Hanoi is a great mix of traditional Asian and French culture giving visitors a unique experience when they visit. The Vietnamese capital is vibrant and has numerous sights to explore for those spending 48 hours in Hanoi for the first time.
At first, getting from one place to another may be a struggle but with some careful planning, you will reach various destinations in good time. Travelling during the peak season is popular with tourists, but with the heat of summer, it is important to plan early. If your time in the city is limited, you can use the guide below to ensure you have the best 48 hours in Hanoi.
Visit the Old Quarter
The old quarter is a great place to start your tour of Hanoi because it gives a glimpse into the history of the capital as one of the oldest commercial centres in the city. If possible, make your way to the Old Quarter early in the day to watch the residents clean the streets, set up their stalls, get their kids ready for school among other activities.
To get the best out of your experience in the Old Quarter, it is better to explore the streets randomly as most of them will lead you to an exciting destination. Its sixteen streets can be overwhelming at first with many of them branching out to several alleyways but a bit of persistence will reveal great places in the quarter.
Grab breakfast while en-route from the various food stall and enjoy authentic Vietnamese meals like bannh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) plus ca phe sua (milk coffee). If you are looking for a filling meal consider trying out Bun moc which is a combination of pork, vermicelli soup, and mushroom rice.
Enjoy a water puppet show
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is a popular attraction for tourists visiting Hanoi. The puppet show is quite entertaining with puppets depicting various stories that showcase the history and culture of the Vietnamese people. Up to eight puppeteers control the many wooden marionettes stationed behind a screen made of bamboo and offer humorous depictions of Vietnamese folk tales.
The performances which include seventeen short skits are done on a stage filled with water. The shows are complemented by traditional music that comprises of cymbals, bamboo flutes, drums, horns, and wooden bells. If you are determined to watch the show, ensure that you book early as possible because it is quite popular and the tickets sell out fast.
Taste delicious Bun Cha
As the day winds down, ensure that you find a restaurant that serves the famous Bun Cha dish, which is grilled pork and noodles in soup. Fortunately, many restaurants and food stalls serve the dish with others offering different variations giving their patrons a chance to choose their favourite. Bun Cha Huong Lien is one of the popular spots for this meal and was even visited by the former president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Walk down Hang Chieu Street
Start the day by buying breakfast from the many food stalls that line up the streets of Hanoi in the morning. The streets in Hanoi are many with some like Hang Chieu standing out because it is the main street that branches into other smaller ones. The street is filled with vendors that mainly sell vegetables to locals and visitors that may want to try their hand at preparing a home-cooked meal. Going further down, you will get to Hang Ma Street where bright colored paper products are sold.
Apart from Hang Chieu, other streets in Hanoi are also popular because of the wares sold in the stores that line the area. For example, Hang Buom which is known as Sailmakers Street is a great place to sweetmeats and local candies. Hang Gai known as Hemp Street is your best spot for silk material and related products.
Enjoy the breeze from Hoan Kiem Lake
The Hoan Kiem Lake is a “must visit” destination when in Hanoi especially for those that love the outdoors. Its stand out features include a bright red wooden bridge that is popular with tourists as well as locals in the morning and later in the evening.
Taking a walk on the bridge leads to an island with a small temple that is a great sight to behold each time you visit the attraction. The bridge which is easily accessible from the main city centre sees a lot of visitors throughout the day. If you prefer a quieter walk, consider visiting during the early morning when the number of tourists is much lower.
Besides the bridge, you can also walk on the shore of the lake and take in its picturesque sunset alone or with your significant other. It can be a bit busy sometimes with vendors selling small curios or ornaments that you can buy as a keepsake of your Hanoi trip.
Even as you explore the lake, you can grab a snack, beer, or ice cream at the famous Thuy Ta Café situated on the banks of the lake. The café is known for its delicious dishes and affordable rates, making it a “must stop” for visitors in Hanoi.
Explore Hanoi Nightlife
To finish off your last day with a bang, plan to enjoy as much of the nightlife in Hanoi as possible. The city is home to numerous bars and lively nightclubs that are located in Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. Ensure that you get a taste of Bia Hoi, which is the famous draft beer of the Vietnamese. If you prefer a full meal consider visiting local eateries and ordering tasty dishes like darkened barramundi fish.
However, it is important to note that bars and other eateries close by midnight, making it important to plan your time well to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities. The tunes, booze, and interacting with locals and other travellers will make your experience a great way to end your 48 hours in Hanoi.
In general, Hanoi is an excellent place to spend your vacation alone or as a family, as part of a stay in the city of longer city hopping journey across Asia.