Hanoi Itinerary – Best Things to Do in 3 Days in Hanoi

The best sights, museums, food, tours and transformational things to do in Hanoi

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Wondering how to create the perfect 3 day Hanoi itinerary? We’ve spent months in the city and been there on a half-dozen occasions, so we know a lot about what to do in Hanoi. Read on to start planning your stay in the city!

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Stephen and I have been to Hanoi at least a half-dozen times. My first trip was about 10 years ago with my Mom and my sister. Then Stephen and I returned on our world-wide bike trip in 2014. Since then, we’ve been back to teach yoga workshops several times and I once did a 3-month pet-sitting gig in the city.

Hanoi was the first Asian city I ever got to explore on my own and I loved it that first time and every trip since. Yes, it is a chaotic and noisy place but it’s also a city full of wonder. It is ancient (more than 1500 years old) and is steeped in history and culture. On top of that, modern day Hanoi is undergoing constant change and growth, as it finds its way in the 21st Century.

As a visitor, it’s important to go beneath the surface chaos and notice the small things:

  • The scent of noodle soup wafting from a street stall
  • Small children playing kickball in the streets
  • Hidden alleys that reveal the inner life of the city
stephen walking down one of the 36 streets in hanoi
Wandering the 36 streets in Hanoi, you will find endless things to look at!

Being in Hanoi is a full-on sensory experience, so allow yourself to open up to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and emotions of being in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

To ensure you get the best out of your trip to Hanoi, read on for your…

Hanoi Itinerary – The Best Things to do with 3 Days in Hanoi

Need More Vietnam Tips?
Plan your trip using our Vietnam 2-week itineraries, our guide to transformational activities in Vietnam, and our post packed with travel advice for Vietnam.

A Quick Guide to Hanoi Neighbourhoods

Before you start planning a Hanoi itinerary, it helps to familiarize yourself with the main areas of the city.

Hoan Kiem (Hanoi Old Quarter)

hanoi city centre
Though Hanoi is quickly modernizing, it still managed to retain its old world charm.

In the centre of the city, Hanoi Old Quarter is the place where most tourists stay on their first visit to the city. This district contains everything that makes Hanoi utterly distinct from any other city. If it’s your first time in town, I highly recommend staying in the Old Quarter, so you can easily walk the 36 streets, wander around Hoan Kiem Lake, and be close to many of the city’s best places to eat.

If you want to stay near the Old Quarter but not right in the centre of the mad buzz of the city, book a room in the French Quarter (west of Hoan Kiem Lake) or the area around St. Joseph’s Cathedral (east of Hoan Kiem Lake). You’ll find slightly quieter side streets here but it’s still an easy walk to the centre.

Tay Ho

sun setting over west lake in hanoi
If you want to hang out where the expats do, make a trip to Tay Ho. Time it to catch a pretty sunset over West Lake.

Known as the expats area, Tay Ho District is home to West Lake, the perfect place to go for an early morning run. It’s also where you’ll find some of the most upscale and modern amenities in Hanoi.

If you’re wondering what life is like for expats in Hanoi, or you just want to be away from the frenetic energy of Hoan Kiem, book a room in Tay Ho.

Ba Dinh

This is the district south of West Lake and has many of the sights you’ll probably want to see in Hanoi, like Ho Chi Minh’s Masoleum, the Temple of Literature, and One Pillar Pagoda.

There aren’t as many options for hotels and restaurants in this neighbourhood but there are still quite a few good options if you want to stay away from the noisy centre.

Hai Ba Trung

If you’re looking for an area where you’ll find a less touristy and more local vibe, check out Hai Ba Trung neighbourhood. There are plenty of leafy lanes, cool cafes, and trendy Airbnb’s to satisfy a tourist’s need but without the hectic nature of the city centre.

If you love clothing and fashion, you’ll want to stay near Pho Hue and Ba Trieu, two streets known for their wide range of fashion shops.

Where to Stay in Hanoi

If you read our guide to Hanoi neighbourhoods above, you’ll know that we recommend staying near the Old Quarter, since that’s the heart of the city.

