How to spend one day in Hanoi? Recently, Vietnam has become a hot place for tourists from all over the world. As a local person who has spent more than 10 years living in Hanoi only, I saw a huge number of tourists coming to Hanoi this year – 2023 compared to the last few years (2020, 2021, and 2022).
When I biked to the Old Quarter of Hanoi, I saw foreign tourists everywhere. My husband – who was born and raised in Hanoi for 30 years – said to me: “Hanoi’s Old Quarter is not for us anymore, too many tourists so it will be a bit less convenient for our family to enjoy the food and atmosphere here”. :)))
Yes, his saying is true. In the past, our family often went to the Old Quarter to chill. Now it is full of tourists so when coming here we will face – traffic jams on the weekend, every restaurant we like is full of tourists. So before we dig into the main topic, let’s see why the Old Quarter of Hanoi is so attractive.
Reasons Why the Old Quarter of Hanoi is so attractive
- Firstly, Hanoi’s Old Quarter has a vintage vibe that you rarely find anywhere else with crowded streets, old and tiny buildings that are not allowed to be rebuilt to save the signature of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
- Secondly, it is located in the heart of Hanoi and near mostly hot tourist attractions like Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son temple, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi, Hanoi Temple of Literature, etc. These places are very close to each other so you can visit all of them with ease.
- Thirdly, it is the main reason why our family often comes to the Old Quarter – Food. You can find plenty of good food and drinks here. Even most of the restaurants in this area are not spacious but their food is super good. I will mention some of the most popular that my family often visit here in the next part.
- Finally, there is a walking street around Hoan Kiem Lake on the weekend (from 19:00 Friday Night to 24:00 Sunday Night). So people often go there to play, walk, and do other interesting activities like dancing, aerobics, Vietnamese traditional games, and much more.
Ok, I think the intro is long enough. Now let’s move to the main part of this blog post. How to spend one day in Hanoi as a local person? Let’s go!
How to spend one day in Hanoi as a local person?
Before we go to the list, I recommend you wake up early in the morning to see the real life of Hanoi – the scene that you rarely watch on YouTube or other social networks.
Here are what to do:
1. Wake up around 5:00 – 6:00: take a walk around Hoan Kiem lake
Take a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake to see locals doing exercise before a busy day really starts here.
2. Buy Breakfast
We, Hanoians, besides eating Pho Bo (Beef Noodle soup) and Banh My (Vietnamese bread), we also eat Xoi (Sticky rice).
+++ Xôi – Sticky Rice
You can find many women with a small bamboo basket selling sticky rice right on the sidewalk. Just come to them and buy a portion for yourself.
The menu for sticky rice often includes:
- Xôi Xéo – which is sticky rice with green bean, fried onion and meat floss
- Xôi Lạc – which is sticky rice with peanut
- Xôi Gấc – which is sticky rice with Gac fruit
- Xôi Ngô – which is sticky rice with corn
Price: 10.000 VND ( $0.5/portion)
Note: The Price will be a bit higher because you are a foreigner. But you can bargain and try to stick to the price I mentioned above.
Where to buy Xôi?
Locations to find the women selling Xôi are: Hang Hom street, and Hang Bong Street (just a walk from Hoan Kiem Lake)
If you want a luxury Xôi version compared to Xôi sold on the sidewalk, you can try Xôi Yến.
Address: Xôi Yến: 35b Nguyen Huu Huan street
+++ Bánh Mỳ
There is no doubt that you should try Bánh Mỳ when you visit Vietnam. Bánh Mỳ is easy to eat for breakfast at a very reasonable price and its taste is good.
Even though I’m not a fan of Bánh Mỳ but for sure, in my opinion, Bánh Mỳ is better than a burger.
The menu for Bánh Mỳ often are:
- Bánh Mỳ Trứng – which is bread with fried egg, cucumber, vegetable and herb.
- Bánh Mỳ Thịt – which is bread with fried pork or beef, vegetables, cucumber, herbs.
- Bánh Mỳ Pate – which is bread with liver pâté. Vegetables, etc.
And many more options. You can check the menu of the bread shop and pick the combination you want.
Price: vary from 20.000 VND to 60.000 VND ($1 to $3) depending on your option.
