During a recent trip to Vietnam, my friends and I had a day to spare in Hanoi before catching a train to Sapa. Here’s our Hanoi itinerary and the highlights of what we covered in a day.
Overview of this Hanoi Itinerary
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
As its name suggests, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum stands as a tribute and houses the body of the revered leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh.
The mausoleum does not open daily and there are strict rules to adhere to when entering, namely — no photography and videography, and that shoulders and knees have to be covered. When the mausoleum is open, there will also be long queues to enter, which will likely take 30 – 40 minutes.
Update June 2023: the mausoleum is closed from 12 June 2023 to 14 August 2023 for annual maintenance.
If you’re unable to enter the mausoleum, there are other historical sites around the area, such as the Ho Chi Minh Museum, One Pillar Pagoda.
Opening hours: 7am – 11.20 am (days vary)
Entrance fee: Free
One Pillar Pagoda
Resembling a lotus, the national flower of Vietnam, the One Pillar Pagoda is built on a single stone pillar in a lotus pond and is right behind the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This is a religious site, so make sure to be dressed appropriately when visiting, which means that your shoulders and knees are should be covered.
Opening hours: 7am – 5pm
Entrance fee: Free
Ho Chi Minh Museum
A short walk from the One Pillar Pagoda, the museum is a tribute to the leader and father modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and consists of exhibits recounting his life, from his youth to his political life.
Opening hours: 8am – 11.30am, 2pm – 4.30pm daily except Mon and Fri; 8am – 12pm on Mon and Fri
Entrance fee: 40,000d
Address: 19 P. Ngọc Hà, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
The Presidential Palace is where President Ho Chi Minh lived and worked between December 19, 1954 and September 2, 1969, before moving into a small stilt house. Today it is used mainly for important meetings such as hosting foreign diplomats. While you can’t enter the Presidential Palace, you can explore the grounds.
April – October: 7.30am – 11am, 1.30pm – 4pm
November – March: 8am – 11am, 1.30pm – 4pm
Entrance fee: Free for locals, 40,000d for foreigners
Address: 2 Hùng Vương, Ngọc Hồ, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 118708, Vietnam
Bun Cha Huong Lien
Bún chả Hương Liên, also known as “Bun Cha Obama”, gained its famed after Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain visited in 2016. We of course, had to see what the hype was about and what drew the stars to this location.
It was a small eatery but my attention was immediately drawn to the rubbish spilling out of the bins underneath the metal tables when I entered the shop. The service was appalling and the staff also looked like he did not want to be there, but hey let’s give him the benefit of doubt, maybe he had a long day.
We ordered 2 sets of Bun Cha (50,000 VND each) to be shared by the 3 of us. The portion was large and I’d say it’s sufficient for the 3 of us. Bun Cha consists of 3 portions; the noodles, a broth and herbs, and you’re suppose to dip a bit of noodles and herb into the broth, before eating them together.
Overall, the Bun Cha was decent but the broth was a bit too salty for my liking.
Opening hours: 8am – 8.30pm
Address: 24 P. Lê Văn Hưu, Phan Chu Trinh, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Temple Of Literature
The Temple Of Literature was founded in 1070 and is dedicated to Confucius. It is also considered as Vietnam’s first national university, having educated hundreds of well-known scholars back in the days. Today, it is a historical site, preserving much of its original architecture and also a place of worship where students come to pray for luck in their studies and examinations.
April – Oct: 7.30am – 5.30pm
November – March: 8am – 5pm
Entrance fee: Adults 30,000d, Student 15,000, Free for children under 15
Address: 58 P. Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam
The Old Quarters is an bustling area with restaurants and great shopping. Many foreigners come here for replica goods, especially the winter jackets, coughnorthfacecough, but Old Quarter is definitely more than that.
This active train train in a narrow alley has been attracting travellers hoping to snap a picture and the accessible section of the train street is located in Old Quarters.
The entrance to the tracks in this area is blocked by metal barricades and guards, so the only way to get onto the tracks is to follow a cafe owner through a back door. Don’t worry, there will always be cafe owners around the metal barricades trying to solicitate visitors into following them to their cafe.
It is however, not guaranteed that you will see a train pass by. This page has a list of trains that pass through train street. As a rough estimate, the train will pass through train street roughly 10 minutes after leaving Hanoi train station, or roughly 10 minutes before reaching Hanoi train station, depending on the direction of the train.
There was supposed to be a train passing by around 3pm, but we did not see any when we were there between 3 – 3.30pm, so manage your expectations as the online schedules don’t seem to be 100% accurate.
Address: 3 P. Trần Phú, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Hong Hoai Restaurant
Hong Hoai was one of the best restaurants we ate at during our trip. The service was warm and the food was good. If you do visit, you definitely have to try the pork rolled in wild betel leaf (159,000 VND). They have a beef option as well. The pork was very tasty and the staff teach you how to properly eat it — by wrapping it in rice paper with rice noodles and herbs.
The only thing to note; visit the restaurant as your last stop as you will end up smelling very greasy due to the place being enclosed.
Opening hours: 10am – 10pm
Address: 20 P. Bát Đàn, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Getting Around Vietnam
Walking is the most cost effective way of exploring Hanoi and sometimes the most time effective as well. Many attractions are in close proximity of one another so it would make more sense to walk than to wait for a taxi. Hanoi traffic is not great as well and jams are common, so walking will likely save you time. However, it can get pretty hot in some months, so be sure to stay hydrated.
Due to the traffic jams, travelling by motorcycle can save you time. However, if you’re not familiar with the area or do not have a license, you can get a motorcycle taxi. Grab and Gojek is available in Vietnam.
Taxis are aplenty in Hanoi and available on ride hailing apps as well. However, getting around by taxi may be slower than walking or motorcycles.