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Discover the Highlights of Hanoi

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Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and one of my favorite cities in the country! It is located on the Red River and it is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. It is where you could find historical landmarks, French-style buildings, the best Vietnamese food, amazing shops and a fascinating culture.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

During February 2020, I traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia with a friend. We started our trip in Ho Chi Minh in Southern Vietnam and then took a short flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. After spending a few days in Siem Reap, we took another short flight back to Vietnam where we explored Da Nang and Hoi An. When we concluded our time spent on the Central Vietnamese coast, we then took a short flight north to Hai Phong and then a ferry ride to Cat Ba Island where we spent three nights. Later on, we took the ferry and bus to Hanoi where we ended our time in Vietnam. We spent two days and one night in Hanoi and I fell in love with everything the city offered.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Our time in Hanoi was spent wandering through the French Quarter and Old Town, exploring ancient sites and savoring delicious food. In this blog post, discover the highlights of Hanoi and what you can see and do within 48 hours.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


Vietnam Visa:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Before you travel to Vietnam, you will need to apply for a visa from a local embassy. (I did mine online and it cost me $17 USD. Please note that the visa application fee could vary.) Click here to learn more! If you fill out the application correctly and there are no issues, you will receive your Visa Approval Letter within 72 hours via email. I was thankful I received mine in less than 24 hours.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Once you receive your Visa Approval Letter, please look through it thoroughly to ensure there are no mistakes or typos. You can be denied entry on arrival in Vietnam if your passport and visa do not align! After receiving your Visa Approval Letter and checking to see if everything is correct, make sure you star the email and print out the letter (all pages) before you depart for your trip. I had to show the printed letter to officials when I checked into the airport at JFK here in New York.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When you land in Vietnam (I originally landed in Ho Chi Minh when I first arrived in the country), you will need to present your Visa Approval Letter and passport (valid at least 6 months beyond date of arrival) to customs officials. They will also ask you for two photos and if you do not have them, they could take your photo for you for an additional $5 USD. Please note that payment is cash only in either USD or Vietnamese Dong (VND). There are ATMs available when you arrive. In addition, you will need to pay for your actual visa when you arrive and present your Visa Approval Letter. A 1 or 3- month single entry visa is $25 USD; a 1 or 3-month multiple entry visa is $50 USD and a 1-year multiple entry visa is $135 USD per applicant. This is extremely important to take note of, especially if you are looking to travel to another country and come back to Vietnam! Since we traveled to Cambodia in the middle of our trip, we needed to get the multi-entry visa for $50 USD. If you accidentally get the single-entry visa and you leave the country, you will NOT be allowed back into Vietnam and in worse case scenario, you will have to spend $200 USD to get an approval letter sent to you right away. Please also have at least two full pages open in your passport for the Vietnamese visa and stamps. The visa is a sticker that will take up one entire passport page and the stamps will reside on the page next to it. Since most of my passport is filled up with stamps, I was forewarned to keep some pages opened for my Vietnamese visa.

Getting to Hanoi:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Prior to making our way to the capital city, we spent a few days on Cat Ba Island. From Cat Ba Island’s town center, we took the Cat Ba Express bus. It takes about 45 minutes to get from Cat Ba Island’s town center, which is located in the southern part of the island, to Ben Pha Cai Vieng ferry terminal on the Northwestern side of Cat Ba Island. It will take around 10 minutes to cross the harbor on the ferry before arriving at Ben Pha Got ferry terminal in Hai Phong.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When you get off the ferry, the bus will be waiting for you and then it will be another two-hour drive on the bus from Hai Phong to Hanoi. If you are coming from anywhere else, you could fly into Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. (You could find affordable flights through Skyscanner.) In addition, you could rent a car or motorbike if you’re traveling around the country and you could also take the train to and from the city.

Where to Stay:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

During your time in Hanoi, I highly recommend staying in the Old Quarter or the French Quarter. Throughout these two areas are a plethora of different accommodations to suit all budgets. There are luxury and boutique hotels, budget hostels and Airbnb options.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

My friend and I stayed in the French Quarter at the Hanoi Paradise Center Hotel. To be quite frank, I was disappointed in this boutique hotel because the photos on their website were quite deceiving. I say this because it is important to not just look at photos you see online, but to also read reviews. I definitely learned my lesson this way! I would definitely say that it was my least favorite hotel of my Vietnam trip. We were really lucky to have found great hotels that were clean, convenient and accommodating in the other cities we visited. I will admit though, that the hotel did have a good breakfast in the morning, but that was about it.

