Explore Hanoi in 2 Days
Hanoi - the capital of Vietnam, the bustling but also tranquil city, with an elegant and ancient look, is the center of culture and politics with many natural landscapes and historical monuments. Thanks to more than a thousand years of civilization, the city preserves its hidden beauty in every aspects: architecture, literature, cuisine, etc. This has made Hanoi one of the hottest attractions among international tourists when coming to Vietnam. “What can we do and where do we start?”, you may have in your mind this question when coming to this full-of-activity city. This article will draw you a 2-day itinerary for you to optimize your stay in Hanoi. This includes almost all beautiful attractions and delicious food places you have to try in Hanoi.
Finding an accommodation to stay in Hanoi may be your first concern at the beginning of planning. The very first advice is to stay in the Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem District) or the French Quarter (Hai Ba Trung District) as they are the center of entertainment as well as beautiful sights. Besides, it very easy to find an affordable hotel or hostel around this area, too. After assuring you have a comfortable bed, we can start our journey to explore this lovely city right now.
Ngo Huyen Street offers a wide variety of hostels and hotels with affordable price
Ho Chi Minh Complex is a complex of architectures like Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, One-pillar pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh Stilt House tributing our great leader that emancipated the whole nation from over 1000 years of evasion. This will definitely a great way to learn about the great history of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Address: Hung Vuong, Dien Ban, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: 7:30 - 10:30 or 8:00 - 12:00 all week except Monday, Friday
- Ho Chi Minh Museum: 8:00 - 12:00 and 14:00 - 16:30 all week except Monday, Friday afternoon
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: FREE
- Ho Chi Minh Museum: 40,000VND/adult
Temple of Literature Entrance
Next, only a 10-minute walk from Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Temple of Literature preserves a wealth of history of how the educational system works in the past. The most outstanding feature of the Temple of Literature is tortoise statues with headstones on it. During graduation time, many students come here to pray for luck for their study in graduation uniforms.
Address: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Van Mieu, Dong Da, Hanoi
- Opening hours: 8:00 - 17:00 or 7:30 - 18:00 all week except national events
- Entrance Fee: 30,000VND/adult ; 15,000VND/student (student card required) ; FREE: Children under age of 15
Cha Ca is considered the signature dish of Vietnam cuisine that has used to name after a street in the Old Quarter. The main ingredient is freshwater fish, usually snakehead fish marinated in turmeric, shallots, garlic, and galangal. It is grilled in advance and then fried when it’s ready to be served with vermicelli, fresh herbs like dill, spring onion, roasted peanuts, chili, and fermented shrimp paste with a distinct musky aroma. Once it's sizzling, enjoy bite-sized slices of fish with some salty peanuts, herbs, and vermicelli.
Cha Ca - typical dish of Hanoi
Address: Cha Ca An Ngu - 100 Hai Ba Trung, Cua Nam, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
The recreation of prisoners in Maison Centrale
Hoa Lo Prison (Maison Centrale) was built during the French Colonial period for political prisoners. It is demolished in the 1990s and made into a museum demonstrating the deepest and darkest part throughout this period and Vietnam War. The recreation of harsh punishment with inhumane torture tools is the symbol of Vietnamese patriots’ indomitable will and myriad sacrifice for national independence.
Address: 1 Hoa Lo, Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Opening Hours: 8:00 - 17:00 all week
- Entrance Fee: 30,000VND/person
Long Bien Bridge on the East of the capital
Long Bien Bridge was constructed between 1899 and 1902 and designed by Gustave Eiffel, the father of Eiffel Tower in Paris. The bridge is the connection point to transfer commodities between the South and the North so it was severely bombed by the airforce of U.S. Army in 1967 -1972. Parts of the bridge were destroyed during the war but the remainings still reminisce about the unforgettable past.
Long Bien Bridge is not only a traffic construction but also a living historical relic. Walking across Long Bien Bridge is truly a worth-trying experience of many visitors apart from exploring busy and bustling capital. Or a rooftop coffee shop would be ideal to take a view of the whole bridge from afar.
