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2 Days in Hanoi Itinerary for First-time Solo Traveller

Are you planning a solo trip to Hanoi? As the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi is famous for its delicious Northern Vietnamese cuisine, the old preserved architecture, and the organized chaos within the Old Quarter. Locals are always friendly and helpful even though you don’t speak the same language.

And Hanoi is also an excellent travel destination for solo female travellers. The city is welcoming, and the people are friendly. I’ve been to Hanoi three times as a solo traveller and felt completely safe while wandering around the city day and night.

Whether you are planning a cross-country trip or want to see the capital city, spend at least 2 days in Hanoi. You can see all the city’s major highlights at a good pace. If you want to take out the headache to plan your solo trip to Hanoi, follow my solo Hanoi itinerary and have the best time in Vietnam! 

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What you need to know before spending 2 days in Hanoi

Before you start your Hanoi itinerary, take a look at some of these travel tips first:

  • Get a prepaid SIM card at the airport. Once you leave the customs area, several stores are on the left side. The most popular mobile companies are Viettel, Vinaphone, MobiFone and Vietnamobile.
  • There are ATMs at the airport, but they charge fees (different rates for different banks).
  • Other ATMs in Hanoi, like VP Bank, allow you to take up to 10 million VND and have no fee.
  • Plan your solo trip to Hanoi with the following festivals and events:
    • Lunar New Year or Tet (January/February) – Vietnam’s most important festival of the year
    • Perfume Pagoda Festival (15th of the lunar month) – parade at Perfume Pagoda
    • Reunification Day (April 30) – see fireworks and a parade on the day of the unification of the country
    • Independence Day (September 2) – parades and fireworks to celebrate the important day

Is Hanoi safe for solo female travellers

If you are travelling to Hanoi for the first time, you must wonder if Hanoi is safe to travel alone. And generally speaking, Hanoi is safe for female solo travellers. The city’s crime rate is low, pickpocketing is not a major concern, and violent crime is rare.

As for my perspective and experience, I’ve been to Hanoi three times and spent over two months in the city. I stayed in the Old Quarter and Tay Ho; I felt safe throughout the day and even at night. And I had no issues with taking Grab cars and bikes.

Tips for staying safe in Hanoi

Even though Hanoi is a pretty safe city, I still recommend practicing regular travel safety precautions. Here are some safety travel tips to keep in mind:

  • Be aware of your belongings (bags, mobile phone, etc), especially in a crowded area.
  • Don’t wear flashy jewellery (necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc) to attract unwanted attention.
  • Leave your passport, (large sums of) money and other valuables at your hotel.
  • Avoid poorly lit alleys at night when you are walking home at night.

How to get to Hanoi Vietnam

Air

Most international travellers will fly directly into Hanoi’s Nội Bài International Airport, 28km from the city. From the airport, there are several ways to get into Hanoi.

Prearranged private transfer is the easiest way to get into the city. It takes about 40-60 minutes and costs around 400k VND. Grab is a bit cheaper; it costs about 300k VND. But whatever you do, don’t get a ride from any random cab. Avoid anyone who offers you a ride to the city because it could be a scam.

There are also shuttle buses operated by Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet. They are parked on the left side after you leave the terminal. It costs 50k, but they only go when the bus is full.

Overnight Train and Sleeper Bus

If you are going to Hanoi from different parts of the country, there are other transportation modes besides flying.

Overnight trains and sleeper buses are available for travellers from Da Nang, Sapa and other parts of Vietnam. And if you are travelling from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, there are train and bus options, but the journey would take very long.

How to get around Hanoi as a solo traveller

Walking is the best way to see Hanoi, especially in the Old Quarter and the parts of Ba Dinh.

The challenge is crossing the street while many scooters, bicycles and cars are speeding down the road in all directions. Yup, this is Hanoi! The trick is to walk steadily while you cross the street. The motorcycles and bicycles will pass you by driving behind you. 

If you want to save time, you can hire a Grab bike or car. Both options are very affordable. And when you hire a scooter, your driver will provide a helmet for safety and a raincoat if it rains.

Hanoi Itinerary 2 Days Map

Below are all the best attractions of Hanoi. Red pins are all the must-see attractions in the Old Quarter for day 1, while the purple pins are all the things to see in Ba Dinh on day 2. I organized these attractions into an efficient itinerary, so all you have to do is follow the numbered pins and read the description for each attraction.

