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How to Spend 48 Hours in Hanoi: Vietnam's Capital City

December 3, 2022
17 Min Read
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Famous Hanoi Train Street
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How to Spend 48 Hours in Hanoi: Vietnam's Capital City
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October 20, 2023
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With an international airport nearby, Hanoi is an ideal place to begin or end your visit to Vietnam. With so much to do, you could easily spend a week here, but if you're short on time, we recommend staying for at least two days in Hanoi. So, if you're wondering what to do in Hanoi for 2 days, keep reading!

This 2 days in Hanoi itinerary will take you to many of the highlights that first-time visitors to Vietnam will want to see and explore. We’ve visited Hanoi many times during our travels and our 3 years of living in Vietnam. So we’ve included many of our favorite spots and top tips to help you plan your trip to Hanoi. This also includes many of Hanoi’s tourist attractions and local street food you have to try while in Vietnam’s capital city! 

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Before we dive deeper into the itinerary, here’s some useful information you need to know when visiting Hanoi.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Hanoi is from October to February. During these months, you can expect the weather to be sunny but not too hot, with minimal rain. Avoid going in April, when it's the hottest, and August, when it's the wettest. It’s also good to note that there are limited services during the TET holiday or Chinese New Year. This usually falls around the last week of January or the first week of February. 

Read: Best Time to Visit Vietnam

Women sell flowers on the streets in Hanoi.

Hanoi Airport to Old Quarter

The cheapest way from Hanoi airport to Old Quarters is to take bus 86, which leaves every 15 to 30 minutes. This orange express bus ends at Hanoi Railway Station. You can find the updated bus schedule posted outside international arrivals or on their Facebook page. A ticket costs around 2 USD.

Tip: If you want to enjoy a hassle-free arrival for an affordable price, book this Hanoi airport private transfer

Men enjoy a coffee in front of their house in Hanoi.

How to Get Around

The best way to explore Hanoi city center is on foot. Most hotels and restaurants are conveniently close to each other around Hanoi’s old quarter and the French quarter. Walking will also let you experience the colorful and lively small alleys of Hanoi. 

If you wish to visit further places, rent a scooter but be prepared for the traffic. Otherwise, you can book a Grab bike or car. Not only is it more convenient but the price is set so you don’t have to haggle. 

People on motorbikes commute everyday over the Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi.

Where to Stay in Hanoi

In Hanoi, we recommend staying anywhere within walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake. There are many accommodations available ranging from budget hotels to more luxurious ones. Besides that, you will find many local restaurants and cafes in the area. If you’re looking for more high-end accommodations, stay near the West Lake, which is a few minutes' drive from the Old Quarter. Find all accommodations in Hanoi here.

Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi.

2 Days in Hanoi Itinerary

Is 2 days in Hanoi enough?

Absolutely! If you only have two days in Hanoi, you will have enough time to visit some interesting places, including the must-sees in Hanoi. But, depending on how much you want to see and do, two days may be a bit rushed. That's why we've put together this Hanoi 2 day itinerary to help you make the most of your two days in Vietnam's capital city.

A woman leaves the Long Bien market with a bicycle loaded with goods.

Here’s What to do in Hanoi for 2 days

This itinerary will guide you through many highlights while giving you time to explore and relax in the city of Hanoi. You can visit all the attractions listed in this itinerary on your own without the need of a guide. Feel free to change it around to better fit your needs. 

St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi.

Hanoi Itinerary: Day 1 

Depending on when you arrive in Hanoi, you should always start your day with a hearty meal. If you arrive on time for breakfast, we recommend eating street food and having a taste of Vietnam’s mouth-watering cuisine. Whether you’re looking for flavorful soup like Pho or crispy and crunchy Banh Mi, there are plenty of Hanoi breakfast options available within the old streets of Hanoi. 

An elderly lady does her daily shoppings at the market in Hanoi.