What to do in Hanoi for 48 Hours:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hanoi is the most popular city in Vietnam and there is a plethora of things to do all throughout the capital. Below are highlights of the city and my personal recommendations of what to do in Hanoi:

Savor French Food in the French Quarter:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

There is a large French influence in Vietnam due to the colonization in the 17th Century. Throughout Vietnam’s cities, you could find French-style buildings, restaurants and architectural wonders throughout the country.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When we first arrived in Hanoi, it was lunch time and since our hotel was in the French Quarter, we decided to walk around, take a look at the Hanoi Opera House and grab lunch at a lovely and charming courtyard café called Green Tangerine. This stunning French restaurant offers an amazing menu and we actually splurged the most here as compared to everywhere else we ate at in Vietnam.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

For an appetizer, we had a delicious crab crepe that tasted like Maryland crab cakes. It was delicious! As a main course, I savored chicken stuffed with chorizo in a white wine sauce and for dessert, we shared a chocolate delight that included a chocolate cake with ganache as well as chocolate with fruit. This was also the first restaurant in Vietnam where I had wine! Everything was amazing.

Walk through the Temple of the Jade Mountain:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Ngoc Son Temple or “Temple of the Jade Mountain” is where you could find peace within the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. It is a beautiful and tranquil sanctuary that is a MUST visit when you are in the capital city.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Ngoc Son Temple was built in the 18th Century on Jade Island, which is located in the center of the Hoan Kiem Lake. Vietnamese legend has it that an emperor was once given a magical sword which helped him defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty. As he was doing so, the emperor saw the return of the Golden Turtle God to the Hoan Kiem Lake. Today, there is a Turtle Tower on the lake that you could see from the stunning red bridge leading to the actual temple. What is cool is that you could also see large soft-shell turtles swim in the lake! We actually did see one and apparently it is considered very auspicious! (I like to hear that.)

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The temple itself is dedicated to a Vietnamese war hero named General Tran Hung Dao who defeated the Mongolian Empire Kublai Khan as they tried to invade Vietnam in the 13th Century. I enjoyed walking through and around the temple and admiring the beauty, architecture and Chinese Buddha.

Shop through the Old Quarter:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Old Quarter of Hanoi is one of the most important districts in the city. It is where the city’s main business hubs are situated. The Old Quarter is also where you could challenge yourself by crossing the street… Just like in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi has a lot of traffic and there are barely any traffic lights. Crossing the street is a project in itself by trying to maneuver between all of the scooters and motorbikes. One thing to note is that everyone riding a motorbike has to stop for pedestrians by law, so you don’t have to worry about getting hit, although you should always keep an eye out because accidents happen everywhere.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Throughout the Old Quarter are cafés and restaurants where you could experience authentic food known in the Hanoi area. As you stroll through the busy streets, you will see a lot of outdoor seating where tables and chairs are really low to the ground. (The best way to experience the foodie scene in Hanoi is by taking a local food tour!) You will also see outdoor stands, produce markets and a variety of shops. Whether you want to haggle your way around a market or go boutique shopping, there are a variety of different options to suit your retail therapy.

Watch the Train Ride by on Train Street:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Also located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is Train Street. Now, this street used to be open for travelers to stroll through, but it has been shut off to the public. If you want to experience Train Street like we did, you will need to sit at a café or coffee shop along the street. (Hanoi has a big coffee culture, so no matter where you go, you are sure to get great Vietnamese coffee!)

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When we first got to Train Street, there was a woman who told us this and she directed us to her coffee shop. You could still walk on the tracks and take photos as you get your coffee and snack, but there will be a police officer who will let everyone know to get off the railroad 15 minutes before the train actually comes.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

What makes this experience unique in Hanoi is that the train runs through a cramped street where locals live, shops are bustling and cafés are thriving. We sat and drank bubble tea at Café 74 and watched the train come by. It was so cool seeing the train run through this street and it actually went faster than I thought it would!

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The cafés on Train Street will provide a schedule for when the train comes so that you are aware and (hopefully) don’t miss it. My friend and I went around 6pm and saw it pass through twice!

Enjoy Delicious Local Food:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

What I love about some of the restaurants and cafés in Vietnam, especially in larger cities, are that they are located on the second floor of a building and offer great views of the city. During our night in Hanoi, we found a great restaurant and cooking school that is simply called Hanoi Restaurant – Vietnamese Restaurant and Cooking Class. Although we didn’t actually take a cooking class (I totally will next time though), the food here was absolutely amazing!

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

We went to dinner rather late that night, so the owner hung out with us and recommended the best dishes to try! We had fried fish spring rolls, Vietnamese sticky rice and chicken rice pillows with vegetables. I also enjoyed a local Hanoi beer and then later on, the owner gave us some Vietnamese rice wine to try. Everything exceeded my expectations!

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

My good friend Ninie, who is Vietnamese, but currently lives in Australia recommended the below restaurants and cafés in Hanoi to try as well:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

During our last day, we went to another cute restaurant in the Old Quarter of Hanoi called Cinnamon Restaurant. I had a delicious chicken and vegetable noodle dish for lunch.

