When I decided to visit Hanoi in Vietnam I wasn’t sure what to expect before I arrived. But from the moment I left the airport I was impressed. Incredibly nice and smiley people, beautiful photogenic architecture and a fantastic culture that seems to work together. I now consider Hanoi a great place to visit, especially for a city break. In this post, I will detail some of the things you can see and do in a short 24-72 hour trip, as well as some suggestions on places to eat (although the food everywhere was fantastic), places to stay, photography tips and various other information I think you’d find helpful.

Streets in the Old Town
Streets in the Old Town

Getting Around

To/from the Airport

The main airport is Noi Bai International Airport. To get to the city you can get a shuttle bus, which costs 40,000 VND (approx 1.76 USD), use public taxis or arrange an airport transfer. An airport transfer through your hotel may cost around $12-18 USD.

To get to the airport you can also arrange transfers with the many tourist agencies that you’ll find throughout the city. For a great post on getting to and from the airport head to www.gettingstamped.com/how-to-get-from-hanoi-to-noi-bai-han-airport.

Within the City

Once in the city, it’s easy to get around, and the Old Quarter is very much walkable. You’ll also find lots of drivers throughout the city offering you their services.

Things to See and Do

If you are into history, then going on a walking tour or Cyclo is a good way to learn about the city. During my visit, I didn’t have time for this unfortunately but I would recommend doing one if you have time.

Below are some of the places I went during my visit.

Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature was built in 1070 and consists of five courtyards, statues, halls and temples. It is dedicated to scholars, sages and Confucius. Over time the temple has served as Vietnam’s first university and a school. My favourite part of the complex was the temple at the north end which was extremely beautiful and colourful as seen below.

Address: Google Maps
Tickets and more infovanmieu.gov.vn/en

Temple of Literature, Hanoi
Temple of Literature

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Probably the most famous landmark and attraction in the city is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This was built to house the remains of their great leader Ho Chi Minh (also known as Uncle Ho) and is located on Ba Dinh Square. Visitors can sometimes go inside to pay their respects.

AddressGoogle Maps

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Tran Quoc Pagoda

The Trấn Quốc Pagoda is the oldest pagoda in the city and was constructed in the sixth century. The pagoda is red which symbolises luck and prosperity. You can visit the inside of the temple, light incense and provide small offerings such as food or money.

Location: Google Maps

Tran Quoc Pagoda at night
Tran Quoc Pagoda

St Joseph Cathedral

I was very impressed at first sight by this cathedral. I reminded me a little of Europe and is probably influenced by the French. It almost seems out of place in far east Asia. You can also go inside this church for free.

Location: Google Maps

St Joseph Cathedral, Hanoi
St Joseph Cathedral

Watch Traffic

At the top of Hoan Kiem Lake is a roundabout and square, where there is tons of traffic going in all directions. The traffic in Hanoi although crazy is also great fun to watch. Around this area are lots of bars and restaurants that offer high angle views such as this. A famous bar is Legend Beer, although it’s not the highest point and I felt I kept getting hit by fumes from the traffic. For that reason, I recommend visiting one of the restaurants towards the top where I felt the fumes were not quite as bad.

Location: Google Maps

Traffic in Hanoi
Traffic in Hanoi

Train Tracks

To see some unique aspects of Hanoi head to the train tracks. One of the best spots is where the tracks cross over Dien Bien Phu (street). The trains aren’t that frequent and the locals know the times of them, so it doesn’t feel unsafe walking along, although do keep your eyes and ears open!

Location: Google Maps

Train Track Street Hanoi, Vietnam
Train Track Street Hanoi, Vietnam

Hoàn Kiếm Lake

I visited Hoan Kiem Lake both during the day and at night. At night it’s especially beautiful when the Cầu Thê Húc bridge, trees and city all light up. The atmosphere around here was also fantastic with people playing instruments and kids playing games. During the day is also nice and a popular attraction is to head across the bridge to the Ngoc Son Temple which is on a small island accessible by the famous red bridge seen below.

Location: Google Maps

Hồ Hoàn Kiếm at night
Hồ Hoàn Kiếm at night

Mosaic along Yên Phụ

Along Yên Phụ and connecting roads is a beautiful mosaic which is almost 4000m long. This is now in the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest ceramic mosaic. It’s actually a little hard to find a good spot to take pictures as the traffic is crazy, but you may be able to find a good spot like I did! You can read more about this mosaic on en.wikipedia.org.

Mosaic along Yen Phu, Hanoi
Mosaic along Yen Phu

Beer Corner

For evening drinks head to Bia Hoi Corner or Beer Corner. A good place to go and watch the action is from the bookstore located at this corner where you can get seats upstairs overlooking the area.

Location: Google Maps

Bia Hoi Corner, Beer Corner
Bia Hoi Corner, Beer Corner

Đồng Xuân Market

I always like to visit markets when I travel and the Dong Xuan market was pretty awesome. There was so much stuff being sold here, including the stall below where I saw more shoes in one go than ever before. Also around this area are spices, fish and vegetable stalls.

Location: Google Maps

Shops in Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi
Shops in Dong Xuan Market
Spice Stalls in Hanoi
Spice Stalls


Places to Eat and Drink

I was extremely impressed by the food in Hanoi, and it far exceeded my expectations. Pretty much everything I ate and drank was fantastic, from the Vietnamese ice coffee, local Bun Cha dish, springs rolls, and of course the traditional soup, everything was delicious! It also tasted very fresh, which is probably as businesses appeared to buy produce from locals carrying baskets with fresh produce who pass by on the street.

