Planning on spending 3 days in Hanoi, but not sure what exactly to do, Come check out my 3 days in Hanoi itinerary for everything you need to know about staying in this bustling city for a couple of days. So, let’s chat about the top things to do, where to stay, accommodation, and more!
Hanoi is a huge bustling city and one of the main gateways into Vietnam. If you are planning on traveling to this magical country it is likely you will find yourself in Hanoi at some point. Though, in all honesty, this city can get quite overwhelming. It is a whole crazy experience on the senses with constant noise, movement, and interesting smells.
Nevertheless, it is somewhere you shouldn’t skip. Hanoi is a great glimpse into city life and Vietnamese culture. It also is covered in history which is super important to the country and vital you learn as a traveler to appreciate all it, and its people have to offer. Not too long ago Vietnam was covered in war and bloodshed. It has come a long way, though you will find remits of the past everywhere, and its your responsibility as a traveler to completely discover a country and its people.
As a result my 3 days in Hanoi itinerary, doesn’t just focus on sightseeing or food, but also on places that are of important historical significance to the country of Vietnam and its people. So now let’s get into how you should spend your 3 days in Hanoi, what to do, the best restaurants to visit, where to stay and my top tips to stay safe and have a great time.
How To Spend 3 Days In Hanoi: A Hanoi Itinerary For First-Timers
- How Many Days To Spend In Hanoi
- Day One Of Your Three Days In Hanoi
- Day Two Of The 3 Day Hanoi Itinerary
- Day Three Of 3 Days In Hanoi
- Hanoi Travel Tips
How Many Days To Spend In Hanoi
You will no doubt find yourself in Hanoi at some point in your Vietnam travels. The question is how long do you want to spend here? Hanoi is a huge city with so much to see and do, unless you are a digital nomad looking to settle down here for a while it is unlikely you will see all of it. Nevertheless, you can manage to scratch off some of its huge surface by spending 3 days in Hanoi.
As mentioned above this will allow you to see some of the best things to do in Hanoi and learn about its past. From museums, beautiful lakes, eating delicious food and people watching. Hanoi is a sensory overload and soon enough you will be discovering it.
No doubt you will also find yourself in Hanoi multiple times on your trip. This is simply because it happens to be an ideal starting point for multiple overnight trips to places like Sapa and Ha Long Bay. Though I will always recommend staying at least one night in Hanoi in case there are delays on the road, which can be a common occurrence in Southeast Asia.
Day One Of Your Three Days In Hanoi
On the first day of the 3 days in Hanoi itinerary, we will keep things local, assuming you are staying in the main tourist hotspot of The Old Quarter. You will be able to easily get around on foot today, though just be sure to check twice before crossing the road!
Morning- Discover The Old Quarter
Make your way to An Bread for a delicious breakfast before we start exploring some of the top sights in the Old Quarter. They specialize in street food favorites in a comfortable cafe setup. Basically providing the perfect opportunity for first-timers to try some Vietnam favorites in this country. Especially if you feel a bit daunted by the bustling street food stand or small local restaurants that only have menus in Vietnamese. Though if perhaps for breakfast you would rather have a more Western meal for breakfast try Lifted Coffee & Brunch. Here you can find favorites such as pancakes, eggs on toast, or omelets. They also specialize in delicious donuts with mouth-watering flavors.
Next up it’s time to discover some of the Old Quarter in Hanoi. Honestly, there is so much going on in Hanoi, each road you turn down will probably be an adventure. Nevertheless here are my top places to visit in the old quarter:
St Josephs Cathedral
I happened to actually be staying next door to the St Joseph Cathedral during my time in Hanoi. Though the downside was the early morning wake-up call from the bells ringing.
Nevertheless, this is a beautiful Cathedral and well worth checking out when you are in Hanoi. If you are there on a Sunday pop inside during the service and watch. We managed to do this and it was a beautiful way to check it out. Just remember to be considerate and stay quiet down the back, as to not interrupt. Also if you like you can come back at night as the whole building gets lit up.
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 – 17:00
Location: 40 Nha Chung Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Dong Xuan Market
Any market you visit in Hanoi will be a shock to the senses. Whether it is busy, noisy, or has an interesting smell, markets here are unlike anything we have back in quiet old New Zealand. It is a great place to do a spot of shopping or simply people watch.
The market is known for selling fresh produce, souvenirs, accessories, and clothing, as well as electronic and household appliances. Also on the ground floor, you will be able to find a wet market, selling all things interesting. It is actually the largest indoor market in Hanoi. If you are keen to purchase some souvenirs head up to the top floors. Just remember to haggle on prices!
