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Sep 03, 2023 / 07:27

48 hours in Hanoi

The Hanoi Times recommends this itinerary for first-time visitors to Hanoi who want to experience the capital's main attractions.

Visiting Hanoi in Autumn is an unforgettable experience for many tourists. From mid-September to November, the weather here is sunny, dry and cool, with an average temperature below 30 degrees Celsius.

 A corner of Hanoi's Old Quarter Area. Photo: Viet Trung

This season is also conducive to savoring numerous seasonal specialties such as Com (green rice flakes), Cha Ruoi (sand worm omelets), and ripe Indochina dragon plums.

Morning of Day 1

The perfect way to start a Hanoi tour is with breakfast and coffee around Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. Get up early to enjoy the fresh air before the streets get crowded.

One recommended beef noodle soup restaurant is Pho Thin Bo Ho, which is almost 70 years old. Some other options are Pho Suong on Trung Yen Alley, Pho Tu Lun on Au Trieu Street, Lam Pho Bo on Hang Vai Street, or Pho Ly Quoc Su with various branches. These are all popular spots among both locals and tourists.

After the Hanoi breakfast, it should be coffee time. You can choose from the small second-floor Cafe Dinh on Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Cafe Giang or Cafe Lam on Nguyen Huu Huan Street, or newer shops like Cafe Cho at Hang Be Market, Loading T Cafe on Chan Cam Street, or others nearby that offer panoramic views of the lake. Must-try drinks at these places are traditional black/brown coffee and egg coffee. If you have time, stop by a Kem Trang Tien shop for a refreshing ice cream.

The tasty Ca phe trung or Egg Coffee, a specialty of Hanoi. Photo: Nam Long

If you find yourself wandering around Hoan Kiem Lake on the weekend, head to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater on Dinh Tien Hoang Street to catch the show every Sunday at 9:30 am. There are also afternoon and evening performances from 4 pm to 9 pm.

If you are a history buff, don’t forget to visit sites like Hoa Lo Prison, the Vietnam Museum of Revolution, the Vietnam National Museum of History and the Vietnam Military History Museum. Meanwhile, those fond of architecture should stop by Quan Chuong City Gate, the Hanoi Opera House, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Thang Long Imperial Citadel, One-Pillar Pagoda, Long Bien Bridge, The Tonkin Palace (State Guest House) or State Bank of Vietnam Headquarters.

These places are all within a two-kilometer radius of Hoan Kiem Lake. If you can’t visit them all in the morning, save the rest for the afternoon. Tourists can walk or use public transport such as buses, taxis or motorbike taxis.

Noon of Day 1

Since you are in the Old Quarter, why not have another typical Hanoi dish for lunch? Bun Cha consists of rice noodles, pork pieces, or minced pork patties grilled over charcoal, served with sweet and sour fish sauce, fresh herbs and pickles.

Flower vendor - an unique trait of Hanoi. Photo: Hoang Minh Hang

This is a specialty of northern Vietnam and one of the representatives of Hanoian cuisine. Some recommended restaurants in the downtown area include Bun Cha Hang Quat, Bun Cha Dac Kim and Bun Cha Huong Lien, which was patronized by former US President Barack Obama.

Visitors should note that Bun Cha Dac Kim offers particularly generous servings, so be careful not to order too much. Meanwhile, Bun Cha Hang Quat and Bun Cha Huong Lien are busy at lunchtime.

Afternoon and evening of Day 1

If you haven’t experienced the atmosphere on Hanoi’s Westerner street yet, spend the whole evening in the Ta Hien-Luong Ngoc Quyen area, also known as the “international junction” or “the streets that never sleep at night”.

Empty and tranquil during the day, Ta Hien Street becomes bustling and vibrant from evening until late night. Here, familiar snacks such as fried fermented pork rolls, cheese sticks, fried potatoes or sweet potatoes, and roasted quails are served with glasses or bottles of cold beer. But Ta Hien’s main selling point is the prevailing heady atmosphere. You can sit in a small group along the street or hit the bars listening to music and dancing. Prices in Ta Hien are reasonable.