Take a Tour through the Hanoi Hilton:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hoa Lo Prison, or otherwise known as the “Hanoi Hilton” was a notorious prison where Vietnamese colonial subjects and American POWs (prisoners of war), including Senator John McCain, were imprisoned.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The prison was known for its deplorable conditions and most of the prisoners were brutally tortured in the worst ways possible. It continued being a prison until 1990 when it was officially shut down and mainly demolished to make room for high rises in the developing capital. Nowadays, the Hanoi Hilton is a museum. Former American POWs have described the brutality of this prison, but inside are photos of American prisoners living comfortably. As you tour Hanoi Hilton, you could see the cramped solitary confinement cells, guillotine room and displays of how prisoners were treated.

Spread Kindness at The Note Coffee:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

One of the happiest places I’ve been to throughout my travels was The Note Coffee in Hanoi. This lovely coffee shop includes four stories that are decked out in Post-it Notes from floor to ceiling. It is such a positive place that will make you feel good! You could also leave a piece of your heart at The Note Coffee, which is amazing as well! (I’m all about spreading positivity and kindness.)

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Note Coffee is also the perfect spot to try Vietnam’s staple – an egg coffee (called ca phe trung in Vietnamese)! You heard that right! Egg coffee is the signature warm beverage in the country and it is absolutely delicious. It is made with beaten egg yolk, sweetened condensed milk, cream and it is poured over espresso or regular coffee. It is delicious and something you MUST try when you are in Vietnam. In addition to egg coffee, The Note Coffee also has other coffee drinks, lattes, hot and iced chocolate, smoothies, juices as well as cake and pastries.

Visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Located in the Hoan Kiem District of Hanoi is a 19th Century Gothic Revival church that is wonderful to see as you make your way around the capital. It is one of the most famous landmarks in Hanoi and it is absolutely beautiful!

Educate Yourself at the Temple of Literature:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

One of the most tranquil locations in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature. It was originally built as a university in the 11th Century to Confucius scholars and it showcases the traditional style of Vietnamese architecture. Throughout the temple grounds are preserved artifacts, courtyards and passageways that were once used by royalty. Graduates of the university also have their names engraved there.

Take a Day Trip:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hanoi is situated in a prime location in Northern Vietnam. There are so many wonderful day trips you could take from Hanoi. Below is a list of them:

  • Ninh Binh – A picturesque city located in the Red River Delta. (Discover the top things to do in Ninh Binh.)
  • Sapa – A district-level town known for its rice terraces.
  • Ba Vi National Park – A tropical national park located west of Hanoi that features breathtaking mountains and subtropical species of flora.
  • Hai Phong – A major Vietnamese port city that features stunning French colonial buildings and landmarks.
  • Cat Ba Island – The largest island in Ha Long Bay.
  • Ha Long Bay – One of the most beautiful bays in the world that features glistening emerald waters, cone-shaped islands and lush rainforests.
  • Thac Ban Gioc – Located on the Vietnam/China border, Thac Ban Gioc features some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Asia.
  • Cau Long Bien – A historic bridge on the outskirts of Hanoi that leads out to banana fields.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about the highlights of Hanoi and what you should do and see within 48 hours there. If you have any questions about my time in Hanoi or Vietnam in general, please email me at [email protected]

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Basic Facts of Vietnam:

Currency: Vietnamese Dong, Capital: Hanoi

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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40 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on March 9, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    Another awesome blog of Vietnam. I loved reading about this place ~Hanoi, Vietnam. It is so quaint and beautiful. My favorite places in reading this blog was Train Street, Note café and the stunning Jade Temple ~ loved learning about Hanoi and loved all the beautiful photos of this amazing region. You look so pretty in your mint green dress made in Vietnam ~ Love you, Mom xoxo <3

    • Taylor Deer on March 10, 2020 at 9:14 am

      Thank you mom! Love you too! xoxo

  2. Rebecca Noelle on March 10, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    It looks like you had an amazing visit! Also ate very well.

    • Taylor Deer on March 10, 2020 at 2:13 pm

      I definitely did! It was one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. Also, food always plays a huge role in my travels. 🙂

  3. World of Lina on March 11, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Hanoi looks simply amazing and Taylor all your photos are breathtaking! Especially the ones of the Train Street 😍

    • Taylor Deer on March 11, 2020 at 3:37 pm

      Thank you so much! I loved it there. It was definitely one of my favorite places in Vietnam.

  4. omid on March 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Very useful tips.
    Thanks much.

    • Taylor Deer on March 18, 2020 at 10:44 pm

      Thank you!!!

  5. The Curious Sparrow on March 28, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    So many great suggestions! I spent 3.5 weeks in Hanoi last year, it’s such a wonderful city.

