Hanoi’s Old Quarter: The full guide for your cultural exploration in 2024

“Hanoi’s Old Quarter is very famous and often chosen as the first stop for many tourists whenever they visit this city. If you lack information, experience, food, and culture. Don’t worry, you can find them all in this article.”

The Hanoi Old Quarter has earned its reputation thanks to its abundance of attractions, diverse cuisine, lively nightlife, and distinctive handicrafts. The city’s highs and lows are vividly reflected in this downtown area. That’s why it’s regarded as an excellent destination for tourists to immerse themselves in Hanoi’s culture and explore its sights on foot. For further insights into the Hanoi Old Quarter, continue reading this article until the end.

1. About Hanoi Old Quarter in Vietnam

About Hanoi Old Quarter in Vietnam
About Hanoi Old Quarter in Vietnam

When discussing Hanoi, the phrases “36 Streets Hanoi” or “Hanoi Old Quarter” immediately spring to mind for most people – these are the streets that have borne witness to the capital’s history. Today, the Old Quarter in Hanoi stands as an alluring tourist destination that visitors simply cannot overlook.

1.1. Where is Hanoi Old Quarter? How to get there?

What are the highlights of the history of the Old Quarter?
Where is Hanoi Old Quarter? How to get there?

The Hanoi Old Quarter is situated to the West and North of Hoan Kiem Lake, encompassing a network of 36 streets. Hang Dau Street marks the northernmost boundary of the Old Quarter, while Phung Hung Street delineates its westernmost extent. To the south, you’ll find streets such as Hang Bong, Hang Gai, Cau Go, and Hang Thung, while the eastern section includes Tran Quang Khai and Tran Nhat Duat Streets.

Numerous transportation options are available for reaching the Hanoi Old Quarter, including buses, taxis, and motorbike taxis. For those opting for public transit, buses numbered 09, 14, and 36 can take you to Hoan Kiem Lake, while buses numbered 03, 11, 14, 18, 22, 34, and 40 stop near O Quan Chuong Gate.

Taxis are a widely-used mode of transportation in Hanoi, providing convenient access to the Old Quarter from various locations across the city.

1.2. What are the highlights of the history of the Old Quarter?

The history of Hanoi’s Old Quarter traces back to the 17th century when King Ly Thai To made the decision to relocate the capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to Hanoi. Craftsmen from surrounding regions began migrating to the area as early as the 13th century, gradually forming guilds and cooperatives.

By the 15th century, at least 36 trade guilds had established themselves in the Old Quarter. Each street within the quarter was associated with a specific guild, named after the commodity for which the guild was renowned. For example, Hang Tre Street was known as the marketplace for bamboo products.

During the 1950s, Western architectural influences, particularly from the French colonial era, began to prevail over traditional Vietnamese and Chinese styles in the Old Quarter. While no single architectural style dominates the area today, many of its landmarks exhibit distinct French architectural elements, reflecting the enduring legacy of French colonial influence in Hanoi.

2. The distinct feature of the Old Quarter in Hanoi

The distinct feature of the Old Quarter in Hanoi
The distinct feature of the Old Quarter in Hanoi

The preserved Old Quarter of Hanoi today serves as a reminder of the city’s rich history and the vibrant culture that once thrived within the ancient Thang Long Citadel. Exploring this area allows visitors to immerse themselves in the cultural tapestry, socio-economic dynamics, and daily life of the old citadel.

One of the most distinctive features of the Hanoi Old Quarter is its craft streets. These streets originated from craft villages surrounding the ancient Thang Long Citadel, where renowned craftsmen from across Hanoi congregated to form traditional craft quarters.

