The Best Hanoi Itinerary And How To Spend 3 Days In Hanoi

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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If you are looking for an Hanoi itinerary, I got one for you that it has been carefully vetted. Hanoi, Vietnam’s vibrant capital, offers travelers an extraordinary blend of ancient history, cultural richness, and modern dynamism. As the heart of Vietnamese tradition and progress, Hanoi is a city where the past is cherished amidst the rapid pace of the present. From the serene lakes and shaded boulevards to the bustling streets and colonial architecture, Hanoi embodies a spirit that captivates every visitor.

This guide is not just a compilation of recommended spots; it’s a carefully curated itinerary forged from 10 days of exploration and immersion in the city’s life. We’ve visited every location mentioned and even ventured beyond to ensure you get the most authentic and enriching experience possible.

Whether you’re meandering through the Old Quarter’s narrow lanes, savoring the legendary street food, or standing in awe of the grandeur of ancient temples, this itinerary is your key to uncovering the essence of Hanoi.

Join me on this journey through Hanoi’s history, culture, and landscapes, and discover why this city is a true gem in Vietnam’s crown. I’ve condensed everything into 3 days since it’s enough to experience the city. Of course, the more you stay, the more you can do and understand about this city, so do not limit yourself!

Day 1: Hanoi’s History and Culture

Hanoi Old Quarter

This first day in Hanoi is designed to dive deeply into the city’s rich historical and cultural tapestry, providing a foundation for the following days. Each visit and activity has been chosen for its significance and ability to convey the essence of Hanoi, ensuring that you leave with a deeper understanding and appreciation of this enchanting city.

Morning: Visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex

Starting your Hanoi journey with the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex offers a lesson in Vietnam’s history and a profound insight into the reverence for Ho Chi Minh, the nation’s founding father. Nestled within well-manicured gardens, this site houses the mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House, and the One Pillar Pagoda – each a testament to the country’s past and path to independence. Dress respectfully and plan to arrive early, as the complex attracts many visitors keen to pay their respects. The serene atmosphere provides a moment of reflection on Vietnam’s journey, making it a must-visit for those looking to understand the heart and soul of the nation.

Afternoon: Exploration of the Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is the pulsating heart of Hanoi, where the city’s vibrant street life unfolds in a maze of streets dedicated to a specific trade. Here, history, commerce, and culture intertwine, offering visitors a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells. Walking through the Old Quarter, you’ll encounter shops selling everything from silk to street food, each turn revealing another layer of Hanoi’s complex identity. Sampling the street food is an absolute must – dishes like Pho, Banh Mi, and Egg Coffee showcase the depth of Vietnamese cuisine. The area’s architecture, a blend of Vietnamese design with French colonial influences, tells the story of a city that has evolved over centuries yet retained its unique character.

Evening: Water Puppet Show at Thang Long Theatre

Conclude your first day in Hanoi with a visit to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, a cultural delight that brings to life traditional Vietnamese stories through the unique art of water puppetry. This performance, set over a pool of water, showcases skilled puppeteers controlling the puppets behind a screen, creating a mesmerizing spectacle accompanied by live folk music. This art form, originating from the rice paddies of northern Vietnam, is a testament to the creativity and cultural richness of the Vietnamese people. The stories, often depicting rural life and historical legends, are a captivating introduction to Vietnam’s folklore, making this an unforgettable experience.

Day 2: Art, Museums, and Lakes


On this second day, the journey through Hanoi’s art, museums, and natural beauty provides a balanced perspective of the city’s past and its pulsating present life. Each activity is selected to ensure a rich tapestry of experiences, leaving you with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation of Hanoi’s cultural landscape.

Morning: National Museum of Vietnamese History

Begin your second day with a visit to the National Museum of Vietnamese History, where Vietnam’s story unfolds from prehistoric times to present. This museum, housed in a striking French colonial building, offers an expansive collection of artifacts that bring to life the richness of Vietnamese history. From ancient bronze drums and royal decrees to photographs and items from the Vietnam War, the museum provides insightful analysis and a comprehensive overview of the events that shaped the nation. Spending a few hours here educates and deepens the connection to Vietnam’s vibrant culture and resilient spirit.

Afternoon: Leisure Time at Hoan Kiem Lake

After immersing yourself in history, enjoy a leisurely afternoon at Hoan Kiem Lake, the serene heart of Hanoi. This picturesque lake is a natural wonder and a social hub, surrounded by gardens, temples, and cafes. Sitting on a small island connected by the iconic red-painted wooden bridge, the Ngoc Son Temple offers a peaceful retreat amidst the city’s hustle. The lake’s surroundings are perfect for people-watching, enjoying a tranquil walk, or simply relaxing with a book. It’s a reminder of the calm that exists within the city’s dynamic rhythm, offering a moment of reflection and rejuvenation.

Evening: Art Galleries and Cafés

Hanoi’s art scene is as dynamic as its history is long, and the evening is the perfect time to explore contemporary galleries showcasing the work of both established and emerging Vietnamese artists. Districts like Hanoi Creative City and streets around the Old Quarter are dotted with galleries, each presenting a facet of Vietnam’s modern artistic expressions. Following the gallery visits, unwind in one of Hanoi’s trendy cafes. The city’s coffee culture is renowned, and places like Café Pho Co offer not just delicious Vietnamese coffee but also stunning views of the lake, making for a perfect end to your day.

Day 3: Day Trips and Nature

Ha Long Bay

Embarking on day trips from Hanoi offers the perfect blend of adventure and tranquility, showcasing the natural beauty and cultural heritage that surrounds Vietnam’s capital.