In addition to the 2-days Hanoi Itinerary, I included several blue pins that represent other things to see in Hanoi if you are spending more time in the city or want to switch around the itinerary. And my recommended Hanoi accommodations are marked with yellow pins.

 

Hanoi itinerary: Day 1 in Old Quarter

One of my favourite things to do in Hanoi is to stroll through the streets of the Old Quarter. Local restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and other stores are packed tightly on every street. Many of these establishments are in preserved shophouses or set inside colonial buildings. 

For your first day in Hanoi, start from the north end of the Old Quarter, wander around Hoan Kiem Lake and finish the day near where you started.

1. Dong Xuan Market

First, visit Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi’s largest indoor market. Initially, the 6,500sqm market was built in 1890 to facilitate trading. Today, many wholesale traders sell souvenir items, clothing, household goods, and toys within the 4-story building,

On the south and east side of the market, there is a wet market and a food area where you can find authentic local food and coffee.

Address: Dong Xuan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 6am-6pm | Admission: free

2. Bach Ma Temple

One of the most important temples in the Old Quarter is Bach Ma Temple. The 1,000-year-old sacred temple was one of the four district gate temples of the UNESCO Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and is the oldest temple in the city.

When you visit Bach Ma Temple (which means “white horse temple”), you can see the iconic white horse at the altar (middle of the photo), the well-carved wooden beams, and the red-lacquered and gold reconstructed interior.

Address: 76 Hang Buom Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 9am-5:30pm | Admission: free

3. Heritage House

The Heritage House is a restored house that was once a traditional merchant home back in the 19th century. The ground level is a dedicated space for the shop, while the upstairs and backend are reserved for the family. The house is typical of the traditional architecture in the Old Quarter.

This is the first restoration of this kind, and it was recognized as a Vietnamese National Heritage site in 2004. I highly recommend taking this self-tour around the house and seeing traditional Vietnamese architecture.

Address: 87 Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 8:30am-5pm | Admission: 10k VND

4 & 5. Ngoc Son Temple at Hoan Kiem Lake

Ngoc Son Temple, also known as the Temple of the Jade Mountain, is a small temple built in the 19th century and is dedicated to war hero General Tran Hung Dao and the scholar Van Xuong De Quan. The temple sits on a small island at the northeast end of Hoan Kiem Lake, a freshwater lake in the centre of Hanoi.

Buy a ticket and cross Huc Bridge, the scarlet bridge built in a traditional Vietnamese architectural style. Then walk clockwise around the main temple and see Tran Ba Temple, which is closest to the lake, and the Sword Lake Turtle displays.

Address: Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 8am-6pm | Admission: 30k VND

6. Hanoi Opera House 

Hanoi Opera House is one of the highlights of the French Quarter in Hanoi. Built in 1911, the massive opera house has a total area of 2,600 square meters, and the auditorium can seat up to 589 people. The opera house also has a meeting room, 18 make-up rooms, 2 voice-training rooms and a library. 

However, the opera house is not open for public viewing unless you are watching an opera or musical. But I thought I’d keep this in the itinerary so you can take some photos of the French neoclassical building as it is modelled after the Opera Garnier in Paris.

Address: 1 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: N/A | Admission: free

7. Hoa Lo Prison

Built in the late 19th century, Hoa Lo Prison was originally used by French colonists for Vietnamese political prisoners. It was later used by North Vietnam for American prisoners during the Vietnam War. The prison was known sarcastically as the “Hanoi Hilton” for U.S. POWs who were kept here at the time.

Since the mid-1990s, part of the prison has been demolished, and the rest is turned into a museum. You can see the old jail cells and learn about former prisoners’ accounts and the general history of this historic place.

Wander around on your own or get an audio guide if you want to get more in-depth info.

Address: 1 Hoa Lo Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 8am-5pm | Admission: 30k VND

8. St Joseph’s Cathedral

Next, look for St Joseph’s Cathedral, the late 19th-century Gothic Revival church that was named after Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam.

Does it remind you of the Notre Dame in Paris? That’s because it was built to resemble the same architectural style as the Parisian cathedral. After all, St Joseph’s Cathedral was built during the French Colonial period.

The entrance to the Catholic church is on the side (north side of the building). Go in and look for the tall stained glass, pointed arches and rib-vaulted ceiling (similar to medieval churches in Europe).

