You might have heard that most businesses close during Tet in Hanoi, and that you won’t find a place to enjoy a slow dinner over the grill, let alone the charms of the city. But take it from a local, don’t worry! This thousand-year-old capital can show you a traditional Tet in Vietnam if you happen to be visiting during this special time. In this article, walk with me across Hanoi before, during, and after Tet Nguyen Dan, so you know how to take advantage of this special holiday!
What to do Before Tet
Don’t visit Hanoi without a camera unless you are a genius sketch artist, since half a month before Tet, Hanoi has been busy with all its preparation activities. Pay a visit to these places if you wish to see Hanoi in all its Tet glory:
Nhat Tan Flower Garden
I am sure you know that Christmas trees exist, but did you know that there are Tet trees too? For so long, the blossoming peach tree has been the symbol of Tet in the North, particularly of Hanoi. Nhat Tan Flower Garden was once a peach garden, but now it has been enhanced into a multi-flower paradise. Walk in between the radiant velvet trees planted neatly in line, breathing the breezy charm of Hanoi’s late winter. Watch people happily enjoying nature after a busy year, and you will feel at peace!
You should visit this place one to two weeks before Tet (January 20th– January 29th in 2019) to avoid the crowd disturbing your photography.
Hang Ma Street – Old Quarter
Months before Tet, Hang Ma Street changes into its radiantly colorful dress. Not only will you find places for photography, but you will want to purchase the beautiful ornaments, red lanterns, and decorations for Tet.
Look for an Ao Dai. This traditional dress will allow you to blend in perfectly with the holiday landscape.
Visiting Markets to Enjoy the Colorful Tet Atmosphere
Walk through Hanoi under its spring drizzle. Radiant smiles of the locals and the pinky blossoming peach flowers will light up the breeze.
The best part of Tet is the air of eagerness in the markets. It brings to mind the first Farmer’s markets of the year in other parts of the world, a time to forget about the worries of everyday life and simply enjoy the unique foods and gifts. Hanoi Tet Market is memorable with its decorative items overflowing on shelves, with its Vietnamese foods: jams (coconut, ginger, sweet potato, peach, and more), candies, red water lemon seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, salted eastern onions, salted vegetables, Banh Chung (green sticky rice cake), Banh Giay (white sticky rice cake), Vietnamese sausages, among so much more.
Vendors can arrange these sweets nicely into a Tet box and many other stalls are ready to serve you during the 3 days of Tet. This scenery is the dream of any Hanoian living away from home!
Several markets you should drop by:
- Dong Xuan Market – The Old Quarter, Hanoi.
- Quang Ba Flower Market (most crowded at night: 11:00 PM – dawn) – Au Co Street, Nhat Tan Ward, Tay Ho district, Hanoi.
- Hang Luoc Flower Market – Hang Luoc Street, The Old Quarter, Hanoi
Prepare for the Fireworks
The dazzling fireworks will take place at 30 sites across Hanoi but you should visit one of these five locations for the best sight-seeing of the fireworks: Hoan Kiem Lake, Thong Nhat Park, Lac Long Quan flower garden, Van Quan Lake, and My Dinh National Stadium.
If you want to avoid the crowds, settle early into a nearby, café with a beautiful view.
What to do During Tet
Most local businesses are closed during Tet, until February 12th, that’s right! Since Tet is when the Vietnamese gather around the family table, you may find that some open businesses charge a little more to compensate for their employees.
There exists a traditional Vietnamese quote: First day for Father’s side, Second day for Mother’s side, Third day for Teachers. This idiom highlights one tradition of the Vietnamese, which emphasizes the family bond and gratitude. These days, you won’t see people following this tradition anymore, as most visiting activities are done in the first day, or the days leading up to Tet. The second and third days are more for traveling, visiting pagodas, and hanging out with friends. For your first day of Tet, walk around the town to enjoy the early chill of a new year in Vietnam. Some businesses resume their work on the second day. Below is the opening schedule of highly recommended services during Tet. You won’t be abandoned among the maze of the capital!
You can visit these three shopping mall chains during Tet. On the first day, they close until 12:00 PM, then they will resume work like usual.
- Lotte Mart Hanoi – Lotte Center Hanoi, 54 Lieu Giai Street, Cong Vi Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
- Lotte Mart Hanoi – Mipec Building, 229 Tay Son Street, Nga Tu So Ward, Dong Da District, Hanoi.
- AEON Mall Long Bien – 27 Co Linh Street, Long Bien Ward, Long Bien District, Hanoi.
