24 Hours in Hanoi

Determined to finally figure out once and for all what egg coffee tastes like, I planned a two-day trip to Hanoi, Vietnam!

Whether you have one day or two, here are some of the things you absolutely must do when visiting Vietnam’s 1,000-year-old city.

Egg Coffee

For the real Hanoi experience, book your stay in the Old Quarter, an area known for its frenetic energy, bustle of people and motorbikes alike, and traditional shops. Step outside your accommodation and make your way down to the ancient treasure that is Giảng Café, thought to be the originator of egg coffee, created in 1946. Located down an alley at 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân Street and costing just 25,000 VND (just over $1), egg coffee is a creamy, sweet delicious mixture that somehow works. Don’t be afraid to try it!

Photo Courtesy: Matthew Cardoza

Temple of Literature

Next, hop on a xe ôm (motorbike taxi) and tell your driver to take you to the Temple of Literature. Built in 1070 to honor Confucius, it is Vietnam’s oldest university. It’s a tremendous example of traditional Vietnamese architecture that is remarkably well-preserved. Today, students of all ages visit for pictures and Confucius’ blessing before taking their national exams.

Lunch – Chả cá Thăng Long

For lunch, head on back to the Old Quarter to try one of Hanoi’s most famous dishes: Chả cá. The restaurant I’ve picked out is located at 21-31 Đường Thành Street. This dish is both fun and delicious. A portable burner is brought to the table filled with small pieces of marinated fish. A large plate of herbs, usually dill, basil, and spring onion arrives, along with peanuts, chilis, bun noodles (a white sticky noodle), and other additions. Once the fish is finished pan-frying, take it out and add it to a separate bowl. Add noodles, a host of desired herbs, top with peanuts, and a few slices of chili, then dive in! Go with a group, order two or three portions and share the meal together, the Vietnamese way!

Photo Courtesy: Matthew Cardoza

Long Biên Bridge

Hanoi sits upon the roaring Red River and walking around the city, you’ll probably notice some of the many bridges that connect the east and west banks of this historic waterway. For a unique and thrilling experience, I recommend you trek out to the bridge and walk along the footpath from one end to another! Originally built by the French from 1899 to 1902, this cantilever bridge serves as a symbol of Vietnamese pride and determination as it was constantly repaired during the Vietnam War and still stands today.

Walking the bridge is a deafening and exciting experience. No guardrail exists between you and the traffic whizzing by. A railroad track occupies the center of the bridge and curiously, the traffic moves on the left side of the road even though Vietnamese traffic normally drives on the right. It takes about half an hour to walk the whole thing, but it will probably take longer if you stop and gaze at the mighty Red River that stretches out before you. Along the way, you might also buy a snack from a street vendor or say hi to the young couples who often take a seat on their motorbikes overlooking the edge. Take some beautiful pictures, then find a xe ôm on the other side and get a ride back!

Photo Courtesy: Matthew Cardoza