The Perfect 3-Day Hanoi Itinerary

The Perfect 3-Day Hanoi Itinerary

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Hanoi is my favorite city in Vietnam. It’s got a little bit of everything – culture, architecture, nature, coffee, food. We’re planning on living for a few months in Vietnam and Hanoi will be the first city we call home.

Hanoi is a liveable city with lots to see and do. If you’re visiting for the first time and wondering what to do in Hanoi, then this 3-day itinerary will be useful to you. It gives recommendations on what attractions not to miss and offers suggestions on what and where to eat in Hanoi to get the most out of your stay.

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WHAT TO DO IN HANOI IN 3 DAYS

Listed below are Hanoi’s top attractions and a few recommended cafes and restaurants. You can jump to the location map at the bottom of this post to see exactly where they are in the city.

Hanoi is relatively compact so I highly recommend exploring it on foot, especially the Old Quarter. The crumbling colonial architecture and tree-lined streets are interesting. You won’t appreciate them as much in a taxi or Grab so if you can, it’s better to go around on foot.

I enjoy walking so I prefer exploring on my own, but if you’d rather go on a guided city tour, then you can search these lists of Hanoi city tours on Klook and Get Your Guide.

QUICK GLANCE

DAY ONE

• Cafe Dinh (coffee)
• Hoan Kiem Lake
• Ngoc Son Temple
• Bun Cha 74 Hang Quat (lunch)
• St. Joseph’s Cathedral
• Hoa Lo Prison
• Hanoi Train Street
• Choo Choo Cafe (coffee)
• Cha Ca Thang Long (dinner)
• Water Puppet Show
• Phung Hung Mural Street
• Bia Hoi Corner
DAY TWO

• Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan (breakfast)
• Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
• Vietnam Military History Museum / Flag Tower of Hanoi
• Cong Caphe (coffee)
• Banh My Tram (lunch)
• Temple of Literature
• Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
• Quan Thanh Temple
• Tran Quoc Pagoda
• Ca Phe Duy Tri (coffee)
• Banh Cuon Ba Xuan (snack)
• Bun Bo Nam Bo Bach Phuong (dinner)
DAY THREE

• Day Trip to Ha Long Bay

DAY 1

Cafe Dinh

What better way to start your first day in Hanoi than with a cup of egg coffee? And not just any cup of egg coffee, but egg coffee produced by the Giang family, the family credited for inventing it.

Egg coffee or ca phe trung is Hanoi’s most famous coffee creation. Milk was scarce in postwar Vietnam so Chef Giang had the idea of using whisked egg yolks as a substitute. He beat egg yolks with coffee and sugar then topped it with egg cream to create the iconic drink that’s now become a symbol of Hanoi.

Cafe Dinh is owned by the same family as Cafe Giang, the most popular place to have egg coffee in Hanoi. It isn’t as well-known among tourists so it doesn’t get nearly as crowded as Cafe Giang, which is almost always packed to the brim. I learned about Cafe Dinh from this excellent Hanoi coffee tasting tour.

Cafe Dinh uses the same secret Giang family recipe to make their egg coffee, plus it’s conveniently located across the street from Hoan Kiem Lake, your next stop on this 3-day Hanoi itinerary.
Cafe Dinh

Address: 13 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 7AM-9:30PM, daily
What to Order: Ca phe trung
Expect to Spend: Around VND 25,000 per cup

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the most famous attractions in Hanoi. Located in the Old Quarter, it’s a 12-hectare freshwater lake with a colorful backstory. Ho Hoan Kiem literally means “Lake of the Returned Sword”.

According to legend, Emperor Le Loi was on a boat when Kim Qui, the Golden Turtle God, surfaced from the lake’s depths to reclaim the Heaven’s Will Sword. Kim Qui had lent Le Loi the sword to help him win Vietnam’s independence from China. After returning the sword, Le Loi renamed the lake “Ho Hoan Kiem”.

Aside from its jade green waters, Hoan Kiem Lake’s most notable features include Turtle Tower (pictured below) and Ngoc Son Temple. Turtle Tower isn’t open to tourists but you can visit Ngoc Son Temple.
Hoan Kiem Lake

Operating Hours: 24 hrs
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 15-30 mins

Ngoc Son Temple

On an island in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake, just a short walk from Cafe Dinh, is Ngoc Son Temple or the Temple of the Jade Mountain. It’s connected to the shore by this picturesque red bridge called The Huc Bridge.

