Top things to do, things to see in Hanoi – Vietnam on a 1 or 2-day trip

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I’ve lived in Hanoi capital for 3 years and already visited most of the attractions within and without the city. Hanoi is famous for its historical and traditional sites. Some notable sites include Temple of Literature – the first university of Vietnam, One-pillar Pagoda – a small pagoda with the most unique architecture I’ve ever seen, Hoan Kiem Lake with the legendary story about King Le Loi, Long Bien bridge – a “witness” of history, Hanoi Old Quater with 36 streets existing for thousands of years, or Thang Long ancient citadel – a thousand-year-old citadel, etc.

It would be a mistake when talking about Hanoi without mentioning its cuisine. The city is well-known for its beef noodle (Phở bò Hà Nội), bun cha (Bún chả – vermicelli with grilled pork balls) or La Vong fish balls, etc.

To have a comprehensive view of the city, you should spend at least 2 days discovering it: 1 day for places inside city and another day for some places in the suburb (such as Bat Trang ceramic village, Huong pagoda, Co Loa citadel, or Duong Lam ancient village, etc.).

>> Check Out 500+ Hotels in Hanoi City – Vietnam

Top things to do in Hanoi capital - Vietnam
Top things to do in Hanoi – Vietnam

Top things to do in Hanoi for a 1-day trip

If you have only 1 day and this is your first time visiting Hanoi, you should go for some major attractions. But if it is your second or third time and you have already visited those places, you can opt for other sites outside the city. The following are some main attractions in Hanoi:

– 7am. 7am maybe a bit early, but unless you start later, you will be very likely get stuck in traffic jam. The first place you should visit is Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Note: The Mausoleum is close on Monday and Friday)If the mausoleum is closed, you can stroll around and visit One-Pillar pagoda in the back of the Mausoleum. 

– 10am. Get to Tran Quoc pagoda, an ancient and sacred pagoda in Hanoi. The distance between Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the pagoda is about 2.5km (1.6 miles). You may visit this pagoda before visiting the mausoleum. 

– 10.45am. Leave for Temple of Literature, which is about 4km (2.5miles) away. If you travel on your own (by motorbike for example), you must pay attention to the one-way Quoc Tu Giam street. 

– 12am. After visiting Temple of Literature, have lunch with Bun Cha on Nguyen Khuyen street, or Pho 24 (Phở 24) on Van Mieu street. Both of them are near Temple of Literature. 

Quoc Tu Giam literature temple in Hanoi Vietnam - Top things to do in Hanoi capital - Vietnam
The gate of Temple of Literature

– 1.30pm. Visit Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (Bảo tàng Dân Tộc Học Việt Nam), which is about 8km (5miles) from the city center. There you can find information about all ethnic groups in Vietnam and their culture. 

– 3pm. Back to the center for Hoan Kiem lake and Ngoc Son temple. Here you can stroll around the lake and in the Old Quarter and enjoy unique dishes at food stalls on the street sides. Remember to be careful as you might get lost easily in the Old Quarter, the streets are of little difference.

With this schedule, you probably get back to your hotel around 6pm. 

– 8pm. There are 2 choices for the evening. 

1. Visit Night Market (near Hoan Kiem lake) and buy some souvenirs. Most goods in Night Market are from China, others are secondhand or handmade. Then, visit Saint Joseph Cathedral (Nhà Thờ Lớn or The Big Church built by the French in the early 20th century) on Nha Tho Street and try lime tea on the sidewalk.

2. Cycle or drive to Long Bien bridge, drink lime tea on the sidewalk and enjoy the night atmosphere of Hanoi.

>> Check Out 500+ Hotels in Hanoi City – Vietnam

Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi Vietnam
Hoan Kiem lake in the center of the capital

– 10.30pm. Back to your room, sleep and have a sweet dream about Hanoi 🙂 

Top things to do in Hanoi for a more-than-1-day trip

If you have more than 1 day in Hanoi, you may follow the above itinerary on the first day. On the second day, you can go gor Bat Trang ceramic village (làng gốm Bát Tràng), Ba Vi national park (vườn Quốc gia Ba Vì), Duong Lam ancient village (làng cổ Đường Lâm) or Huong pagoda (chùa Hương).