Address: Long Bien Bridge, Ngoc Thuy, Long Bien, Hanoi
Street food in the Old Quarter
After a day of visiting historical sites around Hanoi, indulge yourself in this street food heaven because it is simply a MUST-DO when coming to Vietnam. There are hundreds of dishes you can try as much as you can and still be surprised by the distinct taste of each one.
Bun Bo Nam Bo originated from the North
Despite having a name referring to a dish of the South (Nam Bo means Southern), this dish is particularly a Hanoian specialty. Bun Bo Nam Bo, which is basically stir-fried beef noodles, may sound simple to make but possess very exquisite flavors.
The essence lies in the sauce, which is a harmony of sweet, sour and spicy notes that each restaurant has its own recipe. The beef is well marinated with sugar, fish sauce, hot pepper, and other spices and then stir-fried when ordered to keep it soft and tender. Accompanied by noodles, fried chopped onion, peanuts, and fresh herbs, it will activate your taste buds right from the very first bite.
Address: 67 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Banh Cuon is freshly steamed sheets of rice batter filled with seasoned minced pork and wood ear mushrooms. A fish-based dipping sauce (or nuoc mam) is an indispensable element of the dish. You can add cha Lua, eggs and fried onions to diversify and customize the Banh Cuon to your own preference.
What makes Banh Cuon so special is the sheer simplicity yet harmonious combination of its ingredients. The rice wrapping is soft and delicate, acting as a perfect vessel for the aromatic meat fillings as it melts in your mouth. A subtle change of texture is given by the crunchy fried onions, followed by the sweet and salty fish sauce that puts the finishing touch to a single heavenly bite.
If you want to eat Banh Cuon the right way, like a true Hanoian does, try it on a cold, breezy winter night. The steamy dish is sure to keep you warm and leave an indefinite impression on you of an authentic Vietnam experience.
Address: 12-14 Hang Ga, Hang Bo, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Beer Corner is a top attraction of Hanoi
Beer Corner is the symbol of a chaotic and energetic nightlife spot in the Old Quarter. You will be overwhelmed at first by the crowd of people sitting on blue plastic stools with a beer in their hands, a unique atmosphere that you can’t find anywhere in Hanoi. Grab yourself a stool, get some beer and some nem chua ran (fried fermented pork sausage) and maybe spark a conversation with a friendly local. Bars and pubs are open throughout the night if you crave an even more exciting night.
Address: Ta Hien Street
Turtle Tower in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake
Considered the heart of Hanoi capital, Hoan Kiem Lake is a combination of modernity and history. Legend has it that in the 15th century, Emperor Le Loi obtained a magical sword from the Dragon King under the lake to fight against Chinese oppressors. The Turtle Temple in the middle of the lake was built to pay tribute to the giant turtle that retrieved the sword for its master. Nowadays, the lake reserves an ancient beauty that attracts so many locals and tourists. At the weekend, the road around the lake is made into a walking area where various traditional games, concerts take place.
Metropole Hotel reserves French-style architecture
During the French Colonial period, the French Quarter is a concentration of government buildings, embassies, and affluent neighborhoods. Unlike the ancient and hustling vibe in the Old Quarter, this area is posh and solemn with French-style architecture.
Hanoi Opera House
Constructed in 1911, Hanoi Opera House was inspired by Opera Garnier Theatre in Paris. Situated in special position, in the middle of August Revolution Square, it is truly the art of French architecture featuring Gothic theme indoors and domes with pillars, shuttered windows and glass rooms. The capacity goes up to 600 people, making it the center for opera shows, ballets, international concerts, etc.
Address: 1 Trang Tien, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Opening Hour: 10:30 AM every Monday and Friday
- Ticket: 400,000VND/person
Trang Tien Plaza
Trang Tien Plaza is the first luxury shopping mall ever in Hanoi which gathers up to 200 high-end brands ranging from fashion to cosmetics such as Dior, Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc. With fancy and classic appearance, Trang Tien Plaza exterior is also a very popular site for wedding photo shooting.