    • Taylor Deer on March 28, 2020 at 5:07 pm

      That is amazing you got to spend all that time there. I loved Hanoi! It was definitely one of my favorite cities in Asia. 🙂

  6. Ophélie on April 4, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Hanoi looks so interesting! I didn’t realize that the French influence was still so present in the city. And all that food OMG! I want to try everything!!

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      It was such a beautiful city filled with so many hidden gems. I loved the French influence there and all the food was incredible! 🙂

  7. Emma on April 4, 2020 at 11:32 am

    I loved Hanoi. Such a great city and looks like we did a lot of the same things. The Note Coffee was really fun, and Train Street. You’re making me want to go back right now

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      I miss Hanoi so much! Everything there was so much fun! It was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. 🙂

  8. Charu Goyal on April 4, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    I wish I could teleport myself to Vietnam! Your trip has given me so much FOMO, Taylor 💗

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:26 pm

      It was so incredible Charu and I know you will love it when you get to go! The wait is so worth it. 🙂

  9. madhu sharma on April 4, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Wow it’s an amazing post , loved all the pictures and looks like a great place. Hope to visit soon

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:26 pm

      Thank you so much Madhu! It was so beautiful there. You would love it. 🙂

  10. Michelle on April 4, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    This looks like a fabulous experience. I love the French Quarter area. It looks so gorgeous. And that food!!! YUM!

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:30 pm

      It totally was Michelle! I loved everything about Hanoi and it was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. 🙂

  11. Ashley on April 4, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    I didn’t get to spend much time in Hanoi but definitely need to go back at some point! Love the photos.

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:31 pm

      I definitely felt like I didn’t spend enough time in Hanoi either. It was such a wonderful city! Also thank you Ashley! 🙂

  12. Urban Wanders on April 4, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Hanoi has been a popular destination for a while and now I can see why! It looks like such a fun, diverse place and the food sounds incredible! Thanks for this detailed post, will definitely refer back to it in the future. 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you so much! It was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam and I highly recommend it for everyone who visits. The food sure was amazing! 🙂

  13. Erinn on April 4, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    I would love to experience the culture there! Plus it looks sooo much warmer than where I live 😉

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:34 pm

      The culture is absolutely amazing! You would love Hanoi so much and it actually was a little chilly when I was there back in February.

  14. A Capone Connection on April 4, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    I would have never imagined wanting to go to Vietnam but after reading this you have changed my mind. Your pictures are grievous and the food all looks amazing. Thank you for all the details, especially about the visa. I would have never known any of that. I appreciate your honestly with reporting about your experience.

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:36 pm

      Ah thank you so much Andrea! That is amazing to hear! You would love Vietnam. The country, culture and people are so beautiful! 🙂

  15. Silly Little Kiwi Blog | Tara on April 4, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    I LOVE Hanoi (and Vietnam in general). How cute is Note Cafe?!?! One place that was as cute as I pictured. Great post and lovely photos!

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 12:30 am

      I loved it too Tara! The Note Cafe was the cutest! Also thank you so much. 🙂

  16. Polly on April 4, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    Loved this article. Would love to visit Hanoi. The train street looks so hectic but at the same time, it is probably super nice to sip on some coffee as the train is passing by. Great article.

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 12:32 am

      Thank you so much Polly! Hanoi was one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. The Train Street was such a cool thing to see. It comes very close to you too. 🙂

  17. Brit on April 4, 2020 at 11:12 pm

    I really fell in love with Vietnam while I was there!! I only was able to spend a few days in Hanoi, but you’ve summarized the best of the city so well🥰

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 12:33 am

      Thank you so much Brit! Hanoi was one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. 🙂

  18. Francesca on April 5, 2020 at 1:15 am

    I want to visit Hanoi so bad! I fell in love with Vietnam after visiting Ho Chi Minh City. I would love to take a cooking class and visit Train Street. The shots are so awesome!

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 10:23 am

      You would love it Francesca! I also did Saigon too and it was awesome. Hanoi was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. Also thank you so much!

  19. Rania Kalogirou on April 5, 2020 at 8:46 am

    It is obvious this trip was so much fun! Love these photos 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 10:33 am

      Yes, it was such a blast! I loved it there. Also, thank you Rania! 🙂

  20. Amy Aed on April 11, 2020 at 6:05 am

    I have been watching so many documentaries and movies on Vietnam recently, and want more than anything to be able to visit Hanoi. I have only wanted to go for about a year, but I feel as though that’s definitely long enough to warrant a one-way flight. After the coronavirus I will be heading straight there!

