Hanoi, the charming capital of Vietnam, is a historical city with a rich cultural heritage. With its bustling Old Quarter, iconic attractions, mouthwatering street food scene, and friendly locals, Hanoi offers an unforgettable experience for first-time visitors. If you only have one day to explore Hanoi, you’ll want to make the most of it by hitting the top sights and soaking in the lively atmosphere. Here is an ideal one-day Hanoi tour itinerary covering the must-see attractions.
Key Destinations to See on a One-Day Hanoi Tour
1. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
No trip to Hanoi is complete without visiting the Ho Chi Minh Complex, dedicated to the beloved late leader and father of modern Vietnam. The complex includes Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum where his preserved body lies in state, the colonial-style Ho Chi Minh Museum detailing his inspiring life story, and the simple stilt house where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked. Visiting the complex offers insight into this revered historical figure who led Vietnam’s revolution for independence. Allow 1-2 hours to visit the main attractions within the complex.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a massive complex with the total area of 14ha. Coming there, one can not only pay tribute to President Ho Chi Minh but also have a chance to visit various famous monuments at once: Ho Chi Minh Stilt House, the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Museum, One-Pillar Pagoda and Dien Huu Pagoda.
Visitors should notice that the mausoleum doesn’t open on Monday and Friday and only opens in the morning, from 8 am. Also, guests are requested to wear formal clothes and not allowed to bring cameras inside the mausoleum.
2. Van Mieu ( Temple of Literature )
Founded in 1070, the Temple of Literature is one of Vietnam’s most magnificent historical sites. This temple was the first university in Vietnam and was dedicated to Confucius and scholars. The temple features five courtyards lined with lotus ponds and ancient architecture, including stone turtle stelae recording the names of graduates from imperial times. Wander through the temple’s pavilions, halls, and sanctums to admire the traditional style and tranquil atmosphere. Visitors should dedicate 1-2 hours to fully explore the grounds.
Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple
The bright red Huc Bridge connecting to Ngoc Son Temple on a small island makes Hoan Kiem Lake one of Hanoi’s most Instagrammable spots. Ngoc Son Temple honors 13th century military commander Tran Hung Dao, who defeated Mongolian invaders. Feed the turtles swimming in the jade-green waters before crossing the iconic red bridge to the temple. Nearby, don’t miss the bustling Old Quarter with shops selling everything from Vietnamese handicrafts to street food. Plan to spend 1-2 hours around scenic Hoan Kiem Lake.
Sword Lake (Hoan Kiem Lake) is known as the “heart” of Hanoi’s Capital with a long history and poetic beauty that captivates people. This is not only a favorite tourist attraction of a large number of domestic and foreign tourists but also a place to preserve the precious cultural and historical values of the nation.
If you have the opportunity to come to Hoan Kiem Lake, do not forget to visit famous places such as Turtle Tower, Ngoc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, Sword Lake Walking Street, Hanoi Opera House ,…
Hanoi Old Quarter
Just steps away from Hoan Kiem Lake lies Hanoi’s dynamic Old Quarter. For over 1000 years, this neighborhood has been the crafts and merchant district of Hanoi. Each street specialized in particular products, indicated by its name like Silk Street, Silver Street, and Fried Fish Street. Walk along the narrow lanes lined with shop houses to glimpse Vietnamese life and pick up some unique souvenirs. Be sure to try famous Hanoi dishes like pho noodle soup and Vietnamese egg coffee. Wandering the Old Quarter could take a full morning or afternoon.
Hoa Lo Prison
Once called the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs, Hoa Lo Prison provides a grim glimpse into Vietnam’s colonial history. The French built this prison in 1896 to incarcerate Vietnamese political prisoners. During the Vietnam War, American pilots shot down over Hanoi were detained here as well. Now a museum, you can explore the cramped cells and view propaganda exhibits recounting prisoner experiences. Budget 1-2 hours to visit Hoa Lo Prison.
One-Day Hanoi Tour Itinerary
With only 24 hours in Hanoi, you’ll need to plan your time wisely to make the most of your visit. Here is a suggested one-day itinerary:
Morning: Start your day in the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake area. Stop for a Vietnamese-style breakfast like pho noodle soup before visiting Ngoc Son Temple and the picturesque red Huc Bridge. Then spend a few hours wandering the Old Quarter’s shops and scenic lanes.
Midday: Grab a quick lunch before heading to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, allowing 1-2 hours to see Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum along with his historic stilt house. Then continue just down the street to the Temple of Literature, dedicating another 1-2 hours to explore Vietnam’s historic first university.
Afternoon: After seeing Hanoi’s top historical attractions, spend the late afternoon visiting Hoa Lo Prison. Finally, head back to Hoan Kiem Lake in the evening to sip Vietnamese egg coffee at a lakeside cafe before watching the nightly water puppet show. Enjoy a final dinner in the Old Quarter, sampling favorites like bun cha grilled pork.
Extending Your Stay in Hanoi
While the main sights can be seen in a day, visitors with extra time in Hanoi could consider adding:
- A visit to the excellent Ethnology Museum or the Fine Arts Museum
- A day trip to Ha Long Bay to cruise the stunning limestone islands and karsts
- A street food tour in the Old Quarter to try dishes like bun cha and banh mi
- An overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay with kayaking or island hikes
- A day trip to the Perfume Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most revered temples
With its rich history, vibrant culture and mouthwatering cuisine, Hanoi is a city that rewards those who linger and dig deeper. Extending your trip by a few days allows you to experience more of Hanoi at an enjoyable pace.
Frequently Asked Questions About One-Day Hanoi Tours
Here are answers to some common questions about planning a one-day tour of Hanoi’s top attractions:
Q: Is one day enough time to see the best of Hanoi?
A: While more time in Hanoi is always better, one full day allows you to see the top historical attractions like the Ho Chi Minh Complex, Old Quarter, and Temple of Literature. It’s an ideal first taste of Hanoi.
Q: What’s the best way to get around Hanoi in one day?
A: Walking and taking metered taxis are the easiest transportation for a quick one-day tour. Hanoi’s top sights are concentrated in walkable districts. Taxis provide a cheap and convenient option between farther flung attractions.
Q: Do I need to book tickets to attractions in advance?
A: Booking ahead is recommended for Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum which has strict visitor limits. Other sights can be visited by purchasing tickets onsite.
Q: What’s the best season to visit Hanoi?
A: Hanoi enjoys pleasant weather from October to April, making this high season. Late spring and summer can be very hot and humid. Typhoon season falls between July and September.
Q: Are any attractions closed on certain days?
A: Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and museum are closed in October and November for annual maintenance. Some museums close on Mondays. Check opening hours before visiting.
A day in Hanoi provides a whirlwind introduction to Vietnam’s historic and vibrant capital. Following an efficient itinerary that hits the can’t-miss attractions like Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Old Quarter, and Temple of Literature allows you to make the most of your limited time. Extend your visit beyond 24 hours if possible to enjoy Hanoi’s sights and flavors at a more relaxed pace. With some savvy planning using this one-day Hanoi tour guide, you’ll come away with wonderful memories from this captivating Asian destination.