The Perfect 3 Days in Hanoi Itinerary (2020 Edition)

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If you’re planning a trip to the Vietnamese capital, read on for the perfect itinerary on how to spend 3 days in Hanoi.

3 Days in Hanoi Itinerary
Welcome to Hanoi! Good luck crossing the street during your 3-day itinerary…

To say that Hanoi has had a tumultuous history is a vast understatement. French colonialism, Japanese occupation, and the war with the United States all resulted in massive damage to the city.

After the devastation of the American War (as it’s known here), Hanoi once again became the capital of a unified Vietnam.

These days, it’s a bustling capital city that’s home to nearly 8 million people.

The city known as the Paris of the East has a lot to offer travellers. With 3 days in Hanoi, you can check out the museums, parks, lakes, markets, and much more.

In between all of the sightseeing, you can fill up on mouth-watering Vietnamese food.

The country’s famous coffee will keep you going during the day, while its dirt cheap draught beer will fuel your nights out.

Now that you know a bit about the city and travelling there, let’s get this show on the road with a Hanoi 3-day itinerary.

READ MORE: Be sure to include these awesome things to do in Hanoi during your visit!

Hanoi street food
Street food and beers – can’t beat it!

How to Spend a Perfect 3 Days in Hanoi Itinerary

Strap yourself in and down a couple of Vietnamese coffees for an epic travel itinerary for Hanoi!

Day One

Here’s what I recommend you get up to on your first day here.

Morning – Free Walking Tour

The best way to kick off your 3 days in Hanoi itinerary is joining a free walking tour. Spending a few hours exploring the city on foot is a fun and informative way to start your trip.

Local students lead these tours to practice their English and share their city with visitors. It’s the perfect introduction to the city and a great way to meet people.

There are a few different options for free walking tours. The most popular is the half-day tour of both the Old Quarter and the French Quarter. Tours start at either 9 AM or 2 PM.

While the tours are indeed free, it’s customary to leave a tip for your guide if you enjoy the tour.

Even though the tour will give you your bearings and a good introduction, I highly recommend getting lost in Hanoi’s Old Quarter at some point during your trip!

If you prefer a personal guided tour, check out this one on Klook. It gets rave reviews!

READ MORE: Check out our complete guide to travelling in Vietnam!

Midday – Lunch and Coffee Break in the Old Quarter

That walking tour is sure to leave you hungry, which is a good thing. After all, one of the best parts about visiting Hanoi in 3 days is indulging in the local cuisine!

The Old Quarter is full of street food vendors and local restaurants.

Whether it’s a banh mi sandwich from a street corner or a piping hot bowl of pho, you can’t go wrong with Vietnamese grub.

Best of all, eating out is super cheap here. Even if you eat out for every meal during your 3 days in Hanoi itinerary, you still won’t break the bank.

Seriously – it’s possible to fill up for just a buck or two here!

If you’re feeling a bit sleepy after the tour and lunch, Vietnamese coffee is just what the doctor ordered.

My recommendation is to find a cafe with a terrace so you can order up a cup and watch the chaos of the city unfold on the busy streets below.

A cafe in Hanoi
Some Vietnamese coffee to get you going.

Afternoon – Hoan Kiem Lake

Even though you’ll see it on the walking tour, it’s worth it to do some solo exploration of Hoan Kiem Lake.

The name means Lake of the Returned Sword, and there’s an interesting legend behind it…

As the story goes, a god sent a special sword to the emperor Ly Thai To that he used to defeat the invading Chinese. One day when he was boating on the lake, a turtle came and asked for the sword back.

The emperor returned the sword to the turtle, hence the name of the lake. There’s even a Turtle Tower out in the lake in honour of the legend!

There’s plenty to do around the lake, including taking a walk on the Rising Sun Bridge over to the Jade Mountain Temple. It’s a good place to relax for a bit after a busy day.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Hoan Kiem Lake, though, is the epic people watching. Young Vietnamese kids rip it up on their skateboards while the elders practice a bit of tai chi.

