How to Spend the Perfect 48 Hours in Hanoi

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Hello guys!

If you follow me on my socials (Instagram and Pinterest), you know that I have been raving non-stop about Vietnam. It’s fast becoming one of my favourite countries in the world and its old capital Hanoi is one of the most charming little city I have ever been to in my life!

From its beautiful old French quarter to its endless supply of charming little quaint coffee places, this shining gem has so much to offer for visitors of every interest and taste. During our one week in Hanoi, we spent the majority of the time discovering this city at a very leisurely pace, which is how we usually travel.

Since most visitors I’ve met and talked to generally stay in Hanoi for a couple of days, I’ve decided to narrow down all the things we’ve seen, done, and eaten to a full 48 hours. This complete itinerary includes suggestions of places to eat throughout the day, where and what to visit, prices, operating hours, and even tour suggestions. You can customise it accordingly to your travel preferences, stay duration and budget.

Happy reading!

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Day 1

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Breakfast at Lifted Coffee and Brunch

To ease you (and your digestive system) slowly into Vietnamese cuisine, head on over to Lifted Coffee and Brunch for a selection of Aussie-meets-Vietnam brunch dishes.

Hanoi Guide / Lifted

Lifted is located right at the heart of the Old Quarter and it has a cool urban Melbourne coffee vibe to it and there are English menus available, if you’re concerned.

We had the traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, although they do serve western-style coffees. J had a classic avocado toast with mushrooms and poached eggs, whilst I had tom yum duck eggs benedict! Talk about a serious asian twist!

Hanoi Guide / Lifted

Where: 101 Hàng Gà, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
Hours: 8AM—10:30PM
Price range: $$
Mimi’s tip: Definitely try the tom yum benedict! I really loved it, even though I’m not a duck fan.

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Explore the Old Quarter

Not to be confused with the Ba Đình district (a.k.a. French Quarter), the Old Quarter is located in the Hoàn Kiếm district.

Discover old colonial French architecture, charming old cafés and the city’s long history (a millennium to be precise!). For the first day, here are some suggestions for places you can visit in Hanoi’s Old Quarter:

Hoan Kiem Lake & Temple of the Jade Mountain

Hanoi Guide / Temple of the Jade Mountain

What: An 18th century temple that is dedicated to Confucian and Taoist scholars, and the 13th century war hero, Tran Hung Dao, who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty.
Where: Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam.
Hours: 8AM—6PM (Check for public and religious holidays before visit)
Entry fee: VND 30,000 (US$1.30)
Mimi’s tip: Don’t come before 8AM because the bridge and temple are behind secured gates and they don’t open until then.

Temple of Literature

Hanoi Guide / Temple of Literature

What: Originally built in 1070 as a university dedicated to Confucian scholars and only accepted members of the royal families, aristocrats and nobles, but later on opened its doors to the public. A fine example of traditional Vietnamese-style architecture.
Where: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
Hours: 7:30AM—6PM (Check for public and religious holidays before visit)
Entry fee: VND 30,000 (US$1.30). Purchase the ticket on the left of the entrance first.
Mimi’s tip: This is one of the most visited places in Hanoi, so make sure to come as soon as it opens to avoid huge crowds.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Hanoi Guide / St Joseph's Cathedral

What: Built in 1886, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral was constructed on top of the Bao Thien Pagoda site (one of the Four Great Treasures of Annam). When the Viet Minh took control of Northern Vietnam in 1954, the catholic church suffered decades of persecution following that. ⁣Nowadays, it serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi to nearly 4 million Catholics in Vietnam. ⁣
Where: 40 Nhà Chung, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
Hours: 8AM-12PM, 2-6PM (Check for public and religious holidays before visit)
Entry fee: Free!
Mimi’s tip: There are several masses held on Sunday and for the 6PM Sunday service, the hymns are broadcasted on the streets just outside and you can listen to them from one of the cafe terraces overlooking the church.

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Lunch: $2.50 grilled beef rice noodles

That’s right. $2.50 for a huge portion of bún bò.

Bún bò Nam Bộ literally stands for “southern-style bún bò.” This delectable dish is comprised of marinated beef sautéed with lemongrass and garlic, served on top of rice noodles, crunchy greens, bean sprouts, raw papaya shreds, crunchy fried peanut powder and a drizzle of nước mắm sauce (Vietnamese fish sauce).

