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 twice 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 Vietnam. You can see all the major highlights of the city at a good pace. All you have to do is to follow my Hanoi solo travel itinerary and have the best time in Hanoi!
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Solo 2 days in Hanoi: what you need to know
Before you start your Hanoi itinerary, take a look at some of these travel tips first:
- Hanoi is safe for female solo travellers. I’ve been to Hanoi twice and spent over a month in the city and felt safe the entire time. But of course, you have practice your routine safety precautions, but that is just being a smart and safe traveller.
- Get cash from the ATM at the airport when you arrive because cash is the primary payment at most places.
- Get a prepaid SIM card at the airport so you are connected right away.
- 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 lunar month) – parade at Perfume Pagoda
- Reunification Day (April 30) – see fireworks and parade on the day of unification of the country
- Independence Day (September 2) – parades and fireworks to celebrate the important day
How to get to Hanoi Vietnam
Most international travellers will fly directly into Hanoi’s Nội Bài International Airport which is 28km from the city.
From the airport, the easiest way to get into Hanoi is by taxi. Make sure to find a taxi queue and don’t get a ride from any random cab. A lot of unauthorized cab drivers will offer you a deal to get into the city; avoid them. Go straight to the official queue. The cab ride costs about 330,000 VDN.
Alternatively, arrange an airport pickup from your hotel. Most hotels have airport pick-up service and are happy to get you to the airport. It costs about 400,000 VDN.
Travelling to Hanoi from other parts of Vietnam
If you are going to Hanoi from different parts of the country, you could be coming from Central Vietnam like Da Nang or Southern Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City.
There are various transportation modes when it comes to travelling in Vietnam. Depending on your budget and timing, you can fly (Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar, VietJetAir), take an overnight train or a sleeper bus.
How to get around Hanoi as a solo traveller
Walking is the best way to get around Hanoi. That is the best way to see different neighbourhoods and the most interesting way to take in all the sights and sounds of Hanoi.
But the city is quite big, and it would make more sense to hire a motorcycle to move around the city. Companies like Grab make solo travel in Hanoi very easy. You can order an inexpensive motorcycle ride on your Grab app. They even provide a helmet for safety and a raincoat if it rains.
Map: Hanoi in 2 days
You will need two full days to see all the best attractions in Hanoi. Wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot to see in Hanoi!
Below are all the best attractions of Hanoi. Red pins are all the must-see attractions for day 1 while the purple pins are all the things to see on day 2. I also included a few more things to see if you decide to spend more time in Hanoi. Those activities are marked with blue pins.
And I organized all these attractions into an efficient itinerary. All you have to do is follow the numbered pins and read the description for each attraction.
2 day Hanoi itinerary: Day 1
1. The French Quarter
Start your first day in Hanoi by visiting the French Quarter, the charming and elegant neighbourhood on the southeast side of Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
The area has a lot of historical landmarks, luxurious hotels, high-end restaurants, glitzy boutiques, exciting museums40-meter and galleries. There are also foreign embassies, government buildings and upscale residential neighbourhoods.
2. Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Opera House is one of the highlights of the French Quarter in Hanoi. Built in 1911, the famous Opéra Garnier Theater inspired the french architectural building in Paris.
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.
Catch a show at the Hanoi Opera House or simply admire the French neo-classical architecture.
3 & 4. Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake
When you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, and all the crazy traffic within the city, take a stroll around the peaceful Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
The freshwater lake is in the centre of Hanoi and is a major scenic spot. Many visitors enjoy slowing down in the bustling city around the shaded areas around the lake. Or you can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the pedestrian path around the lake.
Walk to the north end of the lake and find Ngọc Sơn Temple. Also known as the Temple of the Jade Mountain, the temple sits on a small island connected to the mainland by a scarlet bridge in a traditional Vietnamese architectural style called Huc Bridge.
Built in the 19th century, the temple is dedicated to war hero General Tran Hung Dao and the scholar Van Xuong De Quan. It costs 30,000 VDN to see the temple.
5. St Joseph’s Cathedral
Next, look for St Joseph’s Cathedral, a Catholic Church in the Hoàn Kiếm District. This is a late 19th century Gothic Revival church named after Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam.
You might think it looks a bit like 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.
Today, this is the oldest church in Hanoi. The cathedral holds ceremonies and mass every week.
6. Hanoi Train Street
Trains travelling north from the Hanoi Railway Station pass by a small section of the old residential area in the Old Quarter. And two trains are zooming through the narrow “train street” each day.
The train tracks are right up against the old buildings making the street interesting and an excellent spot for photography.
My main photo for the blog was taken at the “train street.” The street was quiet the day I went.
When you are there capturing the perfect photo for Instagram, please stay safe while taking pictures as it is a working railway system.
7. The Old Quarter
My favourite thing to do in Hanoi is to stroll through the streets of the Old Quarter. Local restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, and other stores are packed in tightly on every street. Many of these establishments are in preserved shophouses or set inside colonial buildings.
