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Secret guide to Hanoi according to locals

Hanoi is a vibrant city to explore with something going on to suit all tastes. Check out our secret guide to Hanoi to get-off-the-beaten track and go where the locals go.

Work out like the locals do
According to Sarah Attaway on the Global Gallivanting blog, Hanoi locals love waking up early in the morning to get their daily fitness in before the weather gets too hot. One of the most popular places to go is Hoan Kiem Lake in the city centre near the Old Quarter. Go for a power walk or run around the lake, or join in with a Tai Chi class.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Island temple + local chess players
Those who joined the locals on their morning workout at Hoan Kiem Lake will spot a small island on the lake with a temple on it. Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain) can be accessed via a pretty red bridge, whose name is the totally charming ‘Welcoming Morning Sunlight Bridge’. Carolin from Breathing Travel highly recommends visiting this temple that is unlike any other temple in Vietnam. As well as an insight into Buddhist traditions, this is also a place to observe another local tradition – groups of friends playing chess in the temple pavilion.

Railway village
Hanoi’s railway village is actually a street that a railway line passes along, just a few metres from the front doors of residents who happen to live along the narrow road. According to Minh Nguyen on Maze Vietnam, the locals are so used to the railway passing in front of their faces, it’s not seen as a danger or annoyance. Catch a glimpse of the train or railway track on its 20km from Hanoi Railway Station out towards the suburbs. The narrowness of the street makes it easy to miss – but when you see it, it’s truly a vision like nothing else in the world.

Railway village in Hanoi

Bird café
Thao Mai from Maze Vietnam has discovered a magnificently unusual café in Hanoi. A small café by Thien Quang Lake in the city centre has become a morning meeting spot for bird lovers from across the city. They come to get their morning coffee and bring their birds along with them, creating a dawn chorus in the middle of the city!

bird café in hanoi

See a street transform from morning to night
American expat Sarah from the Global Gallivanting blog also recommends visiting Ta Hien Street in the Old Quarter. During the morning and early afternoon, it’s a quiet and unassuming street, with many Hanoians going about their daily business. Return again in the evening for a total surprise transformation, when the street is full of tiny plastic stools and locals celebrating the end of the working day with a beer!

See a street transform from morning to night

The real market experience
If you’re an early bird, or perhaps if you prefer to stay out late, visiting Long Bien Market between around 1am and 4am is a truly authentic Hanoi experience, according to Carolin from Breathing Travel. This fruit and vegetable market is absolutely thrumming at this time as vendors sell their freshest produce to restaurant owners and locals keen to buy the very best.

Long Bien Market

Experience the city like the locals do with these insider tips in our secret guide to Hanoi.
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