where to stay in Hanoi First Time: Best areas & districts

In this blog post, I will help you to find Where to stay in Hanoi for the first time, the best areas/ districts to stay in Hanoi (with a map), best hotels for all budgets, and the safest places.

Hanoi, or Hà Nội in Vietnamese, is the capital city of Vietnam, located along the Red River Delta, North Vietnam. With more than 1000 years of history, it has a rich history and delicious traditional cuisine.

Where to stay in Hanoi for the first time?

The best areas to stay in Hanoi for tourists are Hanoi Old Quarter, West Lake (Tay Ho), Ba Dinh, Truc Bach, Hai Ba Trung, and Cau Giay. These areas offers wide range of accommodation options for all budgets and easy access to major tourist attractions.

Hanoi Old Quarter is the best overall base in Hanoi for first-time visitors. This area is the historic heart of the city where you can find major attractions such as Hoan Kiem Lake, Opera House, Dong Xuan Market, Ta Hien Street. You can easily explore plenty of things on foot.

If you are visiting Hanoi for the first time, I recommend spending at least 3 days exploring the city’s famous attractions and enjoying the Vietnamese food. From Hanoi, you can easily take day trips to the nearby areas such as Sapa, Ha Giang, Ninh Binh, and Ha Long Bay.

A tip: I recommend installing the Grab App on your phone. It is similar to Uber which will help you to order food, motorbike rides, or car rides without bargaining the prices. You can use it to book a car from the Noi Bai International airport.

Where did I stay in Hanoi?

When I first visited Hanoi, I stayed for 3 nights at the 4-star Hanoi Victor Gallery hotel & Spa. Centrally located in the Old Quarter, it is a great base for sightseeing and exploring the city. The hotel has paid airport shuttle services and my breakfast was lovely.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Hanoi Old Quarter
💎 Best luxury hotel:The Oriental Jade Hotel
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Imperial Hotel & Spa
💰 Best budget hotel:Mercury Central Hotel Hanoi

Map of areas and districts to stay in Hanoi:

Map of Best areas & districts  to stay in Hanoi
Map of Best areas & districts to stay in Hanoi

Is Hanoi Safe to visit? 

Hanoi is generally considered a safe city for travelers. However, like any other major city, pickpocketing and tourist scams can happen, so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take common-sense precautions. 

Be cautious of scams, particularly when dealing with street vendors, taxi drivers, or tour operators. Always agree on prices and services in advance, and consider using reputable tour companies or official taxis.

Hanoi’s traffic can be chaotic, with a high volume of motorbikes and few obeying traffic rules. Exercise caution when crossing streets and consider using pedestrian crossings when available.

The 6 Best areas to stay in Hanoi for tourists:

1. Hanoi Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem) – best overall area for first-timers

Hanoi Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem)

Hanoi Old Quarter is the best overall area to stay in Hanoi for first-time travelers because it is the historic heart of Hanoi. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of action, within walking distance to top attractions such as Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Opera House, Hoa Lo Prison Museum, and Dong Xuan Market, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

Located in Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi Old Quarter’s history dates back to the 11th century when King Ly Thai To moved the capital from Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh to Thang Long (Hanoi).

As a result, lots of skilled craftsmen come to live and work in the area, establishing a collection of villages each specialized in one particular craft, making the Old Quarter also known as 36 Old Streets.

There were many narrowed tube houses in the Nguyen dynasty to reduce the tax. During French colonial rule, French replaced old Vietnamese houses into French-style villas and houses. Nowaday, after heavily bombed in American war, there are still many landmarks with French architecture.

If you are visiting Hanoi for the first time, the Old Quarter can be overwhelming with motorbikes and crowds. You can take a cyclos tour or Hanoi Free Walking Tours to explore ancient streets, quaint alleys, and houses. 

The Old Quarter is very walkable. You can also easily explored by buses and taxis. I found that Grab bike is very afforable way to travel around the city!

Crossing the road in Hanoi can be challenge for first-time foreigners, but you can do it and it will be a memorial experience of your life!

At the heart of Hoan Kiem district is Hoan Kiem Lake. It is also known as Sword Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword) because this is the place where King Le Loi returned the magic sword that helped him win in the battle with Ming Dynasty of China.

The Hoan Kiem Lake’s area attracts lots of tourists and locals come to visit, relax, exercise, dance, and watch street performers. In and around the Hoan Kiem Lake, you will find:

  • The Temple of the Jade Mountain (Ngoc Son Temple), dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao who defeated the Mongolian invaders 3 times.
  • The Huc bridge, a beautiful red wooden bridge, leading to the Ngoc Son Temple.
  • The Turtle Tower, and the Thap But (Pen Tower) at the entrance of Ngoc Son temple.

