A holiday with a young child can be a hit or miss and my husband and I weren’t sure how a trip to Hanoi would work out with our six-year-old son in tow. As it turned out, there are many things to do in Hanoi which keep kids happy.
Here’s how we spent our days in Vietnam’s capital.
Things to do in Hanoi with Kids
Day 1: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Catching a show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is the highlight of a trip to Hanoi, say many who have gone before us. The traditional puppet show is definitely worth it, they add. Sure, but can my child sit through a cultural performance without fussing?
I needn’t have worried. The show was huge fun. Consisting of short skits starring fire-spurting dragons, whirling fairies and cute ducklings splashing on a stage of water, it had my child captivated. It helped that the show was a short and sweet 45 minutes.
Tickets sell out fast, especially front-row seats. So buy your tickets for Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre early.
Day 2: Morning: Exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter on foot
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a good place to base yourself in Hanoi, and our hotel there, Hanoi Chic Boutique Hotel, allowed us to step right into the action. It is a warren of streets lined with shops and businesses, each street specialising in a niche such as shoes, paper products or toys, which means plenty of shopping. It also means you get to see the locals go about their daily lives.
As we strolled down a street with people selling vegetables and freshly slaughtered chicken, my son spotted a Styrofoam box full of wriggling worms. To feed aquarium fish? No, to eat, stir fried with eggs. A delicacy there, apparently.
Vietnamese women also walked around carting baskets of oranges, bananas and star apples for sale. Eager for a taste of star apples, which have sweet milky juice and jelly-like flesh, we ended up squatting one corner bargaining over a bag of them.
Day 2: Afternoon: A ride on a cyclo
We also took a spin around the Old Quarter on a cyclo, those pedal-powered pedicabs. It was fun, and scary, at the same time because you sit right at the front of the cyclo, which thrusts you headlong into the madness of Hanoi’s traffic.
But my son loved it. And as we weaved in and out of the streets without a collision, we adults started to relax and enjoy gliding past hawkers grilling food on pavements, tourists squatting on tiny stools drinking beer and women selling bunches of helium-filled balloons.
Day 3: Hanoi’s Toy Street
It must have felt like Christmas come early for my son when we hit Toy Street, or Luong Van Can Street, to use its proper name. An entire lane of toy shops in the Old Quarter, it offers anything from dolls to electronic gadgets to plastic construction bricks.
It does take an extraordinary amount of patience to visit Toy Street with a child – we could barely get the boy to leave. But a happy child makes for a good trip for everyone. And what price happiness?
Hint: Put a time limit here so that you won’t spend your entire holiday at the street.
Day 4: Cafe hopping
Hanoi is no slouch when it comes to the cafe scene, and today, we hopped from one cafe to another, sampling what they had to offer.
There was Cafe Nola, for one, which had a cute rooftop garden with a fun display of colourful umbrellas, delighting my son, who spent time running around and under them.
We also visited the iconic Ca Phe Pho Co, spread over the third and fourth floors of an old Vietnamese house with a view of Hanoi’s famous Hoan Kiem Lake. It is known for its egg coffee – coffee topped with an egg whisked till it’s foamy.
The little ones can go for the egg cocoa, which comes topped with an egg foam like the one on the coffee. It is not strictly a children’s drink of course – I stole sips from my son’s cup when he was not looking. But let that remain a secret between you and I.
Best Time to Visit Hanoi
Best time to visit Hanoi
September to November (autumn) and March and April (spring) are good because those months experience moderate temperatures that range between 15 deg C and 25 deg C.
Where to Stay
Singapore nationals visiting Vietnam for a period of up to 30 days do not require a visa.