It might feel intimidating crossing the street when hundreds of scooters, bicycles and cars are speeding down the road in all kinds of directions. Yup, this is Hanoi! But it is quite easy to cross the street with chaotic traffic. When fewer cars and bikes are coming towards you, walk steadily and cross the street. The motorcycles and bicycles will pass you by driving behind you.
8. Dong Xuan Market
Đồng Xuân Market is Hanoi’s largest indoor market. Within the 4-story building, wholesale traders sell fresh produce, souvenir item, clothing, household goods, and everything in between. There is a wet market on the ground floor and a food area where you can find authentic local food and coffee.
If you are looking for souvenirs, head up to the upper levels. The market opens daily from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm.
9. Hanoi Weekend Night Market
If you can visit Hanoi over the weekend, visit the Hanoi Weekend Night Market. It is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6:00 pm onwards. Vendors line both sides of Hàng Đào Street, and it continues up to Đồng Xuân Market.
The weekend market is an excellent place for trying delicious street food and buying all types of trinkets. Moreover, you can enjoy street performances as the main road around Hoàn Kiếm Lake is closed to vehicles. The Old Quarter is really lively during the weekends!
10. Ta Hien Street or Beer Street
Many locals like to socialize and drink beer on the street. They especially like to drink beer on Tạ Hiện Street or Beer Street.
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. Find an empty plastic chair and order some cheap beers and delicious food while you people watch.
If you want to enjoy a bit of Hanoi nightlife, visit Tạ Hiện Street as it is one of the liveliest streets in Hanoi, especially during the weekends.
Hanoi 2 day itinerary: Day 2
1. Tran Quoc Pagoda
Trấn Quốc Pagoda is a tall Buddhist shrine located at the inlet of the West Lake. Initially constructed in the 6th century, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi is a favourite amongst royalty for festivals like Tet Festival and full moons.
All the buildings on the premise 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 legs).
2. West Lake
After your visit to Trấn Quốc Pagoda, spend some time wandering around the perimeter of West Lake. There are many luxury hotels, high-end restaurants and cafes along the shore, and it is a popular spot for recreation.
West Lake is Hanoi’s biggest freshwater lake with a circumference of 17km. You can’t possibly walk around the lake. Look for a quiet spot with a lovely cafe and enjoy the view of the lake.
3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one of the most visited sites in Hanoi. Located at Ba Dinh Square, the large granite building is the resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the most popular and iconic leader of Vietnam. His body is preserved in a glass case, and visitors can view Uncle Ho’s resting place free of charge.
The mausoleum is closed between October to November for maintenance. If you must visit the tomb, check ahead of time, and make sure it is open during your visit.
While you are there, visit the surrounding gardens with 250 different species of plants and flowers from different regions of Vietnam. And make sure to catch the changing of the guards’ ceremony in the morning.
4. 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 just look at the yellow palace, it might not seem like you are in Vietnam but somewhere in Europe.
When Vietnam achieved independence in 1954, Presidential Ho Chi Minh didn’t live in the palace. He built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house and a carp pond next to it. Which is the next attraction on this itinerary.
5. Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
Sitting behind the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House seems modest compared to the elegant palace. President Ho Chi Minh never lived at the Presidential Palace. Instead, he lived in a custom-built stilt house, where he lived there from 1958 until he died in 1969.
The traditional wooden house on stilts has 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 take a glimpse of the interior.
6. One Pillar Pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda is a wooden temple on a stone pillar in a square-shaped lotus pond.
When emperor Lý Thái Tông 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.
7. Thang Long Imperial Citadel
Also known as the Hanoi Citadel, Thăng 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,
Pay only 30,000 VDN to see the mock-up of the citadel, the display room full of excavated items, and the Hanoi Flag Tower, a 40-metre tall fortress where you can see the city center and Ba Dinh Square.
8. Temple of Literature & National University
As one of the most picturesque attractions in Hanoi, the entrance fee for seeing the Temple of Literature ground only costs 10,000 VDN.
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. But the school eventually opened to regular citizens who were bright and had the potential to excel.
Talk 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.
If you are spending more than 2 days in Hanoi
There are many more things to do besides the attractions mentioned in the 2 days in Hanoi itinerary. If you are spending a few more days in the capital city, here are a few more things to see (see blue pins on the map):
- Lotus Water Puppet Theatre – watch a 50-minute water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
- Rickshaw tour around Hanoi – cruise through the Old Quarter with a traditional rickshaw
- Vietnam National Museum of History – see over 200,000 exhibits on the prehistory up to the 1947 revolution.
- Vietnamese Women’s Museum – learn about the roles and contributions of the women of Vietnam.
- Hoa Lo Prison – learn about the history of the prison and the accounts from former prisoners in this former prison built by the French during colonial times.
- Vietnam Military History Museum – learn about different eras of Vietnamese military history.
- Lotte Tower Observation Deck – see an unobstructed view of Hanoi from the observation deck on the 65th floor, the third tallest building in Vietnam.
