Nearly everyone we spoke to prior to getting to Hanoi recommended one place to visit: the Museum of Ethnology. It is a modern museum around a 7km taxi ride from the Old Quarter. On display are artifacts and information about the many different peoples who make up the population of Vietnam.
Even better is outside in the courtyard. The museum actually got members of each group to come to Hanoi and build a traditional house of their people. You can walk around these to get a great feel for how these different tribes live. We have added our voices to those who highly recommend a visit!