Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam has been one of the most visited backpacking destinations since several decades ago. If historic attractions do not impress you, the street foods will definitely do the trick. In fact, Hanoi has the one thing backpackers wanted the most – the atmosphere. So today, we’ll take a deeper look at everything you know to plan your 2 days in Hanoi itinerary.
First of all, I’d like to say that I recommend staying for more than 2 days in Hanoi. Why? Because there are a lot of attractions and things to do around the lovely but hectic city, that you’ll need more time to explore them all. We’ll talk more about that later on.
But I understand that sometimes plans don’t go as we wanted. Whether you’re visiting Hanoi as a transit point to other cities or towns, or even to other countries like Cambodia and Laos, this post will be useful for your trip planning.
I’ll include the things to do in Hanoi, street foods you should try, and also some safety tips for getting around Hanoi city. Guess I’ve been talking too much, huh?
Let’s dive into this 2 Days in Hanoi Itinerary!
What’s The Best Time to Visit Hanoi?
Hanoi can be visited all year round, no matter what the season is. But if you’d like me to suggest, I would say January and February is the best time to visit Hanoi.
During those months, the weather is much more pleasant to explore around the city. It doesn’t rain as much, and it’s cooler so you don’t sweat a lot.
And it’s not the summer, so you’re not going to compete with other tourists for the photo spot.
To get things deeper, I suggest visiting Hanoi on the weekends. Why? Well, there are night markets in Hanoi Old Quarter and the amazing square in Hoan Kiem Lake during weekends.
Move on to the things to do in Hanoi as I go deeper on these destinations.
In short, try to plan your 2 days in Hanoi itinerary on the weekends in the first quarter of the year to get the best experience traveling in Hanoi.
If you’re traveling in South Vietnam, or Ho Chi Minh City, the weather is tropical all year round, so it doesn’t matter.
Check out this in-depth guide for backpacking Vietnam and plan a perfect Vietnam itinerary!
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Getting Around Hanoi City
Renting a Motorcycle
I guess you’ve heard a lot of travelers renting a motorcycle to explore around Hanoi city. But I wouldn’t recommend that if you’re not experienced in riding one.
The reason is simple – safety. The traffic in Hanoi city is chaotic, people never wait for the green light, and they never stop for pedestrians. Imagine yourself stopping for the pedestrians, and there’s a car or motorcycle following closely behind you.
Bang. We wouldn’t want that, right?
Nevertheless, I highly recommend renting a motorcycle outside Hanoi city, for instance, Tam Coc and Cat Ba Island.
Public Buses in Hanoi
Anyway, I found that public transport is quite efficient in Hanoi city. I mean the buses. They’re much better than I imagined. And there’s a price right at the bus entrance door so you’ll know how much to pay.
It doesn’t matter where you go, the price is fixed even if you’re traveling to the next stop. There are several apps for smartphones on public buses, so feel free to try any of them.
They’ll tell you which bus to take depending on your destination.
Not into waiting for buses in the stations? Well, since you have only 2 days in Hanoi, I would recommend using Grab as your main way of transport.
Grab works just like Uber, but the fare is fixed so you will not get scammed.
There are options for cars and motorcycles, but I always go for the latter because the waiting time is shorter, it’s cheaper and you get to your destination much faster.
The downside? One app can only call for one driver, so if you’re traveling as a couple, you might need the app on both the smartphones.
Things to Do in Hanoi City
Enjoy The Night in Hoan Kiem Lake
As I mentioned, Hoan Kiem Lake transforms into one of the most happening places in Vietnam during the weekend nights.
The streets in Hoan Kiem district are sealed from vehicles, and the area instantly becomes a square where the locals come out to spend their time outdoors. You’ll find some youngsters playing guitars, families playing badminton, people walking their dogs, and more.
While you’re there, don’t forget to pay a visit to the Temple of the Jade Mountain in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Inside, you’ll find a preserved giant turtle carcass in a glass chamber. Interested to know more about the legends and myths surrounding this? Read the next one.
Watch Water Puppet Theatre
Water Puppet Theatre is one of the most popular things to do in Hanoi. How is it like? In the theatre, puppet masters will be controlling the water puppets, telling stories, legends, and myths.
And that includes the one surrounding the turtle.
If you’re planning to watch the water puppet show, the best place to do it is in Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
But make sure you book your ticket early because they often run out of tickets, especially during the evening hours. Tour groups come in and buy the tickets in bulk, so you need to act fast to grab your seat.
Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market
Hanoi Old Quarter night market is the biggest night market in Hanoi, and it’s open on weekend nights. For me, I took one hour to explore everything, and that doesn’t include measuring their shirts on my shoulders.
In the night market, you’ll find the perfectly aligned stalls selling a variety of clothing, daily appliances, snacks, drinks, gifts, and souvenirs.
At the end of the night market, you’ll see the locals performing in a band. Grab a cup of beer, known locally as Bia Hoi brewed by the locals, tapped out from their tank, at only $0.25 per cup!