Solo travel beyond Hanoi
Hanoi is an excellent hub for going on different trips and tours in Northern Vietnam. You can make an overnight trip to the mountains or spend a few nights on a boat. 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.
Where to stay in Hanoi for solo travellers
Make the most of your 2-day Hanoi itinerary by choosing accommodation in the Old Quarter area of Hanoi. You want to be within walking distance of many attractions and restaurants.
And staying in Hanoi is pretty affordable. Depending on your comfort level, you can choose the cheapest option of a hostel bed or an affordable guest room. Either way, there are many options for solo female travellers.
- Golden Sun Suites Hotel ($) – The hotel is clean and centrally located, and the staff is super friendly and helpful. I like this 3-star hotel because they let me use their facilities before and after my tour. Knowing I can have a place to hang out in between activities is such a bonus.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Hanoi Pearl Hotel ($$) – I left something in the safe deposit box and was able to retrieve it after I came back from Halong Bay. Besides the excellent customer service and attention to detail, the hotel has beautiful guest rooms, and the breakfast is fantastic!
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Movenpick Hotel Hanoi ($$$) – the 5-start hotel has nice guest rooms and public areas. You can easily walk to the train station and several good restaurants.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
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 some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had!
Here is a list of delicious Northern Vietnamese cuisine you should try while you are in Hanoi:
- Bún chả – grilled fatty pork with white rice noodles eaten with herbs and a fish sauce-based dipping sauce
- Bún dậu mẹt – a plate full of rice noodles, tofu, meat and herbs
- Bún riêu cua – freshwater crab with rice noodles in a tomato broth
- Phở bo – Vietnamese soup with beef, rice noodles and herbs
- Bánh cuốn – rice rolls with seasoned pork, wood ear mushroom and shallots
- Bánh goi – deep-fried Vietnamese dumplings made with minced pork, mushroom and carrots
- Nem cua bể – deep-fried crab spring rolls shaped in a rectangle
- Bún thang – noodle soup with chicken, egg and pork
- Phở xào thịt bò – stir-fried noodles with beef
- Bánh mi – Vietnamese baguette sandwich with pork sausage, cucumber, pickled carrots and coriander
- Cà phê trứng – aka egg coffee; made with egg yolk, sugar, condensed milk and strong Vietnamese coffee
- Xôi xéo – sweet sticky rice with mung bean
Where to eat solo in Hanoi
Eating in Hanoi is very affordable. There are many street food spots and budget restaurants across the city. When you eat solo in Hanoi, you might have to share a table with other travellers, but you will meet many new friends.
If you are a coffee drinker, you will love Hanoi! Try some of the best cafes in Hanoi, including some of the places listed in my blog.
- Bun Cha Dac Kim ($) – sit at one of the low tables and chairs and share a table with other travellers. Order the classic bún chả and spring rolls – you won’t regret it!
- Bún Chả Nem Cua Bể ($) – their nem cua bể andbún chả are really delicious.
- Bún Chả Hương Liên ($) – the restaurant was made famous by a visit from former U.S. President Barack Obama and renowned chef Anthony Bourdain in 2016. If you go, you must try the bún chả! Obama did!
- Banh Mi 25 ($) – a bustling Vietnamese sandwich shop. Eat-in or takeaway. Either way, you have to try one of their banh mi.
- Pho 10 ($) – the restaurant only serves phở bo. They even have an English menu.
- Cau Go Vietnamese Cuisine ($$) – enjoy a meal overlooking the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square and Hoàn Kiếm Lake. The food presentation is top-notch. It is worth spurlging a few more dollars for a cozy atmosphere.
- Café Phố Cổ – walk through the narrow alley, up a flight of stairs of a cute house and find a seat so you can try a cà phê trứng
- Cafe Giảng – another good coffee shop for drinking cà phê trứng
- Cộng Cà Phê – the famous coffee shop with cafes all over Vietnam. Try their coconut milk with coffee. That’s my favourite!
Are you ready to spend 2 days in Hanoi by yourself?
If you have limited time in Vietnam and can only see one place, then you must visit Hanoi! And 2 days in Hanoi is perfect even if you are visiting the capital city for the first time.
And most of all, Hanoi is safe for solo female travellers. I spent over a month in the capital city and wandered alone. Never once did I feel I was in danger – except for when I crossed the road. It was like playing frogger the video game in real life! Ha!
I hope you like this itinerary and can help you with planning your first solo trip to Hanoi. Let me know in the comments if you did follow my itinerary or if you have any suggestions to make it better.
Thank you for reading my solo Hanoi itinerary post
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Vietnam:
- 3 weeks Vietnam solo travel itinerary
- Trekking in Sapa as a solo traveller
- Day trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi
- Halong Bay 2 night cruise for solo travellers
- Hoi An 3 day itinerary
- One day in Hue Vietnam
- Things to do in Mui Ne Vietnam
- Ho Chi Minh City 3 day itinerary