    • Taylor Deer on April 11, 2020 at 7:21 pm

      That is wonderful to hear! Vietnam is such an amazing country and you will love it! 🙂

Leave a Comment





Hanoi17

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi

Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and one of my favorite cities in the country! It is located on the Red River and it is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. It is where you could find historical landmarks, French-style buildings, the best Vietnamese food, amazing shops and a fascinating culture.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

During February 2020, I traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia with a friend. We started our trip in Ho Chi Minh in Southern Vietnam and then took a short flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. After spending a few days in Siem Reap, we took another short flight back to Vietnam where we explored Da Nang and Hoi An. When we concluded our time spent on the Central Vietnamese coast, we then took a short flight north to Hai Phong and then a ferry ride to Cat Ba Island where we spent three nights. Later on, we took the ferry and bus to Hanoi where we ended our time in Vietnam. We spent two days and one night in Hanoi and I fell in love with everything the city offered.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Our time in Hanoi was spent wandering through the French Quarter and Old Town, exploring ancient sites and savoring delicious food. In this blog post, discover the highlights of Hanoi and what you can see and do within 48 hours.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


Vietnam Visa:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Before you travel to Vietnam, you will need to apply for a visa from a local embassy. (I did mine online and it cost me $17 USD. Please note that the visa application fee could vary.) Click here to learn more! If you fill out the application correctly and there are no issues, you will receive your Visa Approval Letter within 72 hours via email. I was thankful I received mine in less than 24 hours.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Once you receive your Visa Approval Letter, please look through it thoroughly to ensure there are no mistakes or typos. You can be denied entry on arrival in Vietnam if your passport and visa do not align! After receiving your Visa Approval Letter and checking to see if everything is correct, make sure you star the email and print out the letter (all pages) before you depart for your trip. I had to show the printed letter to officials when I checked into the airport at JFK here in New York.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When you land in Vietnam (I originally landed in Ho Chi Minh when I first arrived in the country), you will need to present your Visa Approval Letter and passport (valid at least 6 months beyond date of arrival) to customs officials. They will also ask you for two photos and if you do not have them, they could take your photo for you for an additional $5 USD. Please note that payment is cash only in either USD or Vietnamese Dong (VND). There are ATMs available when you arrive. In addition, you will need to pay for your actual visa when you arrive and present your Visa Approval Letter. A 1 or 3- month single entry visa is $25 USD; a 1 or 3-month multiple entry visa is $50 USD and a 1-year multiple entry visa is $135 USD per applicant. This is extremely important to take note of, especially if you are looking to travel to another country and come back to Vietnam! Since we traveled to Cambodia in the middle of our trip, we needed to get the multi-entry visa for $50 USD. If you accidentally get the single-entry visa and you leave the country, you will NOT be allowed back into Vietnam and in worse case scenario, you will have to spend $200 USD to get an approval letter sent to you right away. Please also have at least two full pages open in your passport for the Vietnamese visa and stamps. The visa is a sticker that will take up one entire passport page and the stamps will reside on the page next to it. Since most of my passport is filled up with stamps, I was forewarned to keep some pages opened for my Vietnamese visa.

Getting to Hanoi:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Prior to making our way to the capital city, we spent a few days on Cat Ba Island. From Cat Ba Island’s town center, we took the Cat Ba Express bus. It takes about 45 minutes to get from Cat Ba Island’s town center, which is located in the southern part of the island, to Ben Pha Cai Vieng ferry terminal on the Northwestern side of Cat Ba Island. It will take around 10 minutes to cross the harbor on the ferry before arriving at Ben Pha Got ferry terminal in Hai Phong.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When you get off the ferry, the bus will be waiting for you and then it will be another two-hour drive on the bus from Hai Phong to Hanoi. If you are coming from anywhere else, you could fly into Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. (You could find affordable flights through Skyscanner.) In addition, you could rent a car or motorbike if you’re traveling around the country and you could also take the train to and from the city.

Where to Stay:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

During your time in Hanoi, I highly recommend staying in the Old Quarter or the French Quarter. Throughout these two areas are a plethora of different accommodations to suit all budgets. There are luxury and boutique hotels, budget hostels and Airbnb options.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

My friend and I stayed in the French Quarter at the Hanoi Paradise Center Hotel. To be quite frank, I was disappointed in this boutique hotel because the photos on their website were quite deceiving. I say this because it is important to not just look at photos you see online, but to also read reviews. I definitely learned my lesson this way! I would definitely say that it was my least favorite hotel of my Vietnam trip. We were really lucky to have found great hotels that were clean, convenient and accommodating in the other cities we visited. I will admit though, that the hotel did have a good breakfast in the morning, but that was about it.

