Explore Hanoi in 3 Days
You were browsing through newsfeed and you saw this impressive photo of a busy bustling street with spiderwebs of electric wires from above, everything looks so chaotic yet so tranquil and elegant. Hanoi has captivated you from first sight. Now, looking at your flight ticket with Hanoi as the destination on it, your face sparks with excitement and anticipation to set foot on the capital of Vietnam, the center of cultures that has witnessed countless historical events. But wait, you suddenly realize, you have no idea where to start exploring in this full-of-activity place. We are here, with our knowledge of Hanoi, to help you have the best 3 days in this lovely city. This article gives you a guide of essential information about accommodation, transport, sights, food, and weather to make your vacation worry-free and adventurous. Enjoy!
Where to stay?
The Old Quarter
Most foreigners choose to stay in the Old Quarter as it concentrates on all activities and sights. This area also has the most bustling and energetic nightlife and delicious authentic Vietnamese food. The variety of accommodation varies from backpacker hostels to luxurious ones or anything middle-range.
Hanoi Old Quarter
Ba Dinh District
Ba Dinh District is an escape from the chaos. It’s more spacious and suitable for those who wants a rather quiet and less densely populated and still close to the center. There are several historical monuments such as Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One-pillar Pagoda, B52 Victory Museum, etc. Food and entertainment in this area are also more limited than in the center and the price range targets mid-range travelers.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh District
West Lake is popular among expats who live and work in Vietnam with many Western shops and stores. Accommodation here is mostly a service apartment and the price point is also higher than in most other areas.
Intercontinental Hotel in Westlake Area
Types of Accommodation
Mostly dense around the Old Quarter, hostels are a good budget option for travelers, especially backpackers. You can easily choose a $5 - $7 hostels around the center with nice dormitory style where you share bathrooms, toilets and some has light breakfast. This is suitable for those who want to stay close to the center of all restaurants, activities, sights with a budget.
Ngo Huyen Street has many hotels and hostels at affordable price
Hotels are the most common accommodation among visitors in Vietnam as it is easy to find and book and also has to meet specific hospitality standards. Besides, you will be relaxed and taken care of by A-Z by the hotel, unlike stay in hostels or homestays. A 3-star hotel in the Old Quarter if a good option if you’d like to be a part of this energetic and historical city.
Hotel in the Old Quarter
Homestay - AirBnB
Tranquil and cozy. That’s how you describe homestays in Hanoi. Instead of locating on the main street like hotels or hostels, homestay will take you to a friendly and quiet hideaway in a small lane. Facilities such as shower, aircon, Wifi, hairdryer, etc. are fully supplied in homestays.
Homestay in Hanoi offers a cozy atmosphere
Some even offer you the chance to meet Hanoian hosts to see the lifestyle of Hanoian. Airbnb is also available in Vietnam helping you an ideal homestay for your vacation and the price range fluctuates between $15 - $30 per night.
How to travel?
Hanoi is a compact city with narrow streets and lanes so the most popular vehicle is a motorcycle. You can rent motorcycle at a very reasonable price (usually $5/day), you may need to haggle and carefully check the engine, brakes, helmets to avoid being scammed, or ask the hotel you stay a reliable place to rent a good quality motorcycle.
Motorbike rental in Ngo Huyen Street
If you are not confident in your motorcycle riding skill, taking a cab is a better option and the rate is inexpensive, too. Taxis in Hanoi have meters, but be careful with drivers who do not follow the meters and overcharge you. Normally, working meters cost 10.000 - 15.000VND for the first 2km and 6.000 - 8.000VND per the following kilometer.
Taxi Group is a common taxi brand in Hanoi
There are some reliable taxi companies in Hanoi such as Mai Linh Taxi, Hanoi Taxi, Taxi CP. However, keep in mind that Vietnamese taxi drivers may not able to speak English, so you can just show them the destination you want to come, ask for the price before hopping in and that should be fine.