Address: 40 Nha Chung Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 5-11:30am & 2-7pm | Admission: free

9. Hanoi Train Street

Hanoi Train Street is a must-see attraction if you are visiting the city for the first time. Trains travelling north from Hanoi Railway Station pass by a small section of the old residential area in the Old Quarter. The most popular and photogenic spot is between 5 Tran Phu Street and Phung Hung Street.

However, you can’t freely wander in the area as it is guarded by police. Fortunately, you can be “invited” by cafe owners, and you can watch the passing train with a front-row seat. All you have to do is loiter long enough for someone to approach you and bring you to their cafe.

I noticed that the train schedule changes quite often – everyone seems to have different information. Basically, there are four trains during weekday evenings between 7-10pm and 11 trains throughout the day on weekends. I recommend allocating about an hour to be “invited” and enjoy a drink while waiting for the next passing train.

Address: 3 Tran Phu Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

10. Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square

Walk back to the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake to the busy intersection with a large fountain. This is Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square, a famous landmark in Hanoi.

During the day, many cars and bikes drive through this square, where five streets intersect. Try crossing the street – It was like playing Frogger the video game in real life! Ha!

But the good news is the busy square is closed to vehicles on the weekends. Pedestrians can freely roam around.

Address: 7 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

11. Hanoi Weekend Night Market

If you can visit Hanoi on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, visit the Hanoi Weekend Night Market. Vendors set up temporary stalls on Hang Dao Street, and the market continues up to Cho Dong Xuan.

The market is open from 6pm onwards. It is an excellent place for buying all types of trinkets and souvenirs. Some food vendors are scattered around the market, with most food places at the north end at Cho Dong Xuan.

The road around Hoan Kiem Lake is closed to cars and bikes too. You can wander around the lake, watch street performances and enjoy the weekend festivities.

Address: Hang Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 6-11pm from Friday to Sunday | Admission: free

12. Ta Hien Street or Beer Street

If you are in Hanoi on weekdays, go straight to Ta Hien Street or Beer Street and see what the nightlife in Hanoi is all about. The small and narrow street is lined with restaurants, bars, and clubs on both sides of the road. Plastic chairs and stools are set up in front of each restaurant. 

The best way to end your first day in Hanoi is by finding an empty plastic chair and ordering some cheap beers while people-watching. 

Address: Ta Hien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi | Hours: 6pm-2am | Admission: free

Hanoi itinerary: Day 2 in Ba Dinh

For your second day in Hanoi, the itinerary includes all of Ba Dinh District’s cultural and historical attractions. You could walk to each attraction or consider ordering a Grab bike if you feel the distance is too far.

1. Temple of Literature & National University

Built in 1070, the Temple of Literature is Vietnam’s first national university. Originally, the university only accepted the elite and aristocrats as students, where they studied between three to seven years. However, the school eventually opened to regular citizens who were bright and had the potential to excel. 

Take a walk through each of the five courtyards and check out the pavilions, the Well of Heavenly Clarity, and the Lake of Literature. Take note of the traditional Vietnamese architectural style.

Address: 58 Quoc Tu Giam Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi | Hours: 8am-5pm | Admission: 30k VND

2. Vietnam Military History Museum

Learn about different eras of Vietnamese military history. See the mock-up of the citadel and the display room full of excavated items.

And don’t miss the Hanoi Flag Tower, which includes a three-stage platform and a tower in the centre. The national flag on top of the tower has an overall height of 33.4m. It was classified by the Ministry of Culture and Information as a National Cultura and Historic relic in 1989.

Address: 28A Dien Bien Phu Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi | Hours: 8-11:30am; 1-4:30pm; closed Mondays & Fridays | Admission: 40k VND

3. Thang Long Imperial Citadel

Also known as the Hanoi CitadelThang Long Imperial Citadel was an important political center for 13 centuries. The elaborate citadel has many historical and cultural artifacts dating back to the 6th century and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Explore the property starting from Kinh Thien, previously a royal residence but it is now part of the exhibits. Then walk all to the back and see the Hau Lau (Princess’ Pagoda). You can even go up the three-storey building.

Address: 19c Hoang Dieu Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi | Hours: 8am-5pm | Admission: 30k VND

4. Ba Dinh Square

In order to see the next four famous attractions in Ba Dinh Square, you’ll have to walk over to the intersection at Hung Vuong Street and Le Hong Phong Street and go through the security check.