On a lap around the lake, we saw couples taking wedding photos and a band shooting a music video among other things.

Taking in the sights around the lake is definitely a must on your 3 days in Hanoi.

Local musicians in Hanoi
Jamming out at the lake.

Evening – Dong Xuan Market

If you enjoy perusing local markets when you travel, then you’ll definitely want to check out Dong Xuan. This is the largest covered market in the city and it sells just about everything under the sun.

Housed in a 4-story Soviet building, this sprawling market has clothing, souvenirs, electronics, flowers, and even pets.

There’s also a wet market area where you can buy fresh produce, fish, meat – you name it.

If you’re spending 3 days in Hanoi over the weekend, stick around here to check out the night market that goes on in the street.

It’s a great place to sample more local food and catch some cultural performances.

  • Address: Đồng Xuân, Hoàn Kiếm
  • Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 6 AM-6 PM

Night – Bia Hoi

After a very busy start to your 3 days in Hanoi itinerary, it’s time for a drink! While you can find fancy cocktail bars here, I recommend starting your evening off with some bia hoi.

If you’ve never heard of bia hoi before, it’s a crisp, light beer that’s ubiquitous in Vietnam.

Kegs are delivered to small bars daily, so it’s always fresh.

In addition to being rather refreshing, bia hoi is also incredibly cheap. A glass of it usually costs about USD$0.25.

Order up a few of these and some snacks and you’ll only spend a couple of dollars.

Nightlife in Hanoi is a bit tame, as things shut down around midnight.

That’s not a bad thing, though, because we still have a lot to pack in to your 3 days in Hanoi!

Drinking bia hoi in Hanoi
Hard to beat a draught beer for a quarter!

Day Two

Hope you didn’t drink too many bia hois last night, because we have a big day planned for today!

8am – Say Hello to Uncle Ho

This wouldn’t be a proper guide on what to do in Hanoi in 3 days without including Uncle Ho. That is, Ho Chi Minh – the beloved revolutionary and politician who served as president of North Vietnam.

If you’re so inclined, you can visit the preserved body of Uncle Ho inside his mausoleum.

Vietnamese people line up in droves every day to pay their respects to the former leader.

Whether you decide to actually go inside or not, it’s still worth it to check out the building and see the crowd lined up with their flowers.

You can also see a changing of the guard ceremony here in the morning.

  • Address: 2 Hùng Vương, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình
  • Opening hours: 8-11:30 AM (closed Fridays)
  • Price: 40,000 VND
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi
The crowd lines up to visit Uncle Ho.

9am – Ho Chi Minh Museum and Stilt House

One thing you should definitely add to your 3 days in Hanoi itinerary is a trip to the nearby Ho Chi Minh Museum.

The museum is full of artifacts and photographs detailing the life of Uncle Ho. It also has some rather odd exhibits, such as one with giant plastic fruit.

I’m not sure what that has to do with Ho Chi Minh, but it’s interesting nonetheless!

  • Address: 19 Ngọc Hà, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình
  • Opening hours: 8 AM-12:00 PM, 2-4:30 PM
  • Price: 40,000 VND

You can complete the Ho Chi Minh trifecta by visiting his former stilt house.

Head to the Presidential Palace’s visitor entrance to follow the path here to see the gardens, pond, and the famous house.

  • Address: Số 1 Hoàng Hoa Thám, Ngọc Hồ, Ba Đình
  • Opening hours: 8 AM -4 PM Tuesday-Sunday, 8 AM-11 AM Monday
  • Price: 40,000 VND
Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi
Not sure what this has to do with Ho Chi Minh, but cool!

11am – One Pillar Pagoda

While you’re in the area, you might as well make a quick stop at the One Pillar Pagoda. This Buddhist temple was built to resemble a lotus – the national flower of Vietnam.

