Best 1 Day in Hanoi Itinerary: Top Attractions & Restaurants

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, was the first place in Vietnam that I saw and it ended up being one of my favorite places in the country. I was there for a week and was constantly discovering more sights, delicious food, and charming streets.

If you only have one day or 24 hours to see Hanoi, you can hit up many of its most famous attractions since they’re all located close to each other and the city is compact. You won’t be able to see it all, but hopefully it’s enough for you to want to come back.

In this one-day Hanoi itinerary, you’ll find the best cultural and historical sites and some of the city’s best restaurants. Feel free to either follow the itinerary exactly or use it for suggestions on what to do. I’ve also included a map below with all the places mentioned in the itinerary, so you can easily navigate Hanoi’s maze of streets and map out your route for the day.

Get caffeinated with Vietnamese coffee and some breakfast

For those who don’t really eat breakfast, you need to at least try some Vietnamese coffee to kickstart your day. Hanoi is filled with cafés and it’s hard to come across a bad cup of coffee, so you can pretty much walk into any place. However, if you want some of the best coffee and a café with atmosphere, try Cong Caphe (I’ve linked to one of its many locations, but you can find more in the map above). Although it’s now a chain that can be found throughout Vietnam, Cong Caphe was founded in 2007 “on Trieu Viet Vuong street – the historic café street of Hanoi.”

You can’t visit Hanoi without hearing about egg coffee (ca phe trung). Eggs in coffee might sound weird, but it’s a surprisingly sweet and creamy drink. Egg yolk and condensed milk are rapidly beaten until fluffy and then poured on espresso or iced coffee. The drink originated from Giang Cafe, but you can find it in cafés throughout Hanoi and Vietnam. Giang Cafe has two locations where you must try their egg coffee: 39 Nguyen Huu Huan and 106 Yen Phu.

When coffee isn’t enough and you need actual food for breakfast, there are two Vietnamese dishes that I recommend: banh mi and pho. Banh My Mama is one of several famous banh mi places in Hanoi where you can get a freshly made baguette sandwich filled with eggs, meat, pate, and veggies. There’s often a line here, which is why it’s best to go early in the morning.

Pho also makes for a light breakfast that you can order more of if one isn’t enough. Pho Ga 26 opens as early as 6:30 AM and is a well-known chicken pho spot. The limited menu is focused on different preparations of chicken, including in soup, as a dry noodle dish, and as a salad.

Visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

After breakfast, walk over to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. The ancient fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, served as the political center for almost 1,300 years. It was built in the 11th century during the Ly Viet Dynasty and survived the rise and fall of multiple dynasties.

History lovers will enjoy seeing the well-preserved architecture and relics here. Exploring the citadel takes about 1.5 to 2+ hours, depending on how quickly you walk through its enormous grounds, including an archaeological site, ancient foundations, and a flag tower.

See Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum

Couple holding hands and walking toward Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is a short walk from the Imperial Citadel. After going through security to enter the area, you’ll find yourself in a huge open plaza where you can visit the mausoleum to see Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body, see some of his vintage cars, and walk through a beautiful garden.

Before going, it’s important to know that the area is heavily policed and respect for this iconic figure of Vietnamese history is expected of visitors. You’ll need to dress respectfully. Knees and shoulders must be covered, and there’s no chewing gum on the grounds.

If seeing Ho Chi Minh’s body isn’t something you’re particularly interested in, feel free to skip it. There can be a long line to get in to the mausoleum, so it may not be worth it. However, don’t skip the garden. It’s nicely maintained, and it contains Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house where he worked and lived.

Try classic Vietnamese dishes for lunch

For lunch, you’ll walk over to the Hanoi Old Quarter, which contains a ton of restaurants. If you’re overwhelmed by it all or want recommendations, I’ve got you covered.

Bún Bò Nam Bộ Bách Phương is known for its beef noodle salad, where thin slices of beef, fresh herbs and vegetables, fried shallots, and lettuce are piled on top of a bowl of rice noodles. One bowl won’t be enough for most, so don’t hesitate to order a second or third bowl. You can also try their chicken stew, pork roll, and coconut dumplings.

