Last Updated on September 13, 2020 by queenie mak
Hanoi is one of those cities that has everything. The capital city of Vietnam is famous for its delicious cuisine, exciting nightlife, and preserved colonial buildings lining the busy streets of the Old Quarter. And not to mention the overwhelming amount of cars and motorcycles everywhere! Crossing the road is an activity in itself! Which makes travelling solo in Hanoi such an enjoyable experience.
Whether you are travelling from north to south of Vietnam or vice versa, make sure to spend at least 2 days in Hanoi! Follow my Hanoi itinerary below and have the best time in Hanoi!
Why Hanoi is Great for a Solo Female Traveller
Are you wondering if it is safe to travel alone in Vietnam? I thought about that too before my first time going to Vietnam. I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.
But after visiting Hanoi twice, I consider Hanoi to be a safe city for solo female travellers. Whether you are roaming around the city during the day or at night, you will not feel out of place or feel remotely in danger. Of course, you have to practice your routine safety precautions, but that is just being a smart and safe traveller.
Moreover, I talked to several locals throughout Vietnam and they all told me that Hanoi is a very safe city in Vietnam. So if the locals say that, then it must be true!
But again, wherever you go, always practice safety precautions because solo travel means taking care of yourself and be alert at all times.
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How to get to Hanoi
Most international travellers will fly directly into Hanoi’s Nội Bài International Airport which is 28km away 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 unauthorize 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 at 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, take an overnight train or a sleeper bus.
From Da Nang to Hanoi
Going to Hanoi from Central Vietnam, you can consider flying or taking the train. There is also a sleeper bus option; however, the journey is more than 17 hours and it stops outside of Hanoi, where you still need to take a taxi into the city. I would consider flying or taking the train.
- Plane: from Da Nang International Airport (DAD) to Hanoi Nội Bài International Airport (HAN)
- Train: from Danang Station to Hanoi Station
- Time: 16 hours 30 minutes +
- Cost: from 1,300,000 VDN for a soft berth
- Schedule: 5 trains each day (SE2, SE4, SE6, SE8, SE20)
From Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi
From Southern Vietnam, the best way to get to Hanoi is by plane. There are options for train and bus, but each of these options is over 30 hours long!
- Plane: from Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) to Nội Bài International Airport (HAN)
How to get around Hanoi
Whenever you are in a specific neighbourhood, it is best to walk around so you can 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, or hail a motorcycle on the street. They even provide a helmet for your safety and a raincoat if it is raining.
Where to Stay in Hanoi
To make the most out of your 2-day Hanoi itinerary, choose accommodation in the Old Quarter area of Hanoi. No matter which type of accommodation you pick, you are always within walking distance of many attractions and restaurants.
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 travellers.
- Golden Sun Palace Hotel ($) – Recommended by a tour company, the hotel is clean, centrally located and the staff is super friendly and helpful. I really like this 3-star hotel because they let me use their facilities before and after my tour. It is nice to know that I can have a place to hang out in between activities.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Hanoi Graceful Hotel ($) – Stay in a modern room in the 3-star hotel in the Old Quarter. There is daily housekeeping, free wifi, and 24-hour security.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Hanoi Pearl Hotel ($$) – I left something in the safe deposit box and was able to retrieve it after I came back from Halong Bay. Besides the excellent customer service and attention to detail, the hotel has beautiful guest rooms, and the breakfast is fantastic!
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Movenpick Hotel Hanoi ($$$) – Movenpick Hotel has really nice guest rooms and public areas. You can easily walk to the train station and several good restaurants in the area.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Cost: average 1,200,000 VDN per day for a private room or an entire apartment
- There are over 300+ Airbnb listings in the Old Quarter of Hanoi
- Many of these options are renovated rooms and apartments, and you can rent them for as low as 500,000 VDN per day
- I stayed at a studio apartment with a full bathroom and a kitchenette. But the listing is no longer on the Airbnb website. It is too bad because I really liked the flat!
- Before you book your Airbnb accommodation, always read reviews and see all the fine print before booking.
- And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
Related Post – how to save money by booking Airbnb
What to Eat in Hanoi
Northern Vietnamese cuisine is exceptional! Their main staples consist of vegetables, herbs, rice and meat. While northern Vietnamese food is less spicy than other regions, the savoury meat and sweet sauces balance out each other. You will find fish sauces, soy sauce, shrimp paste, lime and garlic to be the primary flavours in the north. And the street food in Hanoi is some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had!