There are literally thousands of places to stay in Hanoi, ranging from $3/night hostels to 5-star hotels. We’ve stayed many times and have found a few places we always recommend.

hostel bunk beds hanoi
Hostels in Vietnam tend to be very cool. Old Quarter View hostel in Hanoi is no exception.

Hostel: Little Charm Hanoi, 9.4, elegant European-style, comfy beds, great common areas, from $9
Hostel: Old Quarter View, 9.3, bright funky hostel, comfy beds, spotlessly clean, from $7
Budget: Graffiti House Old Quarter, 9.2, minimalist style with mural walls, from $31
Boutique: La Storia Ruby Hotel, 9.5, exceptional service, large rooms, from $40
Apartment: Centraltique Downtown, 9.6, enchanting rooms in an art-deco colonial tube house, from $40
Luxury: Acoustic Hotel & Spa, 9.5, great staff, gorgeous rooms, rooftop bar and jacuzzi, from $66

Need More Hanoi Hotel Ideas?
Our guide to where to stay in Hanoi has got you covered.

How Many Days Do You Need in Hanoi?

How many days is enough in Hanoi? The answer really depends on your travel style.

  • If you can’t get enough of busy cities, cute cafes, and dazzling restaurants – all with a good dose of culture and history mixed in – then you’ll want to spend at least 3 days in Hanoi and leave a couple of days for side trips from the city.
  • If you hate crowds and noise and yearn for the peace, quiet, and beautiful views, then limit your time in Hanoi to one day. There are many nearby places that will suit you better.
  • If you like a bit of both, like we do, then 3 days in Hanoi is ideal. This will give you time to see the main sights and soak up the vibes, before heading off to Vietnam’s more remote locations.

What’s the Best Time to Visit?

The great thing about the Hanoi, unlike much of Vietnam, is that it actually has weather beyond hot, hotter, and hottest. In fact, during Hanoi’s winter months, it can get very cool. As I write this, in the middle of the day in late January, it is currently only 17 degrees Celsius (63F) there.

Because of this, there are definitely better and worse times to head to Hanoi. However, we have been there at all different times of year and had lots of fun, hot, cold, or in between.

vietnam travel advice
It does get cold in Hanoi so if you’re looking for a summery holiday plan accordingly!

High Season

Spring, from February to April, and fall, mostly October, are the busiest times of year in Hanoi.

This coincides with the best weather. During these months, it is cool (around 23 degrees), but not rainy, in Hanoi. This makes it pleasant and easy to walk around and visit the sites without getting overheated or soaked.

Low Season

Summer, from May to September, is probably the worst time of year to visit Hanoi. It gets brutally hot (in the mid-30s) and is also rainy, which adds killer humidity to the mix. Stephen often recalls being in Hanoi one August when he had to shower at least 4 times a day just to feel half-human!

Winter, Christmas and New Year’s

December and January are the coldest months in Hanoi and therefore perfect if you can’t stand any kind of hot weather. The temperatures can drop to as low as 10 degrees Celsius. Winter in Hanoi can get busy, especially during the holidays, so book ahead if you plan to stay over Christmas or New Year’s.

Another consideration is that some of the nearby attractions, like Ha Long Bay and Sa Pa can be a bit inhospitable in the winter – think lots of fog, rain, and even some snow in the mountains. So if they’re on your bucket list, take note!

Travelling in Winter?
Here’s everything you need to know about travelling in winter in Vietnam.

The Story of Hanoi

The area around what is now known as Hanoi (or Ha Noi) has been a settlement since prehistoric times. It first became the capital of Vietnam in 1010 and continued as the capital for hundreds of years, up until the early 1800s. However, it didn’t actually get its modern-day name until 1831, when the Nguyen Dynasty started calling it Ha Hoi, meaning “between two rivers”.

In the early 1900s, Hanoi became the capitol first of occupied French Indochina and then for the Japanese occupation that lasted from 1940–1945.

colonial building in hanoi
When wandering Hanoi, look up to see some of the most striking architecture.

