Hanoi Holidays: 48 Hours In Hanoi With Kids And The Elderly
Have you considered taking a Hanoi holiday with your family?
This is an opportune time to explore the Vietnamese capital—it was a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice pick for 2018, and recently, it was named one of the “best places to visit in Asia” by U.S. News Travel.
The reason? Well, Hanoi is the ideal gateway for first-time Vietnam visitors, as it “offers plenty in the way of history, culture, shopping, dining, and natural splendour.” In short, all the elements necessary for the perfect family getaway.
Let our Pan Pacific Hanoi team show you the best things to do in Hanoi in 48 hours, while accommodating the needs of little ones and elderly travel companions.
Fun Things To Do In Hanoi With Kids
Spend a day at what some call Hanoi’s greatest asset—the Old Quarter, which also goes by the name of “36 Streets.” Intriguingly, there are actually more than 36 streets in this area. This nickname may have originated in the 15th century, when the Old Quarter consisted of 36 major workshop areas, each plying a different trade. (View a list of the 36 street names and their trades here—it is a list that you can refer to when visiting the streets with your children.)
Despite the tides of change, some of the Old Quarter streets today still live up to their name. An example is Hang Dao—which means “flower” or “beautiful woman,” not to be confused with “Hang Dau”—a popular street for clothes shopping.
But the street that may delight your children most is not a trading street. Instead, it is a residential street known as Ngo 224 Le Duan, with one unusual feature—a railway track running through the street which is very much in operation.
“The homes of these Vietnamese are extremely near the train track. As soon as they step foot out of their main doors, they will be greeted by a pavement and then the train track,” says a traveller and parent blogger who visited the “train street” this year with her young children. “This pavement is not only for walking, you will find residents hanging their laundry, washing dishes, and it is even a pavement for motorbikes!”
A train usually runs through this street at 3:30pm and 7:30pm daily. (To be sure, check train timings with the tourist information centre at 28 Hang Dau street. The tourist centre is also the starting point for free walking tours of the Old Quarter.)
Although the “train street” is a choice spot for priceless Hanoi photos, safety should always be your first consideration.
“I recommend getting there early but make sure that you are in a safe spot for when the train passes, advises another recent visitor. “The train isn’t likely to stop if you are caught in the middle of the track when it passes. Getting a cool photo isn’t worth the chance of death.”
Your kids will also love the Old Quarter’s unofficial “toy street,” or Luong Van Trang street. This street is essentially a child’s dream come true, as it is jam-packed with stores (and stalls) stocking traditional and modern toys. Many of the toys are imitation goods, which offer the prospect of a great bargain, or good browsing entertainment at the very least.
Another traditional Vietnamese toy to look out for is the charming to he, or figurines made from glutinous rice powder.
During major festivals such as the mid-autumn festival, artisans may hold workshops in the Old Quarter, to teach participants to make traditional Vietnamese toys such as to he, star lanterns, paper kites, and more. Such workshops would be enriching experiences for the whole family, so join in if you can.
For lunch or dinner in the area, the must-visit establishment is Bun Cha Huong Lien, where the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain met with former US president Barack Obama for a much-publicised meal of bun cha (Vietnamese grilled pork noodles). The busy eatery may not fit the standard definition of “child-friendly,” but the cultural experience will certainly be worthwhile.
“This two-storey restaurant may overwhelm at first with its frantic atmosphere, its overall messy state, and the unceremonious way the servers point you to an empty table and take your order,” warns Paste Magazine. “But once you settle into that large bowl of grilled pork belly and ground pork patties mixed with light rice noodles, fresh herbs, and pickled papaya in mouthwatering broth, with crab egg rolls and Hanoi beer on the side, you’ll stop caring about anything else.”
Another fun-filled way to explore the Old Quarter is through a kid-friendly food tour. Withlocals has a highly rated family tour that you can personalise to your needs. The tour includes the chance to try kid-friendly foods such as Bánh mì (a Vietnamese sandwich), along with Vietnamese desserts (such as donuts) and ice cream.
Interesting Things To Do In Hanoi For The Elderly
To cover Hanoi attractions with elderly family members—the hassle-free way—look for a tour of the city’s most prominent sights, with limited physical activity involved if your loved ones prefer to take it slow.
Urban Adventures takes the planning duties off your hands by providing detailed tour itineraries for your consideration, complete with the helpful ranking of tours for “physicality” and “culture shock.” Their Hanoi Highlights tour is a gentle introduction to the city that should suit most elderly travellers.
The tour begins with a visit to the lush grounds of the Temple of Literature, built in 1070 in honour of Confucius. This is also the site of the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first university. Although the Imperial Academy ceased operations in 1779, Vietnamese students today continue to visit the temple to petition for good grades, celebrate graduations, and attend cultural events.
Another tour highlight is the Hoa Lo prison, better known as the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War (1954–1975). A prominent ex-prisoner at this prison was US senator John McCain, who sadly passed away in August this year after a battle with brain cancer.
Those interested in paying tribute to the late senator can also visit the John McCain monument near Truc Bac Lake, into which McCain had parachuted, wounded, after his plane was shot down by the North Vietnamese military in 1967. Read more about McCain’s Hanoi connection here.
If you think your elderly family members would enjoy interactions with young locals, you can book a full-day or half-day tour with Hanoi Kids. (There are several tour options available.) Apart from covering your own expenses for transport, meals, and entrance fees, the tour itself is free, as it is run by volunteer student guides who are keen to meet travellers and improve their English at the same time.
For a bonding and learning experience that the entire family can enjoy, sign up for a cooking workshop with a local chef or cooking enthusiast. There are numerous options for Hanoi listed on Cookly, an international portal for cooking events. Some workshops are purely focused on cooking and presentation, while others have a cultural exchange element. You can also choose a workshop that includes a market or farm visit, as well as a chance to ride on a cyclo (three-wheel bicycle taxi).
For travellers with mobility issues, check out this Vietnamese resource site that lists accessibility information for major attractions in the country. Unfortunately, the site’s English section is not fully functional. However, the Vietnamese section of the site does include some information in English. With the help of Google Translate, you can view location photos and accessibility charts for popular attractions to assess if a visit would be feasible. Listed attractions include the Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo prison, Hoan Kiem Lake, Duong Lam Ancient Village, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Alternatively, contact the Hanoi tourist information centre at 0941 336 677 for assistance—the staff are said to be proficient in English, French, Chinese, and Korean.
Where To Stay In Hanoi: Pan Pacific Hanoi
With great views of Hanoi’s picturesque West Lake, Pan Pacific Hanoi is an oasis of calm in a bustling city. Be it for a short or extended stay, our five-star rooms and serviced suites offer you and your family comfort and convenience. Whether you require babysitting services, limousine arrangements, or flight confirmations, enjoy all-encompassing hospitality during your stay.
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