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Vietnam

Early morning in Hoi An Old Town

Hoi An is a place that has be high on my list for a long time. I dreamed of seeing the iconic yellow-painted walls with bright pink bougainvillea hanging over them, the famous lanterns that are strung through the city, and the river filled with small wooden boats that cuts through the old town. That’s why I knew that this stop needed to be my longest in Vietnam – And so, I began planning my itinerary to spend five days in Hoi An.

When I began planning I realized there are endless things to do in Hoi An that you could spend weeks there. But since our itinerary allowed for five days in Hoi An, I was determined to make the most of it. And I came up with this comprehensive guide of all the things to do in Hoi An (and eat!).

See Also: A Complete City Guide to Hanoi.

how should you spend your five days in hoi an? read on to find out!

but first...
where is hoi an located?

Hoi An is in central Vietnam, about 45 minutes outside of Da Nang, along Vietnam’s eastern coast. Located close to the coast, it is also surrounded by mountainous terrain and you can easily see the mountains in the distance. This make for some seriously beautiful views.

how to get to hoi an?

Most people arrive in Hoi An via Da Nang. Depending where you are coming from, there are many ways to get to Hoi An. Here are some tips on how to get to Hoi An from some of Vietnam’s largest hubs:

How to get to Hoi An from Hanoi: We arrived to Hoi An from Hanoi by plane (via Da Nang). Because we only had two and a half weeks in Vietnam, we opted to fly because it was the most efficient way to get from Hanoi to Hoi An. We arranged for a driver to pick us up at Da Nang airport and drive us to our hotel in Hoi An for roughly 275,000 VND or 12 USD. Hotels are often eager and willing to help arrange these services, so reach out to your hotel to arrange it prior to arriving in Da Nang. Alternatively, you can take the bus or the train from Hanoi (it takes about 12-14 hours, so many people opt to take this journey overnight and sleep on the way – and you save on accommodations for a night!).

How to get to Hoi An from Ho Chi Minh City: You can arrive from Ho Chi Minh City the same way as Hanoi – by plane to Da Nang, bus, or train.

Between these major hubs, you can also hop on buses or trains (and in some places, planes). Generally speaking, with transportation in Vietnam, I have found that it is always best to consult your hotel or hostel to help you make these arrangements and to make sure you don’t get scammed when booking private cars, buses, or trains.

A note on taxi scams: I would advise against using taxis in Vietnam, especially with airport pickups, because they have been known to scam tourists. If you’re looking for a safe taxi service, download the Grab app (Vietnam’s version of Lyft or Uber). You can confirm your ride through the app to ensure you are getting a fair price for the service.

things to do in hoi an

wander through the old town

Let’s start with the most obvious one because reality is, you’ll likely spend tons of time in the Hoi An Old Town. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the epicenter of Hoi An is straight out of a Vietnam postcard. Wander around the yellow-walled streets, down the alleyways… and just get lost. Stumble upon temples and browse the shops. My favourite shop is Sunday, where they have the most perfect handmade goods (and very Instagram-friendly walls, shown below). If you’re interested in shopping, I also love Mui the Label. Make sure you stop to grab a Vietnamese coffee at one of the charming cafes, and just people watch. Hoi An Old Town is the perfect place to do it.

Where is the From Hoi An with Love Wall
Hoi An Vibes Only Wall

Price to Visit Hoi An Old Town: 120,000 VND or 5 USD per person. At the entrances to the Old Town, you’ll notice ticket booths. While they don’t enforce ticket sales, they will check that you have a ticket if you want to visit the temples scattered throughout the Old Town. Even if you don’t intend to visit temples, be a responsible traveller and buy a ticket. It is a very small price to pay that goes back into the preservation of the Old Town so others can enjoy it for years to come.

Yellow Walls in Hoi An Old Town
Hoi An Old Town
Boats along river in Hoi An
Bougainvillea in Hoi An Old Town

gets clothes tailored

My custom tailoring experience was one of my favourite memories in Hoi An. Because we were visiting during the Lunar New Year, many tailors were closed, and our options are limited. I decided to connect with Bebe Tailor, the most famous tailor in Hoi An. I was a bit skeptical to work with Bebe Tailor because they have been known to be a bit expensive versus other tailors. But, I decided to try it out and got two dresses made.

In the end, I am so happy I chose Bebe. They were true professionals and their attention to detail and level of craftsmanship was first class. They were able to create both dresses in 24 hours (with two fittings in between), using premium materials, they turned out perfect. Never have I ever had such perfectly fitting clothing before and they truly understood my vision.

The price tag wasn’t “cheap” at 200 USD for both dresses (Sebastian also got a custom shirt made for 40 USD). But compared to the cost of a custom service at home, this was still very reasonable. And the experience itself was so special. I’ve never loved a vacation souvenir more!

If you’re looking for cheaper options, here’s a few that others recommended to me: Yaly Couture, Ca Li Tailor, and IZI Wear.

Wandering Around Hoi An Old Town
Dress from Bebe Tailor
Shown: The two dresses I got made at Bebe Tailor (note the photo on the right was taken in Tam Coc, not in Hoi An)

visit the best hoi an temples

There are loads of beautiful temples scattered throughout the centre of Hoi An. They weren’t particularly busy while we were there in January (with the exception of the Japanese Bridge), but I have been told they can get really crowded during peak season… So make sure to head there early. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Cantonese Assembly Hall
  • Phuc Kien Assembly
  • The Japanese Bridge
  • Pháp Bảo Temple
  • Chùa Long Tuyền

Don’t forget that these are places of worship and please dress appropriately (that means covering your shoulders and knees).

