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How many days in Hanoi?

Updated: May 14

Welcome to the bustling streets and vibrant culture of Hanoi, Vietnam! Hanoi is a city that effortlessly blends ancient traditions with modern influences. I love the hustle and bustle of this city, but don’t forget to check out my top tips for before visiting Vietnam. I think you need at least 3-4 days to truly get a taste for this wonderful city. If you have more time, I’d suggest taking a few day trips or overnight stays nearby with Hanoi as your base (see below for more). Here is an itinerary for 4 days in Hanoi.


three pictures of vietnam, halong bay, hoan kiem lake and st josephs cathedral

Day 1 in Hanoi


Discover the Old Quarter

Step into a world seemingly frozen in time as you wander through the narrow streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter. Here, each alleyway tells a story, with its colorful shopfronts, lively markets, and traditional architecture. Lose yourself in the hustle and bustle, and don't forget to sample some of the local delicacies from the street vendors along the way. One of the best ways to explore the old town is through a walking tour with a local. Hanoi Free Walking Tours offers private tours by college students.

 


hoan kiem lake views

Wander along Hoan Kiem Lake

Escape the chaos of the city and find tranquility at the serene Hoan Kiem Lake. Legend has it that this mystical lake is home to a giant tortoise, and a stroll along its shores is both peaceful and rejuvenating. Be sure to visit the iconic red bridge leading to Ngoc Son Temple, where you can admire breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding cityscape. I love wandering around the lake at dusk as locals come out to stroll the street. On the weekends, parts of the road are pedestrian only.

 

jordan with the passing train so close to her head at the Hanoi Train Street

Enjoy a Meal Inches from a Passing Train

The Hanoi Train Street may be the most famous spot in the city due to all the Instagram and Tik Tok coverage. It’s a tiny narrow street surrounded by high houses packed closely together. Owners have opened shops on the ground floor selling beers, light snacks and coffee so tourists can flock to the area for a chance to feel the train sail by your face. There is a schedule but suffice to say it’s not always on time. Generally speaking, the train comes 3-4 times in the evenings during the week and throughout the morning (until 11:30) and again in the late afternoon/evening on the weekends. I would suggest showing up around 7-8 pm for the highest chance of catching a show!



Day 2 in Hanoi


Immerse Yourself in History at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

No visit to Hanoi is complete without paying respects to the revered leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. The imposing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum stands as a symbol of the nation's history and resilience. You can visit in the mornings only until 10:30 am from April to September. Entrance fee for foreigners is 25,000 VND. You must pass through security and store your bags in a locker. If you want a full day tour, check out this option! It includes all the highlights for a good price.


outside of Hanoi Hilton or Hoa Lo Prison with red flags over the entrance

Explore Hoa Lo Prison

Better known as Hanoi Hilton, the Hoa Lo Prison kept Senator John McCain as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Built by the French in 1896, it was named “Central Prison” to capture those opposing the French colonists. The prison was renamed in 1954 and used by the North Vietnamese during the war. Today, there is a guillotine still on display.

 

See the Wreckage

Visit the wreckage of an American B52 bomber in the Huu Tiep Lake. When I first arrived in Hanoi in 2013, my tuk tuk driver immediately drove me (without my expressed desire) to Hanoi Hilton and this plane wreck. He kept saying “John McCain’s plane.” Today, the lake has a memorial bearing his name. The wreckage even has a tree growing up through it now as it remains where it was downed in 1972. It’s a poignant reminder of the evils of war and the resilience of humanity.

 

outside of st joseph cathedral

Admire St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Also known as Hanoi Cathedral, at night this famous landmark is lit up with beautiful lights. The Notre Dame-inspired church is free to enter 8-12 pm and 2-6 pm each day.

 

Indulge in Vietnamese Cuisine

No trip to Hanoi would be complete without indulging in its world-renowned cuisine. From fragrant bowls of pho to crispy spring rolls and savory bun cha, the culinary scene in Hanoi is a feast for the senses. Be sure to visit one of the city's many street food markets or hole-in-the-wall eateries for an authentic taste of Vietnamese gastronomy. Check out my post on the best eats in Hanoi. I my favorite restaurants as well as the best dishes to order!

 

Day 3 in Hanoi


halong bay from surprise cave with lots of boats and rocks amid the trees

Sail to Halong Bay

If your schedule allows, I’d recommend doing a 3 day/2 night trip to Lam Ha Bay, which is less crowded and touristy. However, if your schedule is tight, I would still suggest taking a day trip to Halong Bay. The views are otherworldly and watching the sunset drop behind the huge rocks is truly spectacular.



Day 4 in Hanoi


jordan at the top of lookout point at Mua Cave in Ninh Binh with the river below

Explore Ninh Binh

This is a long, full tour day, but the views are absolutely worth it. I LOVED my day trip to Ninh Binh. This tour included a scenic Trang An boat ride, time to cycle around the countryside before lunch and the epic climb up Hang Mua to the viewpoint. With pickup from your hotel or hostel in the Old Quarter, it’s a full day trip that highlights the Vietnamese countryside.

 

Additional Days in Hanoi


If you have more time in Hanoi (or fly through the above), I’d suggest visiting the Hanoi Opera House. After more than 100 years in operation, the refurbished venue offers classic productions and musical shows. If you get a chance, check out “My Village” – an acrobatic and traditional dance show. Check the schedule here.

 

Visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum with a collection of costumes, photographs and memoirs from the past 100 years. Closed on Mondays and admission is 30,000 VND. Cash only.

 

With its rich history, vibrant culture, and mouthwatering cuisine, Hanoi offers a truly unforgettable travel experience. Spend 3-4 days in Hanoi wandering through the bustling streets of the Old Quarter or immersing yourself in the city's storied past. Pack your bags, embark on an adventure, and discover the magic of Hanoi, Vietnam.


Be sure to read my tips on solo female travel in Vietnam.

 

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May 08
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Makes me want to go!!!

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