Opening Hours: Daily 06:00 – 19:00
Location: Dong Xuan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Bach Ma Temple
Thought to be the oldest temple in Hanoi, Bach Ma Temple is a must-visit while in the area. This intricate Buddist temple was built by King Ly Thai in the ninth century. Originally it was located at Long Do mountain, though was relocated to the Old Quarter in the 18 century. This was in hopes of guarding the east side of Thang Long.
There is no entry fee to visit Bach Ma Temple. Though it is expected that you dress appropriately by covering your shoulders and knees in respect for the religion and monks.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 08:00 – 11:00 & 14:00 – 17:00
Location: 76 Hang Buom Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Afternoon- Hoan Kiem Lake
Wow, what a busy morning of exploring! Time for a well-deserved lunch break! There are numerous foodie options in Hanoi and no doubt you will be able to find whatever your heart desires. Though if you are unsure head to Poke Hanoi for a delicious Poke Bowl nearby to our afternoon stop of Hoan Kiem Lake. Be aware that this place is a little bit hard to find, but it is well worth the struggle. Just keep your eyes open for signage that will lead you down a small alley and up a few flights of stairs. Don’t worry you will be rewarded with delicious food and an incredible view.
Next, make the short walk across to Hoan Kiem Lake. In this place, you will find a much more relaxing and calm atmosphere than in the rest of Hanoi. Though no doubt you will find plenty of people also enjoying the peacefulness alongside you. This is a great place to people watch and to see what the locals of Hanoi get up to.
There are also a couple of places I highly recommend you visit around Hoan Kiem Lake and these are:
Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son temple is hard to miss while you are visiting Hoan Kiem Lake. This impressive temple sits in the middle of the lake and is the most visited temple in Hanoi. It was built in the 18th century on Jade Island in the middle of the lake.
Ngoc Son temple translates to Temple of Jade Mountain and was dedicated to the war hero General Tran Hung Dao. During the 13th century, he defeated an army of over 3000 soldiers which were sent by Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan.
You can access the temple over the famous Huc Bridge, also known as the rising sun bridge. It features paintings of classical Vietnamese design making it quite a beautiful design. The pagoda itself is guarded by two posts covered in Chinese writing.
Entry Fee: 30,000 VND / $1.32
Opening hours: 8:00 – 18:00 from Monday to Sunday
Location: Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
The Note Coffee
The Note Coffee is a famous cafe spot in Hanoi. Now be aware it is a bit instagramy so if that is not your style feel free to skip this option. I recommend grabbing a drink (how about an egg coffee?) and sitting down for a bit of light reading.
What makes this place special are the thousands of notes left by other visitors plastered all over the walls. Like seriously everywhere! You can find life lessons, inspirational quotes, jokes, and more spread over the building’s four stories. You can also write your own note to leave on the walls for other people to discover.
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Evening – Beer Hoi at Bai Hoi Junction
Tonight is the night you discover the nightlife of Hanoi that you won’t find in brochures at travel agencies. This is a quintessential part of any backpacker’s evenings in Hanoi. Here you will find those typical little plastic chairs and tables on the streetside filled with punters drinking the cheapest cups of beer you have ever heard of! Seriously they cost anywhere from 5000 VND to 10,000 VND / $0.22 to $0.44.
Though before you get too excited the beers only contain about 4% alcohol, so you may find you need a couple before you get a bit of a buzz. Nevertheless, luckily the prices are cheap enough they will barely even be noticeable in your backpacking Vietnam travel budget.
Also, yes I know you haven’t had dinner just yet. One of the best things about partaking in beer hoi is the numerous street food options nearby. On Hang Buom you can find plenty of Banh Mi stall which will keep you going. If this doesn’t tickle your fancy you can also kebabs and fried food for sale, any drunken person’s go-to option.
Location: Between 1 Pho Ma May and 9 Pho Ma May
Time: 5pm until about midnight
Day Two Of The 3 Day Hanoi Itinerary
Welcome to your second day on the 3 days in Hanoi itinerary. Today we will be discovering some of Hanoi’s history and testing out some local food before finishing the day doing one of the bucketlist experiences in Vietnam.
Morning- The Temple Of Literature
It’s time for another busy day in Hanoi. Now depending on how many beers you enjoyed last night will affect how you wake up feeling. Luckily a delicious breakfast is bound to help the worse of hangovers. Hanoi Coffee Station is the perfect spot for such circumstances. This popular breakfast spot will have you energized and ready to explore in no time.