Price to Visit Hoi An Temples: You will need to buy a ticket at the entrance to the Old Town for 120,000 VND or 5 USD per person. With this, you can visit five attractions.

Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

bike around the hoi an rice fields

Biking around the Hoi An rice fields was so fun – in fact, we did it twice. The rice fields outside of Hoi An are beautiful, with paths zig-zagging throughout them so you can easy navigate your way through. We spent so much time biking through the lush green fields, stopping frequently to admire the horses, water buffalo and locals working in the fields – while rarely ever running into anyone else. It amazed me that this seemingly hidden gem, where locals lived their very normal lives tending to their rice farms, existed only a short bike ride from the busy city centre.

Take a look at this map below for suggested where to bike in the Hoi An rice fields, as well as marked locations of some of my favourite spots to capture photos. Note: If you put directions in Google Maps, they will lead you down the busy Ha Bai Trung street. Avoid this street and cut up through the rice fields through the entrances marked.

Biking Hoi An Rice Fields
Cow in Hoi An Rice Fields

visit the best beach in hoi an

On the other side of the Hoi An rice fields, you’ll find the best beach in Hoi An: An Bang Beach. By bike, you can easily reach the beach, where you’ll be able to rent a chair. We opted both times to rent our beach chairs at Seaside (we paid 60,000 VND, or less than 3.00 USD, and the spot also offered full-service beach side drinks and food, wifi, and a bathroom). 

An Bang Beach swing
An Bang Beach

While you’re at An Bang Beach, make sure you check out Sound of Silence Coffee Shop. I had heard a lot about this spot prior to visiting An Bang Beach, and this cutesy little coffee shop was a fantastic beach side escape for iced coffees. If you’re looking for a good photo spot on An Bang Beach, you can find the swing shown above outside the Sound of Silence beach entrance.

Note: I wasn’t able to locate Seaside on Google Maps, but I have pinned the location of it in the map at the end of this article. However, the easiest way to get there is to head to Sound of Silence Coffee Shop, and head down the pathway to the right side of the shop toward the beach.

Sound of Silence Coffee Shop

visit the hoi an night market

The Night Market in Hoi An is where the city comes alive. Here you’ll find stalls lit up with the famous Hoi An lanterns lining the side of the street. There are tons of vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs and many street food joints, too.

We bought a few souvenirs for friends and family here (make sure to haggle – we were typically able to knock 30-40% off the starting price). My only real regret is that I couldn’t fit a lantern in my backpack to bring home with me (if you’re travelling with a suitcase, buy one – they are beautiful).

While you’re visiting the Hoi An Night market, you can take a ride on the river in one of the beautifully decorated boats. I was skeptical to do this, because it looked very touristy. But then on our very last night this Vietnamese women followed us around for fifteen minutes trying to convince us to get into her boat. We were so impressed by her hustle game that we gave in and went for a ride (for roughly 100,000 VND or just over 4 USD). Seeing the river lit up at night was beautiful, but I honestly wouldn’t be quick to do it again. It was just as pretty looking at it from the shoreline.

take a class at the best cooking class in hoi an

One of my absolute favourite mornings in Hanoi was spending a morning with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class. The experience was hands-on and immersive. And I am still dreaming about the food! We’ve tried to recreate it at home… but it just isn’t the same (guess that means I need to book a flight back to Hoi An).

But seriously, I couldn’t imagine a more fun morning and it was an easy highlight. We made our own rice paper over a burning hot fire, rolled fresh spring rolls, fried sizzling pancakes, and just had so much fun. This was also an allergy-friendly cooking class in Hoi An for anyone travelling with nut allergies in Vietnam. If you have any allergies reach out and ask if they can accommodate. I was so impressed by their hospitality.

Important Tip: Use the correct link to book the class (there are some imitations out there that hotels will point you toward because they earn commissions). Make sure you FOLLOW THIS LINK to book directly with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class on their website (feel free to tell them that I sent you, if you want).

Read my blog post for a Full Hoi An Eco Cooking Class review here (coming Soon).
Hoi An Eco Cooking Class

get lost in the hoi an central market

We loved Hoi An Central Market. It was chaotic and fun and full of so many delicious smells. Walk up to any stall, ask them to cut open a piece of fruit for you, and just wander around admiring the sights, sounds, and smells. It’s a serious sensory overload.

If it were up to me, I would have made a pit stop for fresh dragon fruit and mangoes here every single day. Unfortunately, we were travelling in Hoi An around the beginning of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, and World Health Organization was strongly urging travellers in Asia to avoid visiting open markets. So, after the first day we listened to WHO’s orders and (albeit reluctantly) stayed away.

Fruit in Hoi An

get a taste of local life at tra que vegetable village

Right outside of central Hoi An lies Tra Que Vegetable Village where locals tend to their immaculate gardens. These farming village was so cool to see, with locals using traditional Vietnamese practices to harvest the land. We only had time to ride our bikes around the village and admired daily life. But, if I were to do it again, I would have opted for a more immersive experience at the farm by taking a tour.

