2 Days in Hanoi Itinerary - Explore a Vibrant Vietnamese Culture
Hanoi, the authentic and traditional capital of Vietnam, is one of the most visited places in Vietnam, and for a good reason! Sometimes, it feels like a massive village, as lots of former traditional villages converged to form a larger whole.
Alongside the local influence, there is a heavy French colonial vibe in the architecture and some of the cuisine.
For all you people who are visiting Hanoi either to kick off your road trip, experience the diverse street food options, or just opting to embrace the authentic atmosphere; it is very challenging to create an itinerary for just 2 days in Hanoi.
Hanoi is a huge city, with a population count of almost 8 million people and an area of 319.56 square kilometers! So, this itinerary is a combination of our personal experience in Hanoi and some places that we missed, but you definitely shouldn’t!
Also, if you want a tailored Hanoi itinerary, we can help you create the one that suits your budget and preferences!
Day 1 - Strolling Around the Old Quarter
We hope that you are an early riser, as you are just spending 2 days in Hanoi, so why not maximize these two days? For breakfast, we suggest visiting the Old Quarter first. It is just beside all the major attractions that we will include in this itinerary. Don’t be intimidated by the chaotic traffic flowing through the Quarter since you will get used to it very quickly.
As you wander around in the morning, you will find numerous local restaurants around. You can spot a local restaurant by the tiny plastic stools and tables. They are also filled with locals who're kickstarting their day with a bowl of tasty Phở soup.
A bowl of Phở will cost you anywhere between 20,000 to 40,000 VND ($0,87 to $1,73). After you finish your breakfast, we suggest a supercharging with a glass of cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee). The sweet caffeine bomb will set you from 10,000 to 30,000 VND ($0,43 – $1,23). If you like your coffee unique, why not try the popular Cà phê trứng (Egg coffee)? It will probably cost you some 10,000 to 20,000 VND more than the usual iced coffee, but it is well worth it! Arguably the best place for this traditional beverage is Cafe Giang, so don't forget to check it out.
Further Read: Vietnamese coffee culture: A Brief History & Coffee Types
Just a few minutes away from the Old Quarter is Hoan Kiem Lake. It is a dash of relaxation in the otherwise hectic Hanoi center.
The lake is like a tranquil oasis just in the middle of the city that serves as a socializing spot for friendly locals who'll often invite you for a talk or dance. In the middle of the lake, you can see the magnificent, crumbling Turtle Tower from the legend of the Hoan Kiem Lake. After a dose of relaxation at the Hoan Kiem Lake, we suggest that you visit Ngoc Son Temple. The temple is located on the lake, and you can easily distinguish it by the bright red bridge called Huc Bridge.
It is a tranquil place that opens from 8 AM to 6 PM, and the entrance fee is 30,000 VND ($1,30). Just a few minutes away from the Hoan Kiem Lake is the St. Joseph Cathedral serves as a fantastic showcase of Gothic architecture.
The exterior of the cathedral showcases the French architectural influence so prevalent in this side of the city. There is no entrance fee for the cathedral, so you are free to enter and enjoy the magnificent interior.
It features huge arch pillars and colorful Christian motifs. Make sure to wear long sleeves inside the cathedral. You are probably craving for a snack now! Luckily, there are numerous bánh mì stalls in this neighborhood. It is a French baguette sandwich usually filled with freshly picked vegetables herbs and meat or eggs.
The average price on the street is from 15,000 VND to 30,000 VND ($0,65 to $1,08). For a dose of education on the recent history of Vietnam, we suggest visiting the Hoa Lo Prison. It is just a 10-minute walk from St. Joseph Cathedral. Also known as the Hanoi Hilton, most of the prison has been destroyed for skyscraper construction.
The remains of the structure now serve as a museum. It was built by the French during the colonial period and mainly used as a prison for Vietnamese revolutionaries or anyone connected to them. During the war in Vietnam, this place was also used to imprison the American POWs, hence the Hilton name. Prepare for some unsettling imagery as this museum details the hardships of Vietnamese people during the French colonial period.
We don't want to spoil you any more details, but you will leave with some exciting insights on how different was the treatment of prisoners during the two administrative periods. Hoa Lo prison is open from 8 AM to 5 PM, and the entrance fee is 30,000 VND ($1,30). By now, you will want to tone down a bit on the sightseeing and enjoy the early evening hours.