- CGV | Website: https://www.cgv.vn/en/cinox/site/ | Open during Tet
- Galaxy Long Bien | Website: https://www.galaxycine.vn/en/lich-chieu | Open during Tet
- BHD Pham Ngoc Thach | Website: http://www.bhdstar.vn/en/ |Off from Feb 4th until 12pm Feb 6th
- One Pillar Pagoda: You can combine visiting this 1000-year-old pagoda with your visit to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Opening Time: 6AM – 6PM daily (During Tet)
Address: Ba Dinh district, Hanoi
- Tran Quoc Pagoda: the oldest temple of Hanoi
Opening Time: 7:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM – 6:30 PM daily (During Tet)
Address: Thanh Nien Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
- Temple of Literature: 10 minutes away from Hoan Kiem Lake, the temple remains its unique architectural style over 10 centuries. It is to honor high-rank scholars who had great contributions for the country.
Opening Time: 8AM – 6PM daily (During Tet)
Address: Ho Giam, Dong Da District, Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Opening time: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM, off Mon and Fri (During Tet)
Address: Hung Vuong Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Restaurants Open During Tet:
Quan An Ngon
Modeled after a French villa, this restaurant is enchanting and elegant. You will have a chance to try food from many regions of Vietnam. Fried rice cake is one delicious specialty of this restaurant.
Address: 34 Phan Dinh Phung, Quan Thanh Ward, Ba Dinh District
Opening time: 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Closes for 4 days: February 4th — 7th 2019
This space is a beautiful combination of classic and modern atmosphere. At Ngon Pho, you can look for Goby hotpot, fried cuttlefish, roasted crab, fried rice cake, and more.
Address: Level 3 – AEON Mall, Long Bien, 27 Co Linh, Long Bien district
Opening time: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM during Tet
Closes: from 12 PM – February 4th, 2019 to 12 PM – February 5th, 2019
Tropical botanic architecture is what you can find here with a peaceful and elegant atmosphere. The menu changes according to the season. You can try salad, spaghetti, fettucine, salmon, trout, and other Western dishes.
Address: 09 Nguyen Khac Chan, Tang Tien Ward, Hoan Kiem district
Opening time: 6:30 AM – 10:30 PM (During Tet)
Avalon Café and Lounge
Spacy and luxurious, this restaurant’s façade faces Dinh Tien Hoang street – a big street of the Old Quarter. The restaurant offers a broad view of the legendary Hoan Kiem Lake. The other side faces the Old Quarter. Thus, it’s perfect for a peaceful evening! Try these dishes on its Western menu: pumpkin soup and roasted turkey.
Address: 73 Cau Go, Hoan Kiem District
Opening time:7:00 AM – 11:00 PM (During Tet)
Gau Coffee & Backery
Treat yourself with heavenly fresh oven baked goods and a cup of coffee with selected beans from “Gấu Coffee & Bakery”. You can spend time talking with the barista on the first floor or watching the street on the second floor balcony.
Address: 33 Hang Be, Hoan Kiem District
Opening time: 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM (During Tet)
Enjoy Hai Ba Trung Festival (February 2nd – February 6th)
This festival exists to worship the two first Queens of Vietnam, Madam Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who stood up for the very first rebellion against the North’s first domination over Vietnam (known as Namyuen back then) in 40 AD.
The two sisters grew up in Me Linh district, hence they practiced the art of warfare and fighting skills since a very young. They also held a resentment for the North because they had to witness the suffering of their people. Madam Trung Trac married Sir Thi Sach, who later fought against the North’s policy of cultural assimilation, but was consequently executed. His death was like a drop into the full glass of Madam Trung’s anger. In 40 AD, the two sisters led a rebellion, gained control of over 65 citadels from the Han Dynasty (ruler of China then), thereby making themselves queens. Sadly, in 43 AD, after being significantly outnumbered by the invader’s army, the queens lost their capital, and committed suicide in the Hat River.
Almost two millenniums have passed yet people still recall this story with admiration. The queens’ passion for their country is now a lesson for younger generations on the love they should show toward their people and their nation.
In the year 2019, this festival falls between February 6th to 8th, right during Tet Nguyen Dan (while in most other years, it takes place after) in Dong Nhan temple (built in 1142). The festival includes solemn ceremonies, followed by entertaining performances which replay the heroic atmosphere of a defective war 2,000 years ago.
What to do After Tet
Partake in Dong Da Festival (February 20, 2019)
Every year, in the early morning of February 20, this festival starts at Khuong Thuong communal house. At 12 PM, a procession starts from Khuong Thuong and ends at Dong Da Hill. This hill, two centuries ago, saw the victory of the legendary army led by King Quang Trung against the Qing dynasty. If you attend this national festival, you will witness how leaders of the Party and State preside over the ceremony.
Co Loa Festival (February 21st – March 3rd, 2018)
Co Loa Citadel was built by King An Duong (An Duong Vuong) in the third century BC. The citadel whispers a magic, tearful love story between Princess My Chau (daughter of King An Duong) and Prince Trong Thuy (son of King Trieu Da, who later took over the throne from King An Duong). Co Loa citadel belongs to Hanoi’s Dong Anh District today.
