Hanoi Unveiled: A 48-Hour Exploration of Historical Landmarks and Culinary Treasures

June 4, 2024

In the present-day popular imagination, Hanoi may be perceived as a busy, chaotic town where the best food is found at a roadside vendor, and the best suit is made at a family-run tailor shop in the old town. Or at least, that’s what social media influencers will tell you. As an increasing number of high rises, malls and designer stores crop up in the capital city of Vietnam, what continues to enamour visitors the most is not the pace at which the place is hurtling towards modernity. Instead, what stands out is the meticulous preservation of its centuries-old history which has been triumphant, turbulent and even traumatic at times but has made Hanoi what it is today.  

Once conquered by the Chinese and French and impacted by rampant bombing during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, Hanoi has held on to several cultural vestiges from the past. Yet the spirit of the place, is undoubtedly Vietnamese – resilient, friendly, entrepreneurial and extremely hardworking. And during your travels with Discova we want to highlight precisely that, even if you have just 48 hours to spare.    
We believe that a place is best explored through the eyes of a local and on foot, so on your first morning in Hanoi, your expert guide will take you to explore the city’s rich and illustrious past. In a span of four hours, you’ll see the sites around Hoan Kiem, Hanoi’s largest freshwater lake and hear how the city has changed over the years.

Inside the peaceful premises of the Temple of Literature

During this excursion, we will stroll by the popular Hoang Hoa Tham Street, bustling with flower stores and neighbourhood merchants. Next, we stop by a local residence to meet someone who witnessed the Vietnam War and learn how the war affected the Vietnamese people. The tour ends with a visit to the B52 museum to witness the remains of a US fighter plane that was shot down in 1972. 

After building up a formidable appetite from all the walking, feel free to have lunch at your own leisure. Our guide will be more than happy to recommend some popular local restaurants, depending on your preferences.  You can spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the many nooks and crannies of the old town before another culinary adventure beckons at 6 pm.   

In the evening, we meet an expert Vietnamese home cook who will make you a fabulous dinner in her cosy residence. The tour starts by visiting the neighbourhood’s wet market, exploring its diverse offerings and learning about the traditional use of produce and meat in Vietnamese cuisine. Then, we return to the chef’s home to see her cook North Vietnam’s most beloved dishes before gathering around the table and indulging in the comforting flavours of a homemade Vietnamese meal.  

Discova guests enjoying an authentic homecooked meal

The next morning, we embark on another walking tour to observe local Hanoian life up close and personal. The best place to kickstart this adventure is at a local wet market with hundreds of fresh food displays, where you can see a flurry of activity by residents and food vendors alike who want to secure the best produce.  
After invigorating our senses with the sights, sounds, and smells at the marketplace, we head to a quieter stop at a local tea shop. Here, we hear stories from the owner about how he and his wife travel to plantations across Vietnam to choose premium white, green, or oolong tea and learn the secrets of brewing a delicious cup of hot traditional lotus green tea. Our final destination is a Vietnamese calligraphy workshop, where visitors can try their hand at this ancient art form and understand why it holds great significance for the people of Vietnam. 

Tourists enjoying freshly brewed tea at Hanoi Tea House

At the end of the excursion, our guide will again be delighted to recommend you places to spend the afternoon of your final day in Hanoi, to make the most of time here.  

Spending two days in Hanoi is probably scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to encapsulating the essence of this vibrant and eclectic place. From food tours to hopping on cyclos (bicycle rickshaws) to explore more of the city and going on day trips to take in the lush, untouched beauty of the Vietnamese countryside, there is much more to see and do that will only add to your authentic experience of this place. As they say, there is always a next time. And for you, there most certainly will be.       

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