Pay Your Tribute in Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Yet another major attraction in Hanoi city. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of the Vietnam Revolutionary Leader, Mr. Ho Chi Minh.
Often regarded as Uncle Ho, he’s respected throughout the country by the Vietnamese people.
Here’s a fun fact for you. Did you know the Vietnam War is one of the two wars that the US actually lost?
Personally, I found the history of Vietnam particularly interesting. What about you? Let me know in the comment section below!
Visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds and queues for your photo with the mausoleum.
In front, there’s a huge square, known as Ba Dinh Square, named after the Ba Dinh Uprising against the French army.
It’s a great place to walk around if you have more than 2 days in Hanoi.
Shopping in Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Market is one of the earliest markets in Hanoi city, and definitely the most famous one. Throughout the years, Dong Xuan Market withstood the torture of time and weather.
Having renovated and reconstructed several times, the market still welcomes hundreds and thousands of locals every day. Dong Xuan Market has been around for more than a century.
Inside the market, you’ll find all sorts of stuff you see in the night market. You’ll also see fresh ingredients here, which you wouldn’t find in the night market.
Head over to the food court inside the market if you’re stomach is calling for food. The Vietnamese street foods in the food court are up to par so you don’t have to worry too much.
The opening hours are from 7 am to 6 pm from Monday through Thursday, and 7 am to 12 am on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Visiting One Pillar Pagoda
Located just beside Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda makes a great side trip for those who’re interested.
One Pillar Pagoda is one of the two most iconic temples in Hanoi, along with the Perfume Pagoda. I will not talk much about Perfume Pagoda because it’s located quite far from the city. Not ideal if you have only 2 days in Hanoi.
Here’s something interesting, One Pillar Pagoda is built between 1028 and 1054. Almost a millennium now! That’s freaking crazy, I was astonished to learn about that when I first visited. It’s just impressive how it’s still standing after all these years.
Food for thought: Among all the architectures we’re building now, which one do you think would last a thousand years?
Have A Beer in Legend Beer
For those who’re into drinking, Legend Beer is a place you shouldn’t miss during your stay in Hanoi. Located right beside Lake Hoan Kiem, Legend Beer offers a magnificent view over the lake with its open-air structure.
Legend Beer also serves a wide variety of cuisines, even though it’s not cheap at all. I’ve never dined in there before but I heard their German-style pork knuckles and sausages are amazing.
A great place for those who’re looking for travel partners or simply wish to make some friends in Hanoi.
Hanoi Street Foods You Shouldn’t Miss
You probably see it coming. What else should come the first when we’re talking about the Vietnamese street foods?
But do you know this? Pho in North Vietnam or Hanoi is different from the ones you find in South Vietnam, or Ho Chi Minh City.
Pho is the national staple of the Vietnamese people, often eaten as breakfast.
The dish is made of flavorful chicken broth with chicken oils, slices of chicken, flat rice noodles, and a bunch of fresh vegetables. Sometimes, it’s also served with a lime wedge.
The price is around 20,000 VND to 30,000 VND if you’re eating in the streets of Hanoi Old Quarter.
But how to find the best one? A trick that never fails to work. Always follow the locals. Look for the stall or local restaurants with the best local crowds, then ride the tide and join them. You’re not likely to be let down.
Well, if you ask me which one is my favorite Vietnamese street food during my 4 days stay in Hanoi, I’d say Bun Cha.
Bun Cha is a Hanoian dish, made of vermicelli noodles, grilled pork slices, a bunch of vegetables, and served with a dipping sauce made mainly of fish sauce.
Did you know when President Obama visited Hanoi back in 2016, he had Bun Cha together with Anthony Bourdain?
The price range for Bun Cha is similar to that of Pho, though you’re likely to find it slightly more expensive than Pho.
My favorite snack that leaves me craving for it to this day. It’s a French-influence dish, made of toasted French baguette, sandwiching egg strips, vegetables, coriander, soy sauce, meat slices, and cucumbers. And of course, some sauces.
It’s one of the most affordable dishes in Hanoi, and you can literally find it everywhere around the city.
But I wouldn’t go for those small stalls you find in some random streets, which seems to have no customers at all. I had a bad experience with them.
Always go for a more established stall if you’re looking for a good Banh Mi. Try to look up for it in TripAdvisor.
Gui Cuon, also known as the Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, is one of the dishes I looked forward to prior to my visit to Hanoi, Vietnam.
However, I was let down after trying 3 dishes of Gui Cuon from different restaurants. Maybe I had bad luck, but the spring rolls… just didn’t click with my taste.
Personally, I preferred the fried Gui Cuon because they’re more crunchy and packed full of flavors. Yea, I love foods with an intense taste, Penangites’ problem.
But anyway, what are them, if you never tried them before?
The spring rolls are made of translucent rice paper (Banh Trang) wrapping vermicelli noodles, vegetables, coriander, and some meat slices of your choice. Prawns are usually included in the spring rolls as well.
The dish wouldn’t be complete without the perfect dipping sauce made of fish sauce and topped with crushed peanuts.
