There are two sides to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. There’s a metropolis that offers swanky living, trendy restaurants and bustling nightlife venues, and on the other side of Vietnam’s cultural and political capital are well-preserved colonial buildings, ancient pagodas, and unique museums. (There’s also the chaos, noise, traffic jams and air pollution that you’ll find in any Vietnamese city, but somehow that just adds to its charm.)
Located in the north, this hugely likeable Vietnamese capital has a population of just over seven million people spread across 12 urban districts and 17 rural districts. It’s the second largest city in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City is the largest), and both a leading tourist destination and a growing expat address. With a history spanning more than 1,000 years, Hanoi has many well-preserved temples, citadels and pagodas. It is also a developing city with a constantly-changing skyline of skyscrapers, malls and hotels.
There’s a wealth of contrasts in this former French city, from the old districts of Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Hai Ba Trung and Dong Da to the newer Western districts of Cau Giay, Thanh Xuan, Ha Dong and Nam Tu Liem. The most well-known districts in Hanoi are Ba Dinh district (aka the French Quarter), which is the centre for government offices, and Hoan Kiem district (aka the Old Quarter) which is the city’s business hub and a major tourist destination.
Attractions include the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Imperial Citadel of Thang Long; Hoan Kiem Lake (Turtle Lake), which is a popular hangout with locals and tourists; the vast Dong Xuan Market in a four-storey Soviet-style building; and the elegant Hanoi Opera House in the French Quarter.
In recent years, Hanoi has become popular with expats from all corners of the world. And, with the lure of a mild climate, low cost of living, a wide choice of international schools, exotic food and stunning natural scenery, you can see the attraction. Expat families tend to settle in colonial neighbourhoods with Western influence, such as the Hoan Kiem and Tay Ho districts where you can live in grand villas with French-inspired architecture and manicured gardens.