Hanoi is the heart of Vietnam and Hanoi Old Quarter is a precious architectural heritage embracing Vietnamese cultural traits from primitive times. If you have a chance to visit Hanoi and wonder what are top things to do in Hanoi, you should travel in Hanoi Old Quarter, the most peaceful and ancient places in Vietnam.
Hanoi Old Quarter is located on the Northeast Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake. With popular attractions comprise mostly quaint Buddhist shrines, street markets, and traditional Vietnamese arts attracted many tourists. You can find the fusion between modern life and the culture of Vietnam’s Capital. Exploring the Old Quarter of Hanoi is one of those experiences that will keep you captivated for days. Check it out what to explore in Hanoi Old Quarter.
I. History and Culture of Hanoi Old Quarter
Firstly, let's find out how to form Hanoi Old Quarter. In the 11th century, King Ly Thai To selected Thang Long as the country’s capital. The area for trading development had many advantages. Hanoi Old Quarter is located between Hoan Kiem Lake and the Long Bien Bridge, a former city rampart started as a snake and alligator-infested swamp.
Due to their long-lasting age, they call Old Quarter or 36 Old Streets, as consisting of 36 streets. A street for merchants to do business, share resources in the past. The phrase “36 Pho Phuong” is famous for most people.
The street will be named as “Hang” (wares) followed by the name of the product the guild was specialized in. For example, Hang Tre street indicated that the street where bamboo was being sold. Hang Quat street sold silk and feather fans.
To fully explore the Old Quarter in Hanoi, you can walk street to street and take photos with the local’s daily life, the old-style narrow streets and houses, the colorful souvenir shop. Especially, you should try tasty traditional foods in Hanoi.
II. Where to go in Hanoi Old Quarter?
The Old Quarter is known as the historical commonly name, located outside the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. Over thousands of years, it still stands there with our great pride for past prosperity. Let’s discover popular places with us!
1. Long Bien Bridge, the heritage left from the days of French Colonialism.
The architect that built this bridge was also the person who had constructed the symbolic Eiffel Tower. And just like Eiffel Tower, Long Bien Bridge also becomes a symbol that represents a specific period of the city’s history. More and more photographers & younger are attracted by its rustic, vintage beauty.
You can reach the bridge by wandering Long Bien Railway Station located on Tran Nhat Duat street.
2. Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of Jade Mountain) are not strange places to many people & are the classic bits of Hanoi tourism. Next to the Old Quarter, the lake blows up fresh breath to the busy and crowded streets. Indeed, after the exhausting walking tour to the quarter where you have to weave through narrow traffic flow of motorbikes and taxis, taking a short rest on the bank of the lake would be so refreshing.
If you are interested in worshipping culture, Ngoc Son Temple should be one of the best places recommended in Hanoi to learn more about Vietnam. Ngoc Son Temple is dedicated to Van Xuong De Quan – the star of literature, and Tran Hung Dao – a national hero. The red The Huc Bridge is a site you should not miss when coming to Old Quarter
The walking streets around Hoan Kiem Lake on weekends are also safe, educational and exciting playgrounds for children and adults who are interested in traditional games and entertainments like O An Quan Game, jumping rope, chess games, etc. These streets gather a significant number of street artists, traditional art performances like Cheo singing. Those who love to explore the local culture, visiting Hoan Kiem on weekends is a must-do thing.
3. Maison Centrale Hanoi (Hoa Lo Prison)
Maison Centrale in Hanoi, another name of Hoa Lo Prison and the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ housed Vietnamese revolutionaries and American POW during the past in Vietnam War. The fortress was once a vast colonial-style prison, most of which was torn down in the 1990s.
Visiting today you will find the small southern section resting alongside a hotel and office complex. The prison is still a popular tourist attraction for those on the war history trail.
4. Bach Ma Temple
Bach Ma Temple is widely known as the oldest of its kind in Hanoi Old Quarter. This small pagoda was constructed by the reign of Ly Thai To Emperor to honor a white horse. Hearing that locals believed this sacred animal would help the emperor in constructing walls of the Hanoi Citadel.
Due to several refurbishments throughout the years, you can see some changes as colorful murals, a red-lacquered palanquin, the shrine of Confucius, and a phoenix altar that were added in the 18th century.
5. Hanoi Ta Hien beer street
If you wish to experience Hanoi nightlife, Ta Hien beer street should be definitely on your bucket list. If Saigon has Bui Vien backpacker street, Hanoi sounds out Ta Hien.
You can meet and make friends with a lot of foreigners. For more details, let's check out Bui Vien backpacker street and Hanoi Ta Hien beer street.
III. What to eat in Hanoi Old Quarter?
When traveling in the old town of Hanoi, don’t forget to enjoy the food here.
1. Pho – the symbol of Hanoi traditional cuisine
Pho is not a strange dish to foreigners anymore. Nowadays, everyone can enjoy it from Vietnamese restaurants all over the world. However, if you would like to get experience in the real flavor of this dish, Hanoi Old Quarter is the best place to come. You have a lot of choices: Sliced medium-rare beef, well-done flanks and meatballs, Medium-rare beef and well-done flanks. All they are usually eaten with bean sprout, Sawleaf, Coriander. Locals will add more Hoisin sauce above.
Every store selling Pho in Old Quarter is keeping to its own secret formula to make its own special dish. So you will find out that even though you’re ordering the same dish, you can taste a different flavor in different stores. Its delicious taste & good flavor will get in your mind.
2. Bun Cha Ha Noi
Bun Cha Ha Noi- the second traditional dish you should try. This food is combined of rice vermicelli and grilled pork. They grill the pork on charcoal. So, you can taste the smoky chargrilled flavor and some crispy bits. The broth is made from fish sauce with chili, garlic, and lemon & sliced- papaya.
They will eat with coriander additionally. We are sure that the harmonious bowl of Bun cha will push you up.
3. Kem Trang Tien
This brand of ice cream has been established for more than 15 years & having stably developing to become the symbolic dessert of Hanoi people. A lot of brands of ice cream with more delicious today, but we believe that “Kem Trang Tien” is still unforgettable memories in someone’s heart. Have you eaten ice cream in the Winter atmosphere? It will be exciting. Let’s try.
For another 7 must-try street foods in Hanoi - check it out.
Don't forget a lot of amazing Hanoi street food tours with locals - Hanoi: Full-Day City Tour with Lunch and Optional Extras or Hanoi Street Food: Small-Group Walking Tour
For a more luxury choice, please visit top 10 best restaurants in Hanoi.
Hanoi Old Quarter is still a top tourist attraction to experience the remains of an old Hanoi.
Don't forget to check out Hanoi common scams & How to avoid Hanoi scams.
Have a nice trip.