Check out more foods to try in Hanoi in this post!
Editor’s Note: Check out this 3 Days Da Nang itinerary if you plan to travel south to Central Vietnam!
Safety Tips For Your 2 Days in Hanoi
Hanoi is generally a very safe city to travel in. Travelers have been roaming around for decades now, so Vietnamese people will never look at you like an alien.
But still, bad luck strikes any time of the day, and you might get involved.
Hanoi city, especially at the Old Quarter area is very happening during the night, so you’re not likely to have anything happen to you there.
Since street lamps aren’t that abundant in the city, never walk alone in the alleys, not even when you’re with your friends. Always use the main road where there are more eyes around.
Robbery is not that common but still happens in Hanoi, so make sure you keep your belonging close to yourself. Never have your handbag hanging on one side, always cross-hang it over the other shoulder.
Travel scams? Of course, I didn’t forget about that.
Most of the things in Hanoi in negotiable, so in order to avoid being scammed by travel agencies or hotels, you must equip yourself with some negotiation skills. Never agree on the first price unless the price is fixed at the price chart displayed publicly.
Also, check the price for everything you’re planning to do online first before making any purchases. You don’t wanna regret paying double for something you’ve purchased.
Are 2 Days Enough For Exploring Hanoi City?
2 days are never enough to explore all of Hanoi city because there are really a lot of attractions around. You’ve read about the things to do in Hanoi above, right?
But since some attractions might not sound so appealing for those who’re not interested (I know a lot of travelers didn’t like visiting temples), who knows, 2 days might be just right for you.
But how come some travelers stayed in Hanoi for weeks or even months?
I guess there are a couple of good reasons for that.
First of all, the cheap price tags.
Vietnam has one of the lowest living costs in South East Asia. And that alone is enough to explain why backpackers adore this destination so much.
Compared to the Western world, the cost of living a day in their country might be enough for them to get by a few days here without compensating anything.
Refer down below for the cost of living in Hanoi city.
Almost everything in Hanoi is affordable, even the tours, which are sometimes ridiculously expensive in some countries like Laos.
From Cat Ba Island, I once took a full-day Ha Long Bay Cruise tour, and it cost me only $13 (300,000 VND). That tour included buffet lunch (the best part!), kayaking around the limestone karsts, swimming in the vast open sea, and hiking in Monkey Island. And I got to enjoy the views of the surrounding limestone hills in Halong Bay on the deck of the cruise.
Even dining in restaurants is cheaper than Vietnam’s neighboring countries. The best part, Wi-Fi is surprisingly available at almost all restaurants in Hanoi, and the connections speed is decently fast enough.
The second reason, street foods.
There’s no point in stressing out more on the street foods in Hanoi. We all know how delicious and mouth-watering they are.
I’ve read from a forum that people stayed in Penang, Malaysia for weeks or even a month, just to try all the street foods before leaving the city with regrets.
I guess I can say the same thing applies to Hanoi city, where the foods are cheaper and much healthier.
Cost of Living in Hanoi City
Depending on your budget, the cost of living in Hanoi City differs from one another. Say, you’re a backpacker who’s right on budget, $20 is more than enough to get by in Hanoi city. Let’s break this down.
- For accommodation, you’ll spend around $5 for a bunk bed in Hanoi Old Quarter, the hub for travelers and backpackers. A double room costs around $8-12 depending on your choice.
- Regarding the street foods, you can get a satisfying meal – a main course with a cup of Vietnamese coffee in under $3. The main course usually costs only around $1-2 in Hanoi Old Quarter.
- Most of the attractions are free of charge, but even if they charge an entrance fee, the ticket is usually $1-2, which is extremely affordable.
- Beers cost around $1 per can in a typical convenience store in Hanoi city.
- You can rent a motorcycle at around $5 in Hanoi, which includes helmet but not the fuel.
So, if you’re staying for 2 days in Hanoi, expect to spend around $30-50. It could be less if you’re not paying for any attractions or drinking.
Where to Stay in Hanoi?
The best place to stay in Hanoi is none other than Hanoi Old Quarter. With plenty of hostels and hotels around the area, the Old Quarter is a hub for travelers and backpackers.
It’s also close to the attractions in Hanoi, even though most of them still need a decent time of walking. But assuming that we’re visiting on the weekends, and as I said, there are so many things happening near the Old Quarter during the weekends, I’d go for Hanoi Old Quarter over the French Quarter.
In fact, I’ll choose the former on any given day.
I wouldn’t recommend which hostel to stay, because mine wasn’t particularly interesting enough for me to promote it.
But if you’re looking for a hostel in Hanoi, scroll down and use the Booking widget to find yourself the best deals!
Ready For Your 2 Days in Hanoi?
Here is all the information to get you planning for your 2 days in Hanoi itinerary. What do you think about this article, do you like it? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think! I appreciate it if you would do that. And I hope you enjoy Hanoi and Vietnam as I did. Be safe and happy traveling!
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