Cyclo is Vietnamese’s bicycle rickshaw where you sit in the front cab and the driver sits behind you. It’s an ideal transport if you are in no rush and tempt to explore the city in a short distance. The common price for an hour ride is $5, you may need to haggle or else you possibly will be ripped off.
Cyclo around the Old Quarter.
Wandering around Hanoi Old Quarter is a MUST-TRY activities
What to Visit?
Ho Chi Minh Complex is a complex of architectures like Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, One-pillar pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh Stilt House tributing our great leader that emancipated the whole nation from over 1000 years of evasion. This will definitely a great way to learn about the great history of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh Stilt House
Address: Hung Vuong, Dien Ban, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: 7:30 - 10:30 or 8:00 - 12:00 all week except Monday, Friday
- Ho Chi Minh Museum: 8:00 - 12:00 and 14:00 - 16:30 all week except Monday, Friday afternoon
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: FREE
- Ho Chi Minh Museum: 40,000VND/adult
Temple of Literature Entrance
Temple of Literature preserves a wealth of history of how the educational system works in the past. The most outstanding feature of the Temple of Literature is tortoise statues with headstones on it. During graduation time, many students come here to pray for luck for their study in graduation uniforms.
Address: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Van Mieu, Dong Da, Hanoi
Opening hours: 8:00 - 17:00 or 7:30 - 18:00 all week except national events
Entrance Fee: 30,000VND/adult ; 15,000VND/student (student card required) ; FREE: Children under age of 15
The recreation of prisoners in Hoa Lo Prison
Hoa Lo Prison (Maison Centrale) was built during the French Colonial period for political prisoners. It is demolished in the 1990s and made into a museum demonstrating the deepest and darkest part throughout this period and Vietnam War. The recreation of harsh punishment with inhumane torture tools is the symbol of Vietnamese patriots’ indomitable will and myriad sacrifice for national independence.
Address: 1 Hoa Lo, Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Opening Hours: 8:00 - 17:00 all week
Entrance Fee: 30,000VND/person
Long Bien Bridge
Long Bien Bridge was constructed between 1899 and 1902 and designed by Gustave Eiffel, the father of Eiffel Tower in Paris. The bridge is the connection point to transfer commodities between the South and the North so it was severely bombed by the airforce of U.S. Army in 1967 -1972. Parts of the bridge were destroyed during the war but the remainings still reminisce about the unforgettable past.
Long Bien Bridge is not only a traffic construction but also a living historical relic. Walking across Long Bien Bridge is truly a worth-trying experience of many visitors apart from exploring busy and bustling capital. Or a rooftop coffee shop would be ideal to take a view of the whole bridge from afar.
Hoan Kiem Lake
Considered the heart of Hanoi capital, Hoan Kiem Lake is a combination of modernity and history. Legend has it that in the 15th century, Emperor Le Loi obtained a magical sword from the Dragon King under the lake to fight against Chinese oppressors.
The Turtle Temple in the middle of the lake was built to pay tribute to the giant turtle that retrieved the sword for its master. Nowadays, the lake reserves an ancient beauty that attracts so many locals and tourists. At the weekend, the road around the lake is made into a walking area where various traditional games, concerts take place.
The french-style architecture of Metropole Hotel in Ngo Quyen Street
During the French Colonial period, the French Quarter is a concentration of government buildings, embassies, and affluent neighborhoods. Unlike the ancient and hustling vibe in the Old Quarter, this area is posh and solemn with French-style architecture.
Hanoi Opera House
Constructed in 1911, Hanoi Opera House was inspired by Opera Garnier Theatre in Paris. Situated in special position, in the middle of August Revolution Square, it is truly the art of French architecture featuring Gothic theme indoors and domes with pillars shuttered windows and glass rooms. The capacity goes up to 600 people, making it the center for opera shows, ballets, international concerts, etc.
Address: 1 Trang Tien, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Opening Hour: 10:30 AM every Monday and Friday
Trang Tien Plaza
Trang Tien Plaza is the first luxury shopping mall ever in Hanoi which gathers up to 200 high-end brands ranging from fashion to cosmetics such as Dior, Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc. With fancy and classic appearance, Trang Tien Plaza exterior is also a very popular site for wedding photo shooting.