If you’re interested in getting a full hands-on agricultural experience with the best Tra Que Vegetable Village tour, I’ve heard awesome things about this tour with Backstreet Academy where you get to be a farmer for a few hours. You even get to eat a meal made from the locally grown organic ingredients.

Tra Que Vegetable Village

visit the my son sanctuary

We loved the My Son Sanctuary, which is located roughly an hour from Hoi An. The ruins were spectacular. And while many have been kept in good condition, evidence of the Vietnam War was apparent in damage. In fact, there were craters surrounding the ruins from bombings. It is UNESCO famed cultural landmark in Vietnam that, in my opinion, should not be missed.

What is the best time of day to visit My Son Sanctuary? Most tours leave Hoi An or Da Nang around 8:00 in the morning, which often means that My Son Sanctuary is very crowded by 9:00 am. We originally planned to visit when it opened for sunrise, at 6:00 am, but I had heard that it has begun to get busier in the morning as a few tour providers have begun to offer sunrise tours. Based on this, we opted to visit in the mid-afternoon, before closing. We arrived at My Son Sanctuary at around 2:00 pm and it was not busy at all. JACKPOT. The only downside to this plan is that it is very hot at My Son Sanctuary. While the heat was tolerable for us in January, I am not sure I would feel the same way during the warmer months. If I were to return to Vietnam in the spring or summer, I would opt to visit My Son Sanctuary at sunrise.

How to get to My Son Sanctuary? We opted to pay for a private driver drive us to/from My Son Sanctuary because we weren’t interested in having a tour guide and wanted to explore at our own pace. This service cost us about 35 USD. Alternatively, you can book a group tour (this is by far the cheapest option). I wouldn’t recommend taking the morning tours that leave around 8:00 because the sanctuary will likely be very busy. In my opinion, sunrise is your best option for a tour. If you’re interested in a sunrise tour, check this one out. Alternatively, there are many people who ride scooters out to the sanctuary. After passing by many amazing local villages and wishing I could make a pit stop, I was envious of the people brave enough to make this journey by bike. But, we weren’t feeling personally confident enough to make this trek by scooter (maybe next time?).

Visiting My Son Sanctuary

hop around to the best coffee shops in hoi an

It’s no secret that my coffee obsession is REAL. And Vietnamese coffee sits at the top of my list for some of my favourite coffee ever. That’s why I was so excited to visit Hoi An, which is really a coffee-shop-lovers paradise. Take some time to slow down and enjoy the best coffee shops in Hoi An. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • 92 Station: For the best views of the city, 92 Station is your spot. Head up to the patio on the third floor and be welcomed by the best rooftop views paired with a Vietnamese coffee or fresh juice (or both!).
  • Faifo Coffee: Faifo is a very popular spot in Hoi An for rooftop views, but if you ask me, my previous recommendation (92 Station) is better. Not only did 92 Station have better coffee, but it is a lot less busy than Faifo, which has been known to have people literally lining up to take photos on the roof. Even still, the rooftop patio here is great if you can manage to stop when it isn’t busy like we did.
  • Sound of Silence Coffee Shop: Located along An Bang beach, you can enjoy coffee next to beach at this cutesy spot. I highly recommend the mango-infused cold brew for a unique and refreshing coffee flavour.
  • Mot Hoi An: Not coffee, but Mot is home to Hoi An’s most popular iced herbal teas. Seriously – this iced tea is the real deal. You’ll probably notice groups of people lined up to grab a famous tea for only 10,000 VND (less than .50 USD), beautifully garnished with a leaf, rose petal, and bamboo straw.
  • Wake Up Coffee: Another great little coffee shop with big open windows, perfect for people watching alongside the busy Hoi An streets.
  • The Espresso Station: MY FAVOURITE COFFEE SHOP IN HOI AN. This spot is a bit hidden down an alleyway, and offers such a cool patio ambiance and really unique coffee and drinks that are seriously works of art. We spent a couple hours on the patio sharing four drinks between the two of us (because we couldn’t make our mind up about what we wanted). My favourite drink was ice cubes made of frozen coffee topped with cacao powder, and served with hot creamy milk that you pour overtop.
  • Reaching Out Teahouse: Also not a typical coffee spot, but I love Reaching Out Teahouse so much we went here twice. This traditional teahouse is operated by deaf workers and all communication is done through writing and the use of small blocks with words like “thank you” written onto them. The ambiance of this place is beautiful, and the tea is fantastic (and served with delicious homemade cookies and biscuits). I also loved the fresh juices here – you must try the lime juice and add a bit of liquid ginger to it.
Faifo Hoi An
92 Station Hoi An
Reaching Out Teahouse Hoi An
Shown here (clockwise from top left): Faifo Coffee rooftop; Reaching Out Teahouse; Views from 92 Station Rooftop; Espresso Station

take a trip to the Tam Thanh Mural Village

Full disclosure: We didn’t go here. But I really wanted to after hearing so many wonderful things about it. Since were in Hoi An during the Lunar New Year (Tet), it meant that many drivers and tour operators were taking time off with their families. So when we tried to arrange time to visit this village, it became too complicated to fit it into the schedule.

But, based on what I’ve heard, I would highly recommend visiting this spot. The local town is covered in murals and I’ve also heard the nearby beach is beautiful and not touristy. Located roughly an hour away, you can arrange a driver through your hotel, ride a scooter, or take a tour. Here’s a link to a tour that will take you out to the village (cost is only about 16 USD per person for a five hour excursion).