After some power struggles with the French in the second half of that century, Hanoi became the capitol of Ho Chi Minh’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Hanoi was heavily bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam/American War and was badly damaged. After the war, Hanoi became the capital of all of Vietnam once again.

Despite its checkered history and the building boom that has taken place since the 1990s, Hanoi still retains its colonial charm, and is steeped in culture, history, and religion, including more than 600 pagodas. Unlike Ho Chi Minh City, which often just feels like any huge city around the world, Hanoi has a distinct character and atmosphere.

Anyone who has been would instantly recognize it if dropped (by magic) into the city centre.

With Vietnam’s tourism industry booming, Hanoi continues to grow and change at a frantic pace but, at least for now, the grand character of this 1000-year-old city remains intact.

Your Hanoi Itinerary for 2 or 3 Days

Below we’ve created two suggested itineraries for Hanoi based on 2 days and 3 days in the city.

Each includes sights and activities that are explained in detail below. However, these are just our suggestions based on our interests and travel style. We encourage you to use our itineraries as a starting point and create your own perfect itinerary from the activities and sights we list below.

We like to leave lots of breathing space in our itineraries, so you can have more time to wander, relax, and reflect on the experiences you’ve had so far.

2 Days in Hanoi

Day 1

Morning: Get lost in 36 streets
Afternoon: Shopping in Dong Xuan market
Afternoon: Relax at hotel or in a cute cafe
Evening: Chow down on a street food tour

hanoi vegetarian
Trying the street food in Hanoi is a must and you’ll get much better food if you do it on a street food tour!

Day 2

Morning: Motorbike City Tour
Afternoon: Visit Vietnam Women’s Museum / or Shop at Hang Da Market
Afternoon: Get a Vietnamese massage
Evening: Go to Water Puppet Theatre

3 Days in Hanoi

Add these activities on your third day in Hanoi.

Day 3

Early Morning: Walk around West Lake
Morning: Go to Tran Quoc Pagoda
Afternoon: Adventure on Banana Island
Evening: Get inspired on the Lotte Observation Deck

tran quoc pagoda hanoi
Take a trip to Tran Quoc Pagoda on West Lake.
Going South?
Don’t miss our itinerary and guide for 2 to 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City.

Our 3 Favourite Things to Do in Hanoi

Wander the 36 Streets

Our favourite part of Hanoi, the 36 streets, is smack-dab in the centre of the city.

This used to be the trading and commerce hub for the city, with each street being named for the type of vendor you could find there. On some streets, you can still find merchants who sell the same type of goods as the craftsmen who originally started selling their wares there centuries ago.

For example, on Hang Bac Street (Silver Shop Street), you can still buy silver jewelry of all kinds. You’ll also find streets with clusters of merchants selling shoes, or kitchen wares, and there is even a bamboo ladder section.

motorbikes on the street in hanoi
The streets of Hanoi are always busy but that’s part of the charm.

Alas, many of the streets are now more dedicated to feeding and accommodating tourists than to selling traditional wares.

Still, wandering these streets, gazing up at the tall, narrow houses, listening to the street merchants hock their wares, you can almost feel the 1,000-year history of the city seeping into your pores.

Try to time your Hanoi trip so you’re there on the weekend. Many of the 36 streets plus the large thoroughfare around Hoan Kiem Lake are closed to traffic on Friday evening, and Saturday and Sunday — meaning you can enjoy the atmosphere without worrying about getting run over by an errant scooter.

Fun fact: The reference to 36 streets dates back to the 15th Century but there are way more than 36 these days, so good luck if you try and count them.

Indulge in a Street Food Tour

On almost every corner, nook, and alley in Hanoi, you’ll find someone selling mysterious looking dishes out of small stalls, carts, or tiny store fronts. Locals sit perched on plastic stools while dishes piled high with fresh noodles, herbs, and soups are served at lightning speed.

street food table in hanoi
Sitting at a little plastic table on the street for a meal is a must-do in Hanoi!

Coming to Hanoi and not tasting the street food is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.