Some of the most renowned craft streets in the Hanoi Old Quarter include:

– Hang Bong Street: Specializes in the sale of quilts, blankets, and cushions.
– Hang Bac Street: Known for its shops selling gold and silver jewelry.
– Hang Dao Street: Famed for its diverse range of fabrics and textiles.
– Hang Ma Street: Offers a variety of votive paper, offerings, decorations, toys for the Mid-Autumn Festival, and Christmas.
– Hang Quat Street: Focuses on the sale of offerings and ceremonial items.
– Hang Buom Street: Features a wide selection of sweets and jams for Tet (Lunar New Year).
– Hang Thiec Street: Specializes in metal processing, including tin and iron casting for household items.
– Ma May Street: Offers travel and tourism services, catering to visitors exploring the historic quarter.

Each of these streets encapsulates a unique aspect of Hanoi’s cultural heritage and provides a glimpse into the traditional trades and craftsmanship that have shaped the city’s identity over the centuries.

3. Things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter to be put in your bucket list

These are just a few of the many exciting activities awaiting you in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, history buff, or culture lover, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant and historic district.

3.1. Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Sword Lake, sits at the heart of Hanoi’s city center, serving as a symbol of the capital’s historical and spiritual traditions. Legend has it that the lake is associated with the mythical tale of the turtle deity claiming a magical sword. Its serene landscape and cultural significance make it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the city.

Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake
Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake

At the center of Hoan Kiem Lake stands the ancient Turtle Tower, a symbol of Hanoi’s enduring heritage. Surrounding the lake, visitors can explore a small peninsula adorned with renowned landmarks such as the Pen Tower, The Huc Bridge, Tran Ba ​​Communal House, and Ngoc Son Temple. Each of these sites offers insights into the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.

A visit to Hoan Kiem Lake wouldn’t be complete without indulging in a taste of Trang Tien ice cream, a beloved local specialty that has delighted generations of Hanoians. This delicious treat adds a sweet touch to your experience by the lake, making it even more memorable.

3.2. Discover Hanoi’s ancient streets

Discover Hanoi’s ancient streets, where time-honored traditions and bustling commerce blend seamlessly with modern-day charm. The 36 guild streets of the Old Quarter, steeped in history, offer a captivating glimpse into Hanoi’s rich cultural heritage.

While many streets have evolved over time, a select few have managed to preserve their old-world allure. Hang Bac, known as Silver Street, still resonates with the clinking of fine jewelry and the lively activities of money changers. Hang Ma beckons with its colorful array of religious artifacts and festive decorations, attracting locals in search of spiritual mementos. Silk Street, or Hang Gai, captures the essence of its name with a vibrant tapestry of fabric shops and tailors offering custom-made suits and dresses.

These ancient streets not only serve as hubs of commerce but also serve as living museums, preserving the traditions and craftsmanship of generations past. Exploring their labyrinthine alleys and bustling markets is a journey back in time, offering a glimpse into the soul of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

3.3. Immerse yourself in the bustling ambiance of Dong Xuan Market

Immerse yourself in the bustling ambiance of Dong Xuan Market
Immerse yourself in the bustling ambiance of Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market, situated amidst the bustling streets of Dong Xuan, Hang Khoai, and Cau Dong, stands proudly as the westernmost landmark of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Much like Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City or Dam Market in Da Nang, Dong Xuan Market has long been revered as a symbol and source of pride for the people of Hanoi.

Located in the heart of downtown Hanoi, this expansive wholesale market spans an area of 6,500 square meters, housing over 2,100 stalls and 71 kiosks. It offers a vast array of goods catering to the needs of Hanoi’s residents and serving as a vital supply hub for traders. Every day, Dong Xuan Market welcomes thousands of visitors, who flock here to shop, take photographs, or simply immerse themselves in the lively atmosphere and diverse culinary offerings.

3.4. Wander around Hanoi’s spiritual tourist attractions

Embark on a spiritual journey through Hanoi’s historic treasures and immerse yourself in the profound heritage that these sacred sites hold. One such treasure is Ma May Ancient House, located at No. 87 Ma May Street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Constructed in the 19th century, this house served as both a residence and a place of business. Despite changing ownership over the years, the house has been diligently preserved, showcasing its original design and architectural beauty.