Here is a list of delicious Northern Vietnamese cuisine you should try while you are in Hanoi:
- Bún chả – grilled fatty pork with white rice noodles eaten with herbs and a fish sauce-based dipping sauce
- Bún riêu cua – freshwater crab with rice noodles in a tomato broth
- Phở bo – Vietnamese soup with beef, rice noodles and herbs
- Bún dậu mẹt – a plate full of rice noodles, tofu, meat and herbs
- Bánh cuốn – rice rolls with seasoned pork, wood ear mushroom and shallots
- Bánh goi – deep-fried Vietnamese dumpling made with minced pork, mushroom and carrots
- Nem cua bể – deep-fried crab spring rolls shaped in a rectangle
- Bún thang – noodle soup with chicken, egg and pork
- Phở xào thịt bò – stir-fried noodle with beef
- Bánh mi – Vietnamese baguette sandwich with pork sausage, cucumber, pickled carrots and coriander
- Cà phê trứng – aka egg coffee; made with egg yolk, sugar, condensed milk and strong Vietnamese coffee
- Xôi xéo – sweet sticky rice with mung bean
Where to Eat in Hanoi
Eating in Hanoi is very affordable. There are many budget restaurants across the city where you can sample the best Northern Vietnamese cuisine. When you eat solo in Hanoi, you might have to share a table with other travellers, but you will meet a ton of new friends.
If you are a coffee drinker, you will love Hanoi! Try some of the best cafes in Hanoi, including some of the places listed in my blog.
- Bun Cha Dac Kim ($) – 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 is made famous by a visit from the 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 ($) – a bustling Vietnamese sandwich shop. Eat-in or take away. Either way, you have to try one of their banh mi.
- Pho 10 ($) – 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 has cafes all over Vietnam. Try their coconut milk with coffee. That’s my favourite!
Hanoi Itinerary: What to do in Hanoi for 2 days?
To see all the best attractions in the capital city, you will need two full days. I’ll show you exactly how you can see Hanoi in 2 days. Wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot to see in Hanoi!
All the places of interest in Hanoi are pinned in the interactive map above. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
Day 1 in Hanoi (blue pins)
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 neighbourhood.
Walk around the area and admire the French-colonial architecture like the Hanoi Opera House, and a Gothic cathedral such as St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
2. Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Opera House is one of the highlights of the French Quarter in Hanoi. Built in 1911, the french architectural building was inspired by the famous Opéra Garnier Theater in Paris.
The massive opera house has a total area of 2,600 square meters, where 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. Ngọc Sơn Temple
Ngọc Sơn Temple, also known as the Temple of the Jade Mountain, is a small temple located on the north part of Hoàn Kiếm Lake. 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. It is not expensive at all to see something so beautiful!
4. Hoàn Kiếm 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.
Hoàn Kiếm Lake is beautiful at night, especially when Huc Bridge is lit up with bright lights.
5. Đồng Xuân 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.
6. The Old Quarter
My favourite thing to do in Hanoi is to stroll through the streets of the Old Quarter. There are local restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, and other stores 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 there are hundreds of scooters, bicycles and cars all speeding down the road in all kinds of direction. Yup, this is Hanoi! It is actually quite easy to cross the street with chaotic traffic. When no cars and fewer bikes are coming towards you, walk at a steady pace and cross the street. The motorcycles and bicycles will pass you by driving behind you.
7. Hanoi Weekend Night Market
If you are able to visit Hanoi over the weekend, then you can visit the Hanoi Weekend Night Market. It is only opened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 pm onwards. Vendors line both sides of Hàng Đào Street, and it continues up to Đồng Xuân Market.
A 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 for vehicles. The Old Quarter is really lively during the weekends!
8. Tạ Hiện 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, hence, Beer Street.
The small and narrow street is lined with restaurants, bars, and clubs on both sides of the road. You will see plastic chairs and stools 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.
Day 2 in Hanoi (purple pins)
1. Trấn Quốc 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 the royalty for festivals like Tet Festival and full moons.
All the buildings on the premise are in the colour 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 where there are 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. Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
Sitting behind the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House seems rather 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 his death 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.
Today, visitors can view part of the stilt house by following the guided paths.
5. One Pillar Pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda is a little wooden temple sitting on a single stone pillar in a square-shaped lotus pond.
When emperor Lý Thái Tông was childless, he dreamt that he met 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 most iconic Buddhist temples.
6. Thăng 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.
7. Temple of Literature
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 students study between three to seven years. But the school eventually opened to regular citizens who are bright and have 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.
8. 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 there are two trains zoom through the narrow “train street” each day.
The train tracks are right up against the old buildings make 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.
While it is exciting to capture the perfect photo for Instagram, please stay safe while taking pictures as it is a working railway system.
Interested in tours around Hanoi? Try one of these tours below:
Excursions from Hanoi
Hanoi is an excellent hub for going on different tours in Northern Vietnam. You can make an overnight trip to the mountains to spending a few nights on a boat.
If you enjoy hiking, then you must visit 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.
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.
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.
Get off the beaten path and visit 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. Visitors can enjoy activities like cycling, taking an Ecotourism Trang An Boat Tour, and visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda, the biggest pagoda in Southeast Asia.
Are you ready to spend 2 days in Hanoi Vietnam?
If you have limited time in Vietnam and can only see one place, then you must visit Hanoi!
Hanoi is one of my favourite cities in Vietnam! I love the 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 it is safe for a solo female traveller. So make sure you don’t miss this northern Vietnamese city.
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