The Best Hotel in Hoi An

Maichi villa

Looking for the best hotel in Hoi An? How about a hotel in Hoi An with a pool? Or a hotel in Hoi An with free breakfast?

Well, I’ve got the perfect spot. MaiChi Villa was easily our favourite hotel (errr, should I say homestay?) we stayed at in Vietnam for so many reasons. It had a beautiful pool, massive rooms, and a huge breakfast all included in the price. The hotel only opened a few months ago, and it was brand new in every way. The facilities were beautiful, and the host family could not have been more sweet and helpful.

Finally, MaiChi Villa is also so optimally located, a quick 8-10 minute walk from the Old Town. And they provide free bikes so you can easily bike everywhere else you need to go. I seriously cannot recommend this hotel enough.

MaiChi Villa Hoi An Review
The Best Hotel in Hoi An: MaiChi Villa

Where to Eat in Hoi An

Hoi An is quite literally full of hidden gem restaurants and has so many must-local dishes that I couldn’t get enough of. Here’s a few of my favourites (and things you should try at each).

Mot Hoi An: famous for the herbal tea described above, but we loved the food here too!
Madam Khanh - The Banh Mi Queen: get the classic banh mi with pate - yum!
Banh Mi Phuong: anthony bourdain said this was the best manh mi in the world
LeFe dining place: mid-range but so good with accommodating sebastian's nut allergy that we went twice; try the "shrimp lettuce wraps" and fresh spring rolls, shown below
ganesh: if you're looking for something different, they have some of the best indian food ever
ben bi bubble tea: didn't eat here, but loved the matcha bubble tea
sea crab: looking for a lunch spot near an bang beach? this is a good spot for cao lau
Com Ga Ba Minh: a local favourite for the popular hoi an chicken and rice dish
white rose restaurant: for famous white rose dumplings
dingo deli: all day brunch and western food (like pizza)
rosie's cafe: very popular/trendy brunch spot searching mostly western brunch options

LeFe Dining Place Hoi An

find all my favourite spots for the perfect five days in hoi an.
check out the map below.

pro Tip: Google Maps does not pin locations in Vietnam with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, you should note the exact address of the location. Use Google Maps to Help you find the street, and then follow the street numbers until you find the exact address. also, google maps will often "auto-correct" the street name and lead you in the wrong direction. before you start walking, make sure you double check that you have the right street name (or else you might end up 15 minutes late for a food tour like us, lol).
Boats in Hoi An

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Heading to Hanoi? Check out my Hanoi City Guide here.
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5 Days in Hoi An City Guide
Tips for visiting My Son Sanctuary
Things to Do in Hoi An Itinerary
The Best Beach in Hoi An
The Best Restaurants in Hoi An
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As a reminder, I only recommend products and companies that I stand behind 100%. Thanks for supporting Madeline Rae Away.
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Bowl of Pho at Khoi in Hanoi

Navigating the street food scene in Hanoi can be very overwhelming for tourists. In fact, we talked to MANY tourists who mentioned they didn’t even try it because it was too intimidating. Many people referenced the fact that many of these spots look like a food poisoning incident waiting to happen.

When we showed up, we didn’t even know where to begin looking and were totally intimidated by every sidewalk restaurant we passed. That’s why, on our first full day in Hanoi, we decided to book a street food tour to help ease us into the street food scene. We had heard from many people that it was some of the best food they had ever had, and we were determined to give it a try.

Not to mention, it is CHEAP. A typical meal, including beers, would cost us around 100,000 VND (just over $4 USD) and the portions are typically huge.

After our tour with With Locals, we felt confident to eat street food in Hanoi on our own and I have come up with a list of some of the best street food restaurants in Hanoi that you MUST TRY. The reason the street food is so good in Hanoi is because many of these spots only make one or two things. This means that they are making it fresh everyday and have perfected the recipes.

In this list, I have also included are some street food in Hanoi restaurants that we didn’t have time to make it to, but came highly recommended to us by a Hanoi local. So think of this as your very own, super-comprehensive guide to everything street food in Hanoi.

CLICK HERE to receive 15 euros off on your first With Locals booking (valid in every city they operate in worldwide).

Street food in Hanoi
Street food in Hanoi

ready to eat the best street food in hanoi?
read on for more info on where to find it!

Phở Sướng

What to Eat: Phở bò (beef noodle soup)
Location: 24B Ngõ Trung Yên
Why We Loved It: The beef pho here was really good! It’s also tucked down a really cool, private alley right in the centre of the Old Quarter. Just make sure you go easy on the hot peppers, they are spicy (Sebastian learned this the hard way, lol).

Pho Suong in Hanoi

Quán Phở Bò Khôi Hói

What to Eat: Phở bò (beef noodle soup)
Location: 50 Hàng Vải
Why We Loved It: The beef pho here was also amazing! This is a more authentic street food experience versus Pho Suong, where you sit on tiny little stools on the side of the street. On the tables, you’ll see jars of garlic vinegar. Add a small spoonful into the bowl of pho – it it is a game changer!

