Exploring Hanoi in Two Days

Are you visiting Hanoi for the first time and looking to explore the best sites in the city? The Hanoi Times has put together an itinerary of the top attractions for you to enjoy.

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Visiting Hanoi in Autumn is an incredible experience for countless tourists. The period from mid-September to November offers sunny, dry, and pleasantly cool weather, with temperatures averaging below 30 degrees Celsius.

 A corner of Hanoi’s Old Quarter Area. Photo: Viet Trung

This season offers a delightful opportunity to indulge in a variety of seasonal delicacies, including Com (green rice flakes), Cha Ruoi (sand worm omelets), and ripe Indochina dragon plums.

Morning of Day 1

To commence your Hanoi tour on the right note, we recommend indulging in a delightful breakfast accompanied by a cup of coffee around the serene Hoan Kiem Lake and the captivating Old Quarter. Aiming to cherish a tranquil environment, it is advised to wake up early, allowing you to relish the crisp morning air before the bustling streets come to life.

One highly recommended beef noodle soup restaurant is Pho Thin Bo Ho, an establishment with a history of nearly 70 years. Other notable options include Pho Suong, located on Trung Yen Alley, Pho Tu Lun on Au Trieu Street, Lam Pho Bo on Hang Vai Street, and Pho Ly Quoc Su, which has multiple branches. These renowned spots are favored by both locals and tourists alike.

After enjoying a delicious breakfast in Hanoi, it’s time to indulge in some coffee. There are several options available, such as the cozy second-floor Cafe Dinh located on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. Another great choice is Cafe Giang or Cafe Lam, both situated on Nguyen Huu Huan Street. If you prefer newer establishments, you can visit Cafe Cho at Hang Be Market or Loading T Cafe on Chan Cam Street, which offer stunning views of the lake. Don’t miss out on trying their signature traditional black or brown coffee, as well as the famous egg coffee. Additionally, if you have some spare time, make sure to visit a Kem Trang Tien shop for a refreshing ice cream treat.

The tasty Ca phe trung or Egg Coffee, a specialty of Hanoi. Photo: Nam Long

To experience a delightful spectacle while strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, make your way to the renowned Thang Long Water Puppet Theater on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. Immerse yourself in the enchanting water puppet show, which takes place every Sunday at 9:30 am. For your convenience, there are additional performances held in the afternoon and evening, stretching from 4 pm to 9 pm.

If you have an interest in history, be sure to visit notable sites such as Hoa Lo Prison, the Vietnam Museum of Revolution, the Vietnam National Museum of History, and the Vietnam Military History Museum. Additionally, architecture enthusiasts should make a stop at Quan Chuong City Gate, the Hanoi Opera House, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Thang Long Imperial Citadel, One-Pillar Pagoda, Long Bien Bridge, The Tonkin Palace (State Guest House), or State Bank of Vietnam Headquarters.

The following attractions are located in close proximity, all within a convenient two-kilometer radius of Hoan Kiem Lake. For those unable to cover all the places in the morning, it is advisable to allocate the remaining attractions for an afternoon visit. Visitors have the option to either explore these attractions on foot or make use of public transportation including buses, taxis, or motorbike taxis.

Noon on Day 1

While in the Old Quarter, consider indulging in a quintessential Hanoi delicacy for lunch. “Bun Cha” encompasses rice noodles paired with succulent portions of pork, either grilled over charcoal or in the form of minced patties. This aromatic dish is traditionally enjoyed alongside a tangy and flavorsome fish sauce, vibrant herbs, and a side of pickles.

Flower vendor – an unique trait of Hanoi. Photo: Hoang Minh Hang

This dish is a renowned specialty of northern Vietnam and a quintessential representation of Hanoian cuisine. For an authentic culinary experience, we recommend dining at popular restaurants in the downtown area such as Bun Cha Hang Quat, Bun Cha Dac Kim, and Bun Cha Huong Lien, famously visited by former US President Barack Obama.

Please be advised that Bun Cha Dac Kim is known for its incredibly generous portions, so it is advisable to exercise caution when placing your order to avoid overordering. Additionally, please be aware that Bun Cha Hang Quat and Bun Cha Huong Lien tend to be quite busy during the lunch hour.

Afternoon and Evening of Day 1

Experience the vibrant atmosphere of Hanoi’s Westerner street by spending an entire evening in the lively Ta Hien-Luong Ngoc Quyen area. This bustling district, often referred to as the “international junction” or “the streets that never sleep at night,” offers an unforgettable cultural and social experience.

Ta Hien Street is a tranquil and serene place during the day, but it transforms into a lively and bustling destination from evening till late night. This vibrant street is known for serving delicious snacks like fried fermented pork rolls, cheese sticks, fried potatoes or sweet potatoes, and roasted quails, which perfectly complement the ice-cold glasses or bottles of beer. However, the true charm of Ta Hien Street lies in its intoxicating atmosphere. Whether you choose to sit in a small group along the street or visit the bars for music and dancing, you are guaranteed to have a memorable experience. Furthermore, the prices at Ta Hien Street are very reasonable.