Following are some instructions for visiting Bat Trang, Ba Vi and Duong Lam village. And for Huong pagoda, a sacred pagoda in Northern Vietnam, I will talk further in another article. 

Instructions for a visit to Bat Trang ceramic village in 1 day

There are not many things to do in Bat Trang Village. To get to Bat Trang, you may use motorbike, taxi or bus. Bus is cheap but a bit difficult for foreign tourists. It would be much easier to take taxis, motortaxis or drive motorbike if you can. The following is the schedule for visiting Bat Trang: 

– 7am. Get to Bat Trang. If going by bus, you will have to travel quite far to get to the village center, where the ceramic market is located, after getting off the bus. There you should stroll around the market and buy some ceramic products. You can make small ceramic items yourself at local people’s houses for about $2/person or paint your ceramics after they dry out and take them home as souvenirs. 

The drying-out process may take one hour. During this one hour, you can do the following things:

– About 11.30am. After finishing shaping your ceramics, you should go to the market to have lunch. I like eating Bun Cha at the restaurant opposite to the market. 

Bat Trang ceramic village in Hanoi Vietnam - Top things to do in Hanoi capital - Vietnam
Visitors make ceramics in Bat Trang – Top things to do in Hanoi

– 12.30pm. At this time, your ceramic will have been dry. You should go back to the shaping place and paint your ceramic product. When finishing, continue to stroll around the village, trek to Hong river and visit the temple and pagoda in Bat Trang. 

– 2pm. Return to Hanoi.

Instructions for a visit to Ba Vi – Duong Lam in 2 days and 1 night

Day 1 

– 7am. set out to Ba Vi by going along Thang Long highway, passing Son Tay, then taking Da Chong road. Keep going until you see a signpost to Ba Vi National Park. 

– 9am. After buying ticket at the foot of the mountain, you move to Milestone 400 (Cột 400). There’s a tourism service there, so you can rent a room (if you stay overnight) and book a table for lunch. 

– 9.30am. Travel to French military zones and Base Area 600. The landscape along the road is very beautiful, especially when you travel during Da Quy (a kind of flower) season. Note: On returning, if you still have time, you may visit the Collapsed Church (Nhà Thờ Đổ) and Orchid garden.

– 11.30am. Have lunch. You may get back to Cot 400 for lunch if you have booked lunch there or eat the food you have prepared. 

– 1pm. Trek or ride to Cot 1100. Trekking will be tired but enjoyable because you will have time for sightseeing. When arriving at Cot 1100, you may choose to travel to either Ho Chi Minh temple or Tan Vien summit. I prefer the summit. The view there is very spectacular. 

Collapsed Church in Ba Vi national park vietnam
Collapsed Church

– 4.30pm. Get down the mountain and rest at Cot 400 or Tien Sa tourist resort. You should book the dinner in advance. 

– Evening. You can make campfire with other visitors and make new friends as well. 

Day 2

– 8am. Start getting to Duong Lam by coming back to Son Tay, taking a turn at Son Tay gateway intersection and getting to Duong Lam. 

– 9am. You will have to buy a ticket to enter the village. You will have to walk in Duong Lam ancient village. Some spots you should visit: Hundreds-year-old housesMong Phu templeNgo Quyen mausoleum (Ngo Quyen is a great king in the history of Vietnam), Phung Hung mausoleum and Mia pagoda (chùa Mía). 

– 12am. Time for lunch. You may book for lunch in advance when you rest at a tea restaurant in Xich Tho house, opposite to Mong Phu temple. Or you can have lunch in the market near Mia pagoda, or the village gate where you park. 

Duong Lam ancient village Hanoi Vietnam - Top things to do in Hanoi capital - Vietnam
The gate of Duong Lam ancient village

– 1pm. Visiting Va temple (đền Và), this is a beautiful ancient temple. 

– 2pm. Traveling to Son Tay ancient citadel. After that, take Thang Long highway or route 32 to return to Hanoi. 

– 5pm. Arrive at Hanoi and end the trip.

>> Related read: How to cross the streets in Hanoi | Mid-Autumn festival in Hanoi

>> Check Out 500+ Hotels in Hanoi City – Vietnam

Top things to do, things to see in Hanoi – Vietnam on a 1 or 2-day trip
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