Nhà Hàng Thanh Hop

What to Eat: Bún chả (fatty pork with noodles and dipping sauce)
Location: 12 Đinh Liệt
Why We Loved It: I really loved the bún chả at this spot. It is also located on a great, moderately busy street in the Old Quarter, perfect for people-watching. And if you’re tall like us, you don’t have to worry about sitting virtually on the ground… the stools are a bit taller here 🙂

Bun cha in Hanoi

my hai

What to Eat: Fried spring rolls
Location: 63 Lò Sũ
Why We Loved It: My favourite fried spring rolls we had in Vietnam (and we had a lot of them). We sat here one night for a couple hours, ate over 20 spring rolls between the two of us (they were small…) and drank cheap beers.

"unknown" street food restaurant

What to Eat: Bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls filled with pork)
Location: 91 Hàng Điếu
Why We Loved It: This is one of my favourite dishes I had in all of Vietnam. Order to the bánh cuốn, and dip it in the fish sauce they provide you and top it with a bit of lime. 
(I’ve searched high and low and cannot figure out the name of this spot but follow the address and you won’t be disappointed!)

Banh Cuon in Hanoi

Bún riêu cua Hàng Bạc

What to Eat: Bún riêu cua (vermicelli soup topped with fresh crab)
Location: 11 Hàng Bạc
Why We Loved It: This spot felt like a “true” street food experience because it was quite literally a hole in the wall with a small bar with two stool, and a couple tables on the sidewalk. The bún riêu cua (make sure you get the “cua”/crab version) was so incredibly delicious. 

Chè Dung

What to Eat: Coconut ice cream with fresh mango
Location: 95 Hàng Bạc
Why We Loved It: This is a dessert spot, so naturally it was one of my favourites. The mangos in Vietnam are next level. In fact, I don’t think I can ever eat mangos again at home. Pair that with coconut ice cream and fresh coconut, and this is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had (this coming from a girl who LOVES sweets).

Bún riêu cua in Hanoi

Left: Bún riêu cua (crab soup); Right: Coconut ice cream with fresh mango

Street Food in Hanoi: The Places We Didn't Try...
...But Wish We did!

Here’s a list of places that came HIGHLY recommended by another tour guide we had in Hanoi (who has lived in Hanoi his whole life). I wish we had more time to try to some of these spots, but because we were travelling close to the Vietnamese New Year, many spots were intermittently closed holiday. I hope you take some of these recommendations and enjoy them for me!

MUST TRY dishes IN HANOI (and where to find them):

Bún Thang (5 Hàng Trống)
Bánh Cuốn (14 Phố Báo Khánh)
Cháo sườn (1 Ngõ Huyện)
Nem Nướng (10 Ấu Triệu)
phở bò (34 Ấu Triệu)
coconut coffee (any Cộng Cafe location)
egg coffee (Cafe Giang or Cafe dinh)
Iced lime tea with sunflower seeds (Cafe Tra Chanh on nha tho)

Other restaurants in Hanoi
(That aren't traditional street food)

We didn’t eat JUST street food in Hanoi. Here’s a list of a few other non-street food spots that you need to check out.

best brunch in hanoi: the Hanoi social club (6 Ngõ Hội Vũ)
great lunch or dinner spot: Noodle & Roll (39C Lý Quốc Sư)
eat like anthony bourdain: Bún chả Hương Liên (24 Lê Văn Hưu)
for great vietnamese food: Luk Lak Vietnamese Restaurant (4A Lê Thánh Tông)
amazing bao can be found here: bao wow (No. 31a Alley 12 Đặng Thai Mai)

Shown here: The Hanoi Social Club

Need help finding the best street food in hanoi?
check out the map below.

pro Tip: Google Maps does not pin locations in Vietnam with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, you should note the exact address of the location. Use Google Maps to Help you find the street, and then follow the street numbers until you find the exact address. also, google maps will often "auto-correct" the street name and lead you in the wrong direction. before you start walking, make sure you double check that you have the right street name (or else you might end up 15 minutes late for a food tour like us, lol).

interested in taking a street food tour?

Make sure you use THIS LINK to get 15 euros off on your first With Locals booking (it can be used in any city worldwide).

LIKE WHAT YOU READ? PIN IT BELOW.

The best street food in Hanoi
The best restaurants in Hanoi
Where to eat street food in Hanoi
Where to find the best restaurants in Hanoi
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As a reminder, I only recommend products and companies that I stand behind 100%. Thanks for supporting Madeline Rae Away.
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Busy Hanoi Street

Before we went to Vietnam, Hanoi was arguably the place I was least excited about on our itinerary. I’m not totally sure why… Maybe because it was the place I knew the least about. Or maybe it was the fact that I thought Hanoi was just a big, overwhelming city.

And I wasn’t wrong about that. Hanoi is a VERY big, VERY overwhelming city. But what surprised me most was that it was arguably my favourite stop on our Vietnam trip.

Why? Well, that’s a loaded question. And one that a blog post like this one could never totally answer. It’s a place you have to experience to understand. And should be treated as much more than an entry or exit point to Vietnam. In my opinion, you should spend at least three days in Hanoi (but if you ask me, the more the better). 

okay, now that i have your attention...
read about how to spend three days in hanoi with this hanoi city guide.

THINGS TO DO IN HANOI

visit the temple of literature

I absolutely loved The Temple of Literature. The sprawling grounds are scattered with beautiful gardens, lakes and pagodas. The temple was built in 1070 and was home to Vietnam’s first national university. We visited before Tet (The Vietnamese Lunar New Year) and it was so cool to see the holiday decorations and preparations being made for the biggest Vietnamese holiday of the year.