You should head back to the Old Quarter, which is now starting to buzz with life. Locals are gathering for dinner, and are slowly starting with their beer binge!
There are numerous street food options to find around here, from rice noodles with meatballs (bun cha) to rice flour pancakes (bánh cuốn).
To get some ideas on what to eat, don't forget to check out our Vietnamese street food guide! Probably the best way to end your first day in Hanoi is to indulge in the local drinking culture. By that, we mean - the beer. Beer in Vietnam is incredibly cheap, with prices starting from 5,000 VND (0,22 cents) for a 0,3 liter can of beer. There are numerous local bars around the Old Quarter which will be filled with locals who will enjoy sharing a drink with you.
Hanoi is also famous for one of the cheapest beers in the world - Bia Hoi. It is dirt-cheap, and you can get hammered for a few dollars.
Day 1 Summary:
- Start the day with a bowl of Phở and a glass of coffee in the Old Quarter
- Take a stroll and relax at Hoan Kiem Lake
- Visit the tranquil Ngoc Son Temple
- Marvel at the magnificent Gothic architecture of the St. Joseph Cathedral
- Grab a bánh mì to regain your energy
- Get some education at the Hoa Lo Prison
- Enjoy the evening with some tasty street food and ice-cold beer
Day 2 - Further Sightseeing of Hanoi
We hope that you didn't wake up hungover from the last night, as the final part of our 2 days in Hanoi itinerary is taking place today! To get back in motion, we suggest that you start your morning with a visit to the Dong Xuan Market. It is the busiest traditional market that you can find in the heart of Hanoi's Old Quarter. The opening time of the market is at 8 AM, and it closes at 6 PM. It is a very crowded market and is a great entry point to experience the chaotic market experience of Hanoi.
To get some breakfast, get to the northern side of the market where you can snatch some cheap breakfast, freshly squeezed juice, and buzz up with coffee. There is also a lot more to see here, from souvenir shops to clothing shops.
Note: Make sure to haggle in this market and any other Vietnamese market! The most effective strategy is to cut the asking prices by 70% and start the negotiation process from there. Make sure to learn a few Vietnamese phrases, as this will induce a bit of respect from the locals. Maybe that's what you need for a decent bargain!
As the first day of the itinerary was filled with a healthy balance of sightseeing and indulging the culture, we will continue this flow onwards. Either take a 25-minute walk or take a Grab to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It is one of the most popular attractions in Hanoi, as it is a final resting place in Ho Chi Minh. Interestingly, he never wanted his body to be embalmed, but rather wished his ashes to be spread after his death. The authorities built this magnificent structure instead, to honor him.
It is one of the most guarded places in Hanoi, so you should definitely obey the rules. Also, the line for the inner sanctum can get ridiculously long. Nevertheless, getting inside the mausoleum and seeing the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is definitely one of the highlights of Hanoi sightseeing tour. After the mausoleum, make sure to visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The entrance fee is 40,000 VND ($1,73). This museum is distinguishable by its white lotus symbol, which symbolizes the homeland of Ho Chi Minh. It is divided into several sections.
The first section details the personal life of Ho Chi Minh, and how he became an influential revolutionary he is known for today. Another section shows the details of the war, and how the Vietnamese people emerged victorious from it. The last section shows some important historical events that had a severe impact on Ho Chi Minh's ideals. It is an ideal place to learn about Ho Chi Minh and his contribution to Vietnamese history.
By Deep Goswami
- One Pillar Pagoda, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Before you leave this complex, you should definitely check out the One Pillar Pagoda, which is one of the unique architectural accomplishments in Asia. The entrance to the pagoda is free, and it is open from 8 AM to 11.30 AM during the morning, and from 2 PM to 4 PM during the afternoon. What makes this pagoda unique is that it is placed on a stone pillar, seemingly defying gravity.
The exterior of the pagoda is magnificent, with beautiful lotus images in combination with wooden pillars. And the interior is equally as impressive, with the statue of Guan Yin Buddha dominating it. The whole area around the pagoda is very relaxing, so we recommend embracing the zen vibes beside the pond and the bodhi tree. Now, it is probably that time of the day when you need to get a snack and fill up with some coffee!
Go back to the Old Quarter and find some new amazing street food place, as there is always something new on the corner! After you regain your energy, we suggest a short walk to the National Museum of History. The entrance fee is 30,000 VND ($1,30). You can visit it during the morning hours from 8 AM to noon, and during the afternoon hours from 1.30 PM to 5 PM.
