Hanoi is set to a frenetic pace, although there are still pockets of calm to be found. Lakeside strolls, for instance, will lead you over arched wooden bridges to peaceful pagodas from where you can watch the morning Tai Chi. Seek out faded French-era frontages, jazz bars and coffee shops alongside markets and street food stalls. Follow in the footsteps of Charlie Chaplin with a night at the opera, or just chuckle at the spontaneous slapstick of tourists attempting to cross the road! However you spend it, make sure you give Hanoi, and yourself, enough time to unwind.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Hanoi's historic Old Quarter is where you'll really fall in love with Vietnam, as long as you keep your wits close at hand. Crossing the narrow, scooter-filled streets is an art form in itself, so watch how the locals do it before learning to go with the flow. After proudly congratulating yourself on making it to the other side, you'll find tight-knit shop houses and interesting street signs, as well as the sanctity of Hoan Kiem Lake. This oasis of calm has long been the antithesis to Hanoi's hectic nature, and as you tiptoe past the Tai Chi practitioners and observe the respectful reverence around Ngoc Son Temple, you'll begin to understand why.
There are literally no excuses not to eat your way around Hanoi. Several streets promise an ever-present swirl of steam and smoke, so pull up a plastic pew and tuck into a bowl of pho bo or bun cha before breaking out a banh mi ‘to go’ as you continue to browse with all your senses. Hanoi's indoor and outdoor markets offer an altogether more organised approach to eating (sort of); if you're looking to make the most of every single mouth-watering minute, the night market in the Old Quarter is the best place to slurp, crunch and snack your way to enlightenment.
Even if you're not partial to the earthy taste of Vietnamese coffee, the smell of freshly ground beans (accompanied by eggs and fresh-baked baguette, of course) is the only way to start the day. Often travellers will fly into Hanoi but won't allow time to relax and recover, so let yourself savour the moment before breaking out into the streets. There's a lot to learn in the capital. History stretches from the One Pillar Temple and Confucian Temple of Literature, to the famous former guests of the Hotel Metropole and nearby Hanoi Opera House. Life in Hanoi can be incredibly fast; slow it down and explore at your own pace so it doesn't pass you by.