So you’ve just arrived in Hanoi, and you’re strapped for cash and even more for time. The clock’s ticking, and you have but a day to see it all. Well, fret not! Getting around isn’t as hard as you think, and there is something for everyone in this beautifully charming city. With Hanoi one day tour, the next 24 hours you spend here will might grab you and never let go. Lucky for you, we at xpath.co have prepared this handy little Hanoi City Tour guide with the best places to explore, eat and drink in one day.
Getting to the city
Most visitors arriving at Noi Bai International Airport first wonder how to reach the city. With a dizzying array of taxi drivers, private cars and vans to choose from, you might easily get ripped off . Moreover you would end up dishing out anywhere between 15-20 USD to head downtown. The locals recommend opting for the speedy airport buses. After clearing immigration, there are rows of currency exchange counters to change your money into Vietnamese Dong. And most also provide SIM cards too. It would be wise to exchange just enough money here and then the rest in the city. Simply exit the airport, turn right and you will see a bus heading downtown. Hop into bus number 86 and you’ll be in the Old Quarter within an hour costing a mere 30,000 dong, which is just over 1 dollar USD.
Arriving the historic, age-old Old Quarter is akin to stepping back in time. You’ll be hit by the sight, the sounds and the smells all at once. The scent of the crisp, Southeast Asian air, the sounds of countless motorbikes honking their way past you and the sight of rows upon rows of quaint looking hotels, restaurants and bars, as well as people shuffling around puts the streets in constant motion. Sensory overload would be an understatement. Each street hones its own level of personality. And it isn’t hard to get lost around here. From the center of the Old Quarter, the best place to exchage money is at any gold, silver or jewelry shop. They accept most currencies and their rates are infinitely better than the ones at the airport. After doing so, a good place to start the tour is the local market.
What to see
They say the best way to get to know a city is to visit the market. No better exception is Đồng Xuân Market, located within Hoàn Kiếm District. Dating back to 1889, this market was almost destroyed by a fire back in 1994 but has since been restored. It offers travellers an unadulterated glimpse into all things Vietnamese. Prepare to be struck by the sheer array of stalls selling anything from clothes, herbs, foodstuffs, household items and electronic goods. It’s a great way to instantly dive right into the supply hub of the city. Should you decide to purchase something, be sure to bargain at least 30-50% off the original price.
Next, walk to Hoàn Kiếm lake, which is home to the Ngọc Sơn temple. There is a stunning crimson connecting bridge that links people from the lake to the temple, known as the Welcoming Morning Sunlight Bridge. This wondrous, enchanting lake resembles something out of an unexplainable dream. It’s the one place the people of Hanoi frequent in search of a nice walk and a breath of a fresh air.
Along with Ngọc Sơn temple, meaning Temple of the Jade Mountain, visitors are often impressed by the mysterious, aged and very historic temple sitting right in the middle of the lake itself called Turtle Tower or Tháp Rùa. It is lit up at night in dazzling orange lights, akin to some sort of a structure floating amidst the shimmering water. It all makes for a picture-perfect location to snap away, and an opportunity to revel in the history surrounding the whole vicinity.
Another great place to experience more of Hanoi’s history is to head to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Known as the final resting place of Vietnamese Revolutionary Leader Ho Chi Minh, this historical structure is located a bit further out from the Old Quarter so you can either choose to walk there, which might take over half an hour, or hail a taxi or a motorbike taxi. With the over abundance of bikes in the city, many motorists work part-time or even full-time as drivers and are happy to drive you wherever you’d like. Download the Grab app, select ‘GrabBike’, input your location and destination and a driver should be there with you in 5-10 minutes.
What to eat
Surely, all this walking has got to make you hungry. If you are, you might as well be hungry in Hanoi. Hanoi is home to some of the best food in Asia, and you don’t have to walk far to sample some authentic cuisine.
The Old Quarter itself has a plethora of goodies lying in plain sight. Friendly vendors cook and serve fresh, tantalizingly amazing food right before your eyes. Wonders such as Phở, Vietnamese rice noodles in broth or Bánh mì, a French Baguette stuffed with meat and vegetable, Bánh xèo, bean sprouts wrapped in eggs and rice paper or Bún Chả, noodles that are dipped in a mouth-watering savory meat-filled soup – just to name a few! Simply go up to any vendor and relax on a tiny chair and table, taking in the traffic and people.
Vendors provide limes, chilies, vinegar and chili sauce at each table to help elevate your dish to your level. Along with wooden chopsticks, metal spoons and a box of tissues, it’s as though the vendors know you’ll be crying tears of joy after the meal. A bowl of Phở will cost anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 dong.
But for your money, we recommend Bún Chả. Picture the most tenderly grilled pork and immaculate pork patties in a succulent warm broth fully complementing the meat, served with rice noodles and raw vegetables on the side. It’s a three way streak here. It’s a dish that requires you to throw your noodles into the heavenly broth. Then you swirl it around before scooping it back up along with meat and veggies and thus, stuffing oneself. It is a culinary delight that one must simply experience to truly understand.
The restaurant most famous for this prized dish is Bún Chả Hương Liên, located on 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Barack Obama himself ate and enjoyed the exact same dish along with TV show host Anthony Bourdain back in May 2016 and was quoted as saying “this is killer, this is outstanding” while munching away. Trust us, it’s that good.
What to drink
If you’re feeling sleepy or tired, don’t worry because Hanoi has got you covered. Its most famous and renowned egg coffee or Cà Phê Trứng is the city’s pride and joy. You might be asking why it’s so famous!
Legend has it that one night in the 1940s, local resident Mr. Giang ran out of milk at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel to serve with the coffee. Instead he used a concoction of egg yolks and condensed milk to make. Hundreds of eateries have incorporated this celebrated recipe inot their menus, and we recommend heading to Giảng Cafe, located on 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân to try it. It might change the way you view your morning cup of joe for the better.
Where to go at night in Hanoi
You might then wonder what to do at night in this manic city. Well if you’re still hungry and thirsty, then memorize these three words: Bia hơi Corner. Smack in the middle of the Old Quarter, this part of town truly comes to life at night, as locals and travellers alike congregate together along Tạ Hiện Street to sit back on plastic stools and knock back Hanoi’s famous Bia hơi Beer. Priced at an outrageously affordable 5000 dong, this relatively mild and smooth draft beer is poured straight from the keg and consumed in vast quantities until each bar runs out.
The local Vietnamese enjoy ordering fried food to go with the drinking, such as deep fried chicken feet, fried pork, fried chicken joints or Nem Phùng which is pork skin wrapped in leaves. With several bars and restaurants to choose from, you shouldn’t have to walk too far to find a spot . If you feel like dancing the night away, head to club 1900 Le Théâtre, arguably Hanoi’s most famous night club which plays the best floor-rattling bass music to properly top off your crazy night in Hanoi.
With so many things to do in Hanoi, we hope you find this guide helpful for your Hanoi one day tour!