Have Xoi for Breakfast

Our favorite breakfast when visiting Hanoi is sticky rice or Xoi. The sticky rice comes with a variety of toppings including tender braised pork belly, fried egg, pork roll, and sausage. Which is then topped with meat stew broth. Depending on the toppings you choose, a bowl costs around 2 USD per bowl. One of the best places to find xoi is at Xoi Gia Truyen Ba Thu. This place is popular among locals so expect a bit of a wait. The restaurant also doesn’t follow a set schedule but they are mostly open from 6am to 2pm. Just be prepared to sit on small plastic chairs on the street corner and enjoy this savory and filling breakfast. 

Two bowls with sticky rice, egg and sausage.

Discover the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The Mausoleum is a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about Ho Chi Minh's life. This is also his final resting place, and you can view his body which is well preserved, but expect a long line. On the grounds surrounding the mausoleum, you’ll find a museum and beautiful gardens. 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.

You can only visit in the morning between 7:30 and 10:30am. It is free to enter, but it is closed on Mondays and Fridays. Also, keep in mind that the mausoleum is closed during the months of October and November. 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.

Visit the Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature is a Confucius temple and the first university in Vietnam, dating from the 11th century. Bask in its picturesque gardens and admire the grand trees. This is a great place to enjoy some tranquility and peace in the bustling city of Hanoi. It opens daily and a ticket costs 1 USD.

Temple of Literature in Hanoi

Other attractions to visit if you have more time:

Thang Long Imperial Citadel

The Thang Long Imperial Citadel is one of the most remarkable and oldest historical sites in Hanoi. Visit and explore the grandeur of the ancient architecture as well as the cultural values ​​it has left. The tickets to visit the citadel are priced at about 1 USD and it’s closed on Mondays. 

Temple of Literature in Hanoi

Explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a gem and you can spend days discovering the maze-like streets. Capture Vietnam's rich history with the colorful French-colonial architecture and discover the small alleys and shops as you walk around the Old Quarter. It is best to go around in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat and to get a glimpse of the locals' daily lives. Walk by the many sidewalks brimming with vendors and locals smoking tobacco pipes. 

A woman sells flowers from her bicycle in Hanoi.

Stop at St. Joseph Cathedral

The St. Joseph Cathedral is a must-see attraction in the old quarter. Admire the beauty of this ancient church as you sit at one of the many cafes and shops around it. Most people come here to take pictures of the outside but there’s a mass happening on the weekends. We recommend grabbing a seat at any of the shops nearby and ordering lemon tea, which is a specialty in the area. It’s a great place to cool off after walking around the old quarter. 

St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi.

Visit the Hanoi Train Street

After the church, you can continue walking around the old quarter and then head to one of the highlights of Hanoi, the train street. There are many cafes along the tracks, so you can sit anywhere and have a drink or some snacks. A train schedule can be found in cafes, but they are frequently out of date. So if you want to see a train through this section of the railway, it’s best to ask around to know if you have to wait for a long time.

Men play Chinese Chess along the Train Street in Hanoi.

Note that the Vietnamese authorities recently closed down the most famous part of the train tracks. Luckily, this area is still open and you’re able to enjoy drinks in the cafes along the track as well! 

The famous train street in Hanoi.

Enjoy a Delicious Bowl of Pho 

For lunch, we recommend trying out Hanoi’s pho. Around the old quarter, there are plenty of street food vendors serving hot bowls of pho. A rule of thumb is that if you see a place with many locals, chances are the food they serve is good and cheap! One place you can try is at Pho Suong. They are famous for their flavorful and sweet broth. A bowl costs around 2 USD. 

A bowl of pho with limes on the side

Stroll Along the Hoan Kiem Lake 

After lunch, you can take a break and head out later in the afternoon. Then take a stroll around the peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake at the heart of Hanoi. This is a great place to enjoy some calmness of the city during the day. You can walk around the lake or find a stool to enjoy the view. Many locals choose Hoan Kiem Lake to hang out with their families and friends. On the weekends, you’ll find many vendors and art installations along the northern part of the lake. 

Temple in the middle of Hoang Kiem Lake, Hanoi.

Admire the Magnificent Ngoc Son Temple

One of the most popular places to visit in Hanoi is Ngoc Son Temple located in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. It is a special national relic of Vietnam ranked 4th. So it can be quite busy during the weekends with local visitors. Heading to this thousand-year-old temple is a red bridge that is lit at night. This makes it a great place to photograph around sunset but you can smell the fragrance of the incense sticks being burned the whole day long which makes visiting this temple very peaceful. There is an entrance fee of about 1 USD to go visit this temple. 