Address: 23K Hai Ba Trung, Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
National Museum of Vietnamese History
Each building in the National Museum of Vietnamese History is still mostly influenced by French architecture. But if we look closely, touches of Vietnamese culture patterns is tangible here and there creating such unique features for the museum. The museum does not only preserve artistic and architectural values but also illustrates the fusion of French and Vietnamese culture and history.
Address: 216 Tran Quang Khai, Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Opening Hours: 8:00 - 12:00 and 13:30 - 17:00 every day except first Monday of every month
Entrance Fee: 40,000VND/adult ; 20,000VND/student ; FREE for children under age of 6 and disabilities
St. Joseph's Cathedral
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a well-known 19th-century European style building. The church is a lively Gothic-inspired architecture consisting of four-cornered pillars and topped with a stone cross. When you come here, you will be overwhelmed by the religious solemnity of the church. In the evening, the church becomes majestic with lights and candles so high recommend visiting this place at this time.
Address: 40 Nha Chung, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Opening hours: 5:30 - 18:15 (weekdays) ; 18:00 (Saturday) ; 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, 11:00, 16:00, 18:00 and 20:00 (Sunday)
Ngoc Son Temple Entrance
Located on a small island in the north of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple is the most scenic sight in Hanoi. It was built in the 19th century dedicating to scholar Van Xuong and Tran Hung Dao, some of the most famous structures like Pen Tower, Tran Ba Temple.
The Huc Bridge connects Ngoc Son Temple with land
To enter Ngoc Son Temple, tourists will cross a scarlet wooden bridge called The Huc Bridge, the image of this bridge has deeply imbedded in Hanoian mind for hundreds of years.
Address: Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Opening Hour: 8:00 - 17:00 daily
Entrance Fee: 30,000VND/adult ; 15,000VND/child
The water puppet show is a Vietnamese traditional art performance dating back in the 11th century. The main characters, the puppets on water, are controlled by puppeteers behind a bamboo curtain led by traditional folk songs and the story-telling by the puppets themselves. The music is live and performed by many traditional musical instruments: drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes, and cymbals.
Vietnam traditional water puppet show
Most of the water puppet performances are a recreation of Vietnamese tales and historical legends so this will be a great experience for travelers to travel back in time and learn of Vietnamese history and culture in such a unique art form.
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Opening Hours:every day at 15:30 - 17:00 - 18:30 - 20:00 - 21:15 and Sunday at 9:30
Ticket Fee: 60,000 - 100,000VND/person
Hanoi Weekend Night Market is a great place to buy souvenirs for your friends and family
Taking place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Hanoi Weekend Night Market is a busy, bustling gathering of roadside stalls and local food vendors that brings huge crowds of locals and tourists. The market starts from the beginning of Hang Dao to the end of Dong Xuan Market. It’s like a weekly festival gathering hundreds of street food in Hanoi you can try a very reasonable price. But make sure you keep an eye on your belongings since the whole scene is very crowded.
Address: Hang Dao, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Halong Bay Cruise
Kayaking through stunning limestone karst in Bai Tu Long Bay
Halong Bay is a beautiful natural wonder in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border. The Bay is dotted with nearly 2,000 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500 sqm. This extraordinary area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. For many tourists, this place is like something right out of a movie.
A child of Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay is an off-the-beaten-track destination that has recently been in high demand among international tourists. Possessing a similar landscape with Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay features clearer water and less-touristy attractions.
Spending 1 - 2 days allows you to experience many exciting activities such as kayaking, caving, visiting a fishing village and learn about the lifestyle of villagers in Halong Bay.
Situated 90 kilometers from Hanoi to the South, Ninh Binh is known as “Halong Bay On Land” with breathtaking landscapes somewhat similar to Halong Bay. Recognized as UNESCO Heritage Site, Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex consists of 3 protected areas: Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Trang An - Tam Coc - Bich Dong Scenic Landscape and Hoa Lu Special-use Forest.
