Hanoi is a busy, bustling city that’s guaranteed to excite you — but also maybe overwhelm you, especially if you only have 24 hours to see the sites. To help you navigate the streets from old town to downtown, here are the top tips from our local Hanoi tour guides on making the most of just 24 hours in Hanoi.
Have breakfast the local way! Head to the old quarter and order up some banh cuon (a roll made with rice sheets and filled with meat, typically pork) or chả quế (cinnamon pâté). Or go anywhere for a traditional bowl of beef noodle soup or sticky rice — all of it the perfect fuel to keep you going as you explore the city. From there (or maybe even before breakfast), head to Hoan Kiem Lake for a bit of quiet time before the hectic pace of Hanoi gets underway. Feeling energised? Join the locals exercising in the early morning hours. You might catch up with a group practicing Tai Chi or even a few dance moves. Alternately, head to Ba Dinh Square, next to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, for the daily flag raising ceremony.
Time to see the city sites! Maybe head to the museums (we recommend the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and National Museum of Vietnamese History) or Trấn Quốc Pagoda, which is the oldest pagoda in the city (dating back to the 6th century). All of these are great places to better understand the cultural history of Hanoi, and of Vietnam as a whole.
Or, if you’d rather spend some more time outdoors, take a cycling trip around the West Lake (known in Vietnamese as Hồ Tây) or to the outskirts of Hanoi to visit the Quảng Bá flower market.
Head back to the old quarter for a local lunch — you’re guaranteed to find delicious food pretty much everywhere in Hanoi, so you won’t be hard pressed to find a place to eat (rather, the hardest part will be narrowing down your options!). To help you shorten your list, we recommend ordering some chả cá (a famous Vietnamese fish dish made with turmeric and dill) on (where else?) Cha Ca Street, or bún chả (a noodle dish with grilled pork) on Hang Manh Street.
Hop in a taxi and head out of town to the Vạn Phúc silk village. Here you can visit with local artisans, learn about the process of creating silk cloth products, and, of course, buy a few souvenirs to take home.
Again, time to dig into that delicious Vietnamese cuisine! Try any of the restaurants in the old quarter, or go really local and grab some food right on the streets. If you’re in town on a weekend, there’s a night market on Hang Dao Street (in the old quarter) from Friday to Sunday.
Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying it — Hanoi is intense. Think street vendors calling, horns honking, and webs of traffic like you’ve never experienced. But dig beneath the crowds and chaos and you’ll find an enchanting city where a rich history melds with a complicated modernity. From Parisian architecture to busy markets to ancient temples to Communist landmarks, Hanoi has it all wrapped up in a package of sensory overload. Explore the city on a Hanoi tour and get the local scoop on this much-loved destination.