Hanoi is the capital and second biggest city of Vietnam. If you have been to other Asian cities you know what to expect. If not, be prepared, it will be loud and busy. While walking through the streets the honking of the scooters, there are more than 5 million ones, will accompany you wherever you go. The business also has a special charme and if you leave the main roads, quieter alleys will attract you and invite you to stay for a delicious meal, a vietnamese coffee or a beer.
Most travelers stay a night after arriving, before departure or for a short stopover. We would recommend to stay a bit longer, this city for sure has something which makes you want to stay longer. Anyway you can see a lot in two days, we tell you how.
How to get there from the Airport
It’s really easy to get in to the Old Quarter from the Airport. The cheapest and a great option is to take the bus. When you leave the airport you will find the busstop for the bus number 89 just across the street a little to the left. It costs 35,000 vnd and will get you to the center in about 40-50 minutes. Just get on the bus and get yourself comfortable. The bus assistant will go around, sell you the ticket and will ask you where you about the address of your accommodation. As soon as the bus reaches the area of the old quarter he will tell you where to get of to be as closest to your accommodation.
The other option is to take a taxi. We would recommend to download the Grab app which will show you the price you have to pay in advance so there’s no need for a discussion afterwards.
Day of arrival
Depending on the time you arrive in Hanoi and on your level of energy you can start with our timetable right away. When we went to Vietnam we arrived in Hanoi by plane, took the bus to the old quarter, got to our lovely homestay and refreshed ourselves first. If you are interested in where we stayed, it was the BC Family Homestay 2, which has a really great location. On the day of arrival we always take it slow and easy. To prevent jetlag we go out and just walk around in the daylight as long as possible. We enjoyed local food and went to bed early to start fresh into our first full day.
Get up early and enjoy a breakfast in your accommodation or somewhere outside. There are plenty of options to choose from. A typical breakfast is Pho Bo which is a beef soup with ricenoodels. If you’re not into soup in the morning maybe a Bánh mì (sandwich) is the right choice for you.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Walk or take a taxi to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. As mentioned above we downloaded the grab app which is really handy as you will know the price in advance. Also you can choose between a scooter or a car. We didn’t use the app in Hanoi as we walked everywhere but we used it a couple of times at other places.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is open from December to August every Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday and Sunday from 8-11am. Make sure to be at the Mausoleum before 10:15am as the last entry is at this time. Sadly we had a bad timing when we got there as it closed even earlier for a political event. Also we couldn’t walk around to see it from the outside as the street which is passing by was closed as well. Like that we have something for our next visit. It’s for sure worth seeing, lots of people told us, so make sure you don’t miss it.
After visiting the Mausoleum Complex you could walk up to the west lake. It’s a really big lake and a great place to get away from the busy city. Here you will find several cafés or restaurants and can enjoy a refreshing walk or bikeride.
From the east side of the lake it’s not far to the Bun Cha 34 where you can taste a very typical dish. It’s said that it’s the best Bun Cha in Vietnam, it really is delicious!
Temple of Literature
Turn back direction south to the Temple of Literature. This temple was actually Vietnam’s first national university. In this school, which was built in 1070, students were taught Chinese, Chinese philosophy, and Chinese history. It’s a very special feeling to wander around these old buildings.
We definitely recommend you to go to Hanoi over a weekend to see the nightmarket. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday all the shops at the Hang Dao street bring out their stands around 7pm and display everything you can imagine until midnight. Whatever you need you will get there. If you don’t need anything, just stroll through and enjoy the atmosphere!
Get up early and enjoy a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake while the city is waking up. Locals enjoy the quiet time of the day with running around the lake, doing tai chi, dancing, playing badminton or some other activities.
Ngoc Son Temple
Visit the Ngoc Son Temple that is built on a small island at the northern part of the lake. It’s open from 7am to 6pm, entry costs 30,000 vnd for adults and 15,000 vnd for students. Children under the ago of 15 can enter for free. It’s not the biggest and most impressive temple but it’s definitely worth seeing. The location itself is already very special!
Enjoy breakfast in the old quarter, if you haven’t already taken a bite before you left your accommodation.
Old Quarter walk
Make your way through the old quarter. Definitely take your time, there’s a lot to see along the way.
We started our way from the lake after visiting the Ngoc Son Temple. We took the P Hang Be street direction north, turned left into the Hang Bac street and turned right again into Ta Hien street. This street is popular for its nightlife. On the end of the street we turned left and took the first one to the right. There you will find the so called Bach Ma temple. Take the first street to the right till you stand in front of the well-preserved Old East Gate. Take the street to the left tland enjoy the streetmarket. Here are fruits, vegetables, fish and meat sold but you can also find alive frogs, ducks, chicken or rabbits.
When leaving this street you will stand in front of the Dong Xuan Market. It’s a big, nontouristy market where you can find mainly household items. It’s for sure worth a visit!
If you want to visit the Long Bien bridge you should continue your way a little more direction north-west. It’s for sure impressive to see.
After strolling around at the Market we ended up in a little alley full of food stands while continuing our way to the west. We enjoyed a really good lunch there. Not quite sure what we got and how to eat it but we got help from the locals and had a lot of fun while trying to roll springrolls ourself and tasting different flavors.
Continue your way through Hang Ma street to the famous trainstreet. It’s amazing to see how life happens so close to the tracks of the train. There are plenty of inviting coffee bars along the track. We spent a long time with walking up and down, taking pictures and enjoying vietnamese coffee and beer while chatting with other travelers. It’s such a great place for a little timeout of the busy city.
To see the train passing you should be there at 3:30pm on weekends. Saturday and Sunday it also drives through at 8:30am and 9:30am. During the week the train comes at 6:30am and 7pm.
Continue your way through the rest of the old quarter, down the Thuoc Bac street. Stroll through the streets and don’t get lost between all the shops. At the west side of the lake you will end your walk at the St. Joseph Cathedral. Take a look at the Cathedral and enjoy your dinner in one of the nearby diners. We really enjoyed an authentic meal at Noodle & Roll.
The rest of the day you could walk around in the French quarter. Take a look at the Opera House which is a great example of colonial architecture.
After walking the whole day and before continuing your trip you could now spoil yourself with a good massage. ?
The list of what to do in Hanoi is probably endless but we’re sure that this is a good start. Take care of yourself especially when crossing streets. Remember to just keep walking in a good pace and keep watching the approaching scooters ? We hope you will enjoy this city as much as we did!
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