After checking your bag, you are free to wander Ba Dinh Square. But make sure you are dressed modestly (cover your shoulders and no shorts).

As for admission, you are free to wander around Ba Dinh Square. Admission to the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House and One Pillar Pagoda is 40,000 VND, and you pay the fee right before you see the Presidential Palace.

5. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the most iconic leader of Vietnam. The building was completed in 1975 on the site where Ho Chi Minh presented the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945.

Inside the 21-meter-high grey marble cube building is his embalmed body, which is placed in a glass case in the centre of the building.

Visitors can view Uncle Ho’s resting place free of charge during the morning. But you’ll have to put away your bag at the entrance. And you cannot wear shorts, tank tops and wear flip flops. It is closed between October and November for maintenance. See the hours of operation below.

Otherwise, you can catch the changing of the guards’ ceremony in the morning outside the building.

Address: Hung Vuong Road, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi | Hours: April to September: 7:30-10:30am from Tuesday to Thursday; 7:30-11am on weekends. December to March: 8-11am Tuesday to Thursday; 8-11:30am on weekends | Admission: free

6. Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace is the official residence of the President of Vietnam. It was designed by the official French architect for French Indochina during the early 20th century.

The palace exemplifies French Colonial architecture. And if you look at the yellow palace, it might not seem like you are in Vietnam but somewhere in Europe.

When Vietnam achieved independence in 1954, President Ho Chi Minh didn’t live in the palace. He built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house and a carp pond next to it, the next attraction on this Hanoi itinerary.

Address: 2 Hung Vuong Road, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi | Hours: 7am-4pm; closed Saturdays & Sundays | Admission: 40,000 VND, which includes Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House and One Pillar Pagoda

7. Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House

Sitting behind the Presidential Palace is Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House. Instead of living in the Presential Palace, President Ho Chi Minh lived in a custom-built stilt house. He lived there from 1958 until he died in 1969.

The house seems modest compared to the elegant palace. It is a traditional wooden house on stilts with two small rooms and no toilet. The house feels humble and down-to-earth, just like the former president. 

You can see the exterior of the Stilt House by following the guided path and taking a glimpse of the interior.

8. One Pillar Pagoda

The One Pillar Pagoda is a wooden temple in a square-shaped lotus pond, and it is the next attraction on the guided path.

When emperor Ly Thai Tong was childless, he dreamt of meeting the Goddess of Mercy, who handed him a son while seated on a lotus flower. The emperor then married a peasant girl, and she gave him a son. The emperor built the temple in 1049 to show his gratitude. 

Today, the One Pillar Pagoda is one of Vietnam’s iconic Buddhist temples. People visit the unique pagoda to worship the Goddess of Mercy.

9. Tran Quoc Pagoda

Tran Quoc Pagoda is a tall Buddhist shrine in West Lake’s inlet. Initially constructed in the 6th century, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi is a favourite amongst royalty for festivals like the Tet Festival and full moons. 

All the buildings on the premises are red because, according to Chinese and Vietnamese culture, red is a lucky colour that symbolizes prosperity. The main part of the temple has the ashes of an important monk. 

It is free to visit the pagoda, but please dress modestly (i.e., cover your shoulders and no shorts). 

Address: 46 Thanh Nien Road, Truc Bach, Tay Ho District, Hanoi | Hours: 8am-5pm | Admission: free

10. Truc Bach

After your visit to Tran Quoc Pagoda, wander around the perimeter of Truc Bach Lake.

Then finish your walk in the neighbourhood of Truc Bach. There are several coffee shops and bars facing the lake, which is an excellent spot for watching the sunset.

Plus, there are plenty of delicious food in the area. Try Pho Chien Phong (fried cubes of pho with beef and vegetables) or Pho Cuon (rolled pho) at one of the restaurants in Truc Bach. It’s the specialty in the area.

