Twenty-four hours are simply not enough to experience the best of Hanoi, but we understand what it is like to travel under time and budget constraints. With that in mind, and based on our travels, we’ve come up with an awesome itinerary for you to experience the best of what the city has to offer in a period of 24 hours.
An early stroll around the city
Get acquainted with Hanoi (and Vietnam) by going on an early morning stroll. Grab a banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) and a ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced milk coffee) from a sidewalk stall and just walk. If you head out around 05:00 a.m., you’ll be able to witness the city wake up.
Head to the Old Quarter, which is the historical and commercial center of the capital. There are 16 streets here you can explore, with each street named after what the majority of the shops specialize in. For example, Hang Gai street is silk street, and this is where you will find most of the tailor shops. Walk around aimlessly as you will come across the best sights this way. Homeowners cleaning the streets, doing light exercises, setting up food stalls, taking their children to school on rickshaws, you will see it all.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
After your breakfast, start walking towards the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It will take you around 20 minutes to get there. Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho as the locals refer to him, was Vietnam’s president from 1945-1969 and was a key figure in the Vietnam War, under whose leadership Vietnam finally gained independence.
Inside a glass case lies the embalmed body of Uncle Ho so you can pay your respects and then walk around the square and park outside. You may even catch some locals doing Tai Chi. Don’t be afraid to join them, they will be more than happy to help you learn the movements.
Hùng Vương, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam, +84 24 3845 5128
Hoa Lo Prison
Carry on walking to Hoa Lo Prison, known as the Hanoi Hilton. This was built by the French to punish Vietnamese political prisoners and later used by the Vietnamese to hold American prisoners of war. A famous example is Senator John McCain, and you can still find his uniform on display. The prison is a little haunting. There are many mannequins depicting scenes of what life was like inside the prison walls, and it is not for the faint of heart.
1 Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam. +84 24 3934 2253
Lunch: Time to Pho
Since you woke up early, it’s good to have a slightly early lunch to replenish all that energy spent from walking around and sweating thanks to the heat. Grab a xe om (motorbike taxi), use either Uber or Grab apps, or hail yourself a motorbike to head to your next destination: Pho Gia Truyen on 49 Bat Dan Street. Motorbikes are the best way to get around here as they can zigzag their way through traffic. If you opt for a car taxi, you may be stuck in one place for hours.
Pho Gia Truyen is where you can find the best pho in all the land. Pho is the national dish of Vietnam and one you must try. It’s made of three components: a flavorful broth, noodles and some type of meat, typically beef. If you are vegetarian, just order the vegetarian version by saying “chay.”
49 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam, +84 24 6683 3535
Afternoon: More sightseeing
Temple of Literature
After lunch begin walking again, this time to the tranquil Temple of Literature. This was the first ever university in Vietnam, initially for noble families but it later took an egalitarian approach to admissions. It was built in 1070, making it one of the oldest structures in the city. Walk around, snap some shots and rest a bit in its many courtyards.
58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam, +84 24 3747 2566
Get your Uber app out again or hail another motorbike taxi after you finish with the Temple of Literature. Plug in Café Giang as your destination and enjoy zigzagging your way through the crazy daytime traffic of the city. At Café Giang, you are in for a surprise. This is where the original – and best – egg coffee in Vietnam is served, and you can ask the barista for the story behind it. Enjoy your creamy cup of what can only be described as liquid tiramisu, and enjoy the air-conditioned venue for a while as the sun slowly goes down.
39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam, +84 90 347 90 32
Evening: Relax by the lake
Hoan Kiem Lake
Walk over to Hoan Kiem Lake, which is not so far from your location, and enjoy a stroll around the cool premises. It’s a popular hangout spot for locals and tourists alike. In the middle of the lake is an island on which Ngoc Son temple is built, and connecting it to the land is a gorgeous scarlet bridge. It’s extremely photogenic.
A water puppet show!
Next, head over to Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and catch a show – it’s right on the outskirts of the lake. Water puppetry is a centuries-old art form in Vietnam, with its many different guilds and styles of puppets, such as string, hand and shadow puppets, and even kites and puppets with fireworks. The performance combines these various styles with live music and involves various scenes from Vietnam’s myths and folklore, with the country’s agrarian life as a backdrop.
57b Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hoàn Kiếm Hanoi, Vietnam, +84 24 3824 9494
Back to where you started: The Old Quarter
After the show, walk around the Old Quarter again and do some night shopping. If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs, here is where you can get it. To end your day in Hanoi, you must eat like a local – on the street. Most streets in the Old Quarter consist of small street restaurants where customers are seated on child-like plastic stools that have spilled out onto the sidewalk. Pick any place that seems crowded and ask to try what everyone else is having. Local favorites include pho, bun rieu, com tam, bun cha, and bun thit nuong.
After your meal, you can either walk around a little more or drag yourself up to your hotel, which is hopefully located in the Old Quarter because you’ll be too full to walk far. We recommend you stay at the Hanoi La Suite Hotel & Spa or the Hanoi Allure Hotel, where you can get a good night’s sleep.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.