Address: 23K Hai Ba Trung, Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
National Museum of Vietnamese History
Each building in the National Museum of Vietnamese History is still mostly influenced by French architecture. But if we look closely, touches of Vietnamese culture patterns is tangible here and there creating such unique features for the museum. The museum does not only preserve artistic and architectural values but also illustrates the fusion of French and Vietnamese culture and history.
Address: 216 Tran Quang Khai, Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Opening Hours: 8:00 - 12:00 and 13:30 - 17:00 every day except first Monday of every month
- Entrance Fee: 40,000VND/adult ; 20,000VND/student ; FREE for children under age of 6 and disabilities
Walking around the city between 11 am - 2 pm, the image of a woman rapidly fanning the sizzling pork with thick smoke curling up on the sidewalk with flocks of customers coming in and out is very common.
Bun Cha represents Hanoi cuisine
Bun Cha includes rice noodles, charcoal-grilled pork belly or patties (sometimes wrapped in xương sông herb), all dipped into sweet and sour fish sauce creating such a fragrant and bursting flavor. No wonder the former president of United States, Barack Obama, praised Bun Cha so much during his visit to Vietnam.
Address: Bun Cha Dac Kim - 1 Hang Manh, Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
St. Joseph's Cathedral
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a well-known 19th-century European style building. The church is a lively Gothic-inspired architecture consisting of four-cornered pillars and topped with stone cross. When you come here, you will be overwhelmed by the religious solemnity of the church. In the evening, the church becomes majestic with lights and candles so high recommend visiting this place at this time.
Address: 40 Nha Chung, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Opening hours: 5:30 - 18:15 (weekdays) ; 18:00 (Saturday) ; 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, 11:00, 16:00, 18:00 and 20:00 (Sunday)
Ngoc Son Temple Entrance
Located on a small island in the north of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple is the most scenic sight in Hanoi. It was built in the 19th century dedicating to scholar Van Xuong and Tran Hung Dao, some of the most famous structures like Pen Tower, Tran Ba Temple.
The Huc Bridge connects Ngoc Son Temple and land
To enter Ngoc Son Temple, tourists will cross a scarlet wooden bridge called The Huc Bridge, the image of this bridge has deeply imbedded in Hanoian mind for hundreds of years.
Address: Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Opening Hour: 8:00 - 17:00 daily
- Entrance Fee: 30,000VND/adult ; 15,000VND/child
Water puppet show is a Vietnamese traditional art performance dating back in the 11th century. The main characters, the puppets on water, are controlled by puppeteers behind a bamboo curtain led by traditional folk songs and the story-telling by the puppets themselves. The music is live and performed by many traditional musical instruments: drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes, and cymbals.
Most of the water puppet performances are a recreation of Vietnamese tales and historical legends so this will be a great experience for travelers to travel back in time and learn of Vietnamese history and culture in such a unique art form.
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Opening Hours:every day at 15:30 - 17:00 - 18:30 - 20:00 - 21:15 and Sunday at 9:30
- Ticket Fee: 60,000 - 100,000VND/person
Taking place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Hanoi Weekend Night Market is a busy, bustling gathering of roadside stalls and local food vendors that brings huge crowds of locals and tourists. The market starts from the beginning of Hang Dao to the end of Dong Xuan Market. It’s like a weekly festival gathering hundreds of street food in Hanoi you can try a very reasonable price. But make sure you keep an eye on your belongings since the whole scene is very crowded.
Address: Hang Dao, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Simplicity turns Hanoi into such a wonderful place to visit. What makes Hanoi so captivating does not lie in gigantic and marvelous buildings, but in the littlest thing that occurs everything around Hanoi. Looking at a vendor, you see a story. Looking at an old house, you see history. Culture is everything around you. Hanoi creates such a depth in the way we look and perceive things. So if you haven’t fallen in love with Hanoi yet, try to give a little more time to actually live as a Hanoian and enjoy the capital of our lovely country, Vietnam!