After exploring the Old Quarter for a few hours, that stomach is definitely growling. Bún Bò Nam Bộ Bách Phương is located in the Old Quarter and I am not kidding when I say it serves THE BEST bún bò I have ever had in my life—and I’ve had a lot. In fact, it’s so good and such amazing value for the price that we frequented this joint almost everyday during our one week stay in Hanoi.

Where: 67 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
Hours: 7:30AM-10:30PM
Price range: 60,000 VND for a huge bowl of bún bò (US$2.60).

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Dine on the streets like a local

I don’t know about you, but I always love discovering local cuisine. I feel it’s one of the best way to get an idea or first impression of a culture that you’re not familiar with.

That’s why I booked a street food tour on Airbnb with Hana, a Hanoian street food expert. This way, I am able to optimise my time by having a local guide me through the food of her home and ask her questions at the same time.

The entire tour lasted for 3 hours and it cost US$28 per person. Overall, we tried 6 different types of street food, each with their own unique backstory. Hana was wonderful and very knowledgeable not just about Vietnamese street food, but also a delight to talk to when it comes to talking about her own heritage and culture. This is unsponsored, I just really enjoyed her tour!

Here are some shots from the street food tour we did with Hana:

Hanoi Guide / street food tour
Hanoi Guide / street food tour
Hanoi Guide / street food tour
Hanoi Guide / street food tour

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Day 2

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Breakfast and coffee at The Hanoi Social Club

Now that you’re rested and ready for the second day in Hanoi, refuel by having breakfast in an old colonial French building.

The Hanoi Social Club is located in a small charming alley in the Old Quarter. We decided to try this place out because it’s one of the most popular place to eat in Hanoi and we’ve heard wonderful things from locals and visitors alike.

Hanoi Guide / The Hanoi Social Club

Like Lifted, The Hanoi Social Club serves a mix of traditional asian cuisine with a western twist. When I saw Malaysian laksa on the menu, I was immediately intrigued and decided to order that for breakfast instead. Although it wasn’t the traditional laksa that I know, this interpretation was milder yet still flavourful and the portion was big. For coffee, I had my favourite iced Vietnamese coffee because, when in Vietnam, right?

Hanoi Guide / The Hanoi Social Club

Where: 6 Ngõ Hội Vũ, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
Hours: 8AM—11PM
Price range: $$
Mimi’s tip: The wifi is actually pretty strong and reliable here so if you’re thinking of a good place to work at in Hanoi, then this place is great. There are plug points everywhere and the ambience is really convivial and relaxed too.

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Discover the vibrant coffee culture in Hanoi

Another tour?

Hear me out.

In my previous post, I talked extensively about the thriving coffee culture in Hanoi. As a coffee lover, I knew that I just had to explore everything that Vietnam has to offer. That’s why I did my research online and in the end decided to book a walking coffee tour with Backstreet Academy. This is also unsponsored.

My tour guide, Mai, previously worked as a professional barista so it was a real delight to hear her explain the different methods of preparing coffee beans and the distinct differences between Vietnamese coffees and western-style coffees.

If you’re a coffee lover, check out my guide to the best coffee in Hanoi and where to find them!

The tour cost us US$26 per person and it lasted for 2-3 hours. She took us to 4 different locations, each more unique than the one before. The tour was slow-paced and very relaxed so I had plenty of time to ask her questions. At the end, we were given the hands-on experience of preparing our own traditional Vietnamese coffee and also a surprise gift at the end!

Here are some snaps from our coffee tour with Mai:

Hanoi Guide / Coffee tour
Hanoi Guide / Coffee tour
Hanoi Guide / Coffee tour
Hanoi Guide / Coffee tour

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Lunch on bún chả like Obama

Here’s what you need to know about bún chả:

  • It’s a really yummy dish of barbecued pork served on rice noodles, fresh crunchy greens and herbs, dipping sauce and heart-warming broth.
  • Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain invited Barack Obama to have bún chả in the Old Quarter at Hanoi, and man, did he love it. The restaurant has since then be known as ‘Obama’s Bún chả’.

However, I would suggest you avoid Obama Bún chả because of the insane amount of crowds that eat there the entire day. Instead, head on over to Bun Cha Ta Hanoi that is a few minutes’ walk away. A lot of locals frequent this joint and the bún chả is really good!