Ticket price: 30,000 VND or just over $1 USD a person.

The Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi

walk around hoan kiam lake

Hoan Kiem is a cultural landmark of Hanoi and a major city attraction. The best time to visit Hoan Kiam Lake in the early morning before fellow tourists are out, and you can observe the locals enjoying the scenery and partaking in their morning exercise routines. We loved witnessing how the locals treasured this lake.

If you’re visiting early, pay a visit to Ngoc Son Temple, located across the bright red bridge in the centre of the lake. When we were there during midday, we didn’t dare to visit because the red bridge was piled with tourists. However, during our 8am lake walk one morning, we noticed it was quiet and decided to visit. The ticket price was cheap (30,000 VND or just over $1 USD a person). And we felt like we had the whole little island to ourselves.

Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi
Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi

wander around hanoi old quarter

The Old Quarter of Hanoi is like nothing I have ever seen before. It is buzzing with people – and scooters. People are everywhere, and the sidewalks are covered with scooters and makeshift street food joints, so you can forget walking on the sidewalk. It is easy to get lost for hours in the streets of the Old Quarter… and it was absolutely a highlight of my time in Hanoi.

Fun Fact: There are 79 streets in the Old Quarter and each corresponds with a specific type of merchandize or service, and most shops on the street correspond. For example, you can find the shoe street, the textiles street, the silver street, the coffee street, or an entire street dedicated to fixing scooters.

We loved wandering around the Old Quarter and eating ALL the street food. Many tourists are too afraid to eat the Hanoi street food, and too be honest, I don’t blame them – it looks like a food poisoning disaster waiting to happen. If you’re too scared to dabble in the street food scene, or don’t know where to start, check out my next suggestion…

Hanoi Old Quarter at Night
Old Quarter Hanoi
Woman bike with fruit Hanoi Old Quarter
Visiting Hanoi Old Quarter
On the note of scooters, you've probably heard about the madness of trying to cross the street in Hanoi. I promise, it isn't as scary as it seems to cross. Just walk across the street at a steady pace. Don't increase or decrease speed, and definitely don't stop. The scooters will gauge your pace and go around you. However, this is not the case for cars and busses. So, if you see a car or bus, stop on the side of the street and wait to cross.

take a food tour

I am a huge fan of the company With Locals that pairs you with a local who guides you on a private tour throughout the city. You can take one of their standard tours, or request a custom tour (which we did because Sebastian is allergic to nuts). On our first day in Vietnam, we took a tour with Hoa from With Locals who navigated us through Hanoi’s street food scene. We tried all kinds of local foods (often while sitting on tiny step stools on the side of the street). I couldn’t recommend this tour enough! You can a Street Food tour with With Locals here (look for Hoa N).

As a side note, did you know that that the reason everyone sit street-side on buckets and step stools in Vietnam eating street food is because eating on the street is technically illegal? So, locals buy cheap “chairs and tables” and scatter the streets with them. If the authorities come and take them away, it’s a minor loss (although it doesn’t seem like this happens very often). Also, these tiny pieces of furniture are easy to gather and quickly bring inside if authorities are close by.

Vegan or Vegetarian? Backstreet Academy offers a great Vegan/Vegetarian food tour that you can check out here.

enjoy the vietnamese coffee scene

Hanoi has one of my favourite coffee scenes of any city I have ever been to. I loved it so much that I wrote a detailed post about all my favourite coffee shops in Hanoi, and what you need to try at each.

If you’re a coffee lover like me, I highly recommend Backstreet Academy’s “Coffee Lovers Walking Tour.” We did this tour in Hanoi and it was an easy highlight of my time there. You can find out more or book the tour here.

visit hanoi's famous train street

Okay, I know what you’re thinking… Isn’t the train street closed to the public? The simple is yes. However, the restaurants that line the tracks are still open. Here’s a bit of backstory if you haven’t heard about this popular Hanoi landmark.

Hanoi’s train street is a set of tracks that goes right through central Hanoi. Over the years, many coffee shops and restaurants have opened up shops along the tracks, serving mainly tourists. Visitors would walk up and down the tracks and visit the restaurants. The catch – the train is still operating. So, as this tourist spot became more and more popular, it became a safety concern with thousands of tourists standing alongside the tight tracks as the train passed by. So, the government of Hanoi stepped in and has barricaded entrances to the tracks, closing it to tourists. 

While this is a necessary move for safety reasons, many local businesses have been massively affected since last October by this closure. Therefore, the owners often stand along the entrance to the tracks and ask you to come to their restaurant. If you go with a restaurant owner, with the purpose of buying something from the restaurant, the guards will let you in. This initiative has cut back on crowds in a massive way. When we visited the landmark, there were very few others there.

We unfortunately were not able to visit when the train went by because we were only in Hanoi on weekdays (the train only operates in the evening on weekdays and it was too dark by then during the winter months… so if you’re spending three days in Hanoi in the winter, try to make sure one of the days you visit is a Saturday or Sunday). The restaurants lining the tracks will be able to provide you with a schedule in case these change, but this is the Hanoi train schedule currently:

  • Monday to Friday: 7 pm, 7:45 pm, 8:30 pm, 10 pm
  • Saturday and Sunday: 6 am, 9 am, 11:20 am, 3:20 pm, 5:30 pm, 6 pm, 7 pm, 7:45 pm, 8:30 pm, 9 pm, 11 pm

If you’re looking for the best location to enter the train street, I have marked it on the map below.