However, our Western bellies aren’t necessarily suited to the range of health and cleanliness standards that can be found on the streets of Hanoi, and some vendors are decidedly better than others.

This is where a street food tour comes in. With a local as your guide, you can discover the very best of Hanoi’s street foods (and cater for any dietary restrictions) without the worry that comes with going out on your own.

As a bonus, you’ll learn the history of the dishes and the vendors, who are often part of a family who have been making the same dish on the same spot for generations.

Even if you only spend a few hours in Hanoi, this is the one activity you cannot miss.

Veggie in Vietnam?
Grab our comprehensive guide to finding the best vegan and vegetarian food in Vietnam.

Get Lost in the Aisles of Dong Xuan Market

If you’ve never been to a huge Asian market before, then Dong Xuan market should be at the top of your list of things to see in Hanoi. This expansive market space just north of the Old Quarter was created in 1889 and is Hanoi’s biggest indoor market.

vegetables and fruit at the market
Markets in Vietnam are always full of color and life.

Here, you can find almost anything you might want, and so many things you’ve never even heard of before. Want exotic fruits? How about baby clothes? Toiletries? Fresh flowers? Bolts of fabric? Office supplies? Scorpions in a bottle? You got it!

Don’t miss out on a chance to practice your bargaining skills – everything here can be gotten for a great price if you’re good with numbers and know how to negotiate.

Even if you’re not interested in buying, a trip to Dong Xuan Market is a chance to learn more about Vietnamese culture and the people who live in the city.

The Best Half– or One-Day Tours of Hanoi

If your time in Hanoi is limited, taking a day tour will help you see the most important cultural and historical sights with limited time. It’s not easy to find your way around this maze of a city, so having someone else help you decide what to see in Hanoi is a huge time and stress-saver.

You’ll also learn far more about this wonderful city from a guide than you would on your own.

Hanoi City Tour by Motorbike

4 hours, 4.8/5 stars, $52, book this tour

Explore the biggest sights of the city by motorbike. Don’t worry, you’ll have a driver – all you have to do is sit on the back and enjoy the ride! This tour takes you to The Temple of Literature, Hanoi Opera House, Quan Su Pagoda, and the 36 Streets, where you’ll get lunch with locals.

Amazing Morning Cycling Tour

3 hours, 4.7/5 stars, $52, book ahead

biking hanoi bamboo bicycle
You won’t get a bamboo bicycle on this tour!

Hanoi in the early morning is like a different world! Get out early on this cycling tour to see a more peaceful side of Hanoi, where women practice Tai Chi by the lake and people slurp their noodle soup on the street before bustling off to work.

This tour will take you to the morning flower market, the flag-raising ceremony at Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, and to exercise and dance with locals on West Lake. Finish the tour with a superb bowl of Pho from a local restaurant.

Hanoi Highlights Full-Day Tour

8 hours, 4.7/5 stars, $59, book this tour

If you have limited time in Hanoi, this one-day tour is a great way to see all the sights with ease. The tour starts in the morning at Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, and also goest to the One-Pillar Pagoda, the Ethnology Museum, and the Temple of Literature. After a hearty lunch, a walking and cyclo tour of the Old Quarter finishes off the day.

Find more tours in Hanoi

Best Markets in Hanoi

Dong Xuan Market

Open 7am–6pm daily

The biggest indoor market in Hanoi, the sights, sounds, and pungent smells of Dong Xuan are not to be missed. Read more about it in our Must-See Sights in Hanoi section above.

Quang Ba Flower Market

Open around 2am–noon daily

If you want to see and smell vibrant flowers from all around Vietnam, get up early to visit Quang Ba Flower Market. The narrow aisles are often packed with locals (some on foot, some on scooter) picking up flowers for their homes, offices, shops and even hotels. If you see a beautiful bouquet on display anywhere in Hanoi, it probably originated at this market.

Hang Da Market

Open 5am–5pm daily

If you want to buy clothes when in Hanoi, Hang Da Market is the place to go. This is the best market for fabrics and stylish clothing, imported from around the world. There are also stalls selling hand-picked second-hand clothing and lots of places to buy fabric if you want to get something tailored. You can also find lots of other great buys here, from paper products to fruit and freshly cooked food.

