24 hours in Hanoi: Whereto go and what to do

by Tripazia

It wasn’t so long ago when Hanoi was just opening up to tourism less than a decade ago. The streets of the Old Quarter were not as chaotic, had lesser tourists wandering about, a lot more street sellers for sure, but the most memorable was, everything had to be shut down by eleven in the evening. Heck, the beer corner wasn’t even there yet. Hanoi was just a quiet and humble town that welcomed mostly old and retired tourists who are there to see Vietnam’s socialist capital before they head to their main destination, Halong Bay.

But over the years, after much developments and economic growth, the city itself had quickly attracted thousands, even millions, of investors and travelers to visit the once imperial municipality, giving more opportunities for the local people. And fast forward to 2018, Hanoi is becoming a 24-hour metropolitan; which is why it’s important to learn how to navigate yourself around the capital city more than ever.

Getting Around Hanoi

Hanoi is not your typical capital city. The central part being divided into two major areas, the Old Quarter and the French Quarter, it still gets a bit confusing for a lot of people (and even for people who were born and bred here) to get around the city’s bustling streets.
As a foreign visitor, the best way to go around Hanoi’s maze-like infrastructure is by Uber or Grab, which are surprisingly inexpensive (about a dollar for a 2-kilometer ride) and easy to get since Wi-Fi is readily available everywhere anyway, and for free.

It wasn’t so long ago when Hanoi was just opening up to tourism less than a decade ago. The streets of the Old Quarter were not as chaotic, had lesser tourists wandering about, a lot more street sellers for sure, but the most memorable was, everything had to be shut down by eleven in the evening. Heck, the beer corner wasn’t even there yet. Hanoi was just a quiet and humble town that welcomed mostly old and retired tourists who are there to see Vietnam’s socialist capital before they head to their main destination, Halong Bay.

But over the years, after much developments and economic growth, the city itself had quickly attracted thousands, even millions, of investors and travelers to visit the once imperial municipality, giving more opportunities for the local people. And fast forward to 2018, Hanoi is becoming a 24-hour metropolitan; which is why it’s important to learn how to navigate yourself around the capital city more than ever.

Getting Around Hanoi

Hanoi is not your typical capital city. The central part being divided into two major areas, the Old Quarter and the French Quarter, it still gets a bit confusing for a lot of people (and even for people who were born and bred here) to get around the city’s bustling streets.
As a foreign visitor, the best way to go around Hanoi’s maze-like infrastructure is by Uber or Grab, which are surprisingly inexpensive (about a dollar for a 2-kilometer ride) and easy to get since Wi-Fi is readily available everywhere anyway, and for free. If a taxi-hailing app is of no reach at all, then reliable metered taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Taxi Group are scattered everywhere and are usually roaming around the Old Quarter. Be mindful though that their prices are usually a lot higher than if the taxis were hailed through a mobile app.

Avoiding the Scams

The number one thing people should be wary about when visiting Hanoi as a tourist is getting scammed by local taxi drivers, which is why it’s important to only hail the reliable companies such as Mai Linh and Taxi Group when you want to get around town. As a main precaution, always ask your hotel concierge for assistance, or if ever you’re heading back to your hotel from somewhere, just ask any local to help you out with your transfer; we’re pretty sure they’d be more than happy to help out.

Know the Basics

Population: 7.7 million people
Language: Vietnamese
Time zone: GMT+7
Country Code: +84
Currency: VND (Vietnam Dong); $1US = 22,700VND
Average Temperature: Summer 29°C; Winter 17°C
Mode of Transport: Motorbikes

If a taxi-hailing app is of no reach at all, then reliable metered taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Taxi Group are scattered everywhere and are usually roaming around the Old Quarter. Be mindful though that their prices are usually a lot higher than if the taxis were hailed through a mobile app.

Avoiding the Scams

The number one thing people should be wary about when visiting Hanoi as a tourist is getting scammed by local taxi drivers, which is why it’s important to only hail the reliable companies such as Mai Linh and Taxi Group when you want to get around town. As a main precaution, always ask your hotel concierge for assistance, or if ever you’re heading back to your hotel from somewhere, just ask any local to help you out with your transfer; we’re pretty sure they’d be more than happy to help out.

Know the Basics

Population: 7.7 million people
Language: Vietnamese
Time zone: GMT+7
Country Code: +84
Currency: VND (Vietnam Dong); $1US = 22,700VND
Average Temperature: Summer 29°C; Winter 17°C
Mode of Transport: Motorbikes

06:00

Discover the Traditions

It’s the first thing you would want to see when you arrive in Hanoi, when everything is still calm and peaceful. Locals of all ages take their morning run around Hoan Kiem Lake, different groups of moms and grandmas take center stage to do a variety of exercises such as Tai Chi, Aerobics, or even Zumba, the dads and grandads on the other hand are doing their morning stretches or weightlifting, while the rest of the crowd catch their morning stroll while the breeze is still as cool as it gets. This is the perfect time to experience the real Vietnam.