Ha Long Bay Day Trip

A visit to Ha Long Bay is a must for any traveler to Hanoi. Known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped with rainforests, Ha Long Bay are a UNESCO World Heritage site and a marvel of nature. Opt for a day cruise to explore the bay’s iconic spots, including floating villages, caves, and secluded beaches. The surreal landscapes here starkly contrast to Hanoi’s urban vibrancy, offering a peaceful retreat and a chance to connect with nature’s undisturbed beauty. Though a few hours long, the journey to Ha Long Bay is an opportunity to see the Vietnamese countryside unfold.

Our advice
We used Hanoi as a basis to travel to Ha Long where we spent 2 days and 3 nights on a cruise. We felt that in this way we didn’t have to rush the visit and ended up booking a cruise to Cat Ba instead of Ha Long. In this way we’ve admired Ha Long and a more quiet version of it, without the many people and boats stopping only to Ha Long.
The best Ha Long Bay cruises

Alternative: Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh

For those looking to explore the majestic landscapes that define Vietnam, Ninh Binh offers an exceptional choice. Often referred to as “Ha Long Bay on Land,” Ninh Binh captivates with its dramatic scenery of lush green fields and towering limestone karsts. The highlight of a trip to Ninh Binh is a serene boat ride through the Trang An Grottoes, where you’ll navigate through tranquil waterways, under natural tunnels, and around pristine temples. Another must-visit spot is the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, offering a historical backdrop against stunning natural vistas. Ninh Binh’s serene beauty provides a peaceful escape from the bustling city and a chance to witness the tranquil side of Vietnam’s natural heritage. This destination combines the allure of historical sites with the breathtaking beauty of nature, making it a perfect day trip from Hanoi for those seeking both tranquility and adventure.

We took a day tour to Ninh Binh from Hanoi and it was truly remarkable: we got picked from the hotel and visited Hoa Lu, once capital of Vietnam and Mua Cave and rode a boat through the Tam Coc caves. If you want to do the same, I recommend you book this highly rated tour which includes all the stops above.

Culinary Journey Through Hanoi

No visit to Hanoi is complete without delving into its renowned culinary scene. The city’s streets are alive with the aromas of local dishes that tell the story of Vietnam’s rich culinary heritage.

Street Food in Hanoi

Hanoi is a street food paradise, where dishes like Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), and Cha Ca (turmeric fish with dill) are not just meals but cultural experiences. A stroll through the Old Quarter’s food stalls is a must, offering a taste of authentic local flavors. Don’t miss the opportunity to try Bun Cha, grilled pork served with noodles, a Hanoi specialty beloved across Vietnam.

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Vietnamese Coffee Culture

Vietnam’s coffee culture is legendary, and Hanoi is at its heart. Experience the ritual of Vietnamese coffee, from the strong and smooth Ca Phe Sua Da (iced coffee with condensed milk) to the unique Egg Coffee, a Hanoi invention. Cafes like Cafe Dinh offer a cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy these local creations, providing a caffeine kick and a slice of Hanoi’s daily life.

Shopping in Hanoi

Hanoi’s markets and boutique shops offer a treasure trove of local crafts, silk, and souvenirs, perfect for taking a piece of Vietnam home with you.

Silk and Souvenirs

The silk village of Van Phuc provides high-quality silk products, while the Hanoi Weekend Night Market is ideal for picking up handicrafts, jewelry, and traditional Vietnamese items. Bargaining is part of the experience, adding an element of fun to your shopping adventures.

Add this Hanoi itinerary to your Vietnam itinerary: choose between our 5 Days In Vietnam itinerary or our 10-Day Itinerary In Vietnam.

Night Markets

Hanoi’s night markets, particularly in the Old Quarter, transform the city after dark into a vibrant bazaar, where locals and tourists gather to shop, eat, and soak up the lively atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to sample local snacks, find unique gifts, and witness Hanoi’s dynamic night scene.

Practical Tips for Travelers

To make the most of your Hanoi itinerary, here are some practical tips to enhance your journey:

Accommodation Choices

From luxury hotels to charming hostels, Hanoi offers a range of accommodations to suit every budget. Staying in the Old Quarter keeps you close to major attractions and the city’s culinary heart.

Our advice
We organized all our accommodations in Hanoi via, drawn by its user-friendly approach and flexible options, such as the ability to cancel at the last minute. Whether you’re looking for hostels, apartments, hotels, or villas in Hanoi, the platform provides a wide range of choices to fit any budget, allowing you to plan your trip affordably or with a bit more luxury.

Transportation Insights

Navigating Hanoi is an adventure in itself. While walking is the best way to explore the Old Quarter, taxis, ride-sharing apps, and cyclos are available for longer distances. Consider renting a bicycle or scooter for a truly local experience, but be prepared for Hanoi’s bustling traffic.

Save on accommodation, flights, activities and WiFi for your Hanoi itinerary using our comprehensive set of resources that we always use when traveling:

Flights Book your flights with Booking. Compare prices to find your ideal flight.
Booking Use for hotel reservations. Check prices, and reviews to identify the best hotel.
Airalo Buy your SIM in advance through Airalo. With their eSIMs, you can connect instantly upon arrival. Avoid data roaming costs.
Klook Rely on Klook for ticket purchases. Skip queues, or plan unique experiences during your holiday. It's a great resource.
Klook Utilize Klook for car rental prices. Find the best deal for your travel needs. An easy solution.
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Enjoy This Hanoi Itinerary

This Hanoi itinerary is designed to immerse you in the best that Hanoi offers, from its historic sites and cultural experiences to the natural wonders that lie just beyond the city. Each day, you’ll discover the layers of Hanoi’s charm, leaving with memories of a city as rich in history as vibrant in spirit. Whether you’re exploring ancient temples, savoring street food, or taking in the breathtaking scenery of Ha Long Bay, Hanoi promises an adventure that captivates and delights.

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