48 Hours in Hanoi: A Whirlwind Adventure through Vietnam’s Capital

Published by

Welcome to Hanoi, the bustling heart of Vietnam with countless ancient traditions that clash with an energetic modern buzz on every corner. The charm and culture will sweep you off your feet faster than you can say “phở”!

With just 48 hours in Hanoi, you can dive into the rich tapestry of the city, explore its historical sites, savour the tempting local food, and immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture. Whether you choose to enjoy a Hanoi city tour with your very own guide, or head off on your own to explore, here’s a quick guide to making the most of your limited time in this Vietnamese gem.

48 hours in Hanoi

Hanoi Old Quarter

Start your day by wandering through the bustling streets of Hanoi Old Quarter. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow alleyways filled with vibrant shops, hidden temples, traditional architecture, and a delightful chaos that is uniquely Hanoi.

48 hours in Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake

Next up, make your way to Hoan Kiem Lake, a tranquil oasis amidst the urban hustle. Take a leisurely stroll around its shores, soaking in the beauty of the lake and catching glimpses of locals practicing tai chi in the morning mist or enjoying a peaceful boat ride.

48 hours in Hanoi

As hunger starts to kick in, head over to St. Joseph’s Cathedral. This magnificent neo-gothic church is not only an architectural gem but also a great spot for some people-watching. Find a nearby café and indulge in some delicious egg coffee (they’re so good, and oh so Vietnamese!) while admiring the lively atmosphere around you.

48 hours in Hanoi

Hanoi’s Temple of Literature

No visit to Hanoi would be complete without exploring its rich history at the Temple of Literature. As Vietnam’s first university and dedicated to Confucius, this stunning complex will transport you back in time with its ancient courtyards and beautiful pagodas.

Hanoi temple of literature 48 hours in Hanoi

Vesper Street Food Tour

Finally, you’re in for a treat of an adventure this evening with a vesper street food tour. End your day on the back of a Vesper, flying through the chaotic streets of Hanoi with your local guide, seeking out the very best street food stalls to sample local delicacies on a street food tour. Send your taste buds off on an adventure of their own as you sample local delicacies such as bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich), bún chả (grilled pork with noodles), and phở (noodle soup). Trust us when we say that Hanoi’s street food scene is legendary!

vesper street food tour 48 hours in Hanoi

Grab a coffee on the iconic Train Street

Nestled within the heart of the Hanoi, this narrow residential street is known for its extraordinary quirk: a railway track that runs right down the middle of the traditional houses and businesses. The trains cut straight through the hustle and bustle of daily life, with residents having adapted to the passing trains with remarkable ease. As you hear the train approaching, shopkeepers swiftly move their chairs and tables, and children joyfully wave from the sidelines. It’s a surreal sight as the train flies through this tiny street, locals and visitors alike, sat or stood against the wall photographing it as it goes by. Sipping on a Vietnamese coffee at one of the charming cafés along the street is an experience that’s uniquely ‘Hanoi’, don’t miss it.

train street Hanoi 48 hours in Hanoi


A stroll over Long Bien Bridge

If you can squeeze it in, take a stroll over the magnificent Long Bien Bridge! This architectural masterpiece not only connects the two sides of Hanoi but also stands as a poignant reminder of Vietnam’s eventful history. Take a leisurely stroll across this historic bridge and marvel at the breathtaking panoramic views of the Red River below.

48 hours in Hanoi


Behind the Scenes: Water Puppetry

This afternoon, head slightly out of town to experience the centuries-old tradition of Vietnamese water puppetry. Pay a visit to Mr. Liem’s house, where you’ll learn all about the history of water puppets in his workshop, witness a private performance featuring ancient and modern tales, try your hand at puppetry yourself and even get creative by painting your own unique water puppets. This unique, behind-the-scenes experience will give you a real authentic insight into local crafts and rural traditions of Vietnam.

