spending 2 days in hanoi itinerary

How to Spend 2 Days in Hanoi Itinerary

Hanoi – the capital city of Vietnam – is a great place to visit if you want to experience the best of what this country has to offer. There are many things to see and do in Hanoi, from exploring the bustling old quarter to visiting its beautiful temples and historic landmarks.  If you are looking for a 2 days Hanoi Itinerary, look no further! This itinerary below will give you a great overview of Hanoi and its must-see attractions. Let’s check it out!

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Travel Tips for Exploring Vietnam

Day 1 of 2 days in Hanoi, Vietnam

This great itinerary will help you get the most out of your 2 days in Hanoi – so we’ll cover the best places to see in Hanoi, the top Hanoi attractions not to miss, and, of course, some amazing Vietnamese food and drinks too.  Ready?  Let’s get started.

Enjoy Pho for breakfast

Wake up fresh and full with a bowl of Pho – one of Hanoi’s signature dishes. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that traditionally contains beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat. The broth is usually made by simmering beef or chicken bones for several hours. Pho is typically served with a side of bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chili peppers so that each person can customize their soup to their liking.

A bowl of beef Pho in Hanoi – Photo from Pixabay
A bowl of beef Pho in Hanoi – Photo from Pixabay

The most popular place to try Pho is Pho Thin on Lo Duc Street. It’s usually very crowded so be sure to arrive early to secure a slot. Another worthy Pho place is Pho Thin Bo Ho on Dinh Tien Hoang Street, which is easier to get to if your hotel is in the Old Quarter.

Wander around Hoan Kiem Lake and Hanoi Old Quarter

On your first day, it is best to check out the attractions near Hoan Kiem Lake – an iconic body of water centrally located in the city. Don’t forget to visit Ngoc Son Temple on Jade Island in Hoan Kiem Lake as well! 

Hoan Kiem Lake in the morning
Hoan Kiem Lake in the morning

Next, take a walk to the Old Quarter and explore the bustling heart of Hanoi. The Old Quarter is a maze of narrow streets, lined with shops and stalls selling everything from souvenirs to traditional medicines. Many of these shops are family-owned businesses that have been passed down for generations.

While visiting Hanoi Old Quarter, you can drop by Ma May Ancient House and explore what a traditional Hanoi house looks like hundreds of years ago. Once a rich merchant’s home, this beautiful ancient house has now been transformed into a museum where guests can admire valuable antiques and learn more about the local culture.  

Ma May Ancient House
Ma May Ancient House

Another popular attraction near Hanoi Old Quarter is Phung Hung Mural Street. If you are keen on taking photos with colorful murals depicting life in Hanoi from the past to the present, do not miss this place! It’s very similar to the murals and artwork that you’ll see in Georgetown, Penang.

Phung Hung Mural Street
Phung Hung Mural Street

Savor Bun Cha for lunch

This popular dish consists of grilled pork and rice noodles, served in a light broth. You’ll find bun cha stalls all over the city, but one of the best places is Bun Cha Huong Lien. This is where US President Barack Obama came for dinner during his trip to Vietnam in 2016, accompanied by the equally famous Anthony Bourdain.

A good portion of bun cha typically requires tender and juicy pork and perfectly-cooked rice noodles. Most orders also come with a side of fresh greens, which you can use to add some extra flavor to your meal.

Visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral and shop for souvenirs

After lunch, head to St. Joseph’s Cathedral and get to see one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hanoi. This beautiful cathedral was built in 1886 by French colonists in a Gothic style. You will find intricate mosaics decorated on the exterior of the cathedral, while the interior is adorned with beautiful stained glass windows and elaborate carvings.

2 days in hanoi itinerary st josephs cathedral

Around St. Joseph’s Cathedral are some shops selling lovely souvenirs such as Bat Trang potteries, Vietnamese silk, and so on. Check them out while you’re here!

Watch a Water Puppet Show

Watching a water puppet show in Hanoi has been hailed by many foreign visitors as one of the best travel experiences in Vietnam. Originating in the rice fields of northern Vietnam, water puppet shows are often performed in a pool of water nowadays. During the show, puppeteers stand behind a screen to control the puppets and let them tell stories from Vietnamese folklore, accompanied by traditional music.