Another remarkable landmark is the Old City Gate Hanoi, famously known as O Quan Chuong Gate. Constructed during the reign of King Le Hien Tong in 1749, this gate proudly stands at the intersection of Hang Chieu Street, Dao Duy Tu Street, Thanh Ha Street, and O Quan Chuong Street. Crafted from stones and bricks hammered with wooden mallets, the two-storey gate features a pavilion with a gracefully curving roof. Once serving as a vantage point for guards, the second storey now proudly displays the national flag on special occasions.

Tourists can immerse themselves in the charm and heritage of Old Quarter Hanoi firsthand with a captivating and informative Hanoi Old Quarter walking tour. Other noteworthy sites around Hanoi to explore include:

  • Hoa Lo Prison**: Uncover the haunting history of this infamous prison, known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” where political prisoners were held during the war.
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum**: Pay your respects to Vietnam’s revered leader, Ho Chi Minh, at his final resting place, a solemn and dignified mausoleum that attracts visitors from around the world.
  • Hanoi Flag Tower**: Standing at a height of 33 meters, the tower offers panoramic views of Hanoi’s skyline. It has witnessed significant historical events and proudly displays the national flag on special occasions, symbolizing the resilience and pride of the Vietnamese people.
  • Thang Long Imperial Citadel**: Delve into the ancient history of Vietnam as you explore the grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which served as the political and cultural heart of Hanoi for centuries.
  • Thang Long Water Puppet Theater**: Be enthralled by the enchanting artistry of water puppetry, a traditional Vietnamese performance that combines storytelling, music, and vibrant puppetry.

These sites offer a glimpse into Hanoi’s rich history, culture, and heritage, providing visitors with unforgettable experiences and insights into Vietnam’s past and present.

3.5. Have a drink in the beer street Hanoi Old Quarter – Ta Hien

Ta Hien Street is often described as a haven for night owls and beer aficionados alike. Renowned for its signature brews, this bustling street is hailed as the quintessential spot to soak up Hanoi’s vibrant nightlife while relishing in a cold, refreshing beer. Particularly during sweltering days, Ta Hien Street invites visitors to unwind and share a drink with friends.

Diverging from conventional pubs, the ambiance here unfolds amidst outdoor seating, where patrons gather to enjoy bottles of beer atop small stools. This distinctive setting provides a glimpse into Hanoi’s traditional and laid-back lifestyle, offering visitors an authentic experience. Additionally, the beer is often complemented by a delectable array of snacks such as roasted squid, fried fermented pork rolls, roasted bird, or sunflower seeds, further enhancing the overall enjoyment and tantalizing the taste buds of guests.

3.6. Explore Bach Ma Temple – An ancient temple of Thang Long Citadel

Bach Ma Temple, originating from the 9th century, was erected to venerate Long Do, a revered deity of Hanoi. Esteemed as an architectural marvel by successive dynasties, the temple has been subject to ongoing restoration endeavors. Its distinctive eight-roof communal house design, adorned with intricate patterns reminiscent of Hoi An’s fine arts, exudes a timeless allure.

Enthusiasts of history and culture are lured to Bach Ma Temple to revel in its serene ambiance and marvel at its ancient engraved artifacts. Those fortunate enough to visit during the 12th and 13th days of the second lunar month can partake in the temple’s annual traditional festival, immersing themselves in its melancholic yet captivating atmosphere.

