Hanoi is located in the north of Vietnam and is the capital of the country. The city is famous for its vibrant street life and colonial architecture. It is the second most populous city (after Ho Chi Minh City) of Vietnam. Hanoi is located in the northern region of the country, situated in Vietnam’s Red River delta.
The Legacy of Chinese and French colonial influence can still be seen throughout the city. The city is more characterful and elegant than its other counterparts. It is a bustling settlement, of museums, street food, motorbikes, and very cheap beer.
24 hours is not enough to capture the essence of Hanoi. Soaking in the atmosphere of the city is much satisfying than covering all the sights. But if you’re short on time then here’s your guide to getting most out of this city in just 24 hours. So here is the cocktail of culture, sightseeing, and Vietnamese food.
09:15 pm( Daily last show of the day except for Sunday)
Location: Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang street, nearby Hoan Kiem lake.
Puppets are manipulated by strings from above moving, as if they were floating on water. Language will not be a problem here as the commentary is in English.
This theater showcases traditional content of water puppet performance like daily life of Vietnamese farmers (cultivating, tending buffalo, catching fishes…), communal entertainment (swimming contest, dragon dancing…), or historical legends (Le Loi returns precious sword…).
The modest performances has appealed audiences for centuries. The theatre prides itself in being the only theatre across Asia that performs Water Puppetry all 365 days of a year and, is one of Vietnam’s best.
10:30 pm: A night on the Town
There are many bars, restaurants, and lounges in the Old Quarter. Have your dinner and enjoy some beer and take some rest because the next day is going to be tiring. There are many hotels but one of the favorite hotels is Hanoi La Siesta.
You can also socialize at Zone 9 (13) (9 Tran Thanh Tong), an arty hub that just a few months ago sprung up in a disused factory, with American boutiques, great bars and a VW van serving cocktails. Tadioto is a dark and sultry bar owned by the author Nguyen Qui Duc, while Barbetta 2 is an appealing loft space with a good sound system and live music.
06:00 am: An early stroll around the city
Wake up with the Sun to witness the city at its calmest. Grab a banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) and a ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee) from a sidewalk stall and just walk to the Hoan Kiem lake.
This place is a scenic beauty. The meaning of Hoan Kiem lake is the “lake of the returned sword”. The lake located at the center of Old Quarter and is a major scenic spot not only for tourists but it also an escape for locals on weekends.
Take out your camera and capture the beautiful moments of locals. While on your way back to Old Quarter click pictures of the locals as they get into the business.
The smell of the food cooking will mesmerize you and the children going to school and people doing daily chorus will instantly make you feel as one of them.
09:00 am: Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum
Take a taxi from the Old Quarter to the museum. Taxi scams are very common here so it is advisable to book a group taxi or find Uber/Grab which has a good reputation. They will charge you according to the normal prices.
This museum will take you on the journey of Ho Chi Minh’s life. Everything is elaborately described in 8 chronological topics. Here you will witness a beautiful collection of artifacts, miniatures and various other gifts gathered nationally and internationally. There is also a description written in English and France.
Just outside the museum’s front entrance is the One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple which worth stopping to pay your respect.
Walk from the pagoda to the adjacent Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which houses the embalmed body of Uncle Ho(the most iconic and popular leader of Vietnam). Pay your respects by lighting an incense stick and then walk around the square and park outside.
Stay for a while to witness the famed changing of the guards that happen after every 30 minutes. Right opposite stands the Big Lenin statue which is the world’s second largest, after the one standing in Russia.
11:30 am: Temple of Literature
This Temple is 1km away so you can either take a taxi or walk to this place.
The Temple of Literature was founded in 1070. The temple complex is sprawling. Inside is a lake of plump carp, rows of stone slabs engraved with the names of scholars and an altar clouded with incense sheltering a statue of Confucius-a well-respected philosopher.
Adjacent to this is the Doan Mon Gate which is another of Hanoi’s defining structures, located in the heart of the city and is one of the few standing remnants of Hanoi’s Citadel since the last 1,000 years.
It is one of the few standing remnants of Hanoi’s Citadel and it was recognized as the world heritage site by UNESCO in 2010. It had been the centre for political power in the region and has a distinct mix of south east Asian architectural styles.
01:00 pm: Lunch Time
To replenish all that energy spent from walking around, it’s good to have an early lunch. The heat absorbs all energy. Vietnamese food is as diverse as its landscape. So there so many options that it becomes difficult to choose. Also in 24 hours you will not be able to taste each and every dish.
There is this one dish that is the digest of Vietnamese cuisine and that is Pho. So grab a xe om(motorbike taxi), use either Uber or Grab apps to book a taxi and head to your next destination: Pho Gia Truyen on 49 Bat Dan Street.
This is the best place to eat Pho. This is Pho time. It is the most classic Vietnamese dish, which is rice, noodles served with beef or chicken, onions, garlic and cilantro in a sour and tasty broth.
Afternoon: Hoa Lo Prison
Grab a taxi to Hoa Lo Prison also dubbed as ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by U.S prisoners of war in the 1970s. Before that the prison was used by the French colonists in French Indochina for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
The prison has since been destroyed except the entrance. The prison is a little haunting.
There are many paintings or structures inside the prison that depict the life of the prisoners at that time.
You can find a flight suit belonging to John McCain on the display. There is not much left to see.
04:00 pm: Head back to Old Quarter
Explore the streets of the Old Quarter and buy some souvenirs for your loved ones. The market is a shopper’s delight. It houses artistic products. Most of the specialties here are cotton, silk, jewellery, and herbs. Don’t hesitate to bargain.
Each street in the Old Quarter jostles with shops dedicated to a particular trade. For silk souvenirs, shop along Hang Gai; for silver, Hang Bac. You can find Boutique handicrafts around Nha Chung. The Ha Noi gallery is also there.
05:00: Sunset drinks dinner and relax
Drink a Beer on Ta Hien Street also known as known as the Beer street of Hanoi where people sit outside on small chairs drinking local beer and eating BBQ. Refresh yourself with a glass of Bia hoi - a light local beer.
Refine your Photography skills and capture the youth of Vietnam as they party off their tiredness after a busy day at work.
Head to the Gourmet Corner restaurant, which has a wonderful terrace with a view over Hoàn Kiem lake to the city skyline beyond.
Dinner is sumptuous and well-priced, with mains starting at around £4 apiece.
Make sure to book in advance as this place is always packed. Try to eat some of the famous dishes of Hanoi like Banh Mi, Hanoi style Barbecue, Ban oc, Banh Cha, Banh Xeo etc
Another option is 36 Hang Manh, a restaurant in a courtyard set back from an Old Quarter street. Mains here start from £3.50.
So that’s it! This is how your action-packed day in Hanoi will end. Try to visit Tran Quoc Pagoda and the Quan Thanh Temple if you have little more time to spend in Hanoi. It was difficult to cut them off the list, but there’s only so much you can do in 24 hours! Enjoy the beautiful city.