How to Spend a Weekend in Hanoi: From exploring hidden restaurants and antique shops to sampling Banh bo and doing lakeside tai chi, it’s easy to have a magical weekend in Hanoi. If you’re wondering what to do in Hanoi, check out this handy guide.
You only have 72 hours in Hanoi, so book a hotel close to all the action. Hotel de l’Opera is a stately boutique hotel with French colonial architecture and bold interiors and is conveniently located in buzzy Hoen Kiem, making it the perfect place to start your vacation.
After check-in, relax with a cocktail at Polite & Co, before heading out for a meal at the famous Cha-Ka La Vong. This simple restaurant has become such an attraction to foodies around the world that imitators of the same name have sprouted up like banh flowers on Son Street, but what you want is a strange take on 14 Cha Cha C is a ladder. If you see one menu, you’re in the wrong place: The real Cha Ca La Wong serves only one dish – Grilled Hemibagras with Dill and Chili. Although Western cooks have tried to import Cha Ca’s acting into Park Slope and Denver, the original is still the best.
Vietnam is famous for its coffee, and you can head to the deep end with a delectable ca phe Trung (egg coffee) at the old-world Jiang Café. After kick-starting a Saturday morning with some caffeine, explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter on foot. Take in Hang Gai Street’s galleries and exquisite silk shops, stroll through Hang Wai in the Bamboo District, and travel past on Lan Ong Street, a centuries-old avenue where you can find everything from traditional herbs and medicines to intuitive can get something. Healer and Monkey’s Paws.
The Old Quarter is home to a number of street-food outlets engaged in a battle for one-upmanship—watch out for a maze of wok bubbling over the sidewalks—but the king of the scene is Ban Bo Nam Bo. Hidden behind a modest storefront on Hang Dieu Street, the restaurant’s menu is compact and focused, and almost everyone orders the same thing: bn b, a beef dish that will provide the perfect fuel for your evening.
Saturday nights present a prime opportunity to take in fall and some local culture. To catch some sultry live jazz and relish some imported whiskey, hit up the Jazz Club of Binh Mah, just a 5-minute walk from the Hotel de l’Opera. Or, if you prefer sopranos to saxophones, watch a performance at the Hanoi Opera House, a neo-classical venue modeled after the Opéra Garnier de Paris. The Opera House is not only a beautiful place to catch a concert, but it has also played an important part in the history of the city.
After sampling some whiskey and enjoying some world-class music, visit the forever romantic Green Tangerine, a cool French-influenced restaurant where you can dine al fresco on a charming patio. Order the coffee-packed pigeon for a tart taste of the continent, or dine in the adventurous with a plate of red grouper tartar. There is also an award-winning sommelier to pick up the perfect glass of Bordeaux.
Sunday mornings mean you only have 24 hours left in Hanoi, so it’s done and with a morning stroll from the cobbled streets of the Old Quarter to Café Pho Co., a cozy space with old-school decor, a Quaint vibe, and a terrace with spectacular views of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Then shake up the Sunday morning blues by picking up a banh kyun, a thin crepe filled with mushrooms, pork, and fried shallots, and taking your breakfast to Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is a serene spot where you can take a walk, practice your tai chi, or join the locals in a game of Da Kau, a traditional Vietnamese sport. Don’t forget your camera, because you’ll definitely want to photograph the Turtle Tower and the Temple of Jade Mountain.
Wind up your morning by grabbing lunch at Bun Cha Huang Lien, a cool restaurant made famous when President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate their grilled pork.
After lunch, catch up on the country’s history with a visit to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, which offers exhibits and artifacts from 54 different ethnic groups. As Sunday night approaches, it’s time to look for souvenirs. If you’ve already grasped the silks of Hang Gai and the curiosities of Lan Ong Street, visit the Hanoi Weekend Market, a 3km-long stretch of vendors selling handicrafts and jewelry. You can catch some street entertainers, as well as get a unique gift.
For your ultimate dinner in Hanoi, visit Quan En Ngon, where the owner has assembled an all-star team of street-food chefs under one roof; Like the Hall of Fame for foodies. Take a stroll around the stalls until something tickles your fancy, or simply dive into banh zio, a Vietnamese pancake with shrimp and pork.
With its rich history, fascinating street food, and vibrant culture, Hanoi offers something for every traveler. Book your weekend in Hanoi today!