Aside from a preserved giant soft shell turtle that used to live in the lake, there isn’t much to see in Ngoc Son Temple. However, The Huc Bridge is lovely and makes for an excellent backdrop for pictures.

You need to pay a small admission fee to enter the temple but you can access the bridge for free.
Ngoc Son Temple

Operating Hours: 7AM-6PM, Mon-Fri / 7AM-9PM, Sat-Sun
Admission: VND 30,000
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins

Bun Cha 74 Hang Quat

Bun Cha 74 Hang Quat was one of my favorite places to eat not just in Hanoi, but in all of Vietnam. They specialize in bun cha, a delicious dish of charcoal-grilled fatty pork served with pickled vegetables, sticky rice noodles, and fresh leafy greens like lettuce, coriander, perilla, and mint.

Bun cha is an important Hanoi dish and something you need to try. I’ve eaten at many bun cha restaurants in Hanoi but Bun Cha 74 Hang Quat was far and away my favorite. Be sure to order your bun cha with a side of nem cua be which is a type of fried spring roll made with crab. They go so well together.

They’re only open for lunch so be sure to get here before 2PM. If you can, I suggest arriving by no later than 1PM to be safe. You don’t want to miss this.
Bun Cha 74 Hang Quat

Address: 74 Hàng Quạt, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 10:30AM-2PM, daily
What to Order: Bun cha, nem cua be
Expect to Spend: Around VND 50,000 for bun cha and nem cua be

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a late 19th-century Gothic Revival church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi.

Constructed in 1886 in the style of the Notre Dame de Paris, it’s the oldest church in Hanoi one of the first structures built by the French colonial government in French Indochina.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Operating Hours: 8-11AM, 2-5PM, Mon-Sat / 7-10:30AM, 3-9PM, Sun
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 15-30 mins

Hoa Lo Prison

Hoa Lo was a prison used by French colonists to detain political prisoners in French Indochina, and later by north Vietnam to house US prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Hoa Lo tranlates to “fiery furnace” or “stove” but American POWs referred to it as the “Hanoi Hilton”.

The actual prison was demolished in the 1990s but the gatehouse remains intact and has been converted into a museum. You’ll find exhibits like this one depicting what life was like for prisoners during that time. Notice below how their ankles are shackled to the platform.
Hoa Lo Prison

Operating Hours: 8AM-5PM, daily
Admission: VND 30,000
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 – 1.5 hrs

Hanoi Train Street

You may have seen this unusual street on social media. Train tracks run along a narrow corridor with houses on either side. I was never here at the right time but trains do run through these tracks several times a day.

Hanoi train street has become so popular that you’ll find rows of cafes, restaurants, and shops on either side of the track. They pose an obvious risk so the local government has been trying to force these establishments to close.

However, I’ve been getting conflicting reports about how enforced this closure is. According to some, there are signs prohibiting people to get in but they still manage to anyway. Many of the establishments are definitely still operating so you can proceed at your own risk.

Serious Instagrammers may be interested in this Instagram tour. It takes you to many of Hanoi’s most picturesque spots, including train street.
Hanoi Train Street

Operating Hours: 24 hrs
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 15-30 mins

The Railway Hanoi (Choo Choo Cafe)

If you’d like to sit and have Vietnamese coffee at one of these train track cafes, then I recommend going to the Choo Choo Cafe. It’s located on a less busy section of the tracks, which is probably why they’re still operating. I checked their TripAdvisor page and the latest reviews are from March 2020.
The Railway Hanoi (Choo Choo Cafe)

Address: 26 / 10 Điện Biên Phủ, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 10:30AM-9:30PM, Wed-Fri / 9AM-8:30PM, Sat-Sun / 1-9:30PM, Mon-Tues
What to Order: Ca phe den
Expect to Spend: Around VND 40,000 for a glass of Vietnamese coffee and a small pastry

Cha Ca Thang Long

Like bun cha, cha ca is a core Hanoi dish and something you should try. It refers to a delectable dish of grilled turmeric-marinated catfish that’s pan-fried on your table with a forest of fresh dill.

When cooked, it’s served with rice vermicelli, roasted peanuts, coriander, and a dipping sauce made with nuoc cham, vinegar, and garlic. You can also drizzle some mam tom (Vietnamese shrimp paste) with lime juice for an added punch of flavor.