The best place to enjoy a water puppet show in Hanoi is Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. There are 5 shows daily in the afternoon and evening, each lasting one hour.

Enjoy nightlife in Hanoi on Ta Hien Street

For a great night out, head to Ta Hien Street in Hanoi Old Quarter. This lively street is full of bars and restaurants, and it’s the perfect place to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere. You’ll find locals and tourists alike enjoying the nightlife here, as its great vibe makes it perfect for socializing.

Day 2 of a 2 days in Hanoi Itinerary

Have Banh mi for breakfast

Banh mi is a delicious and popular Vietnamese dish that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The word “banh mi” actually refers to a type of French baguette that the dish is served on. The bread is usually filled with a variety of meats, vegetables, and herbs, and then topped with pickled vegetables and chili sauce.

For the best banh mi in Hanoi, head to Banh Mi Nguyen Sinh at number 19 on Ly Quoc Su Street. Another two popular vendors are Banh mi Pho Hue, located at number 118A on Pho Hue Street, and Banh Mi Ba Dan at number 34 on Lo Su Street.

Explore the Ho Chi Minh Complex

After breakfast, start your day with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, which includes the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – the final resting place of the nation’s founder, Uncle Ho – his stilt house, Presidential Palace, and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Then head to One Pillar Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples.

Ho chi minh mausoleum Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Hanoi

Enjoy Vietnamese cuisine for lunch

When it’s lunchtime, head to Quan An Ngon restaurant and choose from a variety of Vietnamese cuisine from north to south. Located on Phan Boi Chau Street with a spacious dining area and a diverse menu, this restaurant is a favorite gathering place for both locals and tourists alike. Our guide to the best Vietnamese food is here.

Tour around the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a must-see for anyone visiting Hanoi. Built in the 11th century, it served as the capital of Vietnam for almost 300 years. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved citadels in Southeast Asia.

The gate of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The gate of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a sprawling complex of buildings, archeological sites, and defensive walls, all set within a moat. It is also home to a museum, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the dynastic era.

Visit the Temple of Literature

Built in 1070 as Vietnam’s first university, the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is now a popular spot for tourists who come to admire the architecture and learn about Vietnam’s rich history.

The highlight of the temple is its stunning courtyard where visitors can admire graceful bonsai trees and stone steles, each of which bears the name of one of Vietnam’s top Confucian scholars. Every year before the national university entrance exam, students in Hanoi still have the habit of coming here to pray for good results.

Round up your day with La Vong Grilled Fish

A traditional dish of Hanoi, La Vong Grilled Fish comprises of naked catfish which is marinated and then cut into pieces for grilling, rice noodles, vegetables, and a dipping sauce of either shrimp paste or fish sauce. On your last night in Hanoi, be sure to drop by the original founding place of La Vong Grilled Fish at number 14 on Cha Ca Street in Hanoi Old Quarter to enjoy an authentic set of this dish. 

As your stay in Hanoi comes to an end, don’t forget to also check out some of the best day trips from Hanoi to experience the peaceful nature, rich culture, and beautiful beaches surrounding this bustling capital city.

Final Words on this 2 days Hanoi Itinerary

There you have it – a well-packed and exciting 2 days Hanoi itinerary. Whether you’re interested in exploring Hanoi’s history, and culture, or just looking for a chance to relax, this 2 days Hanoi Itinerary has something for everyone!   Have you been to Hanoi before? Is there any other thing to do in Hanoi that you would recommend? Feel free to let us know by commenting below!

Thanks to Fiona Mai for this article. Fiona is a 20-ish Vietnamese travel blogger who has been to 21 countries so far. She was lucky enough to call herself a past resident of Helsinki, Berlin, Brisbane, Hanoi, and Kingston upon Hull. Even more fortunate right now to be back to where she comes from: Saigon, Vietnam. Read more about her journeys here: http://fionatravelsfromasia.com/

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