water puppets 48 hours in Hanoi Vietnam


Share a home-cooked dinner with a local family

We love nothing more than packing your holidays full of moments for real authentic engagement. So, on your second evening in Hanoi, head off for a private home-cooked dinner in suburban Hanoi. Your personal guide and driver will escort you to the South West, where you’ll be warmly welcomed into a local family’s home. You’ll then indulge in a traditional and flavorful family meal, all whilst soaking up real insights into Vietnamese culture and daily life. Engage in conversations, share experiences and listen as your hosts share their stories, offering a genuine glimpse into their world. After dinner it’s time to unwind to the tunes of traditional music performed exclusively for you by your hosts. This is an intimate experience that gets you far beyond the typical tourist encounters, leaving you with cherished memories of authenticity and connection. The mark of a brilliant holiday.


Where to shop in Hanoi

If you’re after top souveniers of your Vietnam holiday, we’ve got you covered. First stop, Dong Xuan Market. This bustling marketplace is a treasure trove of goods. From handmade trinkets to traditional clothing, you’ll find it all here. Just be prepared to haggle like a pro because bargaining is the name of the game at Dong Xuan Market. (If you need some tips, chat to our Vietnam specialists, they’re seasoned professionals!)

48 hours in Hanoi

Next up, Hang Gai Street, also known as Silk Street. If you’re looking for luxurious silk products or exquisite embroidery, this is your go-to spot. Get ready to be dazzled by the vibrant colors and intricate designs that will leave you wanting to buy everything in sight (we won’t judge, we do it too!).

And let’s not forget about the night market at Hang Dao Street. As the sun sets, this street comes alive with stalls selling all sorts of knick-knacks and trinkets. It’s like a carnival for souvenir hunters! From quirky keychains to handmade jewelry, there’s something for everyone here.


Hanoi after dark

Hanoi is a city with a vibrant nightlife, it really comes alive after dark! If you’re looking for a taste of the local nightlife scene, look no further than Ta Hien Street, affectionately known as “Beer Street.” There’s such a lively atmosphere here, the street will be filled with locals and tourists alike, all enjoying ice-cold beers and delicious street food.

Hanoi night life 48 hours in Hanoi

But if you prefer to elevate your nightlife experience (literally), head to the Old Quarter’s rooftop bars. These hidden gems offer stunning views of the city skyline while sipping on your favourite cocktail.  You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, with a drink in hand, what could be better?

Explore further afield

If you have longer to spend in Hanoi, there’s no end to the things you could do. Take a day trip to the rural beauty of Ninh Binh, visit the Perfume Pergoda, or head off on a Hanoi Countryside Cycle Tour through the surrounding landscapes.

48 hours in Hanoi cycle tour

A quick guide to food in Hanoi

If you’re a fan of Vietnamese cuisine (and who wouldn’t be?!), read on for a quick inside scoop on some must-visit spots that’ll satisfy your cravings for authentic flavours. We’re big foodies here at HA, and seeking out the best flavours always features high up the priority list on our research trips!

First up, we have the Bun Cha Ta restaurant. This culinary oasis is the place to dive into a world of Vietnamese food. From their perfectly grilled pork to their mouthwatering vermicelli noodles, you’ll be wanting to replicate it all at home.

48 hours in Hanoi

Next on our list is the Pho Thin noodle soup stall. This humble little stall serves up bowls of steaming hot pho (our favourite!), so slurp up to warm your soul and tingle your taste buds.

Last but certainly not least, we have Banh Mi 25 sandwich shop. Prepare yourself for an explosion of flavours in each bite. Their crispy baguettes are filled with an array of delicious fresh ingredients like succulent grilled meats, fresh herbs, and tangy pickles. It’s like a party in your mouth, time to loosen those belt buckles and dig in!


In just 48 hours in Hanoi, you’ll have soaked up the beauty and history of this diverse city. From the ancient charm of the Old Quarter to the cultural richness of museums and the vibrancy of street life, this city offers a kaleidoscope of experiences. This is just the start of what you could experience on a Vietnam holiday though, so get in touch if exploring this South East Asian gem is high up your holiday wishlist. Our specialists know the country like the back of their hand and are here to design a Vietnam holiday that’s perfectly tailored to you.