What to do in Hanoi for 48 Hours:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hanoi is the most popular city in Vietnam and there is a plethora of things to do all throughout the capital. Below are highlights of the city and my personal recommendations of what to do in Hanoi:

Savor French Food in the French Quarter:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

There is a large French influence in Vietnam due to the colonization in the 17th Century. Throughout Vietnam’s cities, you could find French-style buildings, restaurants and architectural wonders throughout the country.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When we first arrived in Hanoi, it was lunch time and since our hotel was in the French Quarter, we decided to walk around, take a look at the Hanoi Opera House and grab lunch at a lovely and charming courtyard café called Green Tangerine. This stunning French restaurant offers an amazing menu and we actually splurged the most here as compared to everywhere else we ate at in Vietnam.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

For an appetizer, we had a delicious crab crepe that tasted like Maryland crab cakes. It was delicious! As a main course, I savored chicken stuffed with chorizo in a white wine sauce and for dessert, we shared a chocolate delight that included a chocolate cake with ganache as well as chocolate with fruit. This was also the first restaurant in Vietnam where I had wine! Everything was amazing.

Walk through the Temple of the Jade Mountain:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Ngoc Son Temple or “Temple of the Jade Mountain” is where you could find peace within the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. It is a beautiful and tranquil sanctuary that is a MUST visit when you are in the capital city.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Ngoc Son Temple was built in the 18th Century on Jade Island, which is located in the center of the Hoan Kiem Lake. Vietnamese legend has it that an emperor was once given a magical sword which helped him defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty. As he was doing so, the emperor saw the return of the Golden Turtle God to the Hoan Kiem Lake. Today, there is a Turtle Tower on the lake that you could see from the stunning red bridge leading to the actual temple. What is cool is that you could also see large soft-shell turtles swim in the lake! We actually did see one and apparently it is considered very auspicious! (I like to hear that.)

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The temple itself is dedicated to a Vietnamese war hero named General Tran Hung Dao who defeated the Mongolian Empire Kublai Khan as they tried to invade Vietnam in the 13th Century. I enjoyed walking through and around the temple and admiring the beauty, architecture and Chinese Buddha.

Shop through the Old Quarter:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Old Quarter of Hanoi is one of the most important districts in the city. It is where the city’s main business hubs are situated. The Old Quarter is also where you could challenge yourself by crossing the street… Just like in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi has a lot of traffic and there are barely any traffic lights. Crossing the street is a project in itself by trying to maneuver between all of the scooters and motorbikes. One thing to note is that everyone riding a motorbike has to stop for pedestrians by law, so you don’t have to worry about getting hit, although you should always keep an eye out because accidents happen everywhere.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Throughout the Old Quarter are cafés and restaurants where you could experience authentic food known in the Hanoi area. As you stroll through the busy streets, you will see a lot of outdoor seating where tables and chairs are really low to the ground. (The best way to experience the foodie scene in Hanoi is by taking a local food tour!) You will also see outdoor stands, produce markets and a variety of shops. Whether you want to haggle your way around a market or go boutique shopping, there are a variety of different options to suit your retail therapy.

Watch the Train Ride by on Train Street:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Also located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is Train Street. Now, this street used to be open for travelers to stroll through, but it has been shut off to the public. If you want to experience Train Street like we did, you will need to sit at a café or coffee shop along the street. (Hanoi has a big coffee culture, so no matter where you go, you are sure to get great Vietnamese coffee!)

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When we first got to Train Street, there was a woman who told us this and she directed us to her coffee shop. You could still walk on the tracks and take photos as you get your coffee and snack, but there will be a police officer who will let everyone know to get off the railroad 15 minutes before the train actually comes.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

What makes this experience unique in Hanoi is that the train runs through a cramped street where locals live, shops are bustling and cafés are thriving. We sat and drank bubble tea at Café 74 and watched the train come by. It was so cool seeing the train run through this street and it actually went faster than I thought it would!

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The cafés on Train Street will provide a schedule for when the train comes so that you are aware and (hopefully) don’t miss it. My friend and I went around 6pm and saw it pass through twice!

Enjoy Delicious Local Food:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

What I love about some of the restaurants and cafés in Vietnam, especially in larger cities, are that they are located on the second floor of a building and offer great views of the city. During our night in Hanoi, we found a great restaurant and cooking school that is simply called Hanoi Restaurant – Vietnamese Restaurant and Cooking Class. Although we didn’t actually take a cooking class (I totally will next time though), the food here was absolutely amazing!

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

We went to dinner rather late that night, so the owner hung out with us and recommended the best dishes to try! We had fried fish spring rolls, Vietnamese sticky rice and chicken rice pillows with vegetables. I also enjoyed a local Hanoi beer and then later on, the owner gave us some Vietnamese rice wine to try. Everything exceeded my expectations!

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

My good friend Ninie, who is Vietnamese, but currently lives in Australia recommended the below restaurants and cafés in Hanoi to try as well:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

During our last day, we went to another cute restaurant in the Old Quarter of Hanoi called Cinnamon Restaurant. I had a delicious chicken and vegetable noodle dish for lunch.

