NEHA PATNAIK / VIETNAM, TRAVEL GUIDES / FIRST PUBLISHED 22nd JULY 2018, UPDATED 15th NOVEMBER 2019
Planning a trip to Vietnam ? Chances are Hanoi will be your landing port (either that or Ho chi minh city!) Instead of rushing off to Halong bay or Sapa, spend a couple of days exploring the city. Our 48 hours in Hanoi itinerary is a perfect little guide to help you check out this city and get aquainted with Vietnam.
Before proceeding i want to state that this is not a sponsored post. Everything is our honest opinion ! Enjoy!
Forty eight hours in Hanoi is enough time to spend in this city if you are visiting the country only for a week. In this article i will try to list all the things to do in Hanoi if you are in the city for only 2 days.If you are planning a trip to the country, make sure to check out all our posts on Vietnam.
To describe Hanoi in one word – it’s CRAZY!!! The combination of chaos and crowds can be pretty overwhelming (not a problem for us Indians tho (!) used to our own crowds and chaos!) There are zillions of motorbikes running around without any sense of traffic. Add street vendors, cyclos and people running around, and you have the recipe for perfect disaster. Yet, somehow it all works!
IF YOU ARE PLANNING A TRIP TO HALONG BAY FROM HANOI (AS YOU SHOULD!), MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT OUR COMPLETE HALONG BAY CRUISE GUIDE FOR ALL THE INFORMATION AND SPECIAL TIPS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE BOOKING A CRUISE.
WHY HANOI ?
Well first of all, it’s the nearest gateway to Halong city and the bay So it makes sense to spend a couple days exploring this crazy place before searching for inner peace in Ha long bay! And secondly, it’s THE place to get a real dose of Vietnamese culture. While Ho chi minh city is an urban megapolis, Hanoi has the real Vietnamese charm.
The lake is actually a pretty good area to stay in Hanoi. Plenty of budget and midrange hotels are present which offer wonderful service. The lake, the water puppet theatre and the old quarters are at walking distance and other sites are just a short taxi ride away. The area is a bit more quieter and less cramped than the old quarters. For more upscale hotels, choose the French quarters where some hotels offer views of the iconic St Joseph’s cathedral. We choose Hanoi Emerald Waters Trendy Hotel, a good 3* option and I can vouch for their service.
Hanoi does not have a subway. We choose the taxi as our preferred transport option here. Most sightseeing locations are a short taxi ride away and cost 50-70000 VND from the lake area. Just ask your hotel to call one for you and check if they will go by meter. Taking the bus here can be trickier as you have to know the exact bus numbers and routes to catch one because of communication issues. Cyclos run around in the Old Quarters and offer hourly tours. Then there are the infamous motorbike taxis ‘Xe om’ where you ride pillion while the driver roars through the traffic. Bargain and fix the price before hopping onto one!
48 HOURS IN HANOI : ITINERARY AND THINGS TO DO
- Chances are you are gonna land mid-morning. So, make your way to a hotel (preferably situated near Hoan Kiem lake/ Old Quarters) and check in. By the time you get refreshed and have lunch, it will be early afternoon.
- Head to the “TEMPLE OF LITERATURE” – a short taxi ride from the lake and have a look at this famous temple dedicated to Confucius and his 4 chief scholars. Even today, students come here to pray before their exams.
- Entrance Ticket: 50,000 VND/PP ; Audio guides available
- Timings: Open 8.30-11.30 AM / 13.30-16.30 PM (Closed on Monday/national holidays)
- Dress Code: Cover up your shoulders and knees
FUN TIP: Check out the quirky charms sold within the temple premises, promising everything from exam luck to safe pregnancies!
- On your way back, check out the IMPERIAL CITADEL (a UNESCO heritage site) from outside.
- If you want a taste of museums, check out the HOA LO PRISON MUSEUM and get a dose of Vietnamese propaganda about the American invasion.
- Entrance Ticket: 30,000 VND/PP
- Timings: 8AM-5PM everyday
- By this time, it will be evening. Make your way to the FRENCH QUARTERS and check out the architecture of famous sites such as the CATHEDRAL AND OPERA HOUSE . Have a taste of the famous bakery/dessert delicacies at one of the French influenced bakeries situated here.
- Your last stop of the day is THANG LONG WATER PUPPET THEATRE situated near the lake. Catch a show of this famous cultural attraction and check out the nearby shops for puppet souvenirs. Also take a look at the brightly lit lake at night and end with dinner at any of the restaurants near the lake/old quarters.
- Show tickets: 100,000 VND/PP
- Timings: Multiple shows daily
- Wake up early and head over to HOAN KIEM LAKE , where dozens of groups start their morning with Tai chi/ Aerobics.
- Check out the little Buddhist temple, NGOC SON TEMPLE , which lies on the northern end of the lake in its own little island and is connected to the shore by a scarlet bridge, one of the symbols of Hanoi. Make sure to click a picture of yourself atop this bridge!
- Entrance Ticket: 30,000 VND/PP
- Timings: 8 AM-5 PM
THE TEMPLE WITHIN THE LAKE IS A GREAT OASIS TO ESCAPE THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE OF THE CITY
- From here, catch a taxi to HO CHI MINH COMPLEX (approx 50,000 VND) which houses a museum, the One pillar pagoda, the House on Stilts( where Ho chi minh once used to live) as well as the mausoleum with his preserved body up for viewing( if you are into that kinda thing and harbor neutral feelings on the whole Communist issue)
- Entrance Ticket: Museum 40,000 VND/PP ; Stilt House 40,000 VND/pp; one pillar pagoda and mausoleum free
- Timings: Mausoleum: Monday closed/ Tuesday-Thursday( 7.30-10.30) and Sat/Sun (7.30-10.30) Museum: Monday and Friday closed/ Tues-Thurs and Sat-Sun (8-12 noon and 14-16.30)
FLASHPACKER TIP: Long queues line up for the body viewing in the first hour. You can easily finish checking out a couple other stuff within the complex before lining up. Best to line up an hour before the end time, by which the crowds have usually thinned out.
- After a dose of history, its time to get a taste of the OLD QUARTERS . Spend your afternoon walking around the different streets which are 1000 year old, each specialising in a particular item, be it silk, lacquer or shoes and do all your shopping here. Pop in at the BACH MA TEMPLE for a look.
- Check out the quirky shop which sells old PROPAGANDA POSTERS for a few dollars each. They make an excellent gifting option for family and friends!
- For Dinner, there are 2 options :
- Have dinner at the old quarters itself. Make your way to BEER STREET and one of the many barbeque places present.
- Take a taxi to TAY HO LAKE (WEST LAKE) which is the trendy upcoming district of the city, boasting a vibrant pub and restaurant scene.
We had a wonderful time in Hanoi and hope this small guide for 48 hours in Hanoi helps you in your travel planning. Have you ever been to Hanoi? Share your stories in the comments!