Welcome to our 2 Day Itinerary: Hanoi post! We spent 10 days travelling around Vietnam as part of our wider 6 week Southeast Asia trip.
Out of those ten days, we spent a weekend in Hanoi and made sure to pack as much into our time there as we could.
Of all the cities and places we visited in Vietnam, Hanoi was our favourite. We loved that it felt like a modern city whilst still retaining a lot of character and charm.
Plus, because a lot of the things to see are in and around the Old Quarter, it’s totally possible to spend only 48 hours in Hanoi and not feel like you’ve missed out.
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2 Day Itinerary: Hanoi
How to get to Hanoi
The main airport serving the capital city of Hanoi is Noi Bai International Airport. There are three further airports, but most travellers will enter into Hanoi and Vietnam through Noi Bai.
There are buses that take you from the airport to the city centre, but we opted to book a private airport transfer through Booking.com. This cost us about £14 for the 45-minute trip. You can also get a public bus, or a taxi.
Vietnamese traffic in the cities can be heavy, so be prepared. Rush hour can result in completely stagnant traffic, so be sure you give yourself enough time to get from A to B, especially if you only have 2 days in Hanoi.
What To Do In Hanoi
People watch at The Note Coffee Cafe
After seeing this place many times on Instagram, we had agreed that it would be nice to visit during our time in Hanoi.
We ended up finding it completely by accident, but it is pretty easy to spot! If you head for the Temple of the Jade Mountain, you’ll soon see it and it’s colourful facade from the edge of Hoan Kiem Lake.
We visited on a Sunday, so weren’t sure if we’d be lucky enough to find a seat. However, we ended up having a whole room to ourselves for a little bit.
The coffee was good and pretty cheap, and the views out across the bustling Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square gave us plenty to watch and admire.
However, the main attraction of the cafe is hinted at in the name! For years, people from all over the world have been writing sticky notes and leaving them behind for others to read. Every single space is covered, and we were hard-pressed to find some empty spots to leave our own notes on.
Wander across Long Bien Bridge
Long Bien Bridge connects two districts of Hanoi. Stretching a huge 2.4km in length, it is of historical and architectural interest to many visitors to Hanoi.
It is a pedestrian, train, and scooter bridge, with a bigger more modern bridge for cars located a short distance away.
Initially drawn by the cool train-track shots we’d seen online, and reassured by the sporadic nature of the trains travelling across the bridge, we set out to take a photo in the middle of the bridge.
However, a guard at the train station stopped us from entering, and wouldn’t even let us take a photo on the platform without a ticket. Train tickets are pretty cheap, so if you’re more determined than we were you could easily just get a ticket and be done with it. We wouldn’t recommend disobeying the guard and hopping onto the tracks though.
However, we elected to wander across part of the bridge on the pedestrian path instead. It was chaotic, loud, and humid, but also a pretty cool way to fully immerse ourselves in the city vibes.
Explore the bustling Hoan Kiem Lake
Located next to The Note Coffee Cafe, Hoan Kiem Lake is a beautiful freshwater lake in the middle of the city.
You can walk across the vibrant red bridge to reach the Temple of the Jade Mountain, or just walk its perimeter to see Turtle Tower, one of the more famous sites to photograph in the area.
There are loads of cafes, bars, and restaurants around the lake, and it’s a good place to spend a lazy morning.
If you’re looking for crowd-free photos though, you are best off going very early in the morning. We arrived at about 10 am and it was thronging with people. There was some sort of fun run going on, but even so, it’s in a very popular area so fills up quickly.
Grab an authentic Bia Hoi
This was one of our favourite things we did during our ten days in Vietnam. Bia Hoi is the name for the local beer, which is served up in glasses at the side of the road.
Oh, and did we mention that it costs 20p?
Head to Beer Street and look for small gatherings of Vietnamese men sitting on tiny plastic stools, or bright signs saying ‘BIA HOI’. You literally sit down and a server will rush a glass over to you.
If you want more, do as the locals do and just wave at them. You never wait long for service, but don’t expect the next best craft beer to be served to you. It tastes fine but looks very watery.
And don’t pay too much attention to their hygiene practices either – washing the glasses was a very quick ‘dip and leave to dry’ job.
Take in the sights at Train Street
Over the years, Train Street has become more closed off to tourists due to a number of incidents of stupidity. It goes without saying but if there is a train coming, don’t stand on the tracks.
There are railings and guards stopping you from entering, but we did see one guard in particular turning a complete blind eye and letting tourists wander a little way up the tracks for a photo.
We were lucky enough to stumble upon a cafe you can sit in at the side of the tracks. Cafe A99 serves cheap beer and other drinks. Plus, it has a handy train timetable on the menu so you know when the next train is due.
Find Cafe A99 here:
Where To Stay In Hanoi
We stayed here on our own 10 day trip to Vietnam and really loved it. Located right in the thick of things, it was easy to walk to attractions like Train Street, Hoan Kiem Lake, and Long Bien Bridge. A delicious buffet breakfast was included, and we were even fortunate enough to receive an upgrade to a suite!
A popular option on Booking.com, this gives travellers a more traditional hostel set up rather than a hotel.
You won’t be hard-pressed to find great budget accommodation options in Vietnam, and this is one of them. With breakfast included and set down a quiet side road, this guest house would suit travellers of all types.
The Best of Hanoi in 2 Days
As we’ve said, there is plenty to see and do in Hanoi. Even if you only have limited time there, you can still easily and cheaply squeeze a lot in.
When choosing accommodation, try to stay in the Old Quarter. This way, you are best placed to wander off and explore on foot, as the traffic in the city is pretty chaotic. This is the only area where most Halong Bay cruise operators will pick up from in Hanoi.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our short Hanoi itinerary, but for our full 10-day Vietnamese travel itinerary, check out this blog post.
Have you been to Vietnam? Which was your favourite place?