Travelling to Hanoi and looking for a great 1 day itinerary? From visiting picturesque Hoàn Kiếm Lake to the best markets and street food to try, all the best Hanoi attractions are here in this article.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and definitely deserves a spot on any Asia bucket list itinerary! Keep reading to check out a great 1 day travel itinerary of Hanoi if you only have 24 hours in this city!
If you will be spending more than one day in Hanoi you can check out this 4 Day Hanoi Itinerary.
1 DAY HANOI ITINERARY
Where to stay in Hanoi?
Stay in Hanoi’s Old Quarter so you will be close to all the attractions and amenities of Hanoi. Click here to book a hotel on Booking.com.
When is the best time to visit Hanoi?
Try and time your stay in Hanoi so that it falls at the weekend. In terms of which month, February to April, and October to November are the best times to visit as the rain levels are lowland the temperatures aren’t too high.
1 DAY HANOI ITINERARY
Ba Dinh Square
Visiting Ba Dinh Square first thing in the morning is a must for every visitor to Hanoi to learn about Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam’s history. Ho Chi Minh was the Nationalist revolutionary leader and President of North Vietnam from 1954 until his death in 1969.
Ba Dinh Square is the large square where Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence on September 2nd 1945, and consequently became the site of his mausoleum.
It is free to visit his mausoleum and you can even see his embalmed body (photos and videos are prohibited).
It is closed on Mondays and Fridays, but the rest of the days it is open from 7.30am to 10.30am. It can get extremely busy here so visit first thing in the morning if you wish to escape the crowds and big queues.
Military History Museum
Just a few minutes walk from Ba Dinh Square is the Military History Museum. This is a must visit museum, dedicated to the Vietnamese Army and the work they did to keep Vietnam’s independence and fight against the French and later the Americans in the Vietnam War.
Vietnam’s history cannot be ignored: there are reminders of it almost everywhere you go in the country, especially in Hanoi and Saigon. Take time before, or when you are here, to learn about the 20 year long Vietnam War (in Vietnam it is known as The Resistance War against America, or The American War).
The Hanoi Flagtower is located inside the museum and you are able to climb to the top and enjoy the panoramic view over Hanoi from here. This 200 year old World Heritage Site was one of the only ancient monuments that wasn’t destroyed by the French Colonists.
Like Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Military Museum is closed on Mondays and Fridays. The remaining days of the week it is open from 8am – 11.30am and again from 1pm until 4.30pm.
Hỏa Lò Prison
Visit Hoa Lo Prison, also nicknamed locally as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ to learn about the sufferings the Vietnamese endured here during the French rule, as well as the American Prisoners Of War (POWs).
It is a gruesome insight into the inhumane conditions prisoners were subjected to, and is told from the point of view of the Vietnamese. It is not for the faint hearted.
You only visit a small section of the prison that remains, as the rest was later demolished. Inside the prison you’ll see life size models of Vietnamese prisoners.
Life here was awful: prisoners lay side by side on concrete platforms with their ankles chained to a barre, and they were only allowed to be free of their chains for 15 minutes a day.
You can even see the death-row dungeons and guillotines here, as well as the sewer several death-row inmates escaped from.
Above the entrance to the prison are the French words ‘maison centrale’ meaning central house – a term French often used to describe city prisons.
Entrance is 30,000VND (£1) and it is open every day from 8am to 5pm. Click here to view the location on Google maps.
Lunch At Rooftop Bar By Hoan Kiem Lake
Head to Legend Beer, right on the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake (click here to see the Google maps location) for some lunch.
This place is always busy but make your way to the balcony on the top floor and grab a spare table.
Enjoy food and drinks with a view here and experience the best view in Hanoi!! The views overlooking the lake are so stunning.
1 DAY HANOI ITINERARY
Hanoi Old Town
Your afternoon is much less intense than the sights visited in the morning. Stroll around, relax and take time to explore the Old Town of Hanoi and it’s narrow streets.
The Old Town is the heart and soul of Hanoi, and whilst during the weekdays the streets are really hectic and full of motorbikes everywhere, at the weekends the whole of the Old Town is closed off to traffic and is a lot calmer. Therefore try and time your trip so you will be here during the weekend if possible!
