The old quarter Hanoi was established since 11th century with the long history of more than one thousand years. This used to be a very bustle and busy trading center, gathered skilled and talent craftsmen and businessmen trading in crowded shops closely together among dense streets. Since then each street in the old quarter sold each type of goods and to make the trading more convenient, both the sellers and the buyers call the street as the name of goods sold in it. The old quarter Hanoi is also known as the trading quarter, the 36- streets, in which the old quarter was the most common name and still very popular till nowadays.
Today, some streets in 36-street quarter are still grouped by what they sell, with names to match, such as Bat Su (china bowls), Cha Ca (roasted fish), Hang Bac (jewelry), Hang Dau (shoes and sandals), Hang Gai (silks), Hang Luoc (combs), Hang Duong (candies and dried fruits), and Hang Buom (bamboo products).
You are now be able to choose a cyclo trip or electric buggy to explore this historic old quarter Hanoi, however the best way to really experience Hanoi old quarter is on foot. Wander around and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood, explore the winding lanes and stop for coffee at local café or taste some local street food if you wish, stop for a chat; local people are busy but friendly if you take time to connect.
Refer to our walking tour route suggested below to start planning your old quarter Hanoi trip, you can start at a place in old quarter if your hotel is nearby, or if you stay far away, I suggest you start the walking tour from the Temple of Literature, so you can extend your tour not to cover the old quarter.
Walking times vary depending on your clip and your interest in the details, but generally, allow a few hours. Try to study the map discreetly and know your next turn before arriving at an intersection. Just a short time in the old quarter will have you distinguishing a Chinese temple or community house from a tube house or more French-influenced construction.
Photographers will want to set out early and catch the dynamic colors of the morning sun, which set off the rich yellowed plaster of older buildings and make the colors of produce in the markets more vibrant.
- Bring hat/umbrella and be prepared for rainy season or high temperatures during summer season.
- Time expected: 2 hours without stops; up to 4 hours with exploring, coffee and food.
- Best Times: Early morning or late afternoon.
1. Temple of Literature
Founded as a Confucian temple in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, this Temple of Literature complex was dated back to the earliest period. The temple hosts the Imperial Academy (Quốc Tử Giám), Vietnam’s first national university, was established in 1076 to educate Vietnam’s mandarin class. This is one of several temples in Vietnam which is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars.
2. Vietnam Fine art museum
The Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts is showcasing Vietnam’s fine arts from a range of historical periods. It is the country’s primary art museum. Much of the 20th Century art presented in the museum is concerned with folk narratives of a nation in defence. As a collection it draws on themes of martyrdom, patriotism, military strategy and overcoming enemy incursion.
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum where stores many of Vietnamese artistic essences. The museum is valued as one of important national museums that keeping and promoting the cultural heritages of Vietnamese ethnic groups.
3. Hanoi Flag tower
The Flag Tower of Hanoi is one of the rare architectural works in Hanoi Citadel that was fortunate enough to not be destroyed by the French domination administration between 1894 and 1897. Its existence of nearly 200 years and now renowned as one of the historic symbols of Hanoi.
4. Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral Hanoi is a Roman Catholic cathedral with Gothic style, which was built about 120 years ago and still remains its original beauty. Now the St Joseph’s Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Hanoi. This is also an old church in Hanoi city, often take place the religious activities of the parishioners of Hanoi.
5. Ly Quoc Su street.
The street is crowded with clothes shop and is the address of Ly Quoc Su Temple, erected in 1131 during Ly Dynasty which possess ancient architecture.
6. Hang Gai street
This busy avenue marks the southern boundary of the Old Quarter. Hang Gai no longer supports hemp outlets as in days of old, but is lined with boutique shopping, galleries, and silk tailors, finely tailored men’s and women’s clothes, heavily embroidered and sequined evening gowns and handbags.
7. Hang Quat Street
The street is famous for the shops that sell Buddha statues and fans that were traditionally made in this area for quite some time. It is also one of Hanoi’s most atmospheric areas. And of course, if you need to do some souvenir shopping, this is a great place to visit.
8. Hang Can – Cha Ca street
The name “Cha Ca” of this street is named after the famous dishes “Cha Ca” which is the quintessence of Hanoi’s gastronomy. “Cha Ca La Vong” at no. 14 is the birthplace of this honorable food that ones are wholeheartedly recommended to taste.