Where to buy Bánh Mì:
Any shop on the street. There are plenty of shops selling Bánh Mỳ in the Old Quarter. So pick the one that seems to have many locals waiting to buy.
Sometimes, the Bánh Mỳ bought on the sidewalk is much better than the Bánh Mỳ bought from a Bánh Mỳ store.
Editor’s Note: My favorite Bánh Mỳ us Bánh Mỳ Trứng: bread with fried egg, herb and chili sauce. Don’t forget to put chili sauce into your Bánh Mỳ as chili sauce will bring the taste of your Bánh Mỳ to a higher level.
Yep. You must try Beef noodles, chicken noodle,s or any kind of noodle you can find on the sidewalk of Hanoi. Trust me. Just pick a sidewalk restaurant that is full of locals and come to order.
The quality of these sidewalk restaurants is the same or maybe better than a luxury restaurant selling noodles in Hanoi.
The menu of noodles often includes:
- Phở Bò: Beef noodle
- Phở Gà: Chicken noodle
- Bún bò nam bộ: Noodle with stir- fried beef & roasted peanut
- Bún thang: Hanoi combo noodle soup (chicken, egg, pork & sausage)
- Bún chả: Noodle with grilled pork (viên chả: meat ball)
- Bún Riêu: crab noodle soup with beef, tofu and vegetables.
Price: from 35.000 to 60.000 VND ($1.5 to $3) depending on your option.
Where to eat noodles: Everywhere on the street in the Old Quarter as long as you see many locals are eating in this restaurant.
In case you want a more luxurious version of noodles. Try these addresses below:
- Phở 10 Lý Quốc Sư: 10 Ly Quoc Su, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam
Editor’t Note: I’m a big fan of crab noodle soup with beef, tofu. My recommended address to try this awesome noodles is 05 Tho Xuong, near St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi. It is a sidewalk restaurant called “Thu Bun Rieu”.
3. Find a chilled coffee shop and take time to enjoy Hanoi in the morning
When your stomach is full, it is time to enjoy the coffee culture of Hanoi.
We – Vietnamese people often come to coffee shops not only to buy coffee but also to have some sips with friends or work there or just find some chilled time before going back to our busy lives.
- If you just want to drink Vietnamese coffee, you can buy it anywhere else in the Old Quarter. But if you want to chill, here are some options for you.
Brand 1: Cộng Cà Phê
Editor’s Note: Cong Ca Phe is a well-known coffee brand with a vintage vibe in Vietnam. I bet you will enjoy the atmosphere of this brand.
To try this, visit one of the below address:
- Address 1: Cong Ca Phe: 27 Nhà Thờ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
- Address 2: Cong Ca Phe: 54 Hàng Điếu, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
- Address 3: Cong Ca Phe: 116 Cầu Gỗ, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
- Address 4: 4 Lý Thường Kiệt, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
- Address 4: 32 Điện Biên Phủ, Ba Đình, Hà Nội
Try their signature drinks and that is all you need to do. That is the way we – Vietnamese people enjoy a morning or afternoon in our daily life.
Visit Cong Ca Phe’s website for more details here: https://congcaphe.com/store/32/ha-noi
Brand 2: Aha Cà Phê
Similar to the Cộng Cà Phê brand, the coffee shops belonging to this brand often have open-air space (have no AC) so I often pick Cong Ca Phe over Aha Ca Phe.
- Address 1: 2 Hàng Buồm, P. Hàng Buồm, Quận Hoàn Kiếm
- Address 2: 11 Hàng Khay, Quận Hoàn Kiếm
- Address 3: 6 Thuốc Bắc, Quận Hoàn Kiếm
- Address 4: 68 Quán Sứ, P. Trần Hưng Đạo, Quận Hoàn Kiếm
- Address 5: 1 Cửa Đông, Quận Hoàn Kiếm
- Address 6: 51 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, P. Lý Thái Tổ
There are many Aha coffee shops around the Old Quarter so pick the one that is convenient for you. The menu and drink quality of the shops are the same so no worry about the difference between these addresses.
Brand 3: Trung Nguyen Legend Coffee
This brand is very famous in Vietnam. You can come and try real traditional Vietnamese coffee along with other coffee styles with a luxury serving style.
