The Greatest Map to Tour Hanoi on Foot
Prior to landing in Vietnam, honestly I mainly expected to see endless miles of green rice paddies… boy was I wrong! Hanoi is the bustling center of Northern Vietnam full of culture, history, and fantastic coffee. Use these tools to tour Hanoi on foot and make this big city feel a little smaller.
This plan allows you to start from whatever point is closest to your hotel / hostel and just follow it in a circle. Navigating the tiny streets can seem difficult but you can use Google maps even without Wifi to pick up on your location and guide you along the way.
We stayed at Hanoi Buddy Inn (hostel run with stellar service like a hotel) that I highly recommend to anyone visiting! It is located a few blocks away from train street.
The Note Coffee
64 Lương Văn Can, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
You know my rules – always start with coffee! This is the most adorable little coffee spot overlooking Hoàn Kiếm Lake. They have all of the Vietnamese classics from egg coffee, to coconut coffee, to tri-color coffee with very kind English-speaking staff. Breakfast pastries aren’t really a thing in Vietnam though, so eat beforehand.
Their claim to fame? Limitless post-it notes that you can stick literally anywhere in the shop. Go crazy like a 3 year old with crayons on white walls!
Hoàn Kiếm Lake
Hồ Hoàn Kiếm
Head downstairs to take a lap around the lake. There are a few special spots like “Turtle Island” where you might be able to spot them sunning on the rocks. Make sure you see the iconic red Cầu Thê Húc bridge too.
The temple on the lake does have a hefty entrance fee, but you can see all the way around it and enjoy it from the shore instead for free.
Bà Đá Pagoda
Chùa Bà Đá
Alongside the lake, there is a small Buddhist temple. It is free to the public, just make sure to take off your shoes, be quiet and respectful, and don’t take photos of people worshiping. It’s a very welcoming and inclusive environment to see one of the main facets of Vietnamese culture.
Hanoi Train Street
Trần Phú, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm
This little spot is the best example of how Hanoi’s modern infrastructure sprung up around its historic buildings. This part of the train tracks runs right through the middle of the city and makes for terrifying but awesome photo op.
Make sure you check the train tables or ask people in the area when the train will come because you could be waiting for long time with no train in sight… like me who tried for 2 days and still missed it both times. So sad. But either way, the tracks are still really cool and will be a great addition to your tour of Hanoi!
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Nhà Thờ Lớn Hà Nội
Built in 1886, this gorgeous church has been a central icon of the city. The trees have overgrown large parts of the architecture making it seem as if it’s in the middle of the jungle.
You won’t be able to go inside but you can walk around the whole building and it’s gardens. If you have time, eat a meal at one of the restaurants in the square. We tried a cute little Italian place there and it had some of the freshest ingredients of my entire life!
Old Quarter “Beer Street”
Tạ Hiện, Lương Ngọc Quyến, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm
You can’t tour Hanoi without going to beer street! It’s a sticky rite-of-passage for every visitor.
You can get delicious street cooked meals like fried rice, bahn mi sandwiches, and of course, beer! Known for having “the cheapest beer ever”, you can get a pint on tap for $2 or buy a giant beer tower for about $10.
It’s a great place to meet other travelers if you’ll be in the area for a while, but you’ll also notice that there’s lots of locals enjoying themselves too.
… beware the donut ladies… story coming soon!
Harry Potter Cafe
8B Hàng Tre, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm
We saw this shop by complete accident on our bus and walked all the way back for it the next day!
The interior is ADORABLE! Packed full of Hogwarts decor like the Sorting Hat, Broomsticks, post owls, and all sorts of apparel.
Their menu includes themed drinks like Polyjuice Potion and the classic Butterbeer. It was the perfect little piece of childhood nostalgia in the middle of an unfamiliar country.
Best Hanoi Tour Tip: Take it Slow
If you don’t make it through this list in a day, there is no rush at all! Vietnam is vastly different from any country you’ll ever experience and Hanoi is the perfect place to start. Soak it in! Enjoy the bicycle ladies, the crowded shops, and the hoards of scooters. It is truly a joy in and of itself.