If you only have 2 days in Hanoi, you’ll find the perfect itinerary in this post. I’ve handpicked the best things to do in Vietnam’s capital city.
Hanoi is one of the best places in Vietnam.
You’ll be surrounded by bustling streets filled with modern skyscrapers, intertwined with ancient temples and majestic pagodas.
But the true charm is the maze of French colonial mansions in the Old Quarter!
Hanoi is a city that beautifully blends tradition and modernity. While the rest of Vietnam rushes forward, Hanoi stays true to its roots, so it’s truly an authentic and perplexing place to visit.
Here’s a guide on how to make the most of two days in Hanoi, exploring its top attractions and things to do.
Let’s dive in!
Read next: The perfect 1 day Hanoi itinerary
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Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam with an impressive history stretching back over a thousand years. You’ll sense that when you visit the old quarter.
Hanoi means “city inside rivers” because it has many rivers that run around the city and form lakes inside the city.
It’s not just rivers that make Hanoi special, though; the city is home to more than 600 temples and pagodas. More than 5,2 million people call Hanoi home.
Best time to visit Hanoi
The best time to visit Hanoi is from October to February, where you will experience cooler and drier weather.
This is the high season for visiting most of Southeast Asia.
If you prefer to visit in the shoulder season where there are fewer crowds and prices are lower, you should go from September to November or from March to April.
👉 Read next: What you should pack for Southeast Asia
2 day Hanoi itinerary
How to get around Hanoi
Hanoi is a walkable city so the best way to explore is by walking.
You can go at your own pace and see the narrow, old streets, busy markets, and famous landmarks up close.
You can also hop on a cyclo, those three-wheel bikes that Vietnam is so known for. They’re a fun way to experience the city – like tuktuks in Bangkok.
If you’re up for something more adventurous, try a Motorbike Tour (⭐ 5/5) with Viator. It’s a popular tour with more than 2,700 positive reviews where you’ll ride with a local and discover hidden spots that most tourists miss.
Where to stay in Hanoi
The best things to do in Hanoi are located around Hoan Kim Lake and Hanoi’s Old Quarter so that’s where you should base yourself during your stay in Hanoi.
La Nueva Boutique Hotel Hanoi & Spa (⭐ 9.0) The modern rooms, the helpful staff and the breakfast is what makes this hotel a favourite in Hanoi. Plus – you can literally walk to all of the places of interest in Hanoi. Check rates and availability here.
2 days in Hanoi
Day 1 in Hanoi
Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
On your first day in Hanoi, head to the Ho Chi Minh museum.
Ho Chi Minh – the so-called “father of Vietnam” – was Vietnam’s former beloved leader.
At the mausoleum, you can visit his preserved body. Just like Mao Zedong’s mausoleum at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Dodge the train at Train Street
This is the most unique thing to do in Hanoi: watching a massive train passing through a narrow residential street.
You’ll find the train between Phùng Hưng and Lý Nam Đế, right next to Hanoi’s French quarter where it passes twice a day.
The exact location is 5 Trần Phú, and you can also visit the Hanoi Half Day City Tour (⭐5/5), which has 101 positive reviews.
🚆 Train Street has reopened: In September 2022, Hanoi authorities closed the famous Hanoi Train Street, but as of August 2023 it is fully open again!
Take a Hanoi street food tour
Honestly, Hanoi is all about the food. And the best way to taste it is at the street food stalls.
Vinh Ho Street in Dong Da is the most popular place for street food – the market brims with fresh produce. Figuring out what to try and which food stalls are the best can be a challenge, though.
That’s why a food tour is such a great idea. All you have to do on this food walking tour with Viator (⭐ 5/5), is follow your guide to discover delicious spots.
Expect rice noodle soup with beef, snails, steamed pancakes, and Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) – in other words: all the good stuff!
Explore the street art murals in the Old Quarter
On Phung Hung Street in the Old Quarter, you’ll find the Hanoi Street Murals.
The arches under the train tracks are decorated with murals that show Hanoi’s tales and history. Although some of them are a bit worn out, they’re still worth visiting!
You can also visit the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural, which at 6.5 kilometres is the Guinness World Record holder for the longest ceramic mural.
Visit Hoa Lo Prison Memorial
The Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French in the late 1800s and later became a POW facility during the Vietnam War.
And that’s how it got the iconic nickname of “Hanoi Hilton.” Today, the remaining gatehouse is a museum.
You can explore it solo, with a guide, or via an audio guide, which most people recommend as you get more thorough information.
- Entrance: 30.000 VND ($1.25)
- Opening hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 AM
Tour the Tran Quoc pagoda
The oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi is located on a peaceful island in the heart of West Lake.
Just a stone’s throw away is the Quan Thanh Temple, one of Hanoi’s big four temples. You can’t miss it – its impressive gate is right there by the roadside.
Visit the Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace was where President Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 to 1969.
Here, you get the chance to learn about Vietnam’s history and the life of Ho Chi Minh (also known as Uncle Ho), Vietnam’s greatest leader.