If you come to Hanoi on the weekend, you can stroll around the Hoan Kiem Lake pedestrian zone and Dong Xuan night market before stopping at Ta Hien Street.

 The legendary The Huc Bridge on the Sword Lake in Hanoi. Photo: Tran Tai

Morning of Day 2

It would be a pity if tourists miss West Lake, which covers 5.2 square kilometers next to Thanh Nien Street and Truc Bach Lake. This is a cluster of relaxing spaces famous for many delicious dishes and entertainment activities.

The lake’s 15 kilometers of shoreline are popular with sports enthusiasts, especially joggers and cyclists. There are lots of bike rental shops along Nguyen Dinh Thi and Trich Sai Streets, whose prices range from VND40,000 to VND50,000 or $US1.6 to $2 for two hours. SUP and kayak rentals are also charged at VND200,000 to 250,000 ($8 to $10) for two hours.

Bun Oc or snail noodles is our suggestion for breakfast at West Lake. Bun Oc in Hanoi is a blend of rustic, easy-to-eat ingredients. Diners will enjoy the rich, chewy snail meat and the mildly sour broth.

Bun Oc Ba Ngoai on To Ngoc Van Street and Bun Oc Co Hue on Dang Dung Street are two must-visit shops. At the former, you can also try cold snail noodles.

Noon of Day 2

A Hanoi's delicacy: Pho Bo. Photo: Dan Tri

Exploring Phu Tay Ho or Tay Ho Temple is our next suggestion. Built in the 17th century to worship Princess Lieu Hanh, the temple is located on a large peninsula in Nghi Tam Village that juts out into the West Lake.

The two major festivals here are held on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month and the 13th day of the 8th lunar month. Outside of these occasions, Tay Ho Temple is a place for visitors to admire the scenery and enjoy a peaceful time. This corner is different from other crowded and noisy parts of the city.

For lunch, tourists should try shrimp cakes around the temple. There are a number of restaurants such as Nham Thin, Phuong Dung, and Thanh Mai, whose most popular dishes are shrimp cakes and snails steamed with lime leaves or Chinese herbs. A satisfying meal for one person here costs about VND200,000-VND300,000 ($8 - $10)

Afternoon and evening of Day 2

Taking photos at and watching the sunset over the West Lake will be an unforgettable memory for tourists. You can come around 4pm, ‘dap vit’ or pedal a duck-shaped boat on Truc Bach Lake, then walk across Thanh Nien Street to watch the sunset over the West Lake.

There are two types of pedal boats: large ones for families for VND200,000 ($8) per hour, and small ones for two for VND100,000 ($4). The starting point lies on Lac Chinh Street. Customers are advised to wear a life jacket, follow the safety rules and maintain public hygiene.

Hanoi's Pho cuon is similar to Pho bo in terms of ingredients, but it is served without soup, suitable for hot weather. Phôt: Dan Tri

For dinner, if you want to continue your discovery of Hanoian specialties, you can visit Ngu Xa night food street. The number one dish here is nothing less than Pho Cuon or fresh rice noodle rolls: thin rice noodle sheets are used to wrap beef and fresh herbs, then dipped in sweet and sour fish sauce. Some famous Pho Cuon shops are Hung Ben, Huong Mai and Huong Lien.

On the other hand, if you want a change of taste, Western food would be a good choice. Streets near West Lake, such as Xuan Dieu, To Ngoc Van and Dang Thai Mai are ideal places to find a cozy, quiet restaurant for a French, Italian, Argentinean or Brazilian meal. Some of our recommendations are Los Fuegos - Argentinian Steak and Grill, El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse, Cugini, and Paolo & Chi Italian Restaurant.

For alternative options, we suggest shopping at commercial centers such as  Trang Tien Plaza or Vincom Center Ba Trieu, taking a double-decker bus to see the streets and tourist attractions, and listening to music at tea houses.