Hanoