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How to spend 24 hours in Hanoi

On the banks of the Red River in Vietnam’s north lies an ancient capital waiting to be explored.


Welcome to the capital of Vietnam, where the historic Old Quarter comes alive with its French-colonial past and the streets are lined with eateries serving up Vietnamese classics such as banh mi, bun cha, and pho. Hanoi is one of Southeast Asia’s most unique cities.

There are plenty of things to do in Hanoi, from enjoying their signature coconut coffee by day to finding a bargain at the local street markets by night. Here is our comprehensive guide to how to have an unforgettable 24 hours in Hanoi:

Morning - sunrise at Hoàn Kiếm Lake and Vietnamese coffee

If you got in late the night before and you’re battling jet lag, or perhaps you’re simply an early riser, head to Hoàn Kiếm Lake for those magical hours after the sun has just risen. It’s a way to see the city’s main green space come alive with locals walking their dogs, performing tai chi, or heading through the park to begin their day. The freshwater lake is centrally located, making it easy for you to pop out of your hotel.

Feeling a little famished? Right near the lake is a variety of eateries, from local hotspots to fusion restaurants. We love Đinh Café, an old-school haunt that is a fabulous place to try the coffee for which the country is famous. Plus it’s just on the road by the lake.

Stroll on over to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which is only a 10-minute walk away. This 19th-century cathedral is located on Nha Chung Street and was named after Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam. 

Afternoon - delicious pho and the Temple of Literature

If you’ve worked up an appetite, you can’t go past a meal at Hoang's Restaurant, where the pho and chicken spring rolls are a highlight. And if you’re curious, book a class in authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Another alternative if you aren’t quite ready for lunch is to head out on a local foodie tour, which will take you through some incredible Hanoi eateries from street foods to indoor markets, over a few hours. 

The next stop is the Hanoi Opera House, which was built by the French colonial administration in the early 20th century. The stunning neoclassicist building is a significant cultural site, where Vietnamese opera, ballet, plays, and musicals are regularly staged.

Slightly further away from Hanoi’s old quarter lies the Temple of Literature - an 11th-century temple built to honour Confucius - and Tran Quoc Pagoda - the city’s oldest Buddhist temple located on a tiny island. These are both delightful attractions to check out, but because these are about a 30-40 minute stroll from the main sights, you may not have time to pay a visit if you’ve only got one day in Hanoi. You could take a taxi, but only on a day when the traffic isn’t too bad.

Night - water puppets and evening markets

If you’re a traveller that fancies seeing the sunset, then Sky Bar Terraco is the perfect place to do so. Located on the top floor of La Sinfonía del Rey Hotel, the bar offers panoramic views of Hanoi and an enticing cocktail menu.

For dinner, you might like to head to one of the city’s night markets, such as Old Quarter Night Market or Hoang Mai Night Market, but if you’re looking for something a little more low-key after a day of exploring, you can head to Sadhu, a restaurant which serves a delicious buffet of vegetarian Vietnamese meals. 

To take in some of the local arts scene, book tickets for the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. These performances involve puppets and human performers showcasing traditional Vietnamese folk tales accompanied by folk music played on drums, bamboo flutes, and guitar.

If you still have a little bit of energy to burn after your day in Hanoi, head to Tadioto, a relaxed bar serving up excellent cocktails.

Explore Hanoi, and even more of vibrant Vietnam, with us. Book your escorted tour today.

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