If you visit Hanoi during the weekend, you have the opportunity to explore the charming Hoan Kiem Lake pedestrian zone and the vibrant Dong Xuan night market. Don’t forget to make a stop at the lively Ta Hien Street.

 The legendary The Huc Bridge on the Sword Lake in Hanoi. Photo: Tran Tai

Morning of Day 2

West Lake is a must-visit destination for tourists, spanning 5.2 square kilometers and located adjacent to Thanh Nien Street and Truc Bach Lake. Known for its serene atmosphere and numerous culinary delights, this scenic area offers a plethora of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy.

The lake’s 15 kilometers of shoreline are highly favored among sports enthusiasts, particularly joggers and cyclists. Along Nguyen Dinh Thi and Trich Sai Streets, numerous bike rental shops can be found, offering rates ranging from VND40,000 to VND50,000 or $US1.6 to $2 for a duration of two hours. For those interested in SUP and kayak rentals, prices are set at VND200,000 to VND250,000 ($8 to $10) for a similar duration.

Bun Oc or snail noodles is a recommended breakfast option at West Lake. This dish, known in Hanoi, features a harmonious combination of traditional, easy-to-consume ingredients. Diners will savor the succulent and resilient snail meat paired with a subtly tangy broth.

Two shops that you must visit are Bun Oc Ba Ngoai located on To Ngoc Van Street and Bun Oc Co Hue situated on Dang Dung Street. A unique dish you should try at Bun Oc Ba Ngoai is their cold snail noodles.

Day 2 at Noon

A Hanoi’s delicacy: Pho Bo. Photo: Dan Tri

One of our top recommendations is to visit Phu Tay Ho, also known as Tay Ho Temple. This historically significant temple, built in the 17th century, is dedicated to the worship of Princess Lieu Hanh. It is situated on a spacious peninsula in Nghi Tam Village, extending into the beautiful West Lake.

Tay Ho Temple is renowned for hosting two prominent festivals observed on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month and the 13th day of the 8th lunar month. Apart from these significant events, the temple also offers visitors a serene and picturesque environment to appreciate the surroundings and find solace. Unlike the bustling and cacophonous city areas, this sanctuary provides a tranquil retreat.

For lunch, tourists are recommended to try the shrimp cakes available around the temple. Visitors have the option to choose from various renowned restaurants like Nham Thin, Phuong Dung, and Thanh Mai. These establishments are known for their delectable shrimp cakes and snails cooked with lime leaves or Chinese herbs. The average cost for a satisfying meal for one person in this area ranges from VND200,000 to VND300,000 ($8 – $10).

During the afternoon and evening of Day 2, attendees will have the opportunity to attend various workshops and breakout sessions led by industry experts. These sessions will cover a wide range of topics such as industry trends, best practices, and case studies.

Witnessing the mesmerizing sunset at the enchanting West Lake is a captivating experience that will stay etched in the minds of tourists forever. To fully immerse yourself in this magical moment, we recommend arriving at around 4pm. Embark on the unique adventure of pedaling a delightful duck-shaped boat on Truc Bach Lake. Once complete, venture across Thanh Nien Street to behold the breathtaking sunset over the majestic West Lake.

Pedal Boats

Choose from our two types of pedal boats:

  • Large Pedal Boats: Ideal for families, these boats can accommodate multiple passengers and are available for VND200,000 ($8) per hour.
  • Small Pedal Boats: Perfect for couples or two individuals, these boats are available for VND100,000 ($4) per hour.

Starting Point

The starting point for our pedal boats is located on Lac Chinh Street.

Customer Guidelines

To ensure safety and enjoyment for all, customers are kindly advised to:

  • Wear a provided life jacket during the entire boat ride.
  • Follow all safety rules and regulations.
  • Maintain public hygiene by disposing of waste properly.
Hanoi’s Pho cuon is similar to Pho bo in terms of ingredients, but it is served without soup, suitable for hot weather. Phôt: Dan Tri

For dinner, if you’re interested in further exploring Hanoian cuisine, we recommend visiting Ngu Xa night food street. A must-try dish here is Pho Cuon, which consists of thin rice noodle sheets wrapped around beef and fresh herbs, and served with a tangy fish sauce. Noteworthy establishments that serve this specialty include Hung Ben, Huong Mai, and Huong Lien.

If you’re looking to try something different, Western cuisine is a great option. Located near West Lake, streets like Xuan Dieu, To Ngoc Van, and Dang Thai Mai offer a variety of charming and tranquil restaurants that serve French, Italian, Argentinean, and Brazilian dishes. Some notable recommendations include Los Fuegos – Argentinian Steak and Grill, El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse, Cugini, and Paolo & Chi Italian Restaurant.

We recommend exploring alternative shopping options at esteemed commercial centers like Trang Tien Plaza or Vincom Center Ba Trieu, indulging in the scenic views and tourist attractions via a double-decker bus tour, and immersing yourself in the soothing ambiance of tea houses while enjoying live music performances.