How To Enjoy a Perfect 2 Days in Hanoi, Vietnam

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Headed to Vietnam and only have two days in Hanoi to spare? This 2-day Hanoi itinerary ensures you see the best this city has to offer during your short visit.

I loved my time in Hanoi. Compared to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi’s city streets felt much lusher and greener, and having Hoan Kiem Lake right in the heart of the bustle was lovely. While you could easily spend countless days getting lost in the twisting and turning alleys seeing the best of the city, 2 days in Hanoi is just enough time to enjoy the top sights and attractions properly.

And as much as I loved exploring and doing all the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi is truly one of the best jumping-off point for traveling around Vietnam. It’s a great introduction into Vietnamese culture and tradition and it’s pretty close to some of the best places to visit in Vietnam like Ha Long Bay, Sapa, and my personal favorite Ninh Binh.

I have a feeling you’re going to love your visit to Vietnam!

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The bright yellow Cua Bac Church

Are Two Days in Hanoi Enough?

While you could undoubtedly spend more time here, two days in Hanoi is a good amount of time to see the top sights and attractions in the city. And this itinerary shares the best things to do in Hanoi and the order in which to see them to maximize your time and ensure you see the best of this fabulous city!

↠ Read More: Vietnam Travel Tips for a smooth and comfy trip!

The One Pillar Pagoda is right behind Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum

A Snapshot of The Best Things to Do in Hanoi

While it’s not likely you’ll be able to see all of the best travel attractions in Hanoi in only two days, you can definitely visit quite a few of them. Here’s a list of some of the coolest places to visit in Hanoi to help you with your travel planning!

Feel free to add in and move around the stops in my recommended Hanoi itinerary below for a customized plan that suits you! Traveling from Hanoi to Sapa is also a popular thing to do in Hanoi since it’s just a few hours north of the city There are many tour operators offering single or multi-day trips you can choose from, or you can opt to make your way to Sapa on your own.

We were SO close to the train as it passed – scary

2 Day Hanoi Itinerary Overview

We’ve got limited time so that means we have lots to accomplish! Don’t forget a good pair of walking shoes, a big bottle of water, sunscreen and your camera. We’re about to exceed our step count goal y’all!

The bridge leading to Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake

A DIY Walking Tour: Day 1 in Hanoi

Egg Coffee on Train Street – Hoa Lo Prison Memorial – Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – One Pillar Pagoda – Coconut Coffee + Lunch BreakThang Long Imperial Citadel – Temple of Literature

I’ve mapped out (and personally tested!) this first 24-hour walking tour of Hanoi and felt it was a great way to see more of the city and save money walking from destination to destination. I’m an active person and enjoy moving, so I hope you guys don’t feel this is too jam-packed!

Day 1 is focused on all of the historical and cultural must-see sites in Hanoi! I have these destinations listed in a loop because it made sense for where I was staying. If your accommodation is on the other side of the city or closer to a stop different from number 1, you’ll probably want to rearrange as you see fit!

Let’s get started!

Beautiful train street

Stop 1: Egg Coffee on Train Street

— taxi or walk to train street —


Train street is famous amongst photographers but maybe a little unknown to others – I met so many people visiting Hanoi who didn’t have it on their list!

Train street is a narrow strip of train tracks that is squeezed tightly down an alleyway of houses and cafes. You have to stand with your back pretty much against the wall of the buildings to avoid being hit by the train. It’s a simultaneously cool and scary thing to experience.

The train travels between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi and passes through train street at 06:00, 08:30, 09:00, 13:15, 14:30, 15:30, and 19:30 on weekdays.

There are cute little cafes that set up shop right on the railway tracks by the locals who live there and I highly recommend sitting a bit enjoying a cup of Hanoi’s famous egg coffee or the lesser-known but equally unique Vietnamese yogurt coffee!

The entrance to the prison

Stop 2: Hoa Lo Prison Memorial

— walk 800 meters / .5 miles / 10 min —


The Hoa Lo Prison is a museum documenting the cruel history of French colonialism and the Vietnam War that took place in this old prison.

Initially, a place for the French to imprison and torture Vietnamese prisoners in the late 1800s, the Vietnamese eventually took it over and used it as a place to detain prisoners of war in the ’50s-’70s.

Famously known by American soldiers as “the Hanoi Hilton”, this is actually the prison where John McCain had been held captive for five years as a POW.

It’s a very somber place to visit and it was interesting to gain a different perspective as history is told from Vietnam’s communist POV.