- Summer (April – October): 7:30 – 11 am and 1:30 – 4 pm
- Winter (November – March): 8 – 11 am and 1:30 – 4 pm
- *Closed Monday afternoons and Friday afternoons
- Free for Vietnamese visitors
- 40,000 VND/ticket for foreign visitors
2 days hanoi itinerary
Day 2 in Hanoi
Start your day at Hoan Kiem Lake
Start your second day in Hanoi at Hoan Kiem Lake. Simply walk around it while you look at the shimmering waters and lush scenery.
Ngoc Son temple
In the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake lies the Ngoc Son Temple on a small island.
This sacred temple forms a historical complex that has been a source of pride for the people of Hanoi for centuries.
Try egg coffee
You can’t visit Hanoi without tasting egg coffee at Note Coffee or Cafe Giang.
Egg coffee is a unique Vietnamese drink that’s basically an espresso topped with a creamy egg mix. It was first made by Nguyen Giang during the 1940s when there was a milk shortage because of the French War.
You can get it hot or cold, and the cold version is really nice when the weather is hot.
Take a cyclo ride in Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Explore Hanoi’s old quarter on a cyclo, a cool three-wheeled bicycle taxi, and soak up the sights, sounds, and smells of this captivating city.
You can either hail a cyclo on the street or pre-book an English-speaking driver who will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the main sights in the old town.
Visit Dong Xuan market
Hanoi’s largest market is the Dong Xuan, and it’s a fun place to visit.
This is where you’ll find unique souvenirs, delicious Vietnamese food, and clothes.
St. Joseph cathedral
Joseph’s Cathedral is a well-known landmark from Hanoi’s colonial era.
This neo-Gothic church is located on the west side of Lake Hoan Kiem and was inspired by Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
It was built in 1886, making it the oldest church in Hanoi.
Read next: 15 greatest things to do in Hoi An in 2 days
Try the popular Jeep Tour
We’ve talked about exploring Hanoi by Cyclo, but how about a Soviet-era GAZ-69 jeep?
You can choose from morning, afternoon, or evening tours and treat yourself to a delicious street food meal and drink at a rooftop bar included in the tour.
This jeep tour (⭐ 5/5) is one of the most popular tours in Hanoi. With 2,561 positive reviews and the Badge of Excellence, this is a tour you shouldn’t miss.
Doan Mon gate
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long (the Forbidden City) is a UNESCO world heritage site that dates back to the 7th century.
Doan Mon is one of the main entrances to the Citadel, located in line with the Hanoi Flag Tower.
Throughout different dynasties, the Citadel served as the home and workplace of the King and the Royal Family. It was also the venue for important national ceremonies.
It’s the perfect place to visit if you’re a history lover.
Hanoi night market
On your last night, head to the Hanoi weekend night market, which is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6 pm to 11 pm.
It’s filled with over 4000 stalls with street food and souvenirs.
Is 2 days enough for Hanoi?
If you’re a quick-paced traveler, 2 days in Hanoi could cover the basics. You’d get to see the major spots like the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, and the Temple of Literature.
But honestly, if you want to relax, taste the local food, do some shopping, or maybe even take a day trip to Halong Bay, you might want to stay a bit longer. It all boils down to what you’re into and how fast you like to move.
When should we avoid Hanoi?
You might want to avoid visiting Hanoi during the rainy season from May to September. During this time, the city gets heavy rainfall and high humidity, which makes sightseeing difficult.
Also, while the temperatures are quite high, it can feel even hotter due to the humidity.
Is Hanoi walkable?
Yes, Hanoi is walkable, but the traffic is crazy, so be warned.
The Old Quarter and around Hoan Kiem Lake are great for strolling. However, watch out – sidewalks can sometimes be non-existent and the motorbikes are everywhere.
Crossing the street? Just go steady and with confidence, and let the bikes swerve around you. Always be alert and you’ll be just fine.
Is Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh safer?
Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are pretty safe, but Hanoi has a bit of an edge over Ho Chi Minh City when it comes to safety.
You might run into some pickpocketing in crowded places in both cities, but it seems to be less frequent in Hanoi.
However, don’t let this put you off from visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Just use your street smarts wherever you go and you should be fine.
What is the difference between Hanoi and Saigon?
Hanoi and Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) are similar in some ways but also have their differences.
Saigon is more developed, and commercialized, with more high-rise buildings, a larger population, and, in my opinion, more traffic.
Hanoi has a charming, colonial, and leafy atmosphere with a touch of French influence. The buildings are not as overwhelming, and there is a sense of more open space.
Hanoi may be smaller and more peaceful, but it is still vibrant and energetic.
More posts from Vietnam you might like
- The perfect 1 day Hanoi itinerary
- 7 days in Vietnam itinerary with the best highlights
- 21 popular dishes in Vietnam you should taste
- 33 interesting facts about Vietnam you probably didn’t know
- How to spend an amazing 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City
- 15 greatest things to do in Hoi An in 2 days