Hanoi is a fascinating place to visit and a must for those exploring the country. Many stay for 2 days in Hanoi before heading off to Sapa or Halong Bay, so we decided to share things to do in Hanoi during your time in the capital.
Day 1 in Hanoi
Start the day with a good Vietnamese breakfast. Many hotels include breakfast but if not, head to a local vendor for a Banh Mi – a local favourite of meat, sauce and salad in a fresh baguette.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
Get an early start and head to the Tran Quoc Pagoda. This is famous pagoda in the city and worth a visit, especially for first timers in Vietnam and Asia.
The temple brings you back to the 6th century during the time of Emperor Ly Nam De Dynasty (544 – 548) and a visit early morning allows you to take in the temple and surrounding lake without the crowds and tour groups.
The pagoda opens at 7.30am but arriving anytime before 10.30am will still be a fairly quiet experience. Entrance is free all year round and is around a 30 minute walk from the Old Quarter.
Alternatively, you can download the GRAB app (Asia’s Uber) and be dropped off at the entrance of the temple; prices in Asia are a lot cheaper than western taxi services so make sure you check it out, especially if you are short on time.
We were travelling with family so stopping at a local coffee shop was a must. Paris Baguette is actually a train we recognised from China but prices were reasonable, the Vietnamese Coffee was great and there were some recongisable food items in the cafe; ideal for the less adventerous eaters in our group.
St Josephs Cathedral
After a quick coffee, we headed back into the Old Quarter to visit St Josephs Cathedral.
We visited just before Christmas so there was an impressive tree outside the cathedral and lots of decorations and fairy lights dotted around the square.
It has a touch of Paris and is worth a visit whilst in Hanoi. You can go inside but only at the opening times of the ceremonial services (5.30am and 6.16pm weekdays, 6pm Saturdays).
Lunch in Hanoi
From St Josephs Cathedral, you will find lots of restauants and cafes to have lunch. La Chapelle Ha Noi is a cute cafe with a rooftop bar that overlooks the square – great for people watching. Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh is also near, with high quality food at reasonable prices.
There are also some cute boutique shops in the area; we enjoyed browsing the handcraft stores and art and craft places.
We finished our sightseeing and lunch around 2pm but it was the first stop on our trip and we were all pretty tired. We headed back for a few hours of blog work then headed back out to the Hanoi Night Market which runs on the weekends – would highly recommend it!
However, if you have more energy than us, check out a Vietnamese cooking class! Apron Up Cooking Class is a highly rated option, which runs throughout the day and costs around $32 per person. Chef Duyen’s Home Cooking Classes & Tours is also a great choice with market visits and local village tours available too.
Dinner in Hanoi
There are some great choices for restaurants in Hanoi, depending on what you are looking for.
Over the past few visits to the city, we have loved eating at:
- New York Sports Bar (formly known as O’Learys) – we enjoyed watching the Chelsea game over a tower of cider and a plate of nachos. More expensive than the local food but good prices for alcohol and tasty food.
- Duong’s Restaurant – With high rating on tripadvisor, we checked out this popular restuarant. This was perhaps the most delicious meal we had with fresh ingredients and lots of Vietnamese dishes to choose from. It is worth reserving a table via their facebook page if you are coming as a big group.
- Essence Restaurant – A more expensive choice but fantastic food, attentive staff and perfect for a special occasion.
- Chops Old Quarter – A small bar with a decent burger and chips. This is a great place to visit if you are missing a bit of western food and want to avoid the chains.
Breakfast in Hanoi
For breakfast places in Hanoi, you can check out:
- 3 spoons – For a more upmarket experience, head to the 62nd floor of the Keangham Hanoi Landmark Tower and enjoy a breakfast buffet at 3 spoons. Not only can you try authentic Vietnamese dishes but you can also check out their Chinese, Japanese and even Italian breakfast options.
Savoor – The House of Panini – For a tasty sandwich, head to Savoor, not far from Quảng Bá Flower Market. They have lots of Panini options for all the family and we loved it for a brunch option.
- Pho Bat Dan Restaurant – For hot delicious Pho for just 45k VND, head to Pho Bat Dan. Here you will find the traditional Pho reciepe with a clear, fragrant broth.
- Lifted Coffe + Brunch – Popular with locals and expats, this is a great place to people watch from the balcony and enjoy a hearty breakfast.
Jade Mountain temple
The Jade Mountain temple opens at 8am and is a popular place to visit whilst you are in Hanoi for two days. Similarly to the Pagoda, I would recommend getting here early to avoid the crowds.
Also known as Ngoc Son Temple, the temle is found on Hoan Kiem Lake and is VND 30,000 to enter.
Hanoi comes to life in the evening, especially on the weekend.
Head to the Hanoi Night Market to eat your way around the Vietnamese local dishes and shop for cheap, fun souvenirs and lifestyle products. Hoan Kiem Lake is a picturesque area to walk around, especially as the sun sets and the lights come on.
For couples, head to the Binh Minh Jazz Club for a romantic evening of drinks and music or watch the Thang Long Water Puppet Show; a tourist favourite. For a more lively evening, head to HERO nightclub or head to our favourite bar, Legend Beer in the Old Quarter.
Once you are finished with Hanoi, make sure to visit the gorgeous terraces in Sapa or the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay. The best part is, there are plenty of Halong Bay cruises for backpackers and budget travellers, so you can still experience the gorgeous karsts on any budget.