What to do in Hanoi in 24 hours?

The Hanoitimes - Every hour in Hanoi is a memorable time to capture the beauty of the millennial city from different perspectives, from traditional to modern.


This is the first part of a two-part story that recommends things to experience in Hanoi, a city of ancient and modern blend, in 24 hours.

5 am: Exercises

The vibrancy in Hanoi often starts early by the energetic steps of active people when the first sunlight of the day begins to shine on the city. Public outdoor places with fresh nature like garden, parks, and lakes are lively with people doing morning exercises.

 The beauty of Hanoi’s streets in the morning.

While the young people are jogging or cycling with headphones in their ears, the elders are relaxing with soft exercises such as yoga, Taichi or slow dances with stick, swords or fans; portraying a peaceful picture unusual to the normal bustle of Hanoi’s life. 

7 am: Pho

As soon as the sun creeps higher, shop keepers start opening their doors and the roads get denser with vehicles, exercisers need to energize their exhausted bodies with breakfast. 

Pho (noodle soup served with beef or chicken) is obviously one of the most popular and favorite breakfast dishes of Hanoians. It can easily be found everywhere, from a street stall or a restaurant. Pho 24 is a strong brand of choice for foreign tourists for its hygiene standard and the diverse menu. Besides, sitting on the wooden stools for a tasty bowl of Pho at a restaurant at 49 Bat Dan street is a morning delight that few could not miss. Also, at No.32 of Le Van Huu street, a Pho variant, chicken Pho is served for the early birds. 

In addition to Pho, there are various options for early risers such as banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), bun oc (noodles with snail and soup), banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice roll), xoi (sticky rice with a wide selection of meat), banh gio (Vietnamese rice and pork dumpling), among others. All of them are available at every corner with price of more or less than one dollar, so convenient and cheap for a full energy meal to start the day. 

8 am: Coffee

 Hanoi has been listed among the top 10 places around the globe with the best coffee by CNN Travel.

After Pho, coffee comes next as an indispensable drink for many locals for a perfect morning since the French colonial time. The most favorite coffee of Hanoians is brewed in a traditional filter, dripping into a single cup underneath for a thick, intense brew that is sipped black or enjoyed solo or with sweetened condensed milk. 

Recently, Hanoi has been listed among the top 10 places around the globe with the best coffee by CNN Travel. It impressed with ca phe trung, or egg coffee, which has a creamy, meringue-like egg white foam placed on top of a black coffee. It was created by Café Giang at 91 Nguyen Huu Huan street in Hoan Kiem district and was served to reporters at the international media center during the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February 2019.

 Ca phe trung or egg coffee

Moreover, Hanoi is also special for its café culture. People don’t go to a café just to drink coffee. “Go for a coffee” in Vietnamese also means hangout. Therefore, cafés usually feature different styles of the architecture, décor, and menu. There are hundreds of cafés, usually hidden in small alleys. Each brings surprising ambiance to not only enjoy coffee or other drinks but also the atmosphere as well a good time with friends and family.

9 am: Sightseeing

 Temple of Literature

This is the best time for sightseeing in the capital city, thanks to the beautiful mild sunlight. For that reason, not only tourists but also the local people gather at city’s landmarks for both sightseeing and snapping new Instagram photos. 

Historical and cultural sites are among most popular places such as museums, the Temple of Literature, which os Vietnam’s first university built in 1070, with various pavilions, halls, statues and stelae of doctors; Tran Quoc Pagoda, one of the country’s most ancient pagodas built in the sixth century, with Asian typical architecture and great views, thanks to its lakeside setting and beautiful architecture.

 Tourists can explore 36 streets in the Old Quarter. Photo: Getty via FT

Meanwhile, the mixture of the ancient and the modern city can be explored in the Old Quarter in the center of Hanoi where thousands of people visit every day. At the beginning of the 20th century, Hanoi consisted of only 36 streets, most of which are now part of the Old Quarter.

Each street at that time was a trade guild, such as silk, jewelry, shoes, among others. The street names nowadays still reflect the trades once its dwellers practiced, despite a lot of upheavals, you can still find some of them still preserve the century old trade, such as Hang Bac street (Street of Silversmith), Hang Thiec street (Street of Tinsmith) or Hang Ma street (Street of Votive Offerings). Bearing the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi, the Old Quarter is interesting for getting lost in a labyrinth with similar but yet diverse houses, streets, and shops. The area is always bustling with trading activities. 

Moreover, as outstanding museums, galleries and cultural centres gather in the area, it also invites for discovery about Hanoi and Vietnam at plenty of exhibitions, programs, and other events from time to time.

12 pm: Lunch 

  Bun Cha is one of the world’s 25 delicious summer foods listed by the US cable news channel CNN.

When your feet are a bit tired in getting lost in the Old Quarter, there is one address you should stop by: No.1 Hang Manh street.

Here is the most well-known restaurant for Bun Cha, a favorite dish of the local people, even better than Pho to many. Bun Cha (grilled pork slice and meatball served with noodles and fish sauce) has been listed as one of the world’s 25 delicious summer foods by the US cable news channel CNN.

As barbecue meat and salad partner perfectly in the dish, the explosion of flavor comes from ubiquitous dipping sauce made of fish extract, sugar, chili, lemon juice, and garlic, char-grilled pork served with cold plain rice, vermicelli and a bouquet of fresh herbs and greens make your mouth easy to drool.

If you cannot find the place, do not worry, there are tons of others delicious restaurants and eateries for lunch around town.

(To be continued)