4. Where to eat: Best restaurants in Hanoi Old Quarter

When it comes to dining in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the city’s vibrant street food scene awaits at every corner. Here are five top restaurants in the area, each offering a unique culinary experience and a signature dish to tantalize your taste buds:

  • Cha Ca Thang Long** (6B Duong Thanh Street): Delight in the legendary Cha Ca, a Hanoi specialty featuring turmeric-marinated grilled fish served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and peanuts.
  • Bun Cha Dac Kim** (1 Hang Manh Street): Savor the authentic taste of Bun Cha, featuring grilled pork patties, succulent pork belly, vermicelli noodles, and a side of fresh herbs and dipping sauce.
  • Pho Gia Truyen** (49 Bat Dan Street): Experience the quintessential Vietnamese dish, Pho, at its best. This beloved eatery serves up steaming bowls of rich broth, tender beef slices, and fragrant herbs, offering a truly satisfying culinary experience.
  • Quan An Ngon** (18 Phan Boi Chau Street): Embark on a culinary journey through Vietnam’s diverse cuisine at Quan An Ngon. Their extensive menu features Vietnamese favorites such as Pho, Banh Mi, and fresh spring rolls, all prepared with authentic flavors.
  • Bun Bo Nam Bo** (67 Hang Dieu Street): Indulge in the tantalizing flavors of Bun Bo Nam Bo, a delicious beef noodle dish boasting tender beef, fresh vegetables, herbs, and a zesty dressing, perfectly balanced to delight your palate.

5. Where to stay in Hanoi Old Quarter

When it comes to choosing the perfect hotel in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you’ll be met with a plethora of options, each offering its own unique charm and amenities. Whether you’re seeking a boutique hotel or a cozy homestay, there’s something to suit every traveler’s preference:

  • Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa** (94 Ma May Street): This exquisite boutique hotel invites guests to indulge in luxury with elegant rooms, a tranquil spa, and impeccable service. Situated in a prime location, it provides easy access to the bustling streets and attractions of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
  • Golden Silk Boutique Hotel (109-111 Hang Gai Street): Immerse yourself in the allure of Old Quarter Hanoi at this charming hotel. Offering a fusion of classic elegance and modern amenities, Golden Silk Boutique Hotel provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere for a delightful and convenient stay.
  • The Chi Boutique Hotel (13-15 Nha Chung Street): Experience the perfect blend of modern Vietnamese design and comfort at this stylish hotel. Featuring thoughtfully appointed rooms, a rooftop terrace with panoramic views, and a convenient location near St. Joseph’s Cathedral, The Chi Boutique Hotel ensures an unforgettable stay.
  • La Beaute De Hanoi Hotel (15 Trung Yen Lane): Discover comfort and elegance at this boutique hotel renowned for its exceptional service. Situated on a quaint street, La Beaute De Hanoi Hotel offers well-appointed rooms, a rooftop terrace boasting panoramic city views, and a central location for convenient exploration of Hanoi’s attractions.
  • Hanoi Marvellous Hotel & Spa (55 Duong Thanh Street): Experience the charm of Hanoi at this delightful boutique hotel. With tastefully decorated rooms, friendly staff, and a range of amenities including a spa, Hanoi Marvellous Hotel & Spa provides a cozy retreat in the heart of the Old Quarter.

6.  Suggestion to explore other  attractions of Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Absolutely! Including day trips to nearby destinations from Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a fantastic idea to enhance your travel experience. Here are some suggestions for day trips you might consider:

  • Bat Trang Ceramic Village: Embark on a journey to Bat Trang Ceramic Village, located just outside of Hanoi. This traditional village has been producing high-quality ceramics for centuries, and you can witness artisans at work creating pottery using traditional techniques. You can also try your hand at pottery making and purchase unique ceramic souvenirs to take home.
  • Duong Lam Ancient Village: Step back in time with a visit to Duong Lam Ancient Village, one of the oldest villages in Vietnam. Explore its well-preserved ancient houses, pagodas, and communal wells, which offer insights into rural Vietnamese life centuries ago. Don’t miss trying local specialties like soybean sauce and rice wine.
  • Perfume Pagoda: Venture out to the Perfume Pagoda, a complex of Buddhist temples nestled amid scenic limestone mountains. Take a leisurely boat ride along the Yen Stream to reach the pagodas, which are built into caves and cliffs. The site is especially popular during the Perfume Pagoda Festival, held annually from January to March.

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