Ngo Dong River
Sitting in a rowboat sailing through Ngo Dong River, in front of your eyes is a spectacular view of rock formations rising from rice paddies, mythical in the mist. It is an adventure through history and culture in the land that once was the capital of Dai Co Viet (former name of Vietnam).
What to eat?
Pho has become the essence of Vietnam cuisine made a clear statement around the world with its widespread popularity. You may find many Pho restaurants internationally but isn’t it the best to have a hot steaming bowl of Pho in the heart of Vietnam?
The broth is the key element of the whole dish, it has to be made of fresh backbones simmered for several days a right amount of spices so as to have a clear, fragrant soup pouring over the noodles and beef or chicken; finally, a touch of fresh herbs will enhance this unique and delicious taste of your bowl of Pho.
Banh Mi has become a staple breakfast in Vietnam due to its deliciousness and convenience. Banh Mi diversifies itself with a variety of fillings you can choose: paté, grilled meat, Vietnamese sausages, sided with pickled vegetables and a bit of chili, all wrapped inside a crunchy baguette.
To be honest, you haven’t really been to Hanoi if you haven’t tried Bun Cha. It has received high appreciation from the former president of the US, Barack Obama during his visit to Vietnam. The charcoal-grilled pork belly or patties dipping in sweet and sour fish sauce is the best combination, giving a smoky, savory taste in every bite. Fresh herbs are also an indispensable element to balance this meaty dish.
Cha Ca is considered the signature dish of Vietnam cuisine that has used to name after a street in the Old Quarter. The main ingredient is freshwater fish, usually snakehead fish marinated in turmeric, shallots, garlic, and galangal. It is grilled in advance and then fried when it’s ready to be served with vermicelli, fresh herbs like dill, spring onion, roasted peanuts, chili, and fermented shrimp paste with a distinct musky aroma. Once it's sizzling, enjoy bite-sized slices of fish with some salty peanuts, herbs, and vermicelli.
Banh Cuon is freshly steamed sheets of rice batter filled with seasoned minced pork and wood ear mushrooms. A fish-based dipping sauce (or nuoc mam) is an indispensable element of the dish. You can add cha Lua, eggs, and fried onions to diversify and customize the Banh Cuon to your own preference.
Giang Coffee is one of the original egg coffee shop in Hanoi
Coffee in Vietnam is beyond a drink, it’s a lifestyle. Sitting on the sidewalk, sipping on a cup of coffee and chatting with friends in the tranquil atmosphere of early morning in Hanoi is an absolute delight. Egg coffee is a MUST-TRY specialty of Hanoi. The thick texture and rich flavor of the egg layer combining with strong Vietnamese coffee make you feel like you are drinking a high-class tiramisu.
Who can resist a heavenly sweetness while wandering around the Old Quarter in a heated afternoon? Che, as known as sweet soup, is one of Vietnamese dessert and it has many flavors. Each che is made from different ingredients like mung bean, black-eyed peas, tapioca, grass jelly, pomelo, etc.
You can choose to mix your own che as your liking, add a bit of coconut milk and shredded ice and you get a delicious and refreshing cup of che.
Nem chua ran
Gathering with your friends, get a dish of nem chua ran, sided with some potato chips then you have yourself a good snack time. It is actually deep-fried fermented pork sausages, crispy outside and soft inside. Some cucumber or green mango will help a lot to balance the fat of the dish.
How’s the weather?
Representing tropical monsoon weather, Hanoi has hot summer with high rainfall and dry cold winter. the weather is divided into 2 main seasons: rainy season (from May to September) and dry season (from October to April). However, thanks to transition months, Hanoi experiences all four seasons: Spring, summer, autumn, winter.
The best time of the year to visit Hanoi is between August and October when the rainy season has just past and leaves a cooling atmosphere.
Hanoi is truly a living historical relic with remarks of culture and history everywhere you go, everything you do. The beauty in culture has vividly embedded in Hanoi people’s lives. Being a part of it is not only a way of understanding their lifestyle but also a way of reflecting your soul in this city of a thousand years of civilization.