Ngoc Son Temple and its red bridge in Hanoi.

Explore the Night Market

Hanoi’s night scene is not to be missed. One of the best things to do in Hanoi at night is to visit the night market along Hang Dao street. This is where you can find plenty of street vendors selling food and souvenirs. You can also see pop-up shops selling special items from different parts of Vietnam. It is interesting to just walk around and see how lively and colorful the market is. If you get hungry, there are plenty of local restaurants in the area you can eat at, as well as street food on every corner. 

People stroll past stalls at the night market in Hanoi.

Try Bahn Chung Ran

If you’re visiting around the TET holiday, one street food you have to try is Banh Chung Ran. It is a Vietnamese sticky rice cake that is fried and served with a crispy golden crust. The inside is soft with fragrant green bean paste, served with hot dogs and spicy chili sauce, or drizzled with soy sauce. In addition, the cake can be served with sausages, spring rolls, and pickles. Vietnamese eat Bahn Chung in the winter and you can easily find this snack spread on the sidewalks within the night market or in small alleys. A serving of Banh Chung costs around 1 USD. 

A woman fries Banh Chung Ran in Hanoi.

Hanoi Itinerary: Day 2

On your second day in Hanoi, you can go back to the places you missed on day one and continue with the rest of the day 2 activities. Some of the locations listed on day 2 are a bit of a walk away, so book a taxi or use Grab to get there faster. 

Yellow facades and trees paint the scenes of Hanoi's old quarter.

Start Early at Long Bien Market 

Long Bien Market is worth a visit if you enjoy photography or simply want to see how the locals live. It is one of Hanoi's largest markets and is located near the Long Bien Bridge. This maze-like market is filled with colorful fruits and vegetables. However, you must arrive before 7am to witness the chaotic yet captivating market.

Women sort out vegetables at the Long Bien Market.
A vendor sells her goods at Long Bien Market, Hanoi.

Have Bun Cha For Breakfast

Bun cha is a delicious street food that is a must-try when visiting Hanoi. You can enjoy a combination of grilled fatty pork and meatballs (cha) over a plate of white rice noodles (bun). The dish also comes with herbs and a side of dipping sauce. One of our favorite places to try this dish is at O Bun Cha located in the heart of the Old Quarter. 

Two plates filled with Bun Cha.

Enjoy a Cup of Hanoi’s Egg Coffee

Vietnam and coffee go hand in hand. One coffee you have to try is the famous Vietnamese egg coffee. And there’s no better place to try it than the city where it was first created – Hanoi!

Because milk was scarce during the French war, egg yolk was used as a substitute.The egg is whisked with condensed milk for 10 minutes, creating this sweet, creamy, and airy white foam. The combination of eggs and coffee might not be appealing to some, but trust us, it’s delicious! A cup of egg coffee costs around 1 USD.

You can go to Cafe Giang to taste the original Vietnamese egg coffee or from one of our favorite cafes in Hanoi, the Hidden Gem Cafe. This cafe, as its name suggests, is tucked between buildings, creating a very cozy atmosphere away from the bustling city. Apart from that, the place is beautiful with furniture and decor made of recycled materials. 


A coffee shop in Hanoi is decorated with flowers and recycled materials.

Discover West Lake 

If you have the time, head to West Lake located in the middle of Hanoi. This place is a few minutes' drive from the old quarter. And if you’re looking for somewhere to watch the sunrise or sunset, then this is the perfect place to do so. Otherwise, you can spend your day relaxing around the lake as you will find many locals hanging out with their friends and family. It is also worth walking or cycling around with a few pagodas you can visit along the way and cafes with outdoor seating overlooking the lake. 

A woman smiles at the camera as she sells bananas.

Visit Tran Quoc Pagoda

This beautiful pagoda is one of the most visited pagodas around the west lake. Take a walk and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and charming beauty of one of the oldest pagodas in Hanoi. It has historical and architectural values that attract many Buddhists and foreign visitors. The entrance is free but you’ll need to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders to get in. 

