How many days are you planning to stay in this beautiful capital city of Vietnam? Some may say one day is enough and some say even weeks is not enough. I think it’s all down to 1. what places you want to visit and 2. how you want to spend each day in Hanoi. If you have a very short list of places to see and things to do, one day would be enough to take a sneak peek of what Hanoi has to offer.
However, as I’ve been living in Hanoi for almost a year now and there’s still so much more this capital has to show and so much amazing food to taste, you can spend many more days here by filling your days with your personal top picks of things and places to tick from the list.
To cater to the majority of people who spend 1 to 3 days in Hanoi, I will introduce you my personal suggestions on how to make the most of your time here. I included the most popular and famous tourist attractions along with my favourite restaurants and other things to do. These itineraries are suggestions to give you an idea of what to do and how to best manage the time with consideration of overall route and you can mix-and-match according to your personal preferences and go at the pace you like!
Day 1. Arrival – check-in at your accommodation, ask for a map of the Old Quarter from the reception desk. Then let’s head off to explore the ancient town. Go to Hoan Kiem lake for a nice stroll around and visit the Ngoc Son temple located on the lake.
For lunch or afternoon treat, go to Pho Ly Quoc Su 10 restaurant and order a hot bowl of delectable phở. It is a 10-minute walk from the lake and located on the same street as St. Joseph’s cathedral. Go for a coffee or drink after lucnh to enjoy the view over the cathedral either at Cong Cafe for coconut coffee or grab a tiny plastic chair for a local experience at the lime juice shops.
If you arrived early in the morning or still have spare time, you can visit the Opera House. Or I’d suggest you take a short rest back at the hotel before heading out again to join the beer street!
On your first evening, you can go to Ta Hien street to join the famous beer street for a cold glass of beer and watch the crowd passing by. Beer street becomes walking streets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 7PM, so if you want to witness the climax of the scene, save the beer street for one of those days.
You can order light snacks or proper meals to enjoy with your beer here. If you want to try my favourite restaurants, you can choose between stir-fried pho with beef on Hang Buom street and long ran (pork intestines) on Nguyen Sieu street.
Day 2. For the brand new day in Hanoi, you can kick-start your day with one of the typical Hanoian breakfasts, bánh cuốn. One of the very well-known places for banh cuon is Banh Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van on Hang Ga street, but you can find banh cuon street vendors easily and I personally think it’s more authentic and fun to eat on the street like a local.
After your tummy’s filled and happy, you can grab a taxi or order a Grab or Be ride on your mobile phone to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It is closely located to Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and the Temple of Literature. So you can cover these three places together.
After sightseeing through the above places, go to Hoe Nhai street notorious for bít tết (Vietnamese style beefsteak). Then you can visit Tran Quoc pagoda located on West Lake and go chill at one of many cafes on Nguyen Dinh Thi street where you can enjoy the vast horizon of the lake.
Another alternative to spend your afternoon is to visit the Long Bien bridge with railway and explore the forest under the bridge on the Red river. Check out the full details of how to get there in this article.
You can retire for the day with a stroll at the Hoan Kiem lake as the night view is something to admire or have dinner at Cau Go restaurant from where you can enjoy the stunning view over the lake and Ngoc Son temple. There’s weekend Walking Street in the Old Quarter from Friday evening to Sunday night and night market opens on streets between Dong Xuan market and the lake. So if you’re here on a weekend, go explore the stalls for shopping and street food.
Day 3. It’s your last day and you must have either one of the popular Hanoian dishes, bún chả or my favourite rice noodle soup with fish, bún cả to start your day. If you feel more like sweet barbequed flavour, go to Bun Cha Dac Kim on Hanh Manh street or Bun Cha Nom on Hang Buom street. And if you want to try the rich soup with fried fish, go to Bun Ca Sam Cay Si on Trung Yen street.
Once you’re all energised from amazing breakfast, you can go to Hoa Lo Prison and Museum of Vietnamese Women. These two places are less than 10 minutes by foot from one another. For lunch, you can either go to 29 Ba Trieu for luscious fried rice with chicken or go to the hidden street for Hanoi’s prominent dish, bún đậu mắm tôm. Or you can simply grab a delicious bánh mì sandwich at Banh Mi 25 or Bami Bread shops.
If you still have the afternoon / evening free before heading off to your next destination, you can visit a local coffee shop to relax and people-watch or visit Thong Nhat park for a peaceful stroll in the greens and join the many locals jogging or fishing. Another option is to visit the book street near the lake if you’re in need of a new book to read during the remaining days of your trip.
1-day & 2-day Itineraries
You can choose the activities, sights and foods you like the most from the 3-day itinerary above to schedule your 1-2 days in Hanoi. If you want to visit most of the tourist attractions hassle-free, buying a ticket for hop-on and hop-off city tour bus could be your best bet. Check out this article with full details of city tour buses.
There are more great dishes you must try in this city, so you can have a look at the article for Hanoi’s 8 must-try menus or explore options on local Instagram accounts showing what locals’ suggest and like to eat. And if you have a sweet tooth, check this article covering top five dessert and ice cream shops in the ancient town.