Two Days in Hanoi

What to See and Do in Hanoi in 48 Hours

Two days in Hanoi allows visitors the chance to get a glimpse into this bustling city that offers a mix of French-inspired architecture, expansive lakes, and Buddhist pagodas, as well as luxury hotels, government offices, embassies, financial institutions and upmarket shopping malls. Despite its chaotic traffic conditions, this compact city is easily explored on foot thanks to its many broad boulevards and districts introduced by French colonists.

If you only have 48 hours in Hanoi, bypassing some attractions is a must to make the most out of your stay in Vietnam’s capital city. Check out our suggested itinerary of what to see and do in Hanoi in 2 days, which comprises only the best things to see and do during your holiday.

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Day 1

Morning: Visit Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple

Start your day of sightseeing by making your way to Hoan Kiem Lake, where you can find locals jogging, enjoying a coffee and even practising Tai Chi and line dancing. This peaceful lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, an 18th century pagoda sitting in on a small island that’s accessible via an ornate wooden bridge. There are altars dedicated to military leader Tran Hung Dao, large bronze bust, some ancient artefacts including ceramics, and a preserved specimen of a giant turtle found in the lake weighing 250kg. Plenty of cafes and restaurants are found in this area, too.

Visit Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple

Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son

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Afternoon: Explore Hanoi Museums, Temples & Colonial Structures

Hanoi is a walkable city with many historical landmarks, cultural museums, colonial buildings, and war memorials, some of which are conveniently located in the Old Quarter. Notable hotspots include Hoa Lo Prison (or Maison Centrale), Hanoi Opera House, and Saint Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi. If you’ve ventured outside the Old Quarter, One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh District are popular tourist hotspots.

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One Pillar Pagoda

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Evening: Enjoy Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine in Old Quarter

Hanoi cuisine can be found within local restaurants along narrow alleyways and street markets in Hanoi Old Quarter. These dishes tend to be sweeter compared to the southern regions, comprising freshwater ingredients such as prawns, squids, shrimps, crabs, clams, and mussels. Duong Thanh Street houses two local eateries offering arguably the best nem chua be (crabmeat rolls), bun cha (grilled pork with noodles), cha ca (white fish fillet seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and dill) in Hanoi. Another must visit is Xoi Yen along Nguyen Huu Hua Street, a legendary establishment serving sticky rice that’s topped with a variety of sweet and savoury ingredients.

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Night: Shopping at Hanoi Weekend Night Market

After returning to your hotel for a quick rest, it’s time to indulge on some retail therapy and street food at the Hanoi Weekend Night Market. Located in Old Quarter, this bustling gathering of roadside stalls starts at 19:00 onwards, running from Hang Dao Street to the edge of Dong Xuan Market. Pedestrian streets and historical sites within the area are illuminated with decorative lights, making this a popular spot for travelling photographers. Shopping-wise, you will find inexpensive t-shirts, handicrafts, accessories, shoes, sunglasses and souvenirs, but make sure to bargain hard (at least 50% lower than the original price) to get the best deal.

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Hang Da Market

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Day 2

Full Day Tour to Halong Bay

Hanoi is only 170 kilometres west of UNESCO-listed Halong Bay, so just about every tour company in the city offers excursions at varying price points. A full day tour to Halong Bay is usually inclusive of roundtrip hotel transport, lunch, tour guide, and cruise along through the incredible scenery of the bay. You also get to explore some of the most popular limestone caves, floating villages, and islets such as Cat Ba Island and Bon Hon Island.

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Evening: Watch a Traditional Water Puppet Theatre

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hanoi, comprising 17 short sketches using traditional puppets within a one-hour performance. A Vietnamese orchestra accompanies each story, with musicians playing traditional operatic songs using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. Aside from the general admission fee of VND 100,000, there's an additional camera or video fee if you wish to photograph or film the show. Tickets sell out well in advance so it’s worth booking yours as soon as you arrive in town.

Watch a Traditional Water Puppet Theatre

Water Puppet Theatre

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Night: Bar Hopping around Old Quarter

Old Quarter is where you can find some of the best bars and pubs in Hanoi, all of which boast plenty of alcoholic offerings, local and international delicacies, and live performances of various music genres. If you’re on a tight budget, Bia Hoi Junction is an iconic roadside nightlife area that offers Vietnamese draft beers for only USD 0.50, while more proper bars are set around Hoan Kiem Lake. Due to strict laws, most nightlife venues in Hanoi close by midnight so be sure to spend the majority of the night at one that’s to your liking.

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