You can watch the Vietnamese traditional water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater nearby. And head to the west side of the lake, visit the 19th-century gothic-style cathedral called St. Joseph’s Cathedral, or The Big Church, on Nhà Chung Street.

The Big Church was built by French colonists during their extension in Indochina. You can pose a photo in front of the cathedral, admire its interior of glass windows and high domes.

When visiting St. Joseph’s Cathedral, be sure to sit down on low plastic chairs around it and try street food, enjoy a cup of tra da, and admire the beauty of the church.

Nearby on the Ly Quoc Su Street, you can shop for Vietnamese gifts for your friends and families. There are many shops selling traditional Vietnamese handcraft, tea, coffee, and clothes.

To the south east of the Hoan Kiem lake is the Hanoi French Quarter, one of the most luxurious areas in the city, home of colonial buildings, embassies, government offices, 5-star hotels, and fine dining restaurants. You can also find Trang Tien Plaza, Vietnam National Museum of History, and Hanoi Opera House in Hanoi French Quarter.

Another must-see cultural attraction is Bach Ma Temple in Hang Buom Street. It was believed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi dating back to the 9th century. Built by King Ly Thai To,  to honor a white horse, that guided him to choose the site to construct city walls.

There are so many other cultural and historical attractions in the Old Quarter such as O Quan Chuong Gate, Ma May House, which is a UNESCO-protected heritage home, as well as Hoa Lo Prison.

The Long Bien Bridge crosses the Red River, and is also well worth a visit. Built by the French in Vietnam from 1899 to 1902, originally named after Paul Doumer, who was Governor-General of France in Indochina but renamed to Long Bien bridge in 1954 when the Vietnamese defeated the French in Dien Bien Phu.

Hanoi Old Quarter offers plenty of shopping opportunities. You can buy stones and jewelry in Hang Bac street, silk in Hang Gai street, toys in Hang Ma street, or traditional medicine in Lan Ong Street. There are also many handicrafts and souvenirs on Dong Xuan market, similar to Ben Thanh Market in Sai Gon.

The Weekend Night Market is also a must-see. It is a car-free, pedestrian area, so you can shop without worrying about the traffic. You can practice your bargain skills to buy t-shirts and souvenirs, try street food, or watch street performers.

The Old Quarter has some of the best restaurants to try traditional Vietnamese food. Apart from the famous banh mi and pho, you should try bun cha, bun thang, cha ca La Vong, and the famous ca phe trung or egg coffee that is made from robusta coffee, condensed milk, and egg yolk.

Old Quarter Hanoi has great nightlife with many restaurants, bars, and clubs to entertain you.   Ta Hien is a popular place for tourists and locals for beers and drinks. Bia Hoi Junction is the most famous beer corner in the Old Quarter. 

If you tired of sightseeing, shopping, dining, and nightlife, Hanoi Old Quarter has many massage shops and spas to relax and unwind. There are foot and body massages which cost only around 20 USD for 60 minutes.

Hanoi Old Quarter has all kinds of accommodation options for all budget travelers, ranging from budget backpacker hostels to 5-star luxury hotels. Hanoi Old Quarter is the best place to stay in Hanoi for backpackers due to its central location, and many hostels for budget travelers.

Best places to stay in Hanoi Old Quarter for first-timers:

2. West Lake (Tay Ho) – popular area for expat

West Lake (Tay Ho)

Tay Ho is the area around West Lake, a popular area for expat living. If you want a serene and tranquil atmosphere, away from the  hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter, Tay Ho is a great base to stay in Hanoi.

West Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in Vietnam. The area around the lake is home to luxury hotels, trendy & floating restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs.

The distance around the lake is more than 12 kilometers, a popular place for cycling. There are also swan boats for hire to pedal across the lake which is a perfect dating spot for couples. 

There are numerous cultural attractions around the lake. Tran Quoc pagoda is the oldest pagoda in Vietnam’s capital city, built during the reign of King Ly Nam De in the 6th century. Quan Thanh Temple is located in the corner of Thanh Nien Street and Quan Thanh Street. 

There are also many religious landmarks such as the Tao Sach Pagoda on Lac Long Quan street, Phu Tay Ho, Vong Thi Pagoda, Van Nien Pagoda, Thien Nien Pagoda.

The neighborhood has many the French-styled architecture building such as Chu Van An High School, built by the French colonial government in 1908. 