The best way to explore the Old Town is on foot. You can explore alone, or there are many walking tours available that you can go on to get your bearings for the city – several of which are free!
There are traditionally 36 streets of the Old Quarter, each one named after which craft was practiced here years ago, for example: Medicine Street, Silk Street (Hang Gai), Tin Street etc.
The streets of Hanoi’s Old Town are packed with small eateries and you’ll see lots of portable street food stalls on the back of bicycles in the mornings. Stop and join the locals at one of the stalls.
As with anywhere in Asia, it is easy to tell where the good places are for food: look where the locals go and follow! Sit on the low plastic stools, enjoy your food and just watch the locals go about their everyday life!
The two most famous Vietnamese dishes are bánh mì sandwich and phở noodles, both of which are delicious and great value. You also need to try egg coffee. Yes, a coffee made from egg. Sounds awful right, but it actually tastes pretty good! It is a specialty from Hanoi so definitely try one when you are here!
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake) is one of the most popular places in Hanoi to visit. Stroll around the lake and enjoy the beautiful view – there are lots of beautiful trees here that make for some fantastic pictures.
Like the Old Quarter, if you visit the lake at the weekend the streets will also be pedestrianised and free from traffic.
There is the most incredible atmosphere at this time, especially in the evenings, with locals flooding the streets, people playing games and playing instruments amongst many other things. Normally the traffic around here is pretty crazy, so enjoy it!
Take the bridge across the lake to the Temple of the Jade Mountain and stroll round the small island in the middle of the lake.
During the evening the bridge is lit up red and looks really beautiful.
1 DAY HANOI ITINERARY
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
Located in the heart of Hanoi is Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, a beautiful Neo-Gothic style Cathedral built in 1886 that is easily one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Asia.
You can instantly see the French Colonial style architecture present here: evidence of the influence the French had over this city (they colonised it in the 1850’s). Similar to the Cathedral in Saigon, this Cathedral was modelled on the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Sadly, when the French retreated from Vietnam in 1954, this Cathedral became controlled by the Vietnamese Nationalists and remained closed until Christmas Eve in 1990.
The Cathedral looks better in the evening when it is lit up, which is why I suggest visiting in the evening as opposed to the day. The exterior walls have become stained by pollution and so appear dark and dirty during daylight.
With over 4 million Catholics in Vietnam, the majority of the people are predominately Catholic (due to the French colonists) and so this Cathedral is really important to the people of Hanoi.
You can visit the outside of the Cathedral at any time, but if you wish to go inside be aware that it isn’t open all day.
Usually it is only open when a mass takes place, which is at 6pm in the evenings (and 05.30 in the mornings!).
On Sundays there are roughly 7 Masses that happen throughout the day, so you’ll have a much better chance of being able to go inside if you visit on a Sunday (except between 12 and 4pm when there are no Masses).
Click here to see the Google maps location of Saint Joseph’s Church.
Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market
As mentioned above, the weekends are the best time to explore Hanoi’s Old Town, when the streets are pedestrianised and no vehicles can enter.
On Friday – Sunday evenings the streets of Old Hanoi get transformed into one giant Night Market, full of street food, souvenirs, clothing, you name it, it’s here!
The atmosphere here is really special, and you can even buy locally brewed beer (‘bia‘) and watch street performers here!
Also make sure you stroll round to Hoan Kiem Lake in the evening as the bridge here looks beautiful lit up at night.
Is Hanoi safe?
Hanoi, and Vietnam on the whole, are very safe. As long as you exercise caution like you would do anywhere else, you should be fine.
The thing most people worry about in Vietnam is the motorbikes! There are so many, it can be a bit overwhelming at first!
Crossing the road can be very daunting for some people as it seems like the scooters don’t even slow down.
But just be confident – once you start crossing the road keep going. Don’t run, just walk at a constant slow-ish pace so they can manoeuvre around you.
If you stand at the side of the road and wait for the traffic to stop, you’ll be waiting there for a lifetime, so you just have to make the plunge and go for it!