The festival starts with a solemn procession to Upper Temple (Den Thuong). There, the elderly practice the thurify ceremony (incense stick ceremony) to honor King An Duong. After the thurify, many traditional entertaining activities take place, such as bamboo swing (danh du), game of throwing a sacred ball through the ring (nem con), rice cooking competition, and singing traditional folk music.
Attending Huong Pagoda Festival (From 11th February – April 11th, 2019)
Huong Tich Mountain is home to a remarkable complex of Buddhist temples and shrines. Each shrine is a different age, some date back to the 15th century. It is located 62 kilometers to the Southeast of Hanoi. Every year after Tet, millions of visitors drop by for a bit of peace in the New Year with Mother Nature and the lovely scent of incense sticks hovering like a cloud. People say that thousands of years ago there was a princess, named Dieu Thien, who left all her treasures to become a nun and to make Huong Tich mountain her sanctuary. After years of practicing, she gained an exceptional insight into life, became a Bodhisattva, and greatly supported people living in the area.
Many refer to this special trip visiting Huong Pagoda as a pilgrimage. After a year full of happiness and suffering, people gather together, crossing natural challenges such as rocky trails, lengthy rivers, climbing up mossy cliffs, to finally reach the spiritual sites. There will be thurify ceremony, sailing activities, and more. Prepare yourself since the crowd is dense at this time! To enhance the value of your trip, you may want to build a knowledge base of Buddhist concepts. I recommend looking for teachings on compassion and meditation, which are basics of Buddha’s teaching, also beneficial for your daily life.
Visit Hanoi’s Main Attractions:
Most attractions in Hanoi close starting the day before Tet and will open on 12th of February. Let’s check out this beloved article for a typical day in Hanoi: How to make the most of two days in Hanoi.
Enjoy a Delicious Meal at Restaurants Open on February 12th:
- Mi Ga Tan | 49 Hang Bo, Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem district
- Anh Vu Fishcake | 116-K1 Giang Vo, Cho Dua ward, Dong Da district
- Bun cha Huong Lien | 24 Le Van Huu, Phan Chu Trinh ward, Hai Ba Trung district
- Binh Chung Bun cha | 88 Le Van Huu, Hai Ba Trung district
- Bun Dau Mam Tom Hang Khay | 27/31 Hang Khay, Trang Tien district
How about starting a new year with yummy veggie dishes? You should find these in Hanoi:
- Uu Dam Chay – elegantly meditative space and high-quality dishes (34 Hang Bai, Hoan Kiem district)
- Bo De Tam – a beautiful combination between art of tea, meditation, and veggies (68 Pham Huy Thong, Ba Dinh district)
- Homefood – serves organic vegetarian dishes (19 Truc Ke, Dong Da district)
- The Hanoi Social Club – serves Western dishes with Vietnamese ingredients, many of them are interesting fruit salads (6 ngo Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem district)
- Dakshin Restaurant – serves Indian veggie food (94 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem district)
- Sala Restaurant – serves dishes with the motto “delicious, nutritious, inexpensive” (170 Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh district)
Cafés/ Clubs/ Bars:
- Café Giang – Egg Coffee (39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem district)
If you want to try the most famous egg coffee of Hanoi, come here on the 12th of February.
Opening time: 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Closes for 6 days: February 4th – 12th, 2019
- Maison Marou Hanoi (91A Tho Nhuom, Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem district)
Known as one of the most world famous chocolate brands, Marou Chocolate will surely prove how enchanting Vietnamese Chocolate can be! I particularly like their Hot Choco Mint drink. The brand has its restaurant in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city.
Opening Time: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Closes for 6 days: February 4th – 12th, 2019
3.The Rooftop Hanoi (Level 19 – Pacific Building, 83B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem district)
A European luxurious standard and a view over Hanoi from above are what await!
Opening time: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM for the restaurant and 9:30 PM until late for the bar
Closes for 5 days: February 4th – 12th, 2019
There you go! Most buses remain in operation during Tet, however with higher fees. Make sure that you have planned your transportation in and out Hanoi ahead of time, since the traffic will be crazy when it gets closer to Tet! Grab and Uber services during these days will also be less, therefore, walking or renting a bike yourself is recommended. For a comprehensive Hanoi airport guide, click here. If you want to know more about what the North has to offer check this article out here. I hope you enjoy our Eastern New year to its fullest!
A perfect Tet itinerary made just for you!
We’ve gone through all the trouble and mapped out how you can spend your days while visiting Hanoi during Tet. Just follow the itinerary, and you’ll have a great time in the city and experience it like you should.
This itinerary has three options of travel styles for each day, and activities will change depending on the type of travel you prefer, whether you’re adventurous or looking for a more laid-back relaxing time. We hope you enjoy our city. Don’t hesitate to contact [email protected] if you wish to edit your own schedule. She will help you personalize it.
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like some more fun info about what to see, do and eat (and a bunch of interesting cafes!) in Vietnam, follow us at the Christina’s blog!