If you’re a flower enthusiast, check out the Quang Ba Night Flower Market that sells flowers from early morning to see colorful daisies, cherry blossoms, roses, orchids and sunflowers. It is busy during the Lunar Tet Festival. 

You can explore botanical gardens, lotus ponds, which is a popular photo shoot where women wear Vietnamese traditional costume Ao da to take photos with blooming national flowers in  May and June.

There are some of the best sunset and sunrises in Hanoi in the West lake. Many cafes and restaurants have roofs that offer great lake views.  

Pho Cuon is one of the most famous foods in the area. You can find a good selection of international restaurants in the streets running southwest off Xuan Dieu.

Unlike the dynamic night time of the Old Quarter, the nightlife in Tay Ho is more laid-back and relaxed. If you want to stay a little further from the tourist center, close to expats, Tay Ho is a great place to book your hotel.

Best places to stay in Hanoi in West Lake for first-time visitors:

3. Ba Dinh – where to stay in Hanoi for relaxation

Ba Dinh

Ba Dinh is the best area to stay in Hanoi if you want a relaxed vibe but still easy access to the major attractions. The district is the political heart of Hanoi, packed with historical sites and museums, as well as  embassies and government buildings.

Ba Dinh Square is where Ho Chi Minh declared independence for Vietnam on September 2, 1945. The district was formerly known as the French Quarter due to its high concentration of French-styled buildings in the area.

Within a 10-minute walk from Ba Dinh Square, you will see the Temple of Literature, or Van Mieu, on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. Originally built as an education center dedicated to the Chinese sage and scholar Confucius. 

The one pillar Pagoda is often used as a symbol for Hanoi. This historic buddhist temple was built from wood based on a single stone pillar, resembling a lotus blossom. 

In the middle of Ba Dinh square is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of President Ho Chi Minh. The opening time is varied depending on the season, so be sure to check before you go.

The entrance is free to Vietnamese, and about USD 1 for foreigners. Before enter the Mausoleum, be sure to wear clothes that covers your knees and shoulders.

Other places of interests are the Presidential Palace Hanoi, built by French architect Auguste Henri Vildieu in 1900; Vietnam Military History Museum Hanoi houses the wreckage of an American B-52 bomber and weapons from French and American wars.

If you want to take a break from sightseeing, check out Hanoi Botanical Garden, with lots of plants and flowers. Also known as Bach Thao Park, it  was built in the 1890s and became the lung of the city.

Outside the square is Le Hong Phong street, where you can find many foreign embassies, as well as some cafes, and restaurants along the street. Popular places to check out are Cong cafe and Pho Thin.

You can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. Built in 1011, when King Ly Thai To moved from Hoa Lu to Hanoi. To the south of the citadel is the Cot Co Flag Tower, one of the famous icons of Hanoi.

One of the most beautiful roads in Hanoi is located in Ba Dinh district called Phan Dinh Phung Street. It is lined with old Indochina Dragon Plum trees and the historical buildings.

Being centrally located, close to Hoan Kiem lake, Tay Ho district, and Truc Bach. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops in Ba Dinh district keeping you busy all day and night.

Food in Ba Dinh district is cheap and delicious. Some of the famous areas to dine are Doi Can street, Kim Ma Street, Giang Vo, and Thanh Cong.

The Ba Dinh area is home to numerous commercial centers, offering opportunities for shopping and entertainment. Lotte Tower is a great place to shop and dine. From its Observation floor, you can have a lovely city view. There are also shopping centers such as the Vincom Metropolis Lieu Giai and Vincom Nguyen Chi Thanh.

Locals get around on motorbikes or cars and, while there is only a public transport system such as bus, and motorcycle taxi.

Best places to stay in Hanoi in Ba Dinh for first-time tourists:

4. Hai Ba Trung – mix of tradition and modernity

Hai Ba Trung

Conveniently located close to the popular Hoan Kiem district, Hai Ba Trung is a mix of modern and traditional with many skyscrapers as well as traditional traits. 

Hai Ba Trung district was after the two Trung Sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, heroines of Vietnam. You will find traditional attractions such as the 12-century Hai Ba Trung temple, dedicated to the Trung sisters who governed Vietnam against Chinese war. 

Modern facilities such as Vincom Center Ba Trieu which is a shopping paradise in Hanoi. Or hear of Cho Hom Market, covering the junction of Pho Hue and Tran Xuan Soan Streets.