Cha ca is absolutely delicious and one of our favorite things to eat in Hanoi. Cha Ca Thang Long is one of the best places to try it.
Cha Ca Thang Long

Address: 21 – 31 Đường Thành, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 10AM-9:30PM, daily
What to Order: Cha ca
Expect to Spend: Around VND 129,000 per person

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Water puppet shows are cultural performances unique to Vietnam, especially in the north. Puppeteers stand behind a bamboo screen in waist-deep water to maneuver puppets dancing and performing over water. It’s an ancient art form that dates back to the 11th century, when rice paddy fields would get flooded and villagers looked for ways to entertain themselves.

In Hanoi, one of the best places to catch a water puppet show is at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. I believe it’s the first venue that started hosting water puppet shows in Hanoi. It’s located on the north side of Hoan Kiem Lake, near Cafe Dinh.

They host five shows daily, the first at 3PM and the last at 8PM. Depending on what time you finish dinner at Cha Ca Thang Long, then you can probably catch the 6:30PM or 8PM performance.

You can buy tickets at the gate or in advance through Get Your Guide. If you’d like to catch a show as part of a guided tour, then you may be interested in these Hanoi city tours from Klook and Get Your Guide. They take you to many of the spots recommended in this guide and end with a water puppet show.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Show Times: 3PM, 4:10PM, 5:20PM, 6:30PM, 8PM, daily
Admission: Starts at VND 100,000
Length of Show: About 50 mins

Phung Hung Mural Street

Located on Phung Hung Street, parallel to Hanoi train street, is this wall with over twenty life-sized murals depicting scenes from everyday Vietnamese life. They’re painted in a realistic, representational style so they look almost life-like in your pictures.

Like Hanoi train street, it’s one of the stops on this aforementioned Instagram tour. People serious about their Instagram feed may want to rent a traditional Vietnamese dress and conical hat as well.
Phung Hung Mural Street

Operating Hours: 24 hrs
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 15 – 30 mins

Bia Hoi Corner

What better way to end you first day in Hanoi than with a beer at the city’s famed bia hoi corner? During the day, this junction looks like any other intersection but at night, it transforms into a lively mix of foreigners and locals drinking cheap beer and eating street food on tiny plastic stools.

Bia hoi refers to Vietnamese draft beer. It’s a cheap type of draft beer that costs anywhere between VND 3,000-7,000 a glass. It has a low alcohol content (about 3%) and is made without preservatives so batches are typically consumed the evening they’re delivered.

The energy at bia hoi corner is electric. If you like beer, then it’s something you need to experience in Hanoi. Just don’t drink too much bia hoi as it’s production isn’t regulated by any health agency. Maybe have one or two glasses, just to try it, then switch to regular bottled beer.

It’s easy enough to find bia hoi corner on your own, but if you’d like to experience it on a tour, then you may be interested in this night market street food tour in Hanoi.
Bia Hoi Corner

Address: Corner of Ta Hien & Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets
Operating Hours: Mid-afternoon to late night
What to Order: Beer and street food
Expect to Spend: VND 3,000-7,000 (draft beer) / Around VND 25,000 (local beer)

DAY 2

Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan

No better way to start the second day of this Hanoi itinerary than with a bowl of pho. It’s a Vietnamese national dish and something you’ll probably be having more than once in Vietnam.

Pho is a beloved noodle soup dish that originated in the north but is now popular throughout Vietnam. Variations may exist between regions but at its core, it’s made with these four basic ingredients – clear stock, rice noodles, meat (typically beef or chicken), and herbs.

I’ve had pho at several different places in Hanoi and Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan is one of the best. Lines can get long but they move quickly.
Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan

Address: 25 Hàng Cá, P, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 6-10AM, 6-8:30PM, daily
What to Order: Pho tai nam
Expect to Spend: Around VND 40,000-50,000 per bowl

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long or Hanoi Citadel is a complex of historic imperial buildings in the Ba Dinh District of Hanoi. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as Vietnam’s political center for thirteen centuries and its capital for eight.