Once you are ready to head off make your way to The Temple of Literature. It is about 2 kilometers from Hoan Kiem Lake. Though waiting at a lot of busy intersections can increase how long it takes to get there. As a result, you may find it more efficient to take a Grab taxi (this is basically the Southeast Asian version of Uber).
Contradictory to the name the Temple of Literature isn’t actually a temple. It was originally built as a university in 1070 for Confucius, scholars, and sages. The building has been well preserved and showcases the traditional style of Vietnamese architecture perfectly.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 8:30 – 11:30 & 13:30 – 16:30
- Address: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Van Mieu, Dong Da, Hanoi
- Price Range: VND 10,000
Afternoon- Food Tour
Now, there is no time for lunch today, because you will be eating all the delicious Vietnamese food on your food tour! Taking a food tour is a great way to discover some fantastic local spots in the city and find out about new favorite dishes. Your local guide will also be able to share some of the history of Hanoi, its people, and the local places you will be eating at.
One of the best ways to discover a new city is through its food and its people, and taking a food tour combines both of these. Prices from Get Your Guide on the photos below start from as little as $25.00 which is a bargain for a food tour!
Evening- Water Puppet Show
Now, after all that eating it is unlikely you are hungry for dinner so we will head to our evening activity, watching a Water Puppet Show. This is a must-do in Vietnam and Hanoi is the perfect place to watch one of these shows.
The Water Puppet Show has for a long time been a Vietnamese favorite. They depict scenes from life in the countryside in Vietnam by using puppets in the water. It is now put on a lot for tourists visiting the city, both international and domestic.
Be aware it will be in the Vietnamese language, but the shows are easy enough to follow long. One of the best spots for travelers in Hanoi to watch these shows is at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in the Old Quarter. Tickets can be prebooked online or purchased at the door.
Ticket Cost: 100,000 VND / $4.40
Time: Daily 15:00, 16:10, 17:20, 18:30 & 20:00
Location: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre near Hoan Kiem Lake
Day Three Of 3 Days In Hanoi
Let’s make the most of our final day of the Hanoi itinerary. Today we will learn about some more of Vietnam’s past with a museum visit, then the Instagram hotspot of train street, and then followed with the perfect ending, a delicious cocktail, and one of the best views in the city.
Morning- Museum Visit
After a bit more of a quiet evening than the night before you should hopefully wake up feeling a bit more refreshed and ready to explore. First up is breakfast. Today I recommend checking out Bancong Cafe in the Old Quarter. Their breakfast menu consists of both traveler favorites as well as popular local dishes. So no matter what you are craving you should find something here.
Next, we will continue learning about the past on this 3 days in Hanoi itinerary by checking out a couple of museums:
The Women’s Museum
Visiting the Women’s Museum is something I highly recommend doing on your Vietnam itinerary. This place showcases the feminist culture within Vietnam by featuring rare artifacts, and untold stories about how women have helped shape the country and affected its history. Here you will learn to appreciate what they have been through and the efforts they have put into protecting and building this country.
It is a super interesting way to spend a few hours and you will certainly leave with a changed perspective on the women in this country.
Entry Fee: 40,000 VND / $1.76
Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00, Monday to Sunday
Location: Number 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Maison Centrale Hanoi
One of the historical locations you need to visit in Hanoi includes Maison Centrale, also known as Hao Lo Prison or the Hanoi Hilton. This prison housed Vietnamese revolutionaries and American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. During this time up to 2000 prisoners were crammed into the buildings, housed to only hold 600 people. It is somewhere many people were tortured and executed.
Coming here you will learn about the experiences these people went through in the not-so-distant past.
Entry Fee: 30,000 VND / $1.32
Opening Hours: daily from 08:00 until 17:00 and closed for lunch from 11:30 until 13:30
Location: Hoa Lo Street
One of the most popular things to do in Hanoi is visit Train Street. This Instagram hotspot attracted hundreds of people per day pre-pandemic. This is simply a narrow bit of train track that weaves tightly between buildings in the busy city. There are numerous cafes along the tracks that you can visit and grab yourself a delicious lunch.
You may see online that many of the train street cafes shut down in 2019. Though be aware that quite a few reopened quietly in the year 2020 and have been selling to the small number of tourists visiting the area.
Evening- Visit A Skybar
Welcome to your final evening in Hanoi. Tonight, to finish off your 3 day Hanoi itinerary we will visit a sky bar for some epic views and delicious drinks. Now be aware, this will be a bit pricier than Beer Hoi from a couple of days ago. Though the views up here are much better than sitting streetside.