There are several green spaces in the Hai Ba Trung including Thong Nhat Park, or Lenin Park. Located next to Thien Quang Lake and Hanoi Circus, it is a great place to relax.

Being home to famous universities such as Hanoi University of Civil Engineering, Hanoi University of Science and Technology, and Hanoi National Economic University, Hai Ba Trung district is popular with students, and offers affordable food and drink. 

Best places to stay in Hai Ba Trung for first-timers:

5. Truc Bach – where to stay in Hanoi for families

Truc Bach

Truc Bach Lake is a section of Ba Dinh district. It was used to be a part of West Lake, but later separated from West Lake by Thanh Nien Street.

Truc Bach Lake is located northwest of the Old Quarter, within walking distance to famous attractions in Ba Dinh district such as Hanoi Botanical Garden and Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.

At the shore of Truc Bach Lake stands the American War Memorial, where John McCain was shot down on 26 October 1967 on a bombing mission over Hanoi.

Truc Bach is more of a residential area less tourist with a laid-back vibe. With its quiet, peaceful  atmosphere, centrally located between Old Quarter and Tay Ho, Truc Bach is one of the best places to stay in Hanoi for a family.

The neighborhood has beautiful cafes, teahouses, trendy bars, restaurants, and temples. You can visit Đền Thủy Trung Tiên which is a temple located on a tiny island on the lake, accessible via a bridge.

There are great pho cuon and pho chien gion at Phở Cuốn Hương Mai in 25 P. Ngũ Xã. You can take a look at State-Run Food Shop #37 (you can search Cửa Hàng Ăn Uống Mậu Dịch Số 37, Hà Nội in google map). This is a classic and unique food shop in Hanoi.

If you are traveling as a couple or group of friends, you can rent a swan pedalo pedaling around the lake. The swan boats are docked around Highlands Coffee.

To experience daily local markets, visit Chau Long Market in Truc Bach. This is a traditional covered market that sells local fresh food and vegs.

Best places to stay in in Hanoi in Truc Bach for first-time visitors:

6. Cau Giay – where to stay in Hanoi for a local atmosphere

Cau Giay

Located a bit further from tourist areas of Hanoi, Cau Giay is a great place to stay to experience local life. There are also some attractions that you can see in the neighborhood.

Visit Vietnam Museum of Ethnology to learn about the history and culture of 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam. You can see exhibitions in the Trong Dong building.

Nghia Do Park and Cau Giay Park are some of the green spaces in the areas that have playgrounds for kids, as well as track for walking and running.

Banh com lang vong, which is young glutinous rice, is a famous specialty here. Cau Giay is also home to several food streets such as To Hieu Street, Nghia Tan Street, and Ho Tung Mau Street.

For shopping, you have plenty of choices ranging from high-end shopping to budget student markets. Cho Nha Xanh Market and Xuan Thuy Clothing Street are favorite spots for locals, while Indochina Plaza Hanoi is a shopping complex that has dining options.

Cau Giay is home to numerous universities, so things here might be cheaper than in Ho Tay, Hoan Kiem, or Ba Dinh district. There are a wide range of accommodations in Cau Giay.

Best places to stay in Hanoi in Cau Giay for first-timers:

Where should I stay in Hanoi for the first time?

Hanoi Old Quarter, without doubt, is the best area to stay in Hanoi for first-times due to its close proximity to famous attractions such as Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Opera House, Hoa Lo Prison Museum, and Dong Xuan Market, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of action!

What are the best areas to stay in Hanoi?

Hanoi Old Quarter, West Lake (Tay Ho), Ba Dinh, Truc Bach, Hai Ba Trung, and Cau Giay are the best areas to stay in Hanoi because they are the most popular neighborhoods for tourists that offer a range of attractions and amenities.

How many days do I need in Hanoi?

It depends on your itinerary and personal preferences, but generally 2-4 days is enough to explore the city’s major attractions and experience its culture and cuisine.

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In conclusion, Hanoi Old Quarter, West Lake, Ba Dinh, Truc Bach, Hai Ba Trung, and Cau Giay are the best places to stay in Hanoi for tourists due to their popularity, safety, and wide range of tourist amenities such as hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Hanoi Old Quarter is the best central location and vibrant atmosphere, while West Lake is the best area to those looking for a tranquil and scenic setting. Ba Dinh is the best base for history enthusiasts, Truc Bach is best place for local life.

Overall, I recommend Hanoi Old Quarter as the best area to stay in Hanoi for first-time visitors due to prime location and a wide range of hotels, bars, and shops. If you stay here, you will be located in the heart of the city.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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