Hanoi is a good place to get out and tour on your own. Start in the Old Quarter with a morning walking tour -- especially in the summer months, when you'll want to take advantage of cooler weather. If you're game, get up really early and join in with morning exercise at lakeside. If sleeping a bit later sounds better, start at Hoan Kiem, hit the major sights in the Old Quarter, including Bach Ma Temple, and then take in the Hanoi Citadel area. Remember: If you want to catch a glimpse of the embalmed Ho Chi Minh in his mausoleum in the very center of the Citadel, you have to get there before 11am. Catch Ho's mausoleum, museum, and his very spartan home, as well as the One-Pillar Pagoda. Then hit the Temple of Literature, a short cab/motorbike ride away. From there, it's a matter of preference: shopping options galore around the central lake, French colonial buildings south of the lake and the Opera Building, a trip to the Catholic cathedral of Nha Tho and the surrounding cafe area, or further exploration of the Old Quarter or the Dong Xuan Market. You can get well acquainted with Hanoi in a day or two, but it takes a lifetime to know.
While sightseeing, remember that state-owned attractions will usually close for lunch from 11:30am to 1:30pm. Be sure not to accept any extraneous pamphlets or unwanted guides at sights; all come with a nominal, but frustrating, fee.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.