One of the top Sky Bars in Hanoi is Skyline Hanoi. Here you can grab dinner as well as a few drinks while you take in the beautiful views over Hoa Kiem Lake and the Hanoi skyline. Even with the views, prices here are still not on par with Western countries. Mains start at about 160,000 VND / $7.00 so it is still in a backpacker’s price range for a one-off meal.
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Hanoi Travel Tips
Now you know what to do in Hanoi I will give you my top travel tips. These will help you have a fantastic time in the city and know what to expect when you are there. Make sure to research various scams in advance, as there are numerous seemingly down every street in the city. Though don’t let this put you off as Vietnam is so cheap, if you do get scammed it is likely to be for a small amount.
For more in-depth tips I recommend checking out my backpacking Hanoi travel guide for all you need to know about this crazy city.
Safety While In Hanoi
Hanoi is a relatively safe place. Of course, there is the exception of the many scams you will find in Asian countries. In all honesty, these are common in Hanoi. Though luckily serious crime isn’t common. You just need to be aware of scams in Vietnam and petty theft during your 3 days in Hanoi.
Don’t use your phone near the roadside. A common occurrence in Vietnam is that someone will drive by with a motorbike and snatch it from your hands. If you need to use your phone to check your locate face in towards a building.
Basically don’t stop on the street if a local person starts to talk to you. I know this is a broad statement. Though the number of travelers I have seen scammed just because they stopped and reciprocated conversion is crazy. Whether they take your shoes to be cleaned and demand ridiculous prices to get back, you took a photo carrying fruit or simply purchased some donuts. It’s exhausting but unfortunately, you need to second guess people’s intentions in Hanoi.
When booking tours it can be safer to book online or through your hotel. This is simply because even though you may think you have stumbled on their offices in Hanoi, there is a chance you have not. Even though the company name and logo are on the door it doesn’t mean this is the correct spot.
Don’t drink the water out of the tap. Circle K (which happens to be around every corner) has plenty of cheap water bottles and many hostels will do free refills.
Lastly when it comes to crossing the road. be careful. Just remember you need to remember to look straight ahead and keep walking. Do not try to dodge the motorbikes, instead, you need to trust that they will avoid you.
Where To Stay In Hanoi
Hanoi is a huge city so you will have plenty of choices. From luxury 5-star resorts, locally run guesthouses, and modern hostels. Though considering you are reading a budget travel blog I will consider you are more of a reserved traveler when it comes to spending.
The area of Hoan Kiem, or The Old Quarter, is the best part of Hanoi for travelers to stay in, especially if this is your first trip. It is full of culture with temples, old gates, small alleys, and traditional shops, making it the picture-perfect spot. This is the most popular spot to stay at for travelers and it’s easy to see why.
On my last visit, I stayed at a hostel in the Old Quarter called Chien Hostel (you can click the link to read about my experience staying and what to expect of a Hanoi hostel). Though unfortunately, it has now shut down. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of affordable, but lux, hostel options in the Old Quarter. One of these is Hanoi City Backpackers Hostel. Here you can find dorm beds starting from $5.00! They all have the very important privacy curtain, personal lights, sockets, and more, a real step up from those creaky metal bunk beds!
A modern and upscale hostel. From $5.00 per night in the heart of the city.BOOK NOW
A favorite with travelers. A hostel with all the amenities, from $4.50 per night.BOOK NOW
Beautiful private rooms for $9.00 per night and in a great location.BOOK NOW
A walk from the city attractions, starting from $18.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Where To After Backpacking Hanoi
When you have finished up in the north of Vietnam in Hanoi you can easily continue your adventures in the country. I highly recommend staying a month here and traveling from north to south, or visa versa. Whether you wish to travel by sleeper bus, train, or by plane it is up to you. Hanoi has major transport links to the rest of the country and you will easily be able to get from point A to point B.
North: Why not head further north? The beautiful town of Sapa is famous for trekking the rice terraces and is on many people’s Vietnam bucket lists. You could also do the Ha Giang Loop. Also, you cannot forget the famous Ha Long Bay, which is a must for anyone visiting Vietnam.
South: Alternatively, you can head down South. Honestly, I recommend taking the train down Vietnam hitting up some of the highlights including seeing Phu Quoc, Imperial City of Hue, Hoi An, snorkel In Nha Trang, see the sand dunes in Mui Ne and the tunnels in Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam is a huge country and there are so many things to do here! This will no doubt fill up your month in this incredible country.
Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!
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Photo credit: ““Hanoi- Water Puppet Show (CC BY 2.0) by Audrey_Sel