There is a lot of history to learn about here, from the French invasion in Vietnam in the 19th century to the reunification of Vietnam in 1975. The museum details the formation of modern Vietnam and shows their struggle for independence. We think that it is essential to learn about the history of the country you are visiting, gaining more perspective and further respect its people. That's why we wholly recommend you to visit it.
By Kirk Siang
- Water puppet show at Thang Long Theatre, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
To end your final day in a traditional fashion, why not watch an evening show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre? The opening time of the theatre is at 3 PM, 4.10 PM, 5.20 PM, 6.30 PM, and 8 PM. A one-hour performance consists of short stories that detail the life in ancient Vietnam. The puppet performance is backed by traditional tunes performed by a Vietnamese orchestra.
This unique experience will cost you 100,000 VND ($4,33). We advise that you book it in advance because this is one of the most popular attractions in Hanoi.
Day 2 Summary:
- Visit the busy Dong Xuan Market
- Observe the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Get educated in the Ho Chi Minh Museum
- Marvel at the beauty of One Pillar Pagoda
- Get some tasty street food snack in the Old Quarter
- Learn about Vietnamese history in the National Historical Museum
- Watch a unique puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Getting To & Around Hanoi
Hanoi is the second-largest city in Vietnam and hosts more than 16 million tourists annually. It is only understandable that the tourism infrastructure is quite developed in Hanoi. Getting to Hanoi is quite convenient as there is the main national highway connection to the southern and northern provinces. You can get to Hanoi by international or domestic flight, bus, or train.
Getting from the Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi Old Quarter
If you are landing in Hanoi at the Noi Bai International Airport, the best option for you is to book a Grab ride to your accommodation. The airport is quite away from the city center - almost 30 kilometers away from the Old District!
There are numerous methods on how to reach Hanoi from the airport. You can either board the bus 7 that goes to the Kim Ma Station, or the bus 17 that goes to the Long Bien Station. The ticket will cost you 5,000 VND (around 22 cents), and the ride will take one hour. There is also a new bus 86. It has Wi-Fi and will take you to the city center or directly to your accommodation for the price of 32,000 VND to 64,000 VND ($1,38 to $2,75).
Be sure to check a detailed Hanoi bus map for convenience. You can also book a Grab ride from the airport, although it may cost you more than the bus in some cases. Beware of fake Grab and taxi drivers who usually pull various tourist scams.
Getting Around Hanoi
You can board the city buses that connect the two most populated areas in Hanoi - Kim Ma and Yen Nghia. They come in red, yellow, and white colors, and the rates range from 5,000 to 10,000 VND (22 cents to 43 cents). Another great option to get around Hanoi is to book a ride via the Grab smartphone app. You can book a car or even a motorbike taxi if you are feeling more adventurous.
The prices will vary on the availability of the drivers, number of passengers, and the trip distance. We advise you to avoid taxis as they are usually more expensive than Grab. They will often involve more hassle when it comes to negotiating a fair price. Of course, you can always rent a motorbike in Hanoi, if you wish to brave the traffic on your own! The rental prices will vary depending on the business you choose.
Whether your choice of transport in Hanoi may be, there are numerous options to choose from for every budget and type of traveler.
Make sure to read our guide on public transportation in Vietnam to get a better outlook.
Where to Stay in Hanoi - Accommodation Options & Prices
Hanoi hosts thousands of different accommodation options. From budget guesthouses and hostels to luxury hotels, there is something for every budget. From our perspective, we can give an outlook on two accommodation options we’ve stayed in Hanoi. If you don’t care about our personal experience, check out Booking.com and Agoda for the ideal accommodation for 2 days in Hanoi. Agoda offers some excellent discounts for luxury hotels too!
We’ve stayed in is the Hanoi Pleasant House. It is right in the heart of the Old Quarter and is an excellent budget option that costs us around 200,000 VND a night ($8,65). While not the best accommodation when it comes to the facilities themselves, our host was extremely helpful who even organized our ride to the airport. Also, the location couldn’t be better!
We hope you find our 2 days in Hanoi itinerary useful for your travels and have immense fun exploring the vibrant Vietnamese capital. Feel free to ask us any questions or for suggestions, and make sure to share this itinerary with your travel buddies! :)