07:00

Your Morning Coffee Intake

Once you’re done with your morning stroll, then it’s time for a taste of culture, the Vietnamese traditional drip coffee. Farmed, produced, harvested, and brewed all in Vietnam is what makes Vietnamese coffee so special and extraordinary. This is the reason why the country is also known as one of the major exporters of coffee all around the world.

We advise that you get your sunrise coffee intake either next to the lake or along one of the 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter to witness the locals go about their morning routines. Sit on a small stool just outside the café, order your iced Vietnamese coffee, sit back, and relax.

08:00

Time for Breakfast

You are what you eat, they say. And there is no further truth to this than of the Vietnamese people. It’s cuisine being highly-recognized all over the world for its abundance of greens per serving and the freshest herbs and ingredients, it should be your priority to be able to eat at least one typical Hanoi breakfast while you’re here. Whether it’s Pho, Bun Rieu, or Bun Ca, just be sure enough that you’ve had a chance to test it. Remember, when in Hanoi, do as Hanoians do.

09:30

Visit the First University

Your very first attraction of the day, the Temple of Literature. If ever you’re curious about how the first university in Vietnam looked like and where it is, then this is the place. Originally founded in 1070 by the late Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, this whole structure was dedicated to the great philosopher Confucius. This is also the university where the finest and most talented scholars were sent to study, most of which are of noble birth.

12:00

Lunch is Served

On a summer’s day, you’d want to be inside an air-conditioned building around this time as Hanoi’s weather can go up to 35°C on some weeks. Sometimes even higher. And since you’ll be out most of the day, it’s best to find a restaurant where you could sit and relax for an hour or two while having a traditional Vietnamese lunch.

One option is to head back to back to Hoan Kiem Lake to try out Cau Go Restaurant, where prices are a lot higher than when you eat out on the streets. But again, they have the views and the food is undeniably great-tasting compared to other Vietnamese fine dining spots. Otherwise, you could just cross the street on the right-hand side of the entrance from the Temple of Literature to check out KOTO Restaurant, which is originally a learning center for the underprivileged Vietnamese. Whichever it is you choose for your first lunch, both are highly recommended.

14:00

Learn the Dark Past

Once you’re done with your well-deserved lunch, then it’s time to head off to Hoa Lo Prison Museum, where the remains of what was then called the Hanoi Hilton’ by the US POW (Prisoners of War) used to call it, are still displayed. Eerie as it can be, the Hoa Lo Prison was the largest prison in Indochina during its time. It was mainly used by the French to punish the Vietnamese war prisoners during the French War that lasted till 1954 and later on the by the Vietnamese to keep the American war prisoners during the American War in the mid-70s.

16:00

Back for a Quick Shower

It’s been a rough day for sure. And before we continue to guide you through to your first 24-hour adventure in Hanoi, now is the time to go back to your hotel room, get a bit of rest, shower, dress up, and get ready to take on the most exciting part of your day, the evening festivities. But if you finish quite early, you may stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, see what people are up to, grab an afternoon snack, or even take another cup of coffee while you’re at it. The choice is completely yours to make.

18:00

Water Puppet Show

Possibly every tourist has done this at least once during their visit in Hanoi, the Water Puppet show is something everyone should definitely do, including locals and expats. From folktales to mythical creatures, and sometimes even involves love stories, this long-surviving tradition has been passed on from generation to generation, making it a truly unique experience for everyone who’s paying a visit in Hanoi. This activity costs around 60,000VND for children and 100,000VND for adults and are performed in different languages.

19:00

Beer Corner Adventure

Whether you like beer or not, this is a place you must go to when visiting Hanoi. Why? Because this is where everybody goes at night, either for dinner or before dinner; sometimes even after dinner. The Hanoi Beer Corner is so popular that it’s actually listed as one of the city’s main attractions by most travel websites and publications. Just pick one out of at least thirty to fifty places where you could sit down with a bunch of random strangers from all over the world and make friends with the locals at the same time. The best part about this place? A glass of beer would only cost you 50 cents US.

20:00

BBQ Dinner on the Street

Although not as traditional as it seems, the BBQ scene for dinner along the Old Quarter’s Ma May Street has seen and welcomed them all, from Antarctica to Hawaii. The capital city welcoming more than a million tourists year-in and year-out, there is no doubt that these restaurants have met at least one person from every country on the planet as they have also been there for as long as we can remember.

21:30

Wine the Night Away

What a better way to cap off the night than to have a bottle of fine wine. Hanoi’s gentleman’s club, the men behind Polite & Co., situated along Bao Khanh Street, is where everyone goes to for an evening of fun conversations, good company, and sensational cocktails, trained by the country’s greatest mixologists. Be sure to drink as much as you can as the place only opens until midnight. If you’re lucky enough to be in Hanoi on a weekend, then you’ll have a big chance to catch the live jazz band the plays from 8 or 9 in the evening onward.

Tripazia

Written by Tripazia

Start in Ho Chi Minh City and end in Hanoi! With the adventure tour Vietnam Express Northbound, you have a 10 day tour package taking you from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and through Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and 4 other destinations in Vietnam. Vietnam Express Northbound is a small group tour that includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.