Guide to Exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Hanoi lies in the northern part of Vietnam and is the country’s capital city. One of the most well-known and important districts in the city is the Old Quarter. In fact, most of the city’s famous attractions are concentrated in this area. So for those who are visiting Hanoi, it’s highly recommended that you stay in the Old Quarter.

However, the Old Quarter is also the busiest part of the city. Exploring the many streets and alleyways of this area can be a bit confusing. The streets are often chaotic since they are lined with numerous food stalls and street vendors, not to mention the many pedestrians, cars, and motorbikes that pass along them. Nevertheless, exploring the Old Quarter is the best way to get a taste of the real Vietnamese culture. Here’s your guide to exploring the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

Overview of the Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is lined with Buddhist temples, pagodas, and beautiful colonial buildings. Located right along the Hoan Kiem Lake, the Old Quarter is the heart and soul of the city. It comprises of ancient commercial streets named after their businesses that were established thousands of years ago. Although most of the specialties are silk, cotton, and jewelry, there are now plenty of modern-day commodities being sold in these streets.

The old colonial shop houses in the area are well preserved. They lie along the streets that have been established over a century ago and were built in a long and narrow style. Each shop houses have multiple courtyards inside and their facades are usually facing the street. The front area of these shop houses is where most of the trading is taking place and the inside part of the building is where the family lives. You can also expect to find numerous cafes, restaurants, bars, food stalls, bakeries, and boutiques along the streets of the Old Quarter.

Famous Attractions in the Old Quarter

As mentioned, most of Hanoi’s major attractions are concentrated in the Old Quarter so it is best to base yourself in this area. You can simply walk along its busy streets to get from one attraction to another. Here are some of the attractions that are worth checking out in the Old Quarter:

  • Hoan Kiem Lake – – this is a scenic lake that surrounds the Ngoc Son Temple. This is a great place to visit to get away from the busy and chaotic streets.

  • Hanoi Opera House – French Colonists built this grandiose Opera House in 1911. The building features beautiful French architecture with Gothic themes on its domes and doors.

  • National Museum of Vietnamese History – this museum is housed in a French colonial building built between 1925 and 1932. It showcases a wide array of Vietnamese artifacts and where you can learn more about the country’s culture and history.

  • Bach Ma Temple – said to be the oldest temple in Hanoi, the Bach Ma Temple is a Buddhist temple that was originally built in the 9th century during the reign of King Ly Thai To.

  • Ba Dinh Square – this is a public square where President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum can be found. Named after the Ba Dinh uprising, the square plays an important role in Vietnam’s history.

  • One Pillar Pagoda – this is an iconic Buddhist temple that was built between 1028 and 1054 during the time of Emperor Ly Thai Tong.

Shopping in the Old Quarter

The Old Quarter of Hanoi is also a famous spot for shopping. Here, you can purchase a wide range of local products, from silk, embroidery, lacquer ware, clothing, and several other local handicrafts. If you want to bring home some souvenirs, this is the best place to go shopping.

If you’re buying some silk, check out the Hang Gai Street. This street is lined by a wide array of shops and local tailors that offer a wide variety of silk products, including Ao Dai, the national garment of Vietnam. If you’re interested to purchase some local embroidery, head to Ly Quoc Su Street, where you’ll find shops selling a wide range of excellent quality embroidered products.

For everything else, better check out the Hanoi Night Market every weekend. The massive market sells a wide range of souvenir items, local handicrafts, food items, and pretty much everything you can think of! It’s a 3-kilometer market that occupies the busy streets of Hang Duong, Hang Ngang, and Hang Dao. The market is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 8 PM until midnight.

Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, you’ll surely have a blast wandering along the night market. Here, you’ll find both locals and tourists bargaining some goods they intend to purchase from local vendors. If you’re feeling hungry, simply head to one of the food stalls that sell the tastiest and most affordable street foods!


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