One of the best bun cha (a dish of grilled pork and rice noodles) that I had during my 1.5 month-long Vietnam trip was at Cumulus Restaurant. Through a small alley and up a set of stairs, you’ll find a humble family-run restaurant owned by William. The restaurant’s tiny corner kitchen serves mouth-watering food, and William shares his entrepreneurial story with every diner. If you eat here, don’t expect the typical restaurant experience. Instead, it’s like stepping into someone’s home for a heartwarming meal.

Lastly, if you haven’t had banh mi yet, Banh Mi 25 is an incredibly popular place that always has a line. Their limited seating is usually full, so I recommend taking your banh mi and drink to go and enjoying your lunch at Hoan Kiem Lake.

Get lost in the Old Quarter

The Old Quarter of Hanoi, also known as the 36 Streets, was my favorite area of the city. Its maze of streets are steeped in history and culture. The Old Quarter used to serve as a commercial hub where artisans and merchants gathered, with each street specializing in a particular craft.

Today, its narrow alleys, colonial architecture, and bustling streets transport visitors back in time. The quarter also contains several cultural attractions. Head to Dong Xuan Market to experience a busy Vietnamese market filled with almost any item you can imagine. Visit Bach Ma Temple (White Horse Temple), a historic temple dedicated to a legendary horse. See one of 14 ancient houses built in the late 19th century at the Hanoi Ancient House, which is also known as the Heritage House or Ma May Ancient House.

Learn about prisoners of war at the Hoa Lo Prison Relic

Hoa Lo Prison Relic, also referred to as “Hanoi Hilton,” is a haunting reminder of the atrocities of the Vietnam War. Initially built between 1886 and 1901 by the French to detain political prisoners, it later housed American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. The prison has since been turned into an excellent, informative museum that gives you a glimpse of the harsh conditions that inmates had to endure.

Although the audio guide costs more than the ticket, it’s a must. The audio guide provides so much more information than the placards in the museum, and the storytelling in it brings the past to life.

Rest your feet at a café

This itinerary involves a lot of walking. So if you’re ready to take a seat and give your feet a rest, post up at one of Hanoi’s many cafés. Vietnam’s café culture means you’re never far from one and some good coffee.

An Café is known for its banh mis, coffee art, and adorable food and drink presentation. Coffeon Cafe is a cheery yellow café that’s Pokemon themed. When I visited, the staff were very friendly and their balcony is the perfect place for people watching. 84th Brickyard looks deceptively tiny when you first walk in. But after you order and go up the stairs, you’ll discover a hidden oasis filled with plants, brick, and multiple seating areas.

Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and pop in to Ngoc Son Temple

Orange flowers and red bridge leading to Ngoc Son Temple

Hoan Kiem Lake is enjoyable any time of day, but I particularly love it during dusk – when the sun is starting to set and the haziness of Hanoi takes on the colors of the sunset. As it gets darker, this is also when the perimeter of the lake and Ngoc Son Temple, which sits on a small island in the northern end of the lake, light up.

Ngoc Son Temple is dedicated to general Tran Hung Dao and Van Xuong De Quan, “a Taoist deity of dignity and good fortune.” Cross over the red Huc Bridge and pass under the blueish gray gate to enter the serene temple. There are some ornate altars and ancient artifacts inside to see, but you should also take a moment to enjoy the lake views.

End your day with dinner and drinks

You can grab dinner at any of the restaurants I’ve listed earlier. If you’re looking for more recommendations though, here’s two more.

Ha Noi Draft Beer & Traditional Food is a spot that offers cheap beer and several dishes that pair well with a drink. The family that runs the place is friendly and they can make nearly everything on the menu vegetarian or vegan. Hương Việt offers a pretty large menu with popular Vietnamese dishes like pho, spring rolls, and banh mi. It’s a cozy, unassuming restaurant that’s a solid choice.

After dinner, it’s time for some drinks. When it comes to alcohol, there’s two ways to go. Either opt for cheap local beer, which is called bia hơi and literally translates to “fresh beer,” or try an amazing craft cocktail.

For beer, make your way to Ta Hien Street or Beer Street. Packed with restaurants, outdoor tables, and people, Beer Street is the center of nightlife in the Old Quarter. Since Beer Street is all about cheap drinking, just take a seat at any place.

For cocktails, try The Haflington or The Alchemist. Both places take their cocktail-making seriously, mixing up delightful and gorgeous drinks in a speakeasy setting. You can also catch live music at The Alchemist on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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1 Day Hanoi Itinerary: See the Highlights in 24 Hours