How to Discover Hanoi in 24 hours

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Discover Hanoi in a single day? Is it possible? I think so. My mom is from Hanoi so I spent a lot of my childhood time here. I moved overseas when I was young but still think of Hanoi as a special place to be. Although I am working in Saigon now, I often come back to Hanoi to visit family for a short trip or to spend some time wandering the town, sometimes for just 24 hours. This is my itinerary for those who want to discover Hanoi in a similar period of time.

8:00 - am Eel Glass Noodles + Bánh Cuốn  

Image via foody.vn

Breakfast is important for a Hanoian and this place is a personal favorite. Locals come here to eat so the shop is usually crowded. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s just that the quality of the food is so good it draws big crowds and I hardly ever see any tourists here. My favorite is the eel with glass noodles. This dish is usually comprised of fried eel and transparent noodles. Also, their banh cuon is the best in Hanoi in my opinion. Banh cuon is a dish involving meat and vegetables wrapped in a rice batter compared to other places this restaurant gives a huge portion of minced pork for you to enjoy.

You can find the shop at the corner between Hoi Vu and Trang Thi street., as you discover Hanoi.

9:00 am - St Joseph Cathedral and Hoan Kiem Lake

The cathedral is right next to Hoan Kiem Lake so you can see two great sights at once, on your mission to discover Hanoi in a day. I recommend you visit early in the morning to actually see the local life there. It’s becoming more of a tourist trap nowadays, but if you go early in the morning you can still see many elderly locals go to the lake to work out. Then, head to the cathedral where young people usually hang out. There are a lot of artsy coffee shops around the cathedral so you can sample some Vietnamese coffee while you are here. The Gothic style of the cathedral is incredibly striking and is an excellent spot for some photos. Built during the French colonial period in Vietnam, this place of worship stands out in a country where you are more likely to see a temple than a Roman Catholic church. It is also the oldest church in Hanoi, so it’s a good place to investigate if you are interested in this particular period of Vietnam’s History

10:30 am - Discover Hanoi through the Vietnamese Women’s Museum + Museum of Ethnology:

image by Michael Coghlan via Flickr

This really is a must visit, even for the locals.The two museums are about Vietnamese culture and not so much about propaganda that you often see in others. I labelled this a must-see as it is a welcome change from the many war museums around the country. I found that even I learn a lot of interesting pieces of information when I visit, so it would be extremely interesting to any travellers. There are lots of tourists here because they both rank high on Tripadvisor, but it is a really must-see.

12:30 am - Cua Hang An Uong Mau Dich so 37 (Trading and dining bistro number 37)

Next to Truc Bach lake this restaurant’s atmosphere, decoration, operation and food are a replication of Hanoi before 1985. This makes for one interesting meal, trust me. The service is replicated to that of the communist era and shows how the government distributed food before Vietnam opened the economy. For example, you must collect your ticket and queue to order your meal at the reception counter. 

The food served here were the popular dishes among working and middle classes of the pre-1985 era. The menu contains things like rice mixed with potatoes and pickles. Prices range from 30K-100K so it is not too expensive.

2:00 pm - VÄ?n Miáşżu (Temple of Literature)

Photo by Andrea Schaffer via Flickr

This temple was first was constructed to honor Confucius and other high ranking scholars like Chu Van An. The temple hosts the Imperial academy, known as Vietnam’s first university, which was only open to royal or high profiles families. Nowadays, it’s a tourist attractions and occasionally holds national education events. Plenty of visitors flock here each year to see the astounding architecture which dates back as far as 1010 A.D. The university functioned for over 700 years during this time over 2000 doctors graduated. Being such an ancient landmark, the site is recognised as an ancient cultural heritage site and is a great way to see Hanoian tradition.  Entrance fee is 30K and  it is open everyday except Monday and public holidays so plan your trip accordingly.

3:00 pm - 87 Ma May Ancient House:

Located inside old quarter, the Ancient House dates back to the end of 19th century. It’s one of the very last remaining houses where you can view traditional architecture in Hanoi. People also visit here to see traditional Hanoian culture and lifestyle. The house is split into two sections and has a balcony on the first floor. You can see the dining area, kitchen and bedrooms of a person who lived in the 1800s and all of it is immaculately maintained. For anyone interested in Hanoian history this is a must see as you can really get a feel for what life was like back then. The entry fee is 10K per person which I think is really reasonable for what is on offer. There is also a souvenir stall that I would highly recommend, it contains items that I think are a level above the usual tourist shops.

4:00 pm - Wander Around the Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is a compilation of more than 40 streets that each of them historically used to specialise in one product. Each of the streets starts with “Hang” which is the Vietnamese for“product”. For instance, “Hang Bac” means “Silver product street”. So each street is mainly comprised of shops selling variations of one product. Wandering the old quarter is a must in Hanoi and you can discover a lot of interesting things here, as well as make a few purchases in the surrounding shops.  Make sure you spend a lot of time here. Now go ahead and lose yourself as you discover Hanoi.

7:30 pm - A Dao Restaurant

Interested in one of the northern Vietnam’s most famous and enduring art forms? Drop in to A Dao Restaurant to watch some Vietnamese music in an informal setting. The informal setting is important as the music may not be to everyone’s taste, so it beats going to a two hour show at a theatre by a long shot. Located in a small alley, this artistic space comprises a restaurant, a cinema dominated by classic and film noir, a hostel and a library. There are shows every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday along with a variety of traditional Vietnamese meals to choose from.The restaurant is named after the type of music and the intimate restaurant is devoted to local-focused options and serves Vietnamese food inspired by traditional recipes. The variety offered in this space makes this a great stop on your trip to Hanoi.

9:00 pm - Tadioto Bar

A welcoming atmosphere with artfully mixed décor, Tadioto provides the perfect last stop for a nightcap. The small bar, which is both trendy and nostalgic, features a gorgeous interior décor – a blend of brick wall and wooden furnishings and a casual set of outdoor tables for those who like to enjoy the breeze at night. A great way to finish your attempt to discover Hanoi in a day, before heading off to bed!

Alex Huynh is an editor at Inspitrip. During his expedition to Fansipan Mountain, Alex Huynh realised his local guide who came from a poor minority tribe in Sapa only earned 10% of what he paid to the agency. Since then, Alex Huynh has quit his corporate job and devoted his time to Inspitrip, a platform connecting travellers to locals in South East Asia. Prior to Inspitrip, Alex Huynh was an investment banker and a finance manager. You can follow Alex Huynh and Inspitrip via Facebook and Twitter.