Hanoi Guide / bun cha

Where: 21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
Hours: 8AM—10:30PM (everyday except Sunday), 8:30AM—10:30PM Sunday
Price range: 95,000 VND for a spring roll and bún chả set.

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Discover Hanoi’s old French colonial past

Step into old French colonial Hanoi when you enter the Ba Đình district. Hanoi’s French Quarter is located at the southern end of Hoan Kiem lake and it’s very easy to walk around the entire district.

The French Quarter is slightly less busy than the Old Quarter, yet still offers a lot for visitors. There are many historical landmarks, museums, government buildings and five-star hotels. Most, if not every building in this quarter has distinct French architectural influences. A lot of visitors actually likened the Ba Đình district to a Parisian neighbourhood.

Here are some of the highlights of the French Quarter in Hanoi:

Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Guide / Hanoi Opera House

What: Built in 1901 after the Palais Garnier in Paris. The Hanoi Opera House has witnessed several political events including the meeting of the National Assembly of Democratic Republic of Vietnam on March 2, 1946.
Where: Số 01 Tràng Tiền, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam.
Hours: Opens at 10:30AM (Monday to Friday). Visitors will have 90 minutes to visit the Opera House.
Entry fee: VND 400,000 (US$17.30), 50% off for students.
Mimi’s tip: There are so many great opera shows and ballets that you can watch here. Average ticket price ranges from 300,000 VND to 1,000,000 VND (US$13-43).

National Museum of Vietnamese History

Hanoi Guide / National Museum of Vietnamese History

What: Right across from the Hanoi Opera House lies the National Museum of Vietnamese History. This museum houses an impressive collection of Vietnamese artefacts and relics dating back to the prehistoric times, spanning across all the various Vietnamese dynasties, till the Vietnamese people’s struggle for independence in the late 19th century till the early 20th century.
Where: 214 Trần Quang Khải, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 110000, Vietnam.
Hours: 8AM—12:00AM, 13:30—17:30PM everyday. Closed on the first Monday of each month.
Entry fee: VND 40,000 (US$1.70), reduction for students and seniors. More info here.
Mimi’s tip: If you’re planning to take pictures and/or videos, there are extra charges. Photograph fee: 30.000 VND/ camera, video fee: 400.000 VND/ camera.

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Watch a traditional water puppet show

Partake in a thousand-year-old tradition and head to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

According to this article, the tradition of water puppet theatre originates from a time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers would entertain each other by telling stories with puppets whilst standing waist-high in water. The storyteller would move the puppets that are supported on large rods behind a screen.

All the puppet performances are accompanied by the sounds of drums, cymbals, bamboo flutes and wooden instruments played by a Vietnamese orchestra. The storyteller will also recount the tales in a traditional Vietnamese song. Most of the topics involve Vietnamese folk tales and legends with topics.

Where: 57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam.
Hours: For more information, check out here.
Price range: Between 100,000 VND to 200,000 VND (US$4.30—US$8.60).
Mimi’s tip: It is advisable for you to book your tickets in advance, just in case! The best way is to book it in person at the theatre because I found the official website to be a little confusing. If you still want to book it online or to check out the schedule, you can find it here.

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Dine on fresh Vietnamese grilled fish

We’ve actually stumbled across Chả Cá Thăng Long by accident. In search for food at the area around our Airbnb, we were about to head back and order delivery when we came across this familial place.

Since neither of us understood Vietnamese, we did not know until we sat down in the restaurant that Chả Cá (Vietnamese grilled fish) is the only dish they serve. After the friendly owner explained the dish to us and how it works, we each ordered a serving with some Vietnamese beer.

First, they served us the rice noodles, dipping sauces, fresh greens, fried peanuts and various other sides such as minced garlic and chopped chilli. Next, someone puts a small wok with grilled greens and snakehead fish marinated in turmeric and other spices. They will start grilling the Chả Cá in front of you and come back every once in awhile to check on the fire.

Hanoi guide / Chả Cá Thăng Long

As a seafood lover, I absolutely loved the dish. The fish was fresh and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The mix of flavours from the herbs, garlic, turmeric, and everything else went so good together! The Vietnamese beer on the side is a must and the people there were super friendly and English communication is not a problem!

Where: 19 – 21 – 31, Dương Thành, Vietnam.
Hours: 10AM—9:30PM everyday.
Price range: I don’t remember the exact price, but I think it was around 100,000 VND per person (US$ 4.30).