- Address 1: 27-29 Lê Hồng Phong, Quận Ba Đình (near Ho Chi Minh museum)
- Address 2: 05 Lý Quốc Sư, Quận Hoàn Kiếm
- Address 3: 52 Hai Bà Trưng, Quận Hoàn Kiếm
What to order in a Coffee Shop in Hanoi:
- Iced Coffee with Milk: Just simple Robusta Coffee with condensed milk and ice. The flavor of this coffee is too strong compared to Western-style coffee. More bitten and more sweet as it contains condensed milk.
- Coconut Coffee at Cong Ca Phe or Aha Coffee
- Black Vietnamese Coffee with ice if you are not a fan of sweetness
- Other tea and juices for women like Trà Đào Cam Sả (Peach tea with Orange Juice and Lemon grass)
Price: 35.000 to 75.000 VND ($1.5 to $4) depending on your options.
4. Take time to visit some tourist attractions
If you have only 1 day in Hanoi, you should pick the Hanoi sightseeing tour to save time for visiting some famous tourist attractions.
I don’t mention much about these tours here as a local, I don’t spend time on this tour :))). When I have time, I only take my son to the Hoan Kiem lake and that is enough for us.
But I know, as a tourist, you want to visit more so I think this tour is enough.
Some recommended attractions I recommend to you are:
- Hanoi temple of literature
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- Ngoc Son Temple
- West Lake
- Hoa Lo prison
- Tran Quoc temple
If you want to eat a Vietnamese-style lunch, try the below addresses:
- Cơm Một ngày Mới – New Day
Address: 72 Mã Mây, Hàng Buồn, Hoàn Kiếm
- Cơm Phố Cổ
Address: 16 Nguyễn Siêu, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm
- Cơm Lệ
Address: 135 Triệu Việt Vương, Bùi Thị Xuân, Hai Bà Trưng
Cơm Lệ is not located in the Old Quarter but it is close to the Old Quarter. I recommended this restaurant. You can take a Grab bike or Grab taxi to go there, the riding fee is not too expensive so why don’t you try?
- Quán Ăn Ngon
Address: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem
This restaurant serves plenty of Vietnamese popular dishes. You can try all the dishes you read on the Internet about Vietnamese cuisine here. Some of my foreign friends gave very good feedback about this restaurant. As a Vietnamese, I often take my foreign friends here to have lunch or dinner. The restaurant has very good design, good food and good service. The price is also reasonable.
6. Dinner time
Haha, this is the part I like the most.
Besides many kinds of noodles, you can try Vietnamese BBQ style in Gầm Cầu Street (Gam Cau Street).
Gầm Cầu Street is famous for serving grilled beef following the Vietnamese style. If you are hungry and walk around this area, the grilling smell will make your mouth water.
The restaurant style here is sidewalk restaurant so if you expect something luxurious, this street is not for you. But if you want to really enjoy Hanoi, you shouldn’t miss this place.
Recommended restaurant: Bò Nầm Nướng Bà Hoa – Address: 33 Hàng Giấy, Hoàn Kiếm
Menu: grilled Vietnamese beef, grilled pork, Vietnamese hot pot with seasonal vegetables, cucumbers, rice wine, etc.
Price: 500.000 VND for 2 people ($25 for 2 people). If you go with a group, the price per person will be much cheaper.
Trust me, order anything that the staff recommends to you. The staff is also super nice so don’t worry about tourist traps at this restaurant.
7. Walk to Ta Hien beer street
Find a pub and enjoy Hanoi beer.
If you have more time, just follow my blog and I will guide you on what to do in 2 days and 1 night in Hanoi. I will let you know a different and modern Hanoi that you have ever known before.
Note: If you still have time, you can buy fake bags and clothes on the street. Many of my foreign friends like these activities a lot and I don’t know why.
If you don’t have much time in Hanoi, one day in Hanoi is just enough. But if you want to experience Hanoi’s lifestyle, you should stay here for more than 3 days. There are many other places for you to explore outside of the Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
In my last words, Hanoi is a fascinating city with a mixture of the new and the old. I hope you will have a nice experience in my city. If you have any questions, feel free to comment in the section below. Bye.