I come from a little town in the Netherlands, where you can just go for a walk in nature, head out for a picnic, or go canoeing. It’s just a little different to a big bustling city in Asia. I’m just clueless, to be honest. We could perhaps go to the cinema, or to a fancy restaurant? But that’s not exactly what I’m looking for in a romantic date. Here’s my list of inexpensive yet romantic things to do in Hanoi.
1. Long Bien Bridge at Sunset
The old bridge spanning the Red River is perfect for watching the sun set over Hanoi. Make sure you walk on the west side, though. This date is so perfect and effortless. Everybody loves sunsets.
In the evening, street vendors set up shop on sections of the bridge, selling drinks and nibbles to people enjoying the evening. They have an icebox and a few chairs and it’s great to have a cheap drink on the bridge’s walkway. Sip on a Vietnamese iced tea (tra da) while watching the river flow underneath and the sun shed its last light over Hanoi in the distance.
2. Kite Flying
What’s more romantic than flying a kite together? Running around while having fun and enjoying the weather. First you need a kite. Just wander around the streets of the Old Quarter until you find a street or a shop where they sell kites. Buy the most beautiful and extraordinary one you can find for your little adventure.
Then all you need is an open, windy spot. West Lake (Ho Tay) fits the bill perfectly. As the largest lake in the city it’s ideal for a great kite flying date. Keep in mind the direction of the wind, though, so the kite stays over the lake instead of landing in a tree. Ho Bay Mau Lake in Hai Ba Trung district is also a good kite flying spot.
We bought a kite for VND60,000 somewhere in the Old Quarter. Be sure to check if it comes with enough string. We bought one kite that only had a metre and then had to search for a shop that sold string.
3. Swan Boats
Probably one of the most obvious dates to go on while in Hanoi. All around the country you can take a paddle (or a pedal) on a swan. It’s almost an iconic symbol of Vietnam. Where there are lakes, there are swan boats. Alone on the lake, just the two of you, enjoying the view. Drifting on the water and letting the wind take you further out. And then heading back to land, hoping the steering wheel still works and that the wind isn’t too strong.
As a date it has pretty much everything: privacy, a pretty view, and something to do. Not for nothing do loads of young Vietnamese couples enjoy this date, especially the privacy it provides. You can rent a swan on pretty much every lake in Hanoi, except for Hoan Kiem. The cost depends on the lake, but is generally around VND80,000 for an hour.
4. Breakfast by West Lake
My personal favourite. So simple and yet so nice. We often buy drinks and a sandwich at a deli in the West Lake area. You can also grab a Banh my at one of the stands along the road. Or some bo bia, which are ubiquitous along Thanh Nien Road, which separates West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. It’s a delicious snack, sort of a coconut wrap with sweet, crispy sticks and sesame seeds. And it’s more than delicious: it’s sweet and crunchy and fresh. And cheap, at just VND5,000 or, sometimes, VND10,000 each.
Once you’ve got your food and drinks simply head to the shores of West Lake, find a spot, and enjoy.
This one is a little different. There’s a place in Hanoi where you can go on a little adventure, in the form of a mystery. Basically, you get locked in a room for an hour and you must solve the mystery in the room to get to the next room. If you don’t solve the mystery within an hour you lose. For those of us who like puzzles, riddles and secrets, it’s an excellent date to go on. You can choose between different rooms with different difficulties, from normal to hard: Inception, Curse of the Pharaohs, and Saw. We decided to go for Curse of the Pharaohs. We thought we could handle the second difficulty. Unfortunately we couldn’t, but we had so much fun it didn’t matter.
Locked is only available for 4--9 people at a time, so is best on a double date. It costs around VND150,000 and you have to book online, at www.locked.vn/en.
6. Red River Picnic
Huge grass fields and flower gardens along the river
In the north of Hanoi is an amazing place called Bai Da Song Hong. It’s a huge garden. It almost doesn’t feel like Hanoi anymore. It feels like you’re somewhere in the countryside. There are places to sit underneath trees or in a little hut to take shelter from the sun. It’s the perfect place for a picnic in Hanoi. You can take your own food and drinks or eat at the little restaurant nearby.
Afterwards you can walk around the gardens and use the huge number of photo props so the two of you can take some ridiculously cheesy couple shots. There’s a windmill, carriages, swings, bridges, autumn trees, horses, bicycles, and a Ferris Wheel. If you’re really feeling it you can even rent some dresses and suits to spice up the photos.
Entry is VND40,000 each. And remember the camera!