It’s a beautiful temple and all, but the crowds here can be overwhelming.

After dealing with them all morning, you’ll likely make this a short stay just for the nice photo opp.

  • Address: Chùa Một Cột, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình
  • Opening hours: 8-11:30 AM, 2-4 PM Tues-Thurs and Sat-Sun
  • Price: FREE

READ MORE: Check out our guide to all the epic things to do in Vietnam!

Afternoon – Choose Your Own Adventure

After grabbing some lunch and a coffee in the area, it’s time to choose your own adventure!

That’s right, folks – there are lots of options for what to do in Hanoi with 3 days. So many that you just can’t fit them all in.

Here are a few ideas for how to spend the afternoon on your 2nd day in the Vietnamese capital:

Temple of Literature

This Confucian temple is definitely one of the most famous sights in Hanoi. You’ll know immediately by the swarms of tourists here.

Built back in 1070, this was the site of the first university in Vietnam. Over the centuries, thousands upon thousands of the country’s finest scholars have passed through here.

Around the beautiful temple grounds, you’ll see lots of stone turtle steles with names engraved on them.

This honour was reserved for only the most successful scholars.

Chances are you’ll also see Vietnamese students, who flock here to pray for good grades.

  • Address: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa
  • Opening hours: In summer (From April to October): 07:30 AM – 5:30 PM. In winter (From October to April): 8 AM- 5 PM.
  • Price: 30,000 VND

Thang Long Imperial Citadel

Another option is the Imperial Citadel. Dating back to the 11th century, this became the 900th UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

The Imperial Citadel was the centre of political power in Vietnam for nearly 13 centuries. Unfortunately, much of it was destroyed in the late 19th century.

Excavation efforts have been ongoing and there’s quite a bit you can see here now. Plus, tickets only cost about $1.50 so it’s well worth it just to check the place out.

  • Address: 19C Hoàng Diệu, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình
  • Opening hours: 8 AM-5 PM Tuesday-Sunday
  • Price: 30,000 VND

Check Out a Museum

In this part of the city, there are a few different museums you could check out.

One is the Vietnamese Military History Museum where you can see old equipment like fighter jets and tanks.

  • Address: 28A Điện Biên Phủ, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình
  • Opening hours: 8-11:30 AM, 2-4:30 PM Tues-Sun
  • Price: 30,000 VND

Another option is the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.

Set in a 3-story colonial building, it features art from a wide range of historical periods.

This is the premier art museum in all of Vietnam so it’s well worth visiting.

  • Address: 66 Nguyễn Thái Học, Ba Đình
  • Opening hours: every day, from 8:30 AM-5 PM
  • Price: 40,000 VND
Museums in Hanoi
There are lots of great museums in Hanoi!

Water Puppets

After another yummy dinner of Vietnamese food, head to the Thang Long Theatre. Here you can catch a performance of traditional water puppetry, an art form that dates back to the 11th century.

Although the show is entirely in Vietnamese and you won’t understand any of it, this is still a fun way to kick off your evening.

Plus, tickets only cost about $3 so why not?

  • Address: 57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm
  • Opening hours: Shows at 15:00, 16:10, 17:20, 18:30 & 20:00
  • Price: 100,000 VND
Water Puppets in Hanoi
Getting ready for the puppet show!

Night – Old Quarter Bar Hopping

It’s been a jam-packed 3 days in Hanoi itinerary so far. If you’ve got any gas left in your tank, night two is the perfect time for some cheeky bar hopping.

Kick the night off with a few cheap bia hois in the street then just see where the night goes.

You may end up sipping cocktails on a rooftop, dancing to live music, or singing your heart out at karaoke.

Day Three

You’ve almost made it to the end of our Hanoi itinerary! You’re doing well, but it’s not over yet.

8:30am – Museum of Ethnology

If you didn’t stay out partying too late, you’ll want to start your third and final day off at the Museum of Ethnology.