Museums & Attractions in Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Open mornings, closed Fridays, closed October & November, free

guards stand in front of the ho chi minh mausoleum in hanoi
Guards are dwarfed by the huge edifice of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Entering the square where Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum sits, you’ll feel echoes of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and its Mao Zedong monument. This Communist tribute to Uncle Ho was built against his wishes, which were to be cremated and scattered across the country he loved. Instead, lines of tourists file past daily, getting a glimpse of the leader in his glass sarcophagus.

Lines here can be very long and slow-moving – one of the reasons we have never entered! You will have to dress respectfully to visit the mausoleum, with your knees and shoulders covered. Also, you can’t take pictures and have to turn over your phone and cameras during the visit.

Fun fact: The mausoleum is closed in October and November so Ho Chi Minh’s body can be sent to Russia for maintenance.

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Open 8am–12pm daily, 2pm–4:30pm Tue-Thu, Sat & Sun, $2

An eclectic museum dedicated to Ho Chi Minh’s life, it covers his childhood, formative years, his entry into politics and his eventual transformation into a national hero. You can book a guided tour to make sure you don’t miss the important points or get lost in the details.

Vietnam Women’s Museum

Open 8am–5pm daily, $1.50

woman preparing food on the street
The Women’s Museum in Hanoi will give you a new appreciation for Vietnam’s women!

I have never met such smart, capable, and driven women as the women I’ve met in Vietnam. That’s why it’s so great that there’s a museum dedicated in their honour. The focus is on family life and motherhood, but there is also an interesting section about Vietnamese women during war-time and samples of traditional costumes from many of the ethnic minorities in Vietnam.

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Open 7:30am–6pm, free by donation

If you’re looking for a peaceful island amidst the chaos of Hanoi, Tran Quoc Pagoda is a place to find it. It is situated on a literal island (a tiny one) on the edge of West Lake. The pagoda is said to be more than 1500 years old, though it was originally located on the banks of the Red River and was only moved to its current location in the 1600s. The tall pillar pagoda is a Buddhist shrine and you can visit a small museum there as well.

Arrive early in the morning to have the best chance of exchanging smiles with the monks as they get their day started.

One Pillar Pagoda

Open 8am–5pm daily, free

Like the name suggests, One Pillar Pagoda is a small pagoda that rests on a single pillar in the middle of a square pond. The pagoda is designed to look like a lotus flower rising out of the lake. The pagoda is a pretty sight if not a fascinating stop, but the park it’s located in makes a nice place to stop and cool down during your day out in Hanoi.

Unusual Activities

Explore Banana Island

3 hours, free

banana island cabbage field
One of our favourite days in Hanoi was the day we went to explore Banana Island.

Want to feel like a true explorer while in Hanoi?

Then rent a bike and ride out to Long Bien Bridge. Part way across the bridge, you’ll see a place to descend onto the island below, known by Hanoi expats as Banana Island. Here, narrow dirt paths criss-cross between banana plantations, small farms and large gardens. Most of the housing here is in neatly-kept shacks and locals will wave and greet you like you’re a long-lost relative.

long bien bridge from below
During the war, Long Bien Bridge was the only bridge across the Red River, meaning it was hugely important to the French.

We loved the contrast between this quiet, green island and the madness that reigns in the rest of Hanoi. The city’s museums and pagodas have nothing on this.

Make Your Own Knife

3 hours, 4.6/5, $37, book now

Have you ever wanted to hammer steel into a sleek, sharp blade, ready for anything the world throws at you? Well, just outside Hanoi, you can. Visit a traditional blacksmith’s village where one of the local tradesmen will show you how to forge and sharpen your own blade.

You’ll come away from the class with a head full of ideas and your own hand-made knife!

What to do in Hanoi at Night

Water Puppet Theatre

Afternoon & evenings daily, 1 hour, $5, book tickets

water puppets vietnam
In the evening, one of the most popular things to do is see a Water Puppet show.