Another pagoda you can visit close to Tran Quoc is Den Thuy Trung Tien. It is very peaceful, and compared to Tran Quoc, it is much smaller and has fewer visitors. Other pagodas around the area that you may also want to visit include Phu Tay Ho and Quan Thanh Temple

Tran Quoc pagoda by night.

Other attractions to visit if you have more time:

Vietnam Military History Museum

Visiting the Vietnam Military History Museum is a great place for history lovers or anyone interested in learning about the many battles that Vietnam has fought for independence throughout its history. You can spend hours looking through the extensive displays of photos, videos, weaponry, war machines, and other war relics in this museum. Note that they are closed on Mondays and Fridays and tickets cost around 2 USD.

People enjoy a bowl of congee on the streets in Hanoi.

Try Banh Tom 

Once you’re finished and tired of wandering around the lake, head to this small alley and try one of the best snacks in Hanoi. Bahn Tom is the Vietnamese version of a prawn fritter. It is served with a side of Vietnamese fish sauce, as well as fresh herbs and vegetables. Simply wrap the fritter in lettuce along with the other herbs and dip everything in the fish sauce. One serving of Banh Tom at this food stall costs less than 1 USD. You can also find other street food in this alley including Banh Xeo, Hu Tieu, and Pho.  

Plates filled with Banh Tom.

Get Lost in Dong Xuan Market

Located close to the small food alley, head to Dong Xuan Market and explore the largest indoor market in Hanoi. This is a great place to visit if you’re wanting to shop for local souvenirs or just want to experience the local lifestyle in Hanoi.

A woman at Dong Xuan market is surrounded by fabrics.

Not necessarily a tourist attraction but is great for those wanting to experience the bustling market along with its chaotic maze of numerous stalls where you can find everything! At night, you will find more stalls surrounding the market. 

Women organise dozens of baskets filled with dried beans. y

Watch Thang Long Water Puppet Show

Finish the afternoon at the water puppet theatre. Discover Vietnamese culture and art through impressive performances at the Thang Long theatre's water puppet show.The show lasts around 50 minutes, and a ticket costs around 10 USD per person. We recommend booking your ticket in advance, especially during peak season as it sells out fast. 

Book your Thanh Long Water Puppet Show

A woman wearing a Non La sells her good from a shoulder pole.

Have a Drink at the Beer Corner

Once you finish watching the puppet show, head to the famous beer street in Hanoi where you can enjoy a cheap beer or two. Ta Hien Street is tagged as the beer street in Hanoi lined up with local bars and restaurants. This area is more frequented by tourists.

People enjoy drinks in the evening on a busy street in Hanoi.

On the other hand, head to Tong Duy Tan Street if you’re looking for somewhere a bit quiet. This is the area where most of the young crowd in Hanoi heads out for food and drinks. It’s vibrant with all the lights and can get quite busy during the weekend. Great place to find some dinner and drinks at the same time. 

A quiet street with yellow facades.

Taste Hanoi’s Exotic Dish

If you find yourself wandering around Ta Hien Street at night, stop by one of the many local restaurants selling roasted birds. The cost of one serving costs around 2 USD. Many locals enjoy the meat of these young birds as it is usually sweeter and so tender that diners can even eat the hardest bones. It’s a great accompaniment to the cheap Hanoi beer!

People enjoy food on the street in Hanoi.

Tours in Hanoi

If you don’t have enough time to explore Hanoi on your own, we suggest booking tours so you can visit and experience all the main attractions Hanoi has to offer. Here are our three most recommended tours in Hanoi to book. 

Men rest on their bikes in Hanoi.
Where to Next?
Pu Luong
Rice fields with mountains in the background in Pu Luong, Vietnam
Ba Be Lake
Rice fields with mountains in the background
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And that’s it!


This is the best Hanoi Vietnam itinerary that will take you through all the top places to visit in Hanoi. May this 2 day Hanoi itinerary be helpful in planning your trip or inspire you to visit Hanoi. 

Let us know if we missed anything in the comments below.

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