So you are planning a trip to Hanoi – everywhere you have researched has recommended around 2-3 days is a perfect amount of time to see this busy little place.
I know you’re like, KELSEY how are you reading my mind right now?!
Well, not too long ago I was you! Tirelessly researching our three days in Hanoi, and you know what – I followed those guides and had a blast BUT I didn’t see the real Hanoi – I saw the same thing other backpackers saw, the same thing that you are probably seeing time and time again in all your research and I want to share with you a different perspective!
I completely understand the feeling of not wanting to go somewhere just because it will be packed with tourists, but on the other hand sometimes there is a reason why places are so busy and it’s because they are awesome! I’d also like to give you some alternatives as well as ideas on how to make the touristy spots a little bit more interesting!
Getting To Hanoi:
I will assume you are arriving at the Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport (an excellent airport btw) and from there you will have to get a taxi. Stop everything you’re doing now, and do yourself a favor: download the ride share app Grab. Hanoi runs on this and you are going to save yourself time and money (so much money).
Okay so now you have Grab on your phone, use this to get into the Old Quarter! On your way out of the airport you can pick up a SIM for your phone also!
There will be hoards of taxi drivers wanting you to ride with them, along with tour companies They will charge you around 25 USD for the 30 minutes into the old quarter. This is LUDICROUS. With grab you will spend 10-11 USD, much better! Also you can track and share your ride which will ensure you won’t get ripped off!
What do to:
Okay – fewf now you have made it to Hanoi’s Old Quarter, what do you do now?!
Everyone is different and there is no one itinerary that would be perfect for every person SO I decided I would put together my favorite pairings of things to do and you can choose what order to do them, depending on your interests! It is definitely doable to do most of these activities in three days and you can mix and match what you want to do!
Citadel, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and The French quarter (Est. Time: Half Day)
- The citadel is perfectly placed right in the beautiful french Quarter of Hanoi and is directly opposite the HCM Mausoleum. Exploring all these together is a great pairing! You will learn so much about Vietnam’s history AND get to see tons of gorgeous architecture.
- Follow Phan Đình Phùng Street near the Citadel for all of the beautiful Old french buildings and lots of coffee shops!
Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple and a Coconut Coffee at Cong (Est. Time: 1 Hour)
- Right at the top of the lake is a roundabout, there, there is a Cong Caphe which is a delicious coffee shop chain. Order a Coconut Coffee to go and wander around Hoan Kiem Lake! Make sure to visit the Pagoda and red bridge at the top of the Lake. P.S. I know this one is a bit touristy BUT still necessary on a trip to Hanoi!
- A tip though – go to the lake on the weekends in the earrrllyy morning and you can get a taste of authentic Vietnamese morning routines. They block off the road so locals take runs and Tai Chi around the lake. Also, the temple won’t be as crowded and you’ll have your coffee to keep you going!
Tay Ho Lake, Bo Bia, Tran Quoc Pagoda and Pho Cuon (Est. Time: An Evening 5PM-7PM)
- Take a Grab Taxi or walk (it’s a little far away) to the Tran Quoc Pagoda, which is one of the oldest temples in Hanoi! It is situated on Tay Ho Lake which is beautiful for sunset!
- There are ladies and sometimes men sitting on the road selling things called Bo Bia, these are tasty little desserts made with honeycomb and coconut! Definitely a must try!
- After the sun goes down you can walk to Phở cuốn Hương Mai. There you can have a great dinner of fried pho noodles with stir fried beef and veg (phở chiên phồng)!!
- Head to Standing Bar or DEN for an after dinner Cocktail or craft beer.
The Old Quarter, Train Street, Hoa Lo Prison and Beer Corner (Est. Time: Half – Full Day)
- Possibly the most touristy itinerary there is, but still worth doing for sure! You’ll learn a lot about Vietnam’s harder past at the Hoa Lo Prison, then explore all of the winding streets around the old quarter! Wear a good pair of walking shoes!!
- Start your day at Hanoi Social Club with an iced coffee and a delish breakfast.
- Then meander your way through the streets until you hit the Train street, located just off Phùng Hưng Street.
- Grab a tasty Lunch at Bun Bo Nam Bo just down the way from the Train Street on Hàng Điếu street.
- Explore the Old Quarter and make your way to the Hoa Lo Prison
- After that, you may want a drink and head to Hanoi’s Famous Beer corner for an 8 Cent brew.
Also possibly add this into the mix →
Lemon Tea at the Cathedral (Est. Time: 1 Hour)
- Right across from the famous St. Josephs Cathedral is a bustling hole in the wall, covered with small stools and discarded sunflower seeds, relax and have a lemon tea!
Long Bien Bridge, Banana Shop, and Flower Fields (Est. Time: 2-3 Hours)
- The Long Bien Bridge is a famous French Built bridge that has dreamy views of the Red River and the Banana fields on the islands in the middle of the river.
- One of the best ways to see it is to rent a motorbike and drive across it! Half way across is a little banana stand where you can buy some of the tastiest nanners.
- Then continue over the bridge and follow directions to Hanoi’s Agricultural University. Right before the arch for the school turn right and there is a massive flower field (depending on time of the year of course – I went in December!)
- Speaking of flower fields, if this is something you are into then definitely make your way to Tay Ho where there are also bountiful fields! Google: Bach Hop Garden Hanoi some more flower power!
The Temple Of Literature, Dong Da Market and a Drink at Ray Quan (Est. Time Half Day)
- One of my favorite temples in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature! Not only is it gorgeous it has SO much history and is so so old. Originally it was Hanoi’s first university and now it is a temple dedicated to Confucius. Go there early to avoid the crowds!!
- Then get a taxi to Đường Vĩnh Hồ Street in Dong Da. This is a notorious street food location, full of tons of different types of food and full of fresh produce!
- After you are full take a taxi back up to Ray Quan which is a grungy cool bar located right on the train tracks and relax, get a drink and watch the trains pass by all evening!
Exploring the streets of the old quarter on foot
Temple of Literature
Hoa Lo Prison
Hoan Kiem Lake
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
St. Joeseph’s Cathedral
Tay Ho Lake
The French Quarter
Long Bien Bridge
Restaurants and Bars Mentioned:
Bun Bo Nam Bo
Phở cuốn Hương Mai
Hanoi Social Club