The entrance fee for Hoa Lo Prison is 30,000 dong or about $1.30 USD and if you’re interested in an audio guide it’s 50,000 VND / $2.15 USD. The memorial is open everyday from 8:00am – 5:00pm.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Stop 3: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum + Single Pillar Pagoda

— walk 2 km / 1.24 miles / 25 min —


Due to the early and restrictive opening hours of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, this is our next stop to make sure you can get a good glimpse. The Mausoleum is closed Friday’s and between October and November for body maintenance.

From April – September, it’s open Tuesday – Thursday from 7:30 – 10:30 am and weekends from 7:30- 11:00 am. From December – March it’s open Tuesday – Thursday 8:00 – 11:00 am and on the weekends 8:00 – 11:30 am.

Constructed in the middle of Ba Dinh Square is the giant gray mausoleum where the former president Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body lies in a glass case in which visitors can actually line up and see. However, it closes for lunchtime usually around 12-2 pm and is often closed for maintenance so check with your hotel before arriving.

The entire square is quite big and very empty and concrete. There are strict rules for visiting such as no chewing gum, no walking in specific areas that are lined off or fenced off (I have no idea why), and you must go through a security checkpoint before entering.

In the same square is the Ho Chi Minh museum, which also closes during lunchtime hours, and the Single Pillar Pagoda.

There is no entrance fee to enter the square and see the Mausoleum.

image from Instagram @CongCaphe

Stop 4: Coffee Break at Cong Caphe / Lunch

— walk 600 meters / .35 miles / 7 min —


Time for some coffee from Vietnam’s own coffee chain! Stylized from inspiration from wartime Vietnam, Cong Ca Phe may be a chain but quickly became one of my favorite places to grab a cup of coffee while living and traveling in Vietnam.

They serve up a killer cup of coffee with coconut milk (my absolute fave!), other Vietnamese specialties and western-style coffee as well. If you’re looking for something sweet, the coconut milk with coffee or coconut milk with cocoa is also stellar – but very sweet!

Stop 5: Thang Long Imperial Citadel

— walk 250 meters / .15 miles / 3 min —


The Thang Long Imperial Citadel is just a short walk from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This ancient UNESCO world heritage site dates back to the 6th century. You can feel the rich history in this incredibly old place the moment you walk in.

Entry is just 30,000 VND ($1.30), and the complex is open between 8:00 am – 5:00 pm except for Mondays.

Hanoi’s Temple of Literature

Stop 6: Temple of Literature

— walk 1.3 km / .80 miles / 17 min —


After you’ve learned a bit about Vietnam’s ancient imperial history, it’s time to head off to the Temple of Literature.

A host to the first university in Vietnam, this imperial temple dates back to 1070. The grounds are beautifully well kept and insanely green in contrast to the surrounding concrete city.

The entrance fee for the Temple of Literature is 30,000 VND or about $1.30 USD. It’s open Tuesday – Sunday at 8:30 am – 11:30 am and 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm.

Day 1 Totals: 4.95 km / 3.07 miles / 1 hour and 2 minutes

Phew, day 1 is done and dusted! After we walked this route, we went back to our hostel to clean up and rest up. Depending on how much time you have left in your day, we started early and finished around 3 pm, here are some more recommendations for what to do to finish up your first day in Hanoi.

The pillow cakes from Pho Chien Phong Ben

Where to Eat in Hanoi

Obviously, while visiting Hanoi, it’s your duty to try some of the best Vietnamese food available! Vietnam was just recently dubbed as one of the world’s best cuisines and for good reason. Their rich street food culture and use of fresh herbs hit the taste buds just right!

While I only had 2 days in Hanoi total, I did my best to eat my way through as much as I could. After walking the city all day, I’m sure you’re starving! Here is a mini list of must-eat places in Hanoi.

Bun Cha Huong Lien 2 – Map.

In any research on where to eat in Hanoi, this place is probably one of the most recommended. Famous for when Obama and Bourdain came and enjoyed a Bun Cha and cold beer together, today this place is often packed with visiting tourists. But don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth the hype! Stop in and enjoy the classic ‘Obama’ meal and refuel for more explorations.

Pho Chien Phong Ben – Map.

While this dish/restaurant has ‘pho’ in the name, don’t be mistaken – this dish is a rich mixture of sauce, fresh veggies, and fried flat noodles or pillow cakes, that are huuuuge. Located near the West Lake, this stop is a local favorite and it was fun to try a unique Vietnamese dish.

Pho Thin Bo Ho – Map.