Hanoi Train Street
Hanoi Train Street

visit a spa

There are spas on every corner in Hanoi, but many of them are not paying fair wages and may be using unethical practices, so do your research before blindly wandering into one. If it is insanely cheap, it is probably a red flag. While moderate in price, I loved the spa at La ÉnMay Spa in the La Sinfonia Del Rey Hotel and Spa. And if you book between 10-12 am, you receive 30% off services. You can find out more here. 

La ÉnMay Spa Hanoi

see a water puppet show

I’ll admit, I was skeptical to visit this. I thought it would be touristy and just not my thing. But, I went because everyone says it is something you’re “supposed” to do in Hanoi. And I am so glad I went.

The show was beautiful and so impressive. The whole play is done in Vietnamese, but it doesn’t matter. Can you pretty easily follow along with the simple storyline. And even without understanding every detail it is such a cool cultural experience.

I recommend visiting the most popular water puppet show in Hanoi at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. If you’re interested in skip the line tickets, you can find them here. Alternatively, you can visit the onsite kiosk to grab tickets, but I have been told that during peak season, tickets can sell out well in advance, so this is an easy online way to secure your seats.

Tickets start as low as 100,000 VND per person (or about $4.30 USD) and the price increases depending on how close to the stage you are. We opted for the tickets priced at 150,000 VND and found it was close enough to the stage, but it might be difficult to see the details of the show if you were seated near the back.

take a cooking class

I didn’t personally have time to take a cooking class during my three days in Hanoi, but I am really disappointed I didn’t. We did a cooking class in Hoi An and it was a highlight of our time in Vietnam. If I could go back, I would have made it a priority.

If you’re interested in cooking, this is a must do. I’ve heard VERY GOOD things about this particular cooking class where you get a hands-on cooking experience in the home of a local!

have more than three days in hanoi? here's some other things you can do.

visit the west lake (the biggest lake in hanoi)
visit hoa lo prison (this is another thing I really wish we made time for)
walk across long bien bridge
visit the museum of ethnology
visit the ho chi minh mausoleum (best to visit at end of day before it closes to avoid morning crowds)

Where to stay in Hanoi

luxury: la sinfonia del rey hotel & spa

Because we were in-and-out of Hanoi as a “home base” for our trip, we decided to “splurge” one night at La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa. A big splurge at this hotel will set you back about 1,700,000 VND or $75 USD per night, and I can confirm that this brand new hotel was easily one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. The entire hotel was covered in black marble, the rooms were premium comfort, the bathrooms luxurious, and the breakfast was just WOW. Not to mention the location could not be better, located right across the street from Hoan Kiem Lake.

La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa
La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa Hanoi

Mid-range: centraltique downtown

Looking for a mid-range hotel Old Quarter Hanoi hotel? Centraltique was beautiful. It is located in a historic French Colonial building in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle. The rooms were large and clean, and we had a front street-facing balcony with great views. Keep in mind, it is located in the middle of all the chaos and therefore can be loud all hours of the night. For me, this was part of the charm. But if you’re looking for a quiet nights sleep during your three days in Hanoi, I would look outside of the Old Quarter.

Centraltique Hotel Hanoi

Where to Eat in Hanoi

Where do I even start? Hanoi was home to easily the best food I had in Vietnam, and has officially positioned itself as one of my top favourite food cities in the world. I ate at so many places I loved, including some amazing street food gems. And I wrote a Hanoi food guide all about my favourite spots!

MUST TRY dishes IN HANOI:

Bún Thang (local vietnamese noodle soup)
Bún chả (grilled fatty pork and noodles + dipping dauce)
Bánh Cuốn (vietnamese steamed rice rolls with pork)
Cháo sườn (porridge with pork ribs that is said to cure you if you have a cold)
Nem Nướng (grilled pork sausage)
phở bò (beef noodle soup)
coffee: traditional vietnamese drip coffee, coconut coffee, egg coffee
Iced lime tea with sunflower seeds

Hanoi Vietnam flowers

find all my favourite spots for the perfect three days in hanoi.
check out the map below.

pro Tip: Google Maps does not pin locations in Vietnam with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, you should note the exact address of the location. Use Google Maps to Help you find the street, and then follow the street numbers until you find the exact address. also, google maps will often "auto-correct" the street name and lead you in the wrong direction. before you start walking, make sure you double check that you have the right street name (or else you might end up 15 minutes late for a food tour like us, lol).

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Things to Do in Hanoi
Three days in Hanoi City Guide
Three days in Hanoi Itinerary
The Best Hotel in Hanoi
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As a reminder, I only recommend products and companies that I stand behind 100%. Thanks for supporting Madeline Rae Away.
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The best egg coffee in Hanoi at Cafe Dinh

Hanoi knows their coffee. And this is coming from a girl who lives in Scandinavia, otherwise often referred to as the “Coffee Capital of Europe” (okay, I may have made that up but Scandinavian’s love their coffee).

Now I have to admit, I used to hate coffee. But, over the past couple years I have been quickly converted to a coffee-obsessed… I mean, I go to bed dreaming about waking up to my morning coffee. That’s why seeking out a cuppa joe and cutesy cafes has become one of my most treasured travel traditions. 