Traditional Bun Cha in Hanoi,Vietnam
Traditional Bun Cha in Hanoi

Cau Go
This fantastic restaurant is a bit fancy but serves delicious Vietnamese food, such as Bun Cha (seen above). As well as great food you will get to enjoy some fantastic views over Hoan Kiem Lake as you dine.
Address: Head to the contact section of the website above for directions.
Recommended for: Lunch/Dinner/Fancy


Don Duck
This is the first restaurant I went to when I arrived in Hanoi. I had the sautéed beef in Don Duck style served with steamed rice. It cost only 75,000 vnd and was delicious. 
Address: 56B Nguyễn Siêu, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Recommended for:  Lunch/Dinner/Casual


Cho Ca Phe
Close to the Hoan Kiem Lake and just up a street called Chợ Cầu is this cute little coffee shop, which is perfect to stop at for a quick break.
Address: Up Chợ Cầu Gỗ off Cau Go
Recommended for: Snack/Coffee


Other places to eat and drink – Have a look on www.tripadvisor.com.

Food and Drink to Try

Here are a few foods and drinks you should definitely try on your visit.

Bánh Mì – The Vietnamese bread is super tasty and one of their famous things to eat is a Bánh Mì. The one I kept getting had grilled chicken, salad and hot sauce in it. If I didn’t have control I could have easily spent my entire trip eating these. If you are in the area a great place to buy these is called Mành which is located along Hàng Buồm.

Bánh Mì sandwich in Vietnam
Bánh Mì sandwich in Vietnam

Egg Coffee – I tried this as it’s quite a local thing to drink. It’s pretty nice although I found it a bit sweet for me. In fact, Vietnamese coffee always seemed to be quite sweet. One of the famous spots to have egg coffee is at Giang cafe along Nguyễn Hữu Huân towards the right side of Old Quarter. There are lots of other nice cafes along there too which are probably just as good.

Eggs Coffee in Hanoi
Eggs Coffee

Soup – Pho is one of the national dishes of the Vietnamese which has made it all over the world! I’m sure you’ve heard of it! Anyway, it’s extremely yummy and once you’ve had it once you’ll probably definitely be wanting it again!

Traditional Soup in Vietnam
Traditional Soup in Vietnam

Places to Stay

During my visit, I stayed at Advisor homestay which is a fantastic homestay property located towards the north part of the Old Town. I highly rate this homestay based on the service they gave me and also the room was great. Before I arrived I arranged transfers and the staff also helped me book trains to Sapa in advance. In terms of location, it takes around 15 minutes to walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, but as you do you’ll be walking through the Old Quarter and will definitely enjoy what you see. To get to some of the other national landmarks and attractions, such as Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, you’d be looking at a 30-minute walk, or you could jump on a bike or in a taxi.

Have a look on Booking.com for other options.


Places to Visit From Hanoi

Two of the more popular spots for visiting outside of Hanoi include Sapa and Ha Long Bay. To book these trips you can easily do this through your hotel or the many tourist agencies that you will see throughout the city (there’s 100s). You’ll find Sapa is more of a rural mountainous destination with rice fields and is great for going on hikes or relaxing. Whilst Ha Long Bay is famous for its huge islands, beautiful sea and boat tours. If you are on a short trip in Vietnam you may only have time to do one or the other.

Rice Fields and the landscape of Sapa, Vietnam
Rice Fields and the landscape of Sapa

Destination Photo Tips

Here are a few of my top tips for taking photographs in Hanoi:

  • To capture street scenes, find a good spot and then be patient and wait for people and traffic. You may have to take quite a few shots to get that ‘perfect one’.
  • Many of the buildings and landmarks such as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Tran Quoc Pagoda look particularly nice at night, as well as Hoan Kiem Lake which is lit up in beautiful colours.
  • To capture traffic head up the bars at the roundabout at the top of Ho Hoan Kiem (lake). The best time may be at night as you’ll then be able to capture light trails from the traffic.
  • Many of the locals may pose for photographs. If they do it’s polite to buy something from them which won’t cost much.

More photography tips: Ultimate Tips for Travel Photography

Destination Info Box

Destination type:History, Architecture, City
Currency: Vietnamese Dong (main) – USD accepted in many hotels, tour agencies and some other places
WiFi: Hotels, some restaurants and coffee shops
Arrive by air: Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) – Read the guide on www.gettingstamped.com for the best way to get to and from the airport.
Arrive by train:

Hanoi Railway Station (Ga Hà Nội) is located close to the Old Quarter. To book train tickets to or from the station I recommend doing this through your hotel, or a travel agency.

Arrive by bus:If you’d like to travel to/ from Hanoi by bus, then book tickets through a travel agency or your hotel.
Language:Vietnamese (English fairly poor but you can cope fine)
Power supply:In Vietnam plug sockets are types A and C although it can vary between properties. When I visited I had a Skross PRO World Travel Adapter which allowed me to plug in fine. The voltage can vary across the country so check with your hotel the voltage and take a converter if necessary.

Plug sockets in Vietnam
Plug sockets in Vietnam

More resources

Sometimes it helps to take a guidebook on your travels. Below you will find a suggestion that is available on Amazon.


Other pages you may like:

City Breaks: Guide to Hoi An in 24-48 hours
In Pictures | Travels in Vietnam

Asia tips: Over 40 Top Tips for Travelling Asia

More posts on Hanoi or Vietnam
More posts on City Breaks
More posts on Destinations in Asia


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1 Comment

  1. amindfultravellerblog

    I would love to visit this beautiful country one day. Thanks for sharing all that information on Vietnam. 🙂


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