All photography by Christian Berg
Begin at Hoan Kiem Lake, an attraction in itself, ringed with trees and home to a legendary tower. Head to St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Ly Quoc Su for a snapshot of local life: street side bustle, kids playing, and women selling fruits from bamboo baskets. The picturesque yellow villa at Hang Trong Gardens on the same street is worth a look, before you stroll on to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum — one of the best in the country.
Walk a block to Ba Trieu st. where you’ll find sidewalk cafes and stalls serving phở and cơm rang gà. Turn right on Nguyen Du street to reach the lovely Thien Quang Lake with rows of centuries-old trees, a quaint temple, and an old banyan tree.
Walk down and cross Tran Nhan Tong st. and enter Reunification Park. Hanoi’s largest green space is ringed with paved paths where locals love to exercise. Sip a coconut by the water, or pedal out in a swan boat. Exit on the eastern side of the park on Tue Tinh st. and make your way toward the ornate Hanoi Opera House.
Hanoi’s French Quarter is known for high-end stores and colonial-era architecture, a fascinating contrast from the crumbling and colourful buildings you passed earlier. Finish your stroll with a well-earned coffee on the terrace of the Metropole Hotel.
Start off at Café Pho Co, a hideaway in the Old Quarter, for some indulgent egg coffee. To find the cafe, look for a silk shop at 11 Hang Gai st. Walk past the textiles into the alley behind and you’ll find a courtyard serving egg coffee with views of the lake.
After your coffee, head down Hang Dao st. toward Dong Xuan Market. Turn right on Cau Dong, then turn left to a side street where wholesale spice and fruit vendors peddle an array of exotic goods. If you’d like to nab an ingredient to bring home, this is the place.
Next, make your way to historic Long Bien Bridge, following Hang Khoai st., Xuong Cau, and passing the Long Bien Train Station. This iconic iron bridge was Hanoi’s main supply lifeline during wartime. From the narrow sidewalk on the bridge, you’ll see urban agriculture and small homes clustered along the sides of the Red River.
Take the stairwell down to Banana Island. This picturesque patchwork of farmland and floating settlements is so tranquil, the chaos of the city seems a world away. To return to civilisation, go back the way you came, walking along the other side of the bridge for a different perspective.
Start your walk on Phung Hung st. Here there’s ample space to enjoy a leisurely walk. As the road curves, you’ll find immense mural paintings, depicting scenes from Hanoi’s past — a great spot to snap a photo.
Make a left on Hang Cot st., passing a small park, then find your feet on tree-lined Phan Dinh Phung, considered one of the most beautiful boulevards in the city. Stop at the Northern Gate of the Hanoi Citadel (still peppered with bullet holes from the war), and the yellow-hued Cua Bac Church across the road.
Continue down Phan Dinh Phung to Hung Vuong st. and right to Truc Bach Lake. Truc Bach is one of the most scenic corners of Hanoi, with plenty of interesting sights. Stop at the 11th century Quan Thanh Taoist temple before enjoying a walk down Thanh Nien St. with views of lakes on both sides.
Turn right onto Truc Bach st. and walk all the way to Ngu Xa and cross the bridge to the island. This is a famous foodie area, where you can feast on local favourites phở cuốn (fresh rice noodle rolls with grilled pork) and phở chiên phồng (fried rice noodle squares with rich gravy, beef and vegetables).
Walk it off on the way back to Phan Dinh Phung st. and the famous Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, or walk along leafy Nguyen Tri Phuong Boulevard, to see the ancient Citadel of Hanoi.