Address: Truc Bach, Tay Ho District, Hanoi | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

Other things to do in Hanoi for solo travellers

Besides the attractions mentioned in the 2 days in Hanoi itinerary, there are many more things to do in Hanoi. If you are spending a few more days in the capital city or want to switch up the itinerary, here are a few more things to see (see blue pins on the map):

  1. Thang Long Puppet Theatre – watch a 50-minute water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
  2. Rickshaw tour around Hanoi – cruise through the Old Quarter with a traditional rickshaw 
  3. Vietnam National Museum of History – see over 200,000 exhibits from Vietnam’s prehistory to the August 1945 revolution.
  4. Vietnamese Women’s Museum – learn about the roles and contributions of the women of Vietnam. 
  5. Lotte Tower Observation Deck – see an unobstructed view of Hanoi from the observation deck on the 65th floor, the third tallest building in Vietnam. 

Other Things to Do Around Hanoi

Hanoi is an excellent hub for different trips and tours in Northern Vietnam. You can take an overnight trip to the mountains or spend a few nights on a luxury boat around limestone islands. Here are my top 3 favourite trips from Hanoi.

Two days in Sapa

If you enjoy hiking, you must spend two days in Sapa and hike through the mountains in Northern Vietnam.

The region has many rice terraces and cascading mountains in the background. There are opportunities to see farms and waterfalls at Cat Cat Village and traditional H’Mong homes at Y Linh Ho Village. And if you want an aerial view of the area, take the cable car ride up to Mount Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina. 

Two-day cruise on Halong Bay

Many boat cruises will take you through the waters of Halong Bay. Explore the mystery of Sung Sot Cave, climb up to the top of Ti Top Beach for a panoramic view of Halong Bay, and cruise through hidden grottos near Bo Hon Island

There are many types of cruises in Halong Bay. Depending on your budget, you may want to choose an overnight cruise on a budget boat or spend a few nights on a fancy upscale cruise. 

Day trip to Ninh Binh

Get off the beaten path and take a day trip to Ninh Binh in Northern Vietnam. Ninh Binh is known as “Halong Bay on Land,” where you will find many limestone mountains around serene rivers and rural villages.

Day trip visitors can enjoy activities like cycling, taking an Ecotourism Trang An Boat Tour, and visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda, the biggest pagoda in Southeast Asia. Or you can take a boat ride on the Ngo Dong River, hike up 500 steps to the top of Mua Cave, and see a gorgeous panoramic view of the countryside.

Where to Stay in Hanoi for 2 Days

There are many places to stay in Hanoi. But if you want to make the most of your 2-day Hanoi itinerary, choose a hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. You want to be within walking distance of many attractions and restaurants. Here are some of the places I stayed while I was in Hanoi:

  • Concon House ($$) – a design hotel in the center of the Old Quarter that is perfect for solo travellers. The deluxe balcony room is comfortable and well-designed. It is a very safe and convenient hotel for solo female travellers.
  • Movenpick Hotel Hanoi ($$$) – the 5-start hotel is located on the edge of Old Quarter and close to Train Street and Hanoi Train Station.

What to eat in Hanoi Vietnam

Northern Vietnamese cuisine is exceptional! Their main staples consist of vegetables, herbs, rice and meat. While northern Vietnamese food is less spicy than in other regions, the savoury meat and sweet sauces balance out each other. Fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp paste, lime and garlic are the primary flavours in the north.

And the street food in Hanoi is the best! And not to mention some of the best cafes in Hanoi, gotta love this city!

Here is a list of delicious Hanoi food you should try while you are in the city:

  • Bun Cha – grilled fatty pork with white rice noodles eaten with herbs and a fish sauce-based dipping sauce
  • Bun Rieu Cua – freshwater crab with rice noodles in a tomato broth
  • Pho BoVietnamese soup with beef, rice noodles and herbs 
  • Banh Cuon – rice rolls with seasoned pork, wood ear mushrooms and shallots
  • Ca Phe Trung – aka egg coffee; made with egg yolk, sugar, condensed milk and strong Vietnamese coffee

Looking for tours around Hanoi? Check out some of these experiences:

Ready to spend 2 days in Hanoi, Vietnam?

Hanoi is one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam and an excellent destination for solo female travellers. The city has many cultural and historical attractions and delicious food, and overall, the city is very affordable.

Moreover, Hanoi is safe for travellers. I never felt I was in danger except when I crossed the road. Ha!

So I hope you will consider taking a trip to Hanoi, especially if you have never been. Hopefully, this 2-day itinerary can help you with planning your trip. In the comments below, let me know if you followed my itinerary or have any suggestions to improve it.

Thank you for reading my solo Hanoi itinerary

You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Vietnam:

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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