Well, there you have it! Two full days of itinerary for old Hanoi, including suggestions for places to eat and drink. You can of course customise it according to your traveling style. Ours is more relaxed and our focus is always on exploring local cuisine so it’s food and drinks heavy. But hey, a girl’s gotta eat, am I right?

Visiting Vietnam for the first time and not sure where to start? Check out this post for all the essential information you MUST KNOW about Vietnam.
For more FREE TRAVEL GUIDES on Vietnam, click here.

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Get the ultimate Hanoi bucketlist!

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Comments

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  1. Paloma

    I absolutely love this! I havent travelled internationally, but more and more. Southeast Asia seems like my SPOT. Your food pics got me 😍😍😍. 🙌

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      1. Jeenu Pillai

        I like the detailed description of your visit. Would love to visit Vietnam someday, till that time your blog will quench my wanderlust.

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  2. Nelly

    I live in Hanoi and your articles are just perfect. so detailed and perfect! I have not been to half of these places but I will make a point this month.

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  3. jerry godinho

    I still remember Anthony Bourdain having a meal with Obama. I love Vietnamese food and the culture is amazing. Your description is so vivid and real and so many wonderful pics. thanks for this wonderful piece.
    jerry godinho

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  4. Akriti

    Though I haven’t been to Vietnam yet but I want to. I love reading such detailed travel guides to help me find out the best things to do everywhere I go. I especially loved your suggestions for Vietnamese food. I’ve tried it a couple of times here and I absolutely enjoy it.

    https://itsasweetsweetworld.com

  5. Mudpie Fridays

    Never been to Hanoi so reading your post is like a quick short trip there, even though a virtual one, and I love it, and the photos are great! Thanks for sharing this!

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  6. Cash

    Well, you know what, I’m going Vietnam this coming October. And if time allows, I may drop by Hanoi for some coffee. By the way, love your blog.

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      Miriam

      Really appreciate the positive feedback, Cash and so happy to hear that because I know you’re gonna have a wonderful experience in Vietnam!
      And yes, do find a way to drop by Hanoi even if it’s just for the coffee 😊

  7. Ana

    Looks like there are so many wonderful things to explore in Hanoi! Haven’t been to that part of the world yet but would love to visit someday soon!

  8. Catherine Santiago Jose

    I have never been there and Vietnam looks like a nice destination for me to visit.
    I am glad that you’ve had a great time exploring that place. I will definitely add this to my bucket and hope to see this place soon!

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  9. Trina Dinnar

    Wow, Vietnam looks like an amazing place to visit! I’m so glad you shared all of these amazing places. I hope to visit someday!

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  10. Alexandra Cook

    Wow, this place looks incredible. There’s so much to do and see there! Looks like a brilliant place to take the whole family

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      Miriam

      Thank you so much for the feedback, Anshika! Will definitely keep the tour and itinerary suggestions for future posts 😊

    1. Elizabeth O

      The things that I’m most excited about when I travel are the views and the food. Vietnam is so beautiful and it has a rich culture.

  11. kumamonjeng

    I was at Hanoi last year and love the 4 days 3 nights stay so much. The food was amazing and love how we all sat on the little chairs and short tables to have our food. The karaoke on the street at the night market was something quite interesting too.

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      Miriam

      So glad you enjoyed your time there! Haha, the karaoke is not my favourite thing in the world. But I’m so happy you mentioned the little chairs and short tables because it was actually quite a fun and interesting way to eat a meal 😊

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  12. Lavern Moore

    I don’t know much about Hanoi Vietnam but this informative read helped fill in the gaps. Would love to visit one day!

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  13. Tracy Chong

    I had the Vietnamese Egg Coffee at one of the coffee shop at Old Quarter. Did you try that? I love Vietnamese food as they are light and tasty with a lot of veggies. 🙂

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  14. Geraline Batarra

    It seems really great in Hanoi, your pictures are so nice. Thanks for sharing ideas on how to spend time here.

  15. twinspirationalparties

    I haven’t been to Vietnam, but when I read this now I wanna visit it, thanks for sharing the beauty of Hanoi and guides on what to do there..

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  16. GiGi Eats

    I actually did 48 hours in Hanoi back in 2016!! It was quite an experience! I am thrilled we had a tour guide to take us everywhere or else I really wouldn’t have known where to start!! If I had your blog post back then, then it wouldn’t have been a problem!

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