Take a Tour through the Hanoi Hilton:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hoa Lo Prison, or otherwise known as the “Hanoi Hilton” was a notorious prison where Vietnamese colonial subjects and American POWs (prisoners of war), including Senator John McCain, were imprisoned.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The prison was known for its deplorable conditions and most of the prisoners were brutally tortured in the worst ways possible. It continued being a prison until 1990 when it was officially shut down and mainly demolished to make room for high rises in the developing capital. Nowadays, the Hanoi Hilton is a museum. Former American POWs have described the brutality of this prison, but inside are photos of American prisoners living comfortably. As you tour Hanoi Hilton, you could see the cramped solitary confinement cells, guillotine room and displays of how prisoners were treated.

Spread Kindness at The Note Coffee:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

One of the happiest places I’ve been to throughout my travels was The Note Coffee in Hanoi. This lovely coffee shop includes four stories that are decked out in Post-it Notes from floor to ceiling. It is such a positive place that will make you feel good! You could also leave a piece of your heart at The Note Coffee, which is amazing as well! (I’m all about spreading positivity and kindness.)

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Note Coffee is also the perfect spot to try Vietnam’s staple – an egg coffee (called ca phe trung in Vietnamese)! You heard that right! Egg coffee is the signature warm beverage in the country and it is absolutely delicious. It is made with beaten egg yolk, sweetened condensed milk, cream and it is poured over espresso or regular coffee. It is delicious and something you MUST try when you are in Vietnam. In addition to egg coffee, The Note Coffee also has other coffee drinks, lattes, hot and iced chocolate, smoothies, juices as well as cake and pastries.

Visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Located in the Hoan Kiem District of Hanoi is a 19th Century Gothic Revival church that is wonderful to see as you make your way around the capital. It is one of the most famous landmarks in Hanoi and it is absolutely beautiful!

Educate Yourself at the Temple of Literature:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

One of the most tranquil locations in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature. It was originally built as a university in the 11th Century to Confucius scholars and it showcases the traditional style of Vietnamese architecture. Throughout the temple grounds are preserved artifacts, courtyards and passageways that were once used by royalty. Graduates of the university also have their names engraved there.

Take a Day Trip:

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hanoi is situated in a prime location in Northern Vietnam. There are so many wonderful day trips you could take from Hanoi. Below is a list of them:

  • Ninh Binh – A picturesque city located in the Red River Delta. (Discover the top things to do in Ninh Binh.)
  • Sapa – A district-level town known for its rice terraces.
  • Ba Vi National Park – A tropical national park located west of Hanoi that features breathtaking mountains and subtropical species of flora.
  • Hai Phong – A major Vietnamese port city that features stunning French colonial buildings and landmarks.
  • Cat Ba Island – The largest island in Ha Long Bay.
  • Ha Long Bay – One of the most beautiful bays in the world that features glistening emerald waters, cone-shaped islands and lush rainforests.
  • Thac Ban Gioc – Located on the Vietnam/China border, Thac Ban Gioc features some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Asia.
  • Cau Long Bien – A historic bridge on the outskirts of Hanoi that leads out to banana fields.

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about the highlights of Hanoi and what you should do and see within 48 hours there. If you have any questions about my time in Hanoi or Vietnam in general, please email me at [email protected]

Discover the Highlights of Hanoi. Everything to do with 48 hours in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Basic Facts of Vietnam:

Currency: Vietnamese Dong, Capital: Hanoi

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40 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on March 9, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    Another awesome blog of Vietnam. I loved reading about this place ~Hanoi, Vietnam. It is so quaint and beautiful. My favorite places in reading this blog was Train Street, Note café and the stunning Jade Temple ~ loved learning about Hanoi and loved all the beautiful photos of this amazing region. You look so pretty in your mint green dress made in Vietnam ~ Love you, Mom xoxo <3

    • Taylor Deer on March 10, 2020 at 9:14 am

      Thank you mom! Love you too! xoxo

  2. Rebecca Noelle on March 10, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    It looks like you had an amazing visit! Also ate very well.

    • Taylor Deer on March 10, 2020 at 2:13 pm

      I definitely did! It was one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. Also, food always plays a huge role in my travels. 🙂

  3. World of Lina on March 11, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Hanoi looks simply amazing and Taylor all your photos are breathtaking! Especially the ones of the Train Street 😍

    • Taylor Deer on March 11, 2020 at 3:37 pm

      Thank you so much! I loved it there. It was definitely one of my favorite places in Vietnam.

  4. omid on March 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Very useful tips.
    Thanks much.

    • Taylor Deer on March 18, 2020 at 10:44 pm

      Thank you!!!

  5. The Curious Sparrow on March 28, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    So many great suggestions! I spent 3.5 weeks in Hanoi last year, it’s such a wonderful city.