Of course, when you’re in Hanoi you must indulge in a bit of pho! This famous Vietnamese beef noodle soup is refreshing and filling. I met a nice mother, son duo who were out doing some shopping when they stopped me for a chat to practice their English and what I got out of it was some cool knowledge about the area and where to find a good bowl of Pho in the Old Quarter. They took me here and I loved every slurp!

A big ole bowl of pho

Hanoi Social Club – Map.

A western stylized joint that is super trendy and hip, we had a great time visiting Hanoi Social Club. Their food was incredible and we just so happened to have been there on a night that they were hosting live music by local musicians. We spent our evening chilling and taking in some good vibes on their rooftop.

Maison de tet Decor – Map.

This health-conscious restaurant is a bit out of the way of the city center but is located right on the water. They serve up some delicious meals, fresh fruit smoothies and juices, and awesome coffee. If you have the time or happen to be in the neighborhood, consider Maison de tet Decor.

Cafe Nola – Map.

I fell in love with this hidden cafe the second I wandered through the tiny alleyway to get in. Cafe Nola is a maze of rooms for folks to come and enjoy a cup of coffee, get some work done or just relax and chat. If you’re into coffee, I highly recommend a rest break at Cafe Nola.

Cong Caphe – Map.

Cong Caphe is a famous Vietnamese coffee chain best known for its Vietnam war inspired decor and fabulous coffee offerings. No visit to Vietnam is complete without at least trying one cup of their famous coconut coffee or coffee with coconut (and yes they are two different things!)

Part of the Obama special at Bun Cha Huong Lien 2

Day 2 in Hanoi – Exploring the Old Quarter

Note Coffee – Hoan Kiem Lake + Ngoc Son Temple – Old Quarter – Den Bach Ma Temple – Dong Xuan Market – Tran Quoc Pagoda – Cooking Class

Day 2 exploring Hanoi will be a little bit more chill! Focusing on the best in the Old Quarter, prepare to get lost down the twisting alleyways, to do some shopping and for a taste of daily life in Vietnam.

Happily sipping some coconut coffee in the cutest cafe ever – Note Coffee

Stop 1: Note Coffee

— walk or taxi from accommodation —


No visit to Hanoi is complete without a stop at Note Coffee. This Instagram famous cafe is super cute and covered in all sorts of colorful posts. It notes making it a fun place to grab a cup of coffee and maybe leave a few words behind.

They open their doors at 6:30 am – 11 pm and are conveniently located just across the street from Hoan Kiem Lake.

Peaceful Turtle Tower in Hoan Kiem Lake

Stop 2: Hoan Kiem Lake / Ngoc Son Temple

— walk 500 meters / .3 miles / 6 min —


After snapping some pics for the gram and enjoying a nice cup of coffee, head across the street to enjoy the views of Hoan Kiem Lake.

Located in the heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake is a freshwater lake home to both Ngoc Son Temple, also known as The Jade Mountain, as well as Turtle Tower.

Visitors can cross a unique wooden bridge to visit Ngoc Son Temple for 30,000 VND ($1.30), however, Turtle Tower is not accessible. The temple is open daily from 8 am – 5 pm. Try to spot a turtle swimming the lake waters for good luck!

I love the contrast of trees in the city streets

Stop 3: Wander the streets of the Old Quarter

— you’re there! —


After you’ve visited the temple and enjoyed a stroll around the lake, it’s time to take a stroll around the Old Quarter! There is some greatshopping in Hanoi’s Old Quarter as well as delicious restaurants, bars, souvenirs and more. This is even a great place to treat yourself to the best affordable manicures, pedicures, and spa treatments!

Get lost down some of Hanoi’s unique tiny streets and take in the incredible architecture that’s a fusion of traditional Vietnamese and French colonialism.

Stop 4: Den Bach Ma Temple

— walk 270 meters / .16 miles / 3 min —


After you’ve had your fill of getting lost in the Old Quarter, make your way to Den Bach Ma Temple. Founded by the Ly dynasty in 1010, this reconstructed temple is tiny but gorgeous. Soak in ancient history before continuing onward to the Dong Xuan Market.

A street market in Hanoi

Stop 5: Dong Xuan Market

— walk 350 meters / .22 miles / 4 min —


Just a short 4-minute walk from Den Bach Ma Temple is Dong Xuan Market. This place is a great example of large Vietnamese markets filled with stalls and tables of local vendors selling a variety of things.

Take a look at the local dried goods, souvenirs and trinkets, street food and more. It can get a little crowded and feel a little touristy, but it’s worth your time just to take a short wander through. The market is open daily from 6 am – 7 pm.