This museum is quite the hike from the Old Quarter but it’s well worth it.

Did you know that Vietnam is home to 54 different ethnic groups? It’s OK… I didn’t, either. This museum will school you on them all with some fascinating exhibits.

While there’s a lot to see and learn inside the museum, the outside area alone makes it worth the trip.

Here you’ll find replica houses from all across the country.

  • Address: Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Quan Hoa, Cầu Giấy
  • Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, from 8:30 AM – 5 PM
  • Price: 40,000 VND
Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi
One of the many replica houses.

10am – Vietnam Women’s Museum

Perhaps you stayed out a bit too late and had a few too many the night before. It’s alright. If you don’t feel like travelling across the city, you can just visit the excellent Women’s Museum near the lake.

This is a very comprehensive and impressive museum that focuses on the role of women throughout the country’s history.

You can easily spend a few hours here taking it all in.

  • Address: 36 Lý Thường Kiệt, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm
  • Opening hours: 8 AM-5 PM Tuesday-Sunday
  • Price: 30,000 VND
Women's Museum of Hanoi
One of the many interesting exhibits.

12pm – Hoa Lo Prison

One place that’s included on just about every Hanoi 3 day itinerary is the Hoa Lo Prison.

Ironically known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” this was built by the French colonists to hold political prisoners.

During the war with the US, the prison was used to house POWs.

One of the most famous guests at the Hanoi Hilton was the late John McCain – former US Senator and presidential candidate.

  • Address: 1 Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm
  • Opening hours: every day, from 8AM-5PM
  • Price: 30,000 VND
Hoa Lo Prisin Hanoi
You definitely don’t want to check in here…

1pm – Take a Cooking Class

After spending 3 days in Hanoi feasting on amazing Vietnamese food, why not learn how to make it yourself?

With your last afternoon in town, you can take a cooking class!

BONUS – Interested in booking a tour online? Use the coupon code “NMDSKLK” on Klook when checking out and you’ll get $5 off your first booking!

Most cooking classes include a market tour where you’ll pick out the freshest ingredients.

Then it’s off to the kitchen to prepare some famous Vietnamese dishes.

Best of all, you’ll get to bring the recipe and your newfound cooking skills home to impress your friends and family!

Hanoi Itinerary Travel Guide

Now that you know what to do with 3 days in Hanoi, I’m going to share with you a bunch of other tips.

If you want to know where stay, when to visit and how to get around, read on….

When to Visit Hanoi

Since it’s in Southeast Asia, you might think that it’s warm all the time in Hanoi. That’s actually not true, as winters can get quite chilly here.

Between December and February temperatures can get down to 10 degrees Celsius.

On the other hand, summer in Hanoi can be super hot with temperatures hitting 40 from time to time. This is also the rainy season, so you can expect frequent downpours.

The best time to visit Hanoi is either in the spring between March and April or in the fall between October and November.

In these months you’ll have the best chance of pleasant temperatures and clear skies.

When planning your 3 days in Hanoi itinerary, you’ll also want to check the calendar of Vietnamese holidays.

The most important one is Tet, which is the local New Year.

Tet is the Lunar New Year, which is also celebrated in China. At this time, travelling in Vietnam can be quite intense. Tickets sell out well in advance and places are packed with people on the move.

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi
A cool and cloudy day in November.

Getting Around Hanoi

For visitors, the best ways to get around Hanoi are on foot or by taxi.

There’s no metro system here and the bus system can be quite confusing if you don’t understand Vietnamese.

If you’re staying in the Old Quarter, you can walk to most points of interest. You might need the occasional taxi to get to more far-flung places.

Even though they have meters, many drivers will try to negotiate a flat fare with you.

There’s no more Uber in Hanoi (I know – sad face), but you can download Grab, which is a similar app.

You must have a local phone number to use this service, though.

One very Vietnamese way to get around is by xe om (motorbike taxi). You just hop on the back of their bike and go, which is nice for weaving in and out of the chaotic traffic.