What I’ve learned as I’ve sipped my way across the world, is that no matter how the coffee is served, the concept of coffee serves the same purpose all around the world: It is a cultural foundation that brings people together. 

This is no different in Hanoi. I’ve had some of the best coffee I’ve ever sipped on here, served in so many different ways: hot, cold, sweet, very VERY strong. And it’s all DELICIOUS. And with lots of research and a little help from Backstreet Academy’s “Coffee Lovers Walking Tour,” I was able to check off some of Hanoi’s coolest cafes off my list. 

want to know where to find the best coffee shops in hanoi?
read on to find out!

 

Full Disclosure: As a Backstreet Academy Ambassador, I was a guest on Backstreet Academy’s “Coffee Lovers Walking Tour.” As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. About Backstreet Academy:  Their motto is “Do Good as you Travel.” Through offering unique handcrafted experiences, they offer authentic local experiences, they identify individuals in BOP (bottom-of-the-pyramid) communities and turn them into Backstreet Hosts. You can find our more about Backstreet Academy’s mission and tours here.

 

LOADING T

One of the best coffee shops in Hanoi was introduced to me on our “Coffee Lovers Walking Tour” and I was obsessed. Located in a French mansion in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, it was so busy and I can understand why. Loading T is the only place in Hanoi that offered this special iced cinnamon roasted coffee and it was TO DIE FOR. I’m not kidding, I dream about that coffee.

Must Try: Cinnamon roasted coffee with coconut milk (you can thank me later).

Loading T Hanoi

The Note COffee

This insta-famous spot is definitely worth a spot if you’re wandering around Hoan Kiem Lake. The entire cafe is covered head-to-toe in stick notes with messages from visitors all over the world. It’s a unique spot to enjoy a coffee and grab some photos.

Note Cafe in Hanoi

Cafe Dinh

Looking for famous egg coffee in Hanoi (like the one shown in the first photo of this blog post)? Look no further than Cafe Dinh. This is another spot that we were brought to on our “Coffee Lovers Walking Tour” and I loved it! Egg coffee might sound a bit weird, but you must try it. It’s actually quite delicious, and super sweet like a dessert.

Cafe Dinh is owned by the daughter of the man who founded egg coffee in Hanoi. Most travellers visit Cafe Giang, owned by the son of the inventor. We went to both Cafe Dinh and Cafe Giang, and female support and empowerment reasons aside, I actually preferred the version served at Cafe Dinh.

Pro Tip: Cafe Dinh, in true Hanoi fashion, is found down an alley and up a very unsuspecting set of stairs. If you think you’re at the wrong spot, you’re not. I’ve included the location of this spot on the map below.

La Place

If you’re looking to sip on a cup of coffee (or even a glass of beer) and get a unique viewpoint of St. Stephen’s Basilica, La Place is the place. Go up the stairs to the second floor and you’ll be able to sit on a quiet balcony overlooking the cathedral. The views are beautiful!

ANYWHERE ON TRAIN STREET

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – Isn’t the famous Hanoi train street closed? Technically, yes – it is. However, many of the businesses lining the street have remained open. And while I am all about respecting local rules and customs while travelling, I also am all about supporting tourism-dependent, bottom-of-the-pyramid businesses that have been negatively affected by government regulations and are therefore struggling to survive.

If you go by the entrances to the train street, you’ll notice barriers and guards blocking the street. However, there are also often local restaurant owners standing nearby who will ask you to come have a coffee. If you’re escorted by the owners, you’re welcome to visit the street.

And what’s better then enjoying a coffee trackside while a train speeds by?!

Coffee Shop on Hanoi Train Street

Cafe Duy tri

Another stop on the “Coffee Lovers walking Tour,” Duy Tri is a bit away from the typical tourist hot spots and close to The West Lake. It was one of the first five coffee shops in Hanoi, and is home to some of the best Vietnamese Coffee in Hanoi. They source and roast their own coffee, and the results were easily some of the best coffee we had in Vietnam. 

The Hanoi Social Club

I loved Hanoi Social Club – both for coffee, and for brunch. This place needs to be added to your list of places to eat and drink coffee in Hanoi, and not only because of the good food and coffee. The cafe aesthetics are so pretty.  

See Also: My complete food guide to Hanoi, including details on the best street food spots.

Coffee at the Hanoi Social Club

MUST TRY COFFEE IN HANOI:

Egg Coffee
Coconut Coffee
Traditional Vietnamese Drip Coffee (with condensed milk)
Cinnamon Roasted Coffee
Weasel Poop Coffee (if you're feeling daring, but please be a responsible traveller and do your research - there are a lot of fakes out there)

Need help finding the best coffee shops in hanoi?
check out the map below.

pro Tip: Google Maps does not pin locations in Vietnam with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, you should note the exact address of the location. Use Google Maps to Help you find the street, and then follow the street numbers until you find the exact address. also, google maps will often "auto-correct" the street name and lead you in the wrong direction. before you start walking, make sure you double check that you have the right street name (or else you might end up 15 minutes late for a food tour like us, lol).

LIKE WHAT YOU READ? PIN IT BELOW.

The Best Coffee Shops in Hanoi
Where to find the best egg coffee in Hanoi
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As a reminder, I only recommend products and companies that I stand behind 100%. Thanks for supporting Madeline Rae Away.
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