I’m ashamed to say we’ve never been to a water puppet show! It’s a traditional Vietnamese art form and one of the biggest attractions in Hanoi. According to others who have been, the show is entertaining and funny but the real highlight is getting to watch and listen to the musicians at work.

Hanoi Opera House

Open for performances, prices vary

Built in the early 1900s by a pair of French architects, Hanoi Opera House is hard to miss if you get out and about in Hanoi. Its imposing Neo-Classical structure sticks out like a swan in a field of ducks. Plus, being at the junction of five streets means that it can feel like all roads lead to the opera house.

To see inside, you’ll have to buy a ticket to a performance. The opera house official website is a bit confusing, so it might be better to ask at your hotel if they can help you find out what’s on and book a ticket.

Lotte Observation Deck

Open 9am–10pm, $6, book online

There’s nothing quite like seeing a city from above to really appreciate just how many people are living their stories in the square miles around you. Because of that, a journey to the 65th floor of the Lotte Tower can be an awe-inspiring experience. Venture up at night for the full lights and splendour experience.

Long Bien Wholesale Market

Open 11pm–7am daily

If you’re a night owl, or if you just want to experience the weird and wonderful world of Vietnamese wholesale, stop by this market in the wee small hours. This is where market traders from around the city come to buy the goods for their stalls and shops. So if you see stall owners napping behind the counter in the afternoon, now you know why!

Hanoi Mindful & Wellness Activities

Take a Cooking Class

Times and prices vary

spring rolls at vegan zone hoi an
You’ll almost certainly learn to cook spring rolls in your Vietnamese cooking class.

Taking a cooking class is about far more than just learning to cook spring rolls and noodle soup — though you’ll get to do that too.

A cooking class in Hanoi will introduce you to the local culture through your senses of taste, smell, and touch. It will also teach you what to look for when you’re searching for your own meals in Hanoi. Plus, I’ve never left a cooking class without being stuffed full of delicious local food!

Practice Yoga in Hanoi

Times and prices vary

In the last few years, yoga has skyrocketed in popularity in Vietnam. Now, it’s hard to meet a young Vietnamese woman who doesn’t practice yoga. Our favourite spot to do yoga in the city is Zenith Yoga, an Iyengar-based studio where Stephen has taught several times. Another popular spot to practice is Om Hanoi (an offshoot of Zenith) which also houses a tasty vegan cafe.

Indulge at a Spa

Times and prices vary

woman getting a massage
Spend an afternoon relaxing at a spa in Hanoi.

There are hundreds of spas in Hanoi, mostly set up to treat visitors to a range of massages, facials, and other self-care activities. If you want to keep it simple, just ask your hotel which nearby spa they would recommend. But, for something extra-special, culturally speaking, make a trip to Huong Sen spa instead.

This famous spa caters mostly to locals, and here you’ll experience the real delights of a Vietnamese massage. As soon as you arrive, the staff takes over, getting you to strip off, soak in a perfumed bath, dip in a hot tub, and then knead, prod, and climb all over you in traditional Vietnamese massage style.

This is not a sweet relaxing massage that will send you off to sleep but it is effective and getting out the knots and stress caused by travel. Plus, it’s an exceptional window into Vietnamese culture.

Books to Read in Hanoi

There’s nothing like a good novel or gripping non-fiction book to help you really understand the heart and soul of a place. Here are a few books that would be perfect to read before or while you visit Hanoi.

The Beauty of Humanity Movement: A Novel by Camilla Gibb

the beauty of humanity movement book cover

Set in contemporary Hanoi, this novel explores the lives of three characters: Maggie, searching for clues as to the fate of her father, a dissident artist; Old Man Hu’ng, the elderly owner of a pho stall; and Tu’, an ambitious entrepreneur.

Start reading

Fishing for Tigers by Emily Maguire

fishing for tigers book cover

Ever thought of giving expat life a try? This is the story of single 30-something Mischa, who escapes an abusive relationship in the states and reinvents herself as a privileged expat in Hanoi. When she meets a much younger man, romance ensues – but along with it comes the questions of identity, morality, and what it means to be “home”.