    • Taylor Deer on March 28, 2020 at 5:07 pm

      That is amazing you got to spend all that time there. I loved Hanoi! It was definitely one of my favorite cities in Asia. 🙂

  6. Ophélie on April 4, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Hanoi looks so interesting! I didn’t realize that the French influence was still so present in the city. And all that food OMG! I want to try everything!!

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      It was such a beautiful city filled with so many hidden gems. I loved the French influence there and all the food was incredible! 🙂

  7. Emma on April 4, 2020 at 11:32 am

    I loved Hanoi. Such a great city and looks like we did a lot of the same things. The Note Coffee was really fun, and Train Street. You’re making me want to go back right now

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      I miss Hanoi so much! Everything there was so much fun! It was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. 🙂

  8. Charu Goyal on April 4, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    I wish I could teleport myself to Vietnam! Your trip has given me so much FOMO, Taylor 💗

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:26 pm

      It was so incredible Charu and I know you will love it when you get to go! The wait is so worth it. 🙂

  9. madhu sharma on April 4, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Wow it’s an amazing post , loved all the pictures and looks like a great place. Hope to visit soon

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:26 pm

      Thank you so much Madhu! It was so beautiful there. You would love it. 🙂

  10. Michelle on April 4, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    This looks like a fabulous experience. I love the French Quarter area. It looks so gorgeous. And that food!!! YUM!

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:30 pm

      It totally was Michelle! I loved everything about Hanoi and it was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. 🙂

  11. Ashley on April 4, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    I didn’t get to spend much time in Hanoi but definitely need to go back at some point! Love the photos.

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:31 pm

      I definitely felt like I didn’t spend enough time in Hanoi either. It was such a wonderful city! Also thank you Ashley! 🙂

  12. Urban Wanders on April 4, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Hanoi has been a popular destination for a while and now I can see why! It looks like such a fun, diverse place and the food sounds incredible! Thanks for this detailed post, will definitely refer back to it in the future. 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you so much! It was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam and I highly recommend it for everyone who visits. The food sure was amazing! 🙂

  13. Erinn on April 4, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    I would love to experience the culture there! Plus it looks sooo much warmer than where I live 😉

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:34 pm

      The culture is absolutely amazing! You would love Hanoi so much and it actually was a little chilly when I was there back in February.

  14. A Capone Connection on April 4, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    I would have never imagined wanting to go to Vietnam but after reading this you have changed my mind. Your pictures are grievous and the food all looks amazing. Thank you for all the details, especially about the visa. I would have never known any of that. I appreciate your honestly with reporting about your experience.

    • Taylor Deer on April 4, 2020 at 7:36 pm

      Ah thank you so much Andrea! That is amazing to hear! You would love Vietnam. The country, culture and people are so beautiful! 🙂

  15. Silly Little Kiwi Blog | Tara on April 4, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    I LOVE Hanoi (and Vietnam in general). How cute is Note Cafe?!?! One place that was as cute as I pictured. Great post and lovely photos!

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 12:30 am

      I loved it too Tara! The Note Cafe was the cutest! Also thank you so much. 🙂

  16. Polly on April 4, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    Loved this article. Would love to visit Hanoi. The train street looks so hectic but at the same time, it is probably super nice to sip on some coffee as the train is passing by. Great article.

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 12:32 am

      Thank you so much Polly! Hanoi was one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. The Train Street was such a cool thing to see. It comes very close to you too. 🙂

  17. Brit on April 4, 2020 at 11:12 pm

    I really fell in love with Vietnam while I was there!! I only was able to spend a few days in Hanoi, but you’ve summarized the best of the city so well🥰

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 12:33 am

      Thank you so much Brit! Hanoi was one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. 🙂

  18. Francesca on April 5, 2020 at 1:15 am

    I want to visit Hanoi so bad! I fell in love with Vietnam after visiting Ho Chi Minh City. I would love to take a cooking class and visit Train Street. The shots are so awesome!

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 10:23 am

      You would love it Francesca! I also did Saigon too and it was awesome. Hanoi was definitely one of my favorite cities in Vietnam. Also thank you so much!

  19. Rania Kalogirou on April 5, 2020 at 8:46 am

    It is obvious this trip was so much fun! Love these photos 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on April 5, 2020 at 10:33 am

      Yes, it was such a blast! I loved it there. Also, thank you Rania! 🙂

  20. Amy Aed on April 11, 2020 at 6:05 am

    I have been watching so many documentaries and movies on Vietnam recently, and want more than anything to be able to visit Hanoi. I have only wanted to go for about a year, but I feel as though that’s definitely long enough to warrant a one-way flight. After the coronavirus I will be heading straight there!

    • Taylor Deer on April 11, 2020 at 7:21 pm

      That is wonderful to hear! Vietnam is such an amazing country and you will love it! 🙂

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