Once again, you may have to negotiate the fare in advance.

There are also cyclos all over the city, which are pedicabs that seat two people.

The cyclo drivers here are notorious for quoting inflated prices and ripping tourists off, so I’d skip this unless you really want the experience!

Backpacker in Hanoi
Having fun walking around Hanoi!

Where to Stay in Hanoi

There’s really not a whole to say on this topic, as a majority of travellers choose to stay in the Old Quarter and for good reason.

You have everything you need here and it’s a fun place to base yourself.

There are tons of options for accommodation, shopping, dining, and nightlife in this area.

Staying here, you can easily access Hoan Kiem Lake as well as many great markets and museums.

Other options include Ba Dinh, which is where you’ll find many of the most popular attractions in the city.

Staying here makes it easy to visit Ba Dinh Square and all the landmarks that surround it.

If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet in this bustling city, the lakeside Truc Bach neighbourhood is a good choice.

There are lots of awesome restaurants and bars in this very scenic part of the city.

Best Budget Accommodation – Vietnam Backpackers Hostel

If you’re looking for a great option on a budget in Hanoi, then check out the Vietnam Backpackers Hostel.

You can score a bed in a dorm here for as little as $6 a night, so you’ll have more cash for sightseeing and going out.

This is also a super fun hostel to stay at. They host nightly events like quizzes and pub crawls.

They also organize the famous trip to Castaways Island in Halong Bay and other awesome travel experiences.

Best Mid-Range Accommodation – Golden Legend Diamond Hotel

Perhaps a dorm in a party hostel isn’t exactly your vibe. Thankfully there are lots of great mid-range hotels in Hanoi, like the Golden Legend Diamond.

Located in the bustling Old Quarter, this hotel puts you right in the middle of all the action.

Rooms here are comfortable and well-equipped, and you also get a nice free breakfast included.

Best Luxury Accommodation – Sofitel Legend

Looking to splurge for your 3 days in Hanoi? Then check yourself into the epic Sofitel Legend.

In addition to the super fancy rooms, you also get a heated outdoor pool, a well-equipped fitness centre, and a luxury spa.

There’s a great complimentary breakfast here, and you can also indulge in afternoon tea and Happy Hour.

Best Restaurants in Hanoi

Essence – The current #1 restaurant in Hanoi on TripAdvisor, this place cooks up food from three different regions of Vietnam and has rave reviews.

Nhat An Am Street Food – This popular spot cooks up delicious street food in a restaurant setting. It’s all the fun of street food without the rats!

Hoang Cuisine – This is one of the most highly ranked restaurants in the city, serving up fresh and tasty local dishes.

Red Bean Restaurant – Excellent food, service, and cocktails can be expected here. Try their 7-course Vietnamese tasting menu for a bit of everything.

Hanoi Social Club – A hip cafe with healthy options, including vegan and gluten-free choices.

Bun Cha Ta – This is the place to go to try a Hanoi specialty. Bun cha is grilled pork with vermicelli noodles, spring rolls, and veggies, and it’s delicious!

Hung Snake Restaurant – If you’re up for an adventure, take a day-trip out to Le Mat. Also known as “Snake Village,” you can find this restaurant cooking up snake in a variety of ways.

While all of these restaurants are great, make sure you eat at some random, unnamed street food stall at least once during your 3 days in Hanoi itinerary.

You just can’t beat sitting on a plastic stool, slurping up your noodles and enjoying a cold one!

Eating street food in Hanoi
Mmmmm… street food!

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About the author

Sasha and Rachel

One of our official NOMADasaurus team writers, Sasha and Rachel, otherwise known as the Grateful Gypsies, are a world travelling, English-teaching, jamband-following couple passionate about travel, culture, and music. From working in Beijing to studying in Bali to traversing the USA on Phish tour, you can follow them on their long, strange tour at Grateful Gypsies.

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