Start reading

Paradise of the Blind: A Novel by Duong Thu Huong

paradise of the blind book cover

A heartbreaking look at what it means to be a woman in Vietnam, where subservience to men is expected, but so is strength, sacrifice, and self-sufficiency. Paradise of the Blind is a portrait of three women struggling to survive in the realities of Vietnamese society.

Start reading

Where to Go After Hanoi

One of the great things about Hanoi, and one of the reasons many tourists arrive and leave Vietnam from there, is that it’s well placed for short trips out of the city.

These are our suggestions of where to go after Hanoi.

Go West to Mai Chau

Just a short trip west of Hanoi (we cycled it in two days), Mai Chau is a great place to recover from the city’s hectic streets. It’s a small village nestled among rice fields in the foothills of the Annamites.

bicycles in the rice fields near mai chau
The rice fields near Mai Chau are something every visitor to Vietnam should see.

There, you’ll find fresh air and a slower pace of life, where you can cycle, walk, or just enjoy the green of the rice paddies. It’s also a perfect place to experience a Vietnamese homestay.

Go South to Ninh Binh / Tam Coc

If karsts are your thing, or you just like breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, then Tam Coc is a must-visit after Hanoi. It’s only an hour away by train and home to some of the most extraordinary landscapes we’ve seen.

mindful travel in Vietnam
Don’t miss a lazy boat ride in Tam Coc when you come to Vietnam.

In Tam Coc, you can take a row boat ride up the river, with a woman who will row with her feet, where you’ll see awesome karst formations, caves, and temples.

You can do Tam Coc as a day trip from Hanoi, but staying overnight will allow you the time to appreciate the quiet without all the tour groups in town!

Go East to Cruise Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay

Possibly the most famous attraction in Vietnam, Halong Bay’s karst mountains rising out of the ocean are an incredible sight to see. However, especially in high season, most travellers report that the bay is now overrun by tourist boats, making it hard to appreciate.

sun setting over ha long bay
Trips to Ha Long Bay usually start and end in Hanoi.

Nearby Bai Tu Long Bay is the better alternative, offering many of the same views, but with fewer people to ruin the fun. Spending two nights on your cruise will give you a chance to get even further away from the majority of travellers, who only stay overnight.

Most tour companies offer a return package from Hanoi which is totally worth it.

Go North to Sapa or Ha Giang

Sapa is another area that is a victim of its own success. The mountainous region has been attracting tourists since French colonists first visited and is one of the most visited regions of Vietnam.

sapa vietnam mountains
Sapa’s dramatic mountains are a beautiful backdrop to the transformational experiences you’ll have there.

Taking a 2-day trek (with a night in a homestay) is still a good way to get away from the bulk of tourists who stay in the town or just spend one day exploring the area. Whatever you do, don’t stay in the city, which is the ultimate tacky tourist haunt.

If you want to get really remote, venture even further north to Ha Giang, where locals still dress in traditional costume and only a few tourists make it that far.

Don’t Miss Our Other Vietnam Guides

We have spent so much time in Vietnam that we’ve written enough about it to publish a book. Instead, it’s all on this site for free. So make sure you take advantage by checking out these posts.

A Final Note About Things To Do in Hanoi

We truly love Hanoi and have enjoyed our many visits to the city. But, we’re not gonna lie, it can be pretty overwhelming! There is a lot of traffic and there are a lot of people, both locals and tourists. The streets of the Old Quarter are narrow and they are full of a constant stream of scooters with a few cars mixed in. Even crossing the street is an adventure!

Travelling in a place like this can take its toll faster than in a quiet environment. So when you’re planning your Hanoi itinerary, remember to leave more time and space for relaxing, sleeping, and recharging. You may see fewer big sights and attractions but you’ll enjoy yourself a whole lot more!

We hope this 2 and 3 day Hanoi itinerary is a useful starting place when planning your trip to the city. Our goal is to help every reader find the best, most transformational activities in their destination. Let us know by email or on Instagram if you have any questions about Hanoi or Vietnam.

♥  Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen

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