Stop 6: Tran Quoc Pagoda

— walk 2.1 km / 1.3 miles / 26 min (or taxi) —


After the market, it’s time to check out Tran Quoc Pagoda, which is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi dating back to around 544 – 548. Located near the West Lake, from the market it’s a 1.3-mile walk. Prepare for the 26 min journey or opt to take a taxi via your handy Grab app!

Tran Quoc Pagoda is free to enter and opens at 7:30 am every morning for those who wish to visit here first! Be sure to take the time to see Tran Quoc Pagoda before 6 pm when they close.

Loved these motorbike vendors

Stop 7: Cooking Class or Water Puppet Show

— TBD —


Now that you’ve thoroughly explored Hanoi’s Old Quarter, it’s time for a fun Vietnamese activity! Two of the most popular paid ‘excursions’ to do in Hanoi are either a Vietnamese cooking class or the famous water puppet show.

I must admit I didn’t do either being a strict budget, but I’ve heard wonderful things about both. Check out more information about the best cooking classes in Hanoi or consider booking a Vietnamese class through Get Your Guide.

Day 2 Totals: 3.25+ km / 2+ miles / 45+ minutes

Wandering around the Old Quarter in Hanoi is easy as pie! With everything being so close together, it’s no trouble at all to walk from destination to destination. Now that you’ve seen the best in the Old Quarter, let’s get into the best things to do in Hanoi at night!

What to Do in Hanoi at Night

You’ve had a busy two days seeing the best in Hanoi! But if you’re still feeling energized and ready to explore a bit more, here are some of the best things to do in Hanoi in the evening.

Bia Hoi Corner (Beer Corner) Map.

One of the most popular things to do in the evening is to grab a refreshing beer outside on the streets. Hanoi’s beer corner is a famously busy spot filled with bars and outside seating. The chaos is a great place to people watch and take part in such a lively culture!

Weekend Night Market Map.

If traveling in Hanoi on the weekend, the streets around Hoan Kiem Lake close every Friday to Sunday, 7 pm – 11 pm, for the weekend night market. Stalls pop up selling street food, unique crafts, and souvenirs to tourists and locals alike!

Hanoi Social Club Live Music – Map.

If you happen to be visiting Hanoi on a Tuesday, Hanoi Social Club hosts live music from local artists on their rooftop terraces most Tuesday nights! We just so happen to stumble upon it and really enjoyed the chill vibes. If you’re visiting on any other day, this is still a great place to grab a cocktail or beer.

More Coffee

Vietnamese coffee is an entire culture in its own right. If you are a coffee addict like me, then you may want to take the time to do a bit of cafe hopping in Hanoi – there are so many beautiful places! A few notable cafes: Little Hoi An, Cafe Nola, Cafe Giang, and more.

Egg coffee (Ca phe trung), coffee with condensed milk (cà phê sữa đá) and coconut coffee (ca phe dua) are musts in Vietnam!

Classic Street Food Experience

Wander the streets at night in the Old Quarter to sample local street food or better yet join a special Vietnamese street food tour that takes you to the best local joints led by a local who knows what’s up.

Where to Stay in Hanoi

While a big city, once you arrive you realize the feel of Hanoi isn’t so big after all. Even so, when choosing which district to say in Hanoi, hands down I’d say your best bet is the Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem District) or the French Quarter (Ba Dinh).

Hoan Kiem and Da Binh district lie right in the heart of the city and are closest to most of the best things to do in the city. You’ll have more choices for accommodation and lots of choices when it comes to finding a place to eat!

The Best Hostels in Hanoi

  • Hanoi Buffalo Hostel: Best social and party hostel with an onsite swimming pool and cheap nightly rates
  • Nexy Hostel: Great location in Old Quarter with a bar, pool table, and social atmosphere
  • Little Charm Hanoi Hostel: A highly rated Hanoi hostel that includes breakfast

The Best Hotels in Hanoi

  • Hanoi Lullaby Hotel and Travel: Adorable and affordable hotel in the heart of Old Quarter
  • Hanoi Paradise Center Hotel & Spa: Luxury Hanoi hotel for less (under $100/night) with a spa not far from Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi: A 5-star glamorous Hanoi hotel with a heated swimming pool, fitness center, and spa
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support <3 Learn more on my disclosure page.

There you have it! My ultimate 48-hour Hanoi Itinerary for the perfect visit to Vietnam’s sleepy capital. Am I missing anything important? Share below!