Planning a trip for 2 days in Hanoi? Check out my guide for the best things to do in Hanoi to make the most of your short time there!
Hanoi, located in North Vietnam, is the capital of Vietnam, and is the second largest city by population (7.7 million people!). While it can be chaotic, visiting this city is great for experiencing the history, culture, and amazing food of Vietnam. If you only have 2 days in Hanoi, check out my list of the best things to do to make the most of your time here!
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you book through my link I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for the support!
Getting to Hanoi
Fly into Hanoi airport (HAN). I recommend arranging a private transfer from the airport with your hotel/hostel, so that when you land in Hanoi after your long-haul flight, you won’t have to worry about navigating public transportation. This will cost you around $15-18 per car, and the ride is about 45 minutes.
2 Days in Hanoi: Where to Stay
There are 2 main neighborhoods of Hanoi- Old Quarter and French Quarter- and they are both vastly different.
Old Quarter is typically what most people think of when they envision Hanoi- super crowded, chaotic streets, cars and motorbikes at every turn, and people making delicious food on the sidewalks.
French Quarter is much cleaner and quieter, and somewhat resembles the streets of Paris.
We opted to stayed in the Old Quarter to be in the middle of all the action, and to get the quintessential Hanoi experience. We stayed at the Old Quarter View Hanoi Hostel, which was in a great location with super comfy beds, nice bathrooms, and great free breakfast!
2 Days in Hanoi: Best Things To Do
I’m putting this as #1, because the food in Hanoi is top-notch!
Bun Cha Ta
Not only was this the best food we had in Hanoi, this was our favorite food we had for our entire 2-week Vietnam trip! Bun Cha is a Vietnamese dish from Hanoi, consisting of grilled pork meatballs, noodles, fish sauce, and fresh herbs. Bun Cha Ta was our favorite Bun Cha place, and was a quick walk from our hostel in Old Quarter. Although most of the best food in Hanoi is found on the street, Bun Cha Ta is an actual restaurant, but don’t be fooled- the food is amazing! You need to go here!
For those of you wanting Pho- look no further. This was the best Pho we had our whole Vietnam trip! Pho is a Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat- normally Pho Bò (beef) or Pho Gà (chicken). Most of the locals eat Pho for breakfast, so I recommend getting there early so they don’t sell out. This hole-in-the-wall spot has only a few tables with blue plastic stools (iconic in Hanoi) and a smoking cauldron on the street where an older lady will be cooking the Pho. The Pho Bò was delicious, and only cost about $2 USD!
Banh My Pho Co
Although I personally enjoy the bánh mì style of South Vietnam, if you want one in Hanoi, this is the place to go. A bánh mì consists of a baguette, pork, pâté, fresh vegetables, herbs and spices. In the North, the focus of the bánh mì is more about the meat, bread, and pâté, with minimal vegetables and herbs. Bánh My Pho Co is known for the delicious pâté on their bánh mì!
Other restaurants to check out:
- Bun Cha Huong Lien- this is the spot where President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate together
- Pho Thin
- Banh Mi 25
- Pho Bat Dan
- Pho Vui
2. Explore Hoan Kiem Lake
Escape the hustle bustle of Old Quarter Hanoi and walk over to the scenic Hoàn Kiem Lake. This peaceful lake has a an island in the middle of it, connected to the main land with an iconic red bridge. Walk across it and check out the Ngoc Son Temple!
There’s this really cool hidden cafe/coffee shop near the lake that I loved- it’s called Cafe Pho Co. You enter through a random silk shop- walk through the shop to the back and you’ll see a lantern-lined alleyway entrance that leads into a secret courtyard. Go up the stairs all the way to the top, and there’s a balcony area where you can sit and order egg coffee with a view of the lake!
3. Get a Massage
Massages are so cheap in Vietnam! There are several places where you can go, but we opted for the Omamori Spa– where every member of the staff is blind or visually impaired. A great massage for a good cause! My one-hour deep tissue massage only cost about $13.
4. Water Puppet Show
Hanoi is known for their water puppet shows. Full disclosure- we bought tickets for the 9pm show but were so jet-lagged (we had just arrived to Vietnam the day prior) that we fell asleep and missed the show. I’ve heard it’s a very interesting experience, and worth checking out during your 2 days in Hanoi!
5. Temple of Literature
Take a quick Uber ride (yes, they have Uber there) to the Temple of Literature- Vietnam’s first national university that was built back in 1070. This temple is dedicated to Confucius, and other sages and scholars. Beautiful trees, plants, and pools line the courtyards as you walk around exploring the history of the temple!
Other Things to Know for 2 Days in Hanoi:
- Crossing the street is a crazy experience. You’ll quickly learn throughout your 2 days in Hanoi that no cars or motorbikes adhere to streetlights, stop signs, or crosswalks, so don’t bother waiting around to cross the street. You just have to start walking, and trust that the cars will go around you!
- Don’t be scared to eat street food. Some of the best food in Hanoi (and best food you will ever have) will be from a street vendor, where you eat on blue plastic stools on the sidewalk!
- Cars honk nonstop, but for the most part they’re friendly honks used to communicate with other cars or pedestrians
- People are selling North Face everywhere– I don’t know the story behind how they get the North Face items, or how real/fake they are, but I bought a North Face Gore Tex rain jacket for about $15 that seemed pretty legit and came in handy several times during the trip.
Where to next? Check out my complete 2-week Vietnam itinerary to plan your entire trip!