9. Lan Ong street
One of the most interesting parts of the Old Quarter, Lan Ong Street is still home to a large enclave of ethnic Chinese who sell the herbs and medicines of old from small storefronts that date back to the origins of the quarter. Here you’ll find picturesque little interiors with walls lined in massive dark-wood cabinets with tiny drawers and buckets and bins all around, with the most curious assortment of dried goods you’ll ever see. The buildings all along this short stretch are originals dating back as far as the 17th century. Look for the busy elementary school at no. 40 Lan Ong, which was once the communal house of the area’s Chinese population. Just across from the converted communal house and all along the length of the street, look for low roofs and narrow entries, especially those with tile roofs covered in moss, as these are original Chinese homes.
10. Hang Duong street.
Hang Duong Street (Sugar St.) is lined with traditional constructions, foremost of which is the communal house on the left as you go north at no. 38 Hang Duong St. It has a stunning banyan tree in the courtyard and a dark, alluring charm to its smoky interior. Note: Hang Duong is a pedestrian area on weekend nights and becomes a busy little market for tourist trinkets and local goods.
A short detour off of Hang Duong is the 13th-century Thanh Ha Communal House, just a short walk east on Ngo Gach Street (Brick St.).
11. Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Market whose main gate is located on Dong Xuan Street. Howevers, you can enter this busy market from Cau Dong or Hang Khoai Street with just a few minutes walking from the last stop. The market was established at the beginning of 20th Century and now being the biggest wholesale market in Hanoi. Goods being sold there are very diverse, ranging from electronic household appliances, silk, clothes to fresh food like chicken, meat, vegetable. Specially, the market is a venue of Hanoi’s night gastronomy with numbers of street-food stalls.
12. Old East Gate (O Quang Chuong)
The only surviving gate of the citadel of Thang Long, O Quan Chuong not only brings beauty in architecture but also represents Hanoi ancient history. The only remaining old city gate of Hanoi, O Quan Chuong not only inscribed the mark of the Thang Long capital but also a proof of struggle of the indomitable people in the fight against foreign invaders.
13. Hang Buom street
Hang Buom (Sail St.) once adjacent to a small tributary of the To Lich River, which brought goods to the city, Hang Buom was where local merchant vessels came to refit their ships. Look for the many colonial buildings and traditional Vietnamese houses, as well as a communal house at no. 22 Hang Buom.
At no. 76 Hang Buom St., located the Bach Ma Temple. Built in A.D. 1010, the temple is dedicated to the White Horse of legend, which, it is said, helped the early king of the Viet people, Ly, decide where and how to defend his city. The temple interior is a grand courtyard of massive red pillars and large Buddhist statuary and altars.
14. Ma May street
Ma May is the beginning of the busiest budget tourist areas of the Old Quarter. In and among Internet cafes and tourist restaurants (often one and the same), you’ll find good examples of traditional and colonial buildings. The Huong Tuong Communal House is at no. 64 Ma May, and one of the most interesting sights in the city can be found at no. 87 Ma May – Heritage House Hanoi, a refurbished and restored traditional house. Here, for a fee of just 10,000 VND, a young docent dressed in a traditional flowing ao dai gown will take you on an informative tour of the building and can explain important details about life in the Old Quarter in centuries past.
15. Luong Ngoc Quyen
A venue of snack food-stalls with a variety of traditional cakes like Banh Day, Banh Gio or Banh Chin Tang May. At this criss-cross, there are crowd in summer and winter alike sitting and drinking beer. You may take a break and join them for a local beer or snacks.
16. Hang Bac street
You’re in the heart of the backpacker area. Hang Bac means “Silver Street,” and you still can find some silver (and gold) jewelry makers and sellers. You’ll find good shopping and lots of goods and services in this area.
This street also located the Golden Bell theater at no. 72 Hang Bac, which was the stronghold of troops who laid siege to the French after the August Revolution in 1945.
17. Hoan Kiem late & Ngoc Son temple
It would be great to take a small tour around the lake side and take some photos or watching the green water surface of it. And pay a visit to Ngoc Son temple on the north end of the lake. Cross the red Bridge of the Rising Sun to reach the temple. From this most prominent point in the city. The walking tour ends from here, you can now take a seat at a lakeside cafe, enjoy an ice scream or watch a show of water puppet…
Although there are still some old streets we haven’t looked at like Hang Ngang, Hang Dao or Hang Ma Street.., you are suggested to save them for the night trip because Hanoi’s night is most wonderful on those streets, when the busy trading stores giving their seats to street-food stalls and souvenirs stalls, adorned by twinkling red lanterns on Hang Ma Street…