Two days in the capital of Vietnam allows you to capture a glimpse of the bustling and frantic city. Known for its rich culture, old French-inspired architecture and winding streets, Hanoi is a beautiful place with much to offer visitors. With only 48 hours to immerse yourself into local culture, here’s a two-day itinerary to help you cover the best that Hanoi has to offer in a short space of time.
Where to stay?
Location is everything, particularly when it comes to a short stay. Hoan Kiem is at the centre of the city and is perfect for different budgets and requirements, ranging from backpackers and travellers looking for hostels in the Old Quarter to those looking for a luxury five-star hotel in the French Quarter. This area is within walking distance to the Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple as well as being surrounded by authentic Vietnamese restaurants and souvenir shops. Hoan Kiem is great for those looking to delve straight into the busy, crazy city life in Hanoi.
Day 1, Morning: Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple
Start your trip off with an early morning walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, considered the centre of Hanoi not only physically but symbolically. If you arrive early enough you will see groups of people, young and old, performing yoga and tai chi exercises. Surrounding the lake, you will see many runners and couples holding hands. The Ngoc Son Temple can be located in the northern part of the lake and can be reached by a small bridge. Hanoi’s most visited temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao. After a gentle walk around the lake and visit to the temple, be sure to stop by one of the many cafes in the area for a morning Pho and egg coffee.
Afternoon: Hanoi’s Old Quarter
One of the most popular tourist spots in Hanoi, the Old Quarter is located north of the Hoan Kiem Lake. Filled with motorbikes, people, shops and cafes, the area is full to the brim of culture and history. It’s so easy to spend the afternoon getting lost in the Old Quarter, exploring the different shops and markets and trying out authentic Vietnamese foods on the go. If you’re in need of a break, head to the entirely Harry Potter-themed Always Cafe for a Butter Beer and a sit-down.
Evening: Vietnamese Cuisine in the Old Quarter & Thang Long Water Puppet Show
After spending the day exploring, it’s time for some delicious Vietnamese food. Whether you’re on a budget or prepared to splash out, there are a plethora of options. From street food, local restaurants to top-end eateries there’s plenty of dishes to sink your teeth into. Highway4 Restaurant Hoan Kiem is very popular with locals and visitors alike offering a wide range of authentic Vietnamese foods. Following on from dinner, head to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre to catch the traditional puppet show accompanied by an orchestra but be sure to book in advance.
Day 2, Morning: Vietnamese Coffee & Cooking Classes
Day two begins with a delicious cup of Vietnamese coffee, whether you’re in your hotel or find a little cafe nearby, be sure to start your day off right. Next head over to Hanoi Cooking Centre to fully embrace the culture and learn how to whip up some local delicacies. Offering hands-on cooking classes where you prepare your own dishes under guidance from experienced chefs. Cooking classes available include Vietnamese Street Food, Vegetarian and Hanoi and the Northern Highlands, to name a few.
Afternoon: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ho Chi Minh Museum
Now for a bit of history, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum can be located in the Ba Dinh Square and is the last resting place of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. A very popular tourist spot in Hanoi, the iconic leader’s body has been preserved in a glass case here. The Ho Chi Minh Museum is nearby to the Mausoleum. The museum tells of Ho Chi Minh’s life from upbringing to the founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party. Guided tours are available on request and English descriptions are used throughout the museum as well. If you find yourself with time on your hands you can find the Ba Dinh Square, One Pillar Pagoda and the Vietnam War Memorial all in close proximity.
Evening: Hanoi Weekend Night Market followed by Bar Hopping in the Old Quarter
Your last evening in Hanoi should be spent walking through the Hanoi Weekend Night Market. Roadsides will be packed with vendors, food stalls, locals and tourists and takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From Souvenirs to sunglasses, you’ll find a vast array of inexpensive items at the market, be sure to bring a backpack as you’ll definitely want to pick up a few treats to take home. After exploring the night market, Bia Hoi Junction is a must-see for any visitor in the city. Filled with lots of people, makeshift bars and small chairs at the corner of Ta Hien, you’ll find very cheap 4% beer. Finally, spend your evening hopping from bar to bar in the Old Quarter to soak up the last few moments you have in the beautiful Hanoi.
48 hours hardly feels like enough time to see everything but if you’re short on time then this two-day itinerary is perfect for you, especially if you don’t want to feel completely overwhelmed and still have some time to relax.
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So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your next getaway and enjoy the culture, history and beauty that Vietnam has to offer.