The Hanoi Citadel is a large complex with lots to see and explore so you can easily spend a couple of hours here. You’ll find monuments and multiple exhibits, including a bunker that was used by the General Commander of the Vietnam People’s Army during the war.
Thang Long Citadel

Operating Hours: 8AM-5PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays)
Admission: VND 30,000
Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs

Vietnam Military History Museum / Flag Tower of Hanoi

People with a particular interest in war history will enjoy this museum. It houses tanks, aircraft, artillery, and other relics of war. The outdoor exhibits feature displays from the Vietnam War while the indoor exhibits cover mostly the French colonization.
Vietnam Military History Museum

The Flag Tower of Hanoi was built in 1812 as an observation post for the Hanoi Citadel. It’s now part of the Military History Museum and you can climb to the top to get an aerial view of the museum’s outdoor exhibits.
Hanoi Flag Tower

Address: 28A Điện Biên Phủ, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 8-11:30AM, 1-4:30PM, Tue-Thurs, Sat-Sun (closed Mondays and Fridays)
Admission: VND 40,000 (entrance) / VND 30,000 (photography)
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1.5 – 2 hrs

Cong Caphe

You’ll probably be thirsty after two to three hours of museum exploration in Hanoi. To cool off, I suggest getting a ca phe cot dua or coconut coffee slushie at Cong Caphe.

Cong Caphe is one of the most successful homegrown coffee chains in Vietnam. They have dozens of outlets across the country, each with a cute Viet-Cong-inspired theme. They currently have 32 outlets in Hanoi, including one down the street from Hanoi Flag Tower.

Like Starbucks, every Cong Caphe serves consistently good coffee but what they’re really known for is their cold coconut coffee. It’s delicious and a great way to cool off from Hanoi’s often intense midday heat.
Cong Caphe

Address: 32 Điện Biên Phủ, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: Varies per branch
What to Order: Ca phe cot dua (coconut milk with coffee)
Expect to Spend: About VND 45,000 (small) / VND 59,000 (large)

Banh My Tram

If you’re hungry at this point, then you may want to have a banh mi for lunch. Like pho, banh mi is a Vietnamese national dish and one of the most recognizable foods in Vietnamese cuisine.

Strictly speaking, banh mi refers to bread, but people use it to describe the sandwich made with a small French baguette split lengthwise and filled with a variety of ingredients like liver pate, cold cuts, pickled vegetables, and cilantro. It’s delicious and one of my favorite things to eat in Vietnam.

Though Hanoi isn’t as known for its banh mi as Hoi An or Ho Chi Minh City, they’re still pretty darn good and perhaps better than most banh mi you can find outside of Vietnam.

I’ve had banh mi at many different places in Hanoi and Banh My Tram is one of my favorites.
Banh mi at Banh My Tram

Address: 252 Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm, Cửa Nam Hoàn Kiếm Hanoi, Vietnam
What to Order: Banh Mi pate
Expect to Spend: About VND 25,000 per banh mi

Temple of Literature

After polishing off your banh mi, head west to the Temple of Literature, one of Hanoi’s most popular landmarks.

Built in 1070, the temple once hosted the Imperial Academy which is Vietnam’s first national university. The Imperial Academy was established within the temple in 1076 to educate Vietnam’s royalty, nobles, and other members of the elite.

The Temple of Literature is remarkably well-maintained and makes for a nice, relaxing escape from the chaos of Hanoi. It’s comprised of multiple courtyards, ponds, and large landscaped gardens with plenty of trees offering shade.

Be sure to explore the buildings towards the back. It’s quieter with fewer tourists.
Temple of Literature

Operating Hours: 8AM-6PM, daily
Admission: VND 30,000
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

I’ve tried visiting this place several times but there was always a long queue of people. As its name suggests, it serves as the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s most iconic and beloved leader.

The mausoleum was inspired by Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow. Ho Chi Minh’s body lies preserved in a glass case under dim lights for viewing.

Before entering the structure, you’ll need to check your belongings then walk in a respectful manner to view the body. Stopping or taking pictures is strictly prohibited.
Thang Long Citadel

Operating Hours: 7:30-10:30AM, Tue-Thurs, Sat-Sun (closed Mondays and Fridays)
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr, depending on the queue

Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Temple is a Taoist temple built during the Ly Dynasty. Representing the north, it’s one of four sacred temples built to protect Hanoi from evil spirits. The other three are Bach Ma in the east, Kim Liem in the South, and Than Linh Lang in the west.

Quan Thanh Temple isn’t that big so make a quick stop here before proceeding to the last cultural stop on this 3-day Hanoi itinerary.
Quan Thanh Temple

Operating Hours: 8AM-5PM, daily
Admission: VND 10,000
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins

Tran Quoc Pagoda

If you follow this Hanoi itinerary to a tee, then you should arrive at Tran Quoc Pagoda before sunset when the temple is at its most beautiful.

Aside from being the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, what makes Tran Quoc Pagoda special is its location. It’s situated on a small island in the southeastern section of Ho Tay, Hanoi’s largest freshwater lake. It’s a peaceful area made even more beautiful by the golden light of sunset.

The temple closes at 4PM so you should get here before then if you’d like to explore the temple. But many people may be “templed out” at this point so I wouldn’t kill myself to get there. What’s important is the sunset view.
Tran Quoc Pagoda

Operating Hours: 8AM-4PM, daily
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins

Ca Phe Duy Tri

If you’d like to cool off with another drink before dinner, then Ca Phe Duy Tri is a great place to go after enjoying the sunset at Tran Quoc Pagoda.

Open since 1936, Ca Phe Duy Tri is a local favorite with a reputation for serving some of the best coffee in Hanoi. They’re known for their slow drip coffee and their ca phe sua chua or yogurt coffee. This was another place I learned about from this Hanoi coffee tasting tour.

If you feel like something hot, then get the ca phe den. They use the best Vietnamese beans and filter their coffee for up to twenty minutes to maximize its flavor.

If you’d prefer something cold, then a glass of ca phe sua chua is perfect. Like the coconut coffee at Cong Caphe, yogurt coffee is an iced coffee drink similar to a slushie.

Unlike other cafes, Ca Phe Duy Tri makes their yogurt in-house which is why they’re known for having the best yogurt coffee in Hanoi. It’s refreshing and delicious.
Ca Phe Duy Tri

Address: 43A Phố Yên Phụ, Yên Phụ, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 7AM-10:30PM, daily
What to Order: Ca phe sua chua (yogurt coffee), ca phe den (black coffee)
Expect to Spend: About VND 25,000

Banh Cuon Ba Xuan

For dinner, I suggest going to two places. You first stop will be Banh Cuon Ba Xuan, a restaurant speciaizing in banh cuon which is another dish associated with Hanoi and northern Vietnam.

Similar to cheong fun, banh cuon is a type of rice roll made with thin sheets of steamed fermented rice batter filled with ground pork and wood ear mushroom. They’re topped with fried shallots and often served with a side of fresh herbs, gio lua (Vietnamese pork sausage), sliced cucumber, and nuoc cham.

Banh cuon is delicious but not very filling which is why I’m suggesting it as an appetizer. Banh Cuon Ba Xuan is a local favorite and a great place to try banh cuon.
Banh Cuon Ba Xuan

Address: Dốc Hòe Nhai, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 6:30AM-11:30PM, daily
What to Order: Banh cuon
Expect to Spend: About VND 30,000 for banh cuon

Bun Bo Nam Bo Bach Phuong

If you’re still hungry after the banh cuon, then you can fill up with another tasty noodle dish called bun bo nam bo.

Bun bo nam bo is a type of beef noodle dish made with thinly sliced stir-fried beef and rice vermicelli noodles. It’s served with lettuce and topped with a host of ingredients like fried shallots, pickled vegetables, bean sprouts, and roasted peanuts.

Sweet, savory, crunchy, and a little tangy, bun bo nam bo is a delicious dish that I think most people will enjoy. Recommended to my by a local, Bach Phuong is known for serving some of the best bun bo nam bo in Hanoi.
Bun Bo Nam Bo Bach Phuong

Address: 67 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 7:30AM-10:30PM, daily
What to Order: Bun bo nam bo
Estimated Time to Spend: About VND 60,000 per bowl

DAY 3

Ha Long Bay

Two full days is enough time to see Hanoi’s highlights. For your third day, I suggest going on a day trip, and there’s no better day trip from Hanoi than to Ha Long Bay. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful destinations in Vietnam.

We went on an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay which is preferable to a day trip if you have the time. You’ll get to experience and enjoy Ha Long Bay at a more leisurely pace.

But if you’re pressed for time, then it is possible to do a day trip. Klook and Get Your Guide offer several Ha Long Bay cruises, including a few day trips. You’ll have about four hours to enjoy Ha Long Bay before making the trip back to Hanoi.
Ha Long Bay

Length of Tour: Full day

LOCATION MAP

Check out our map to help you understand where these attractions are in Hanoi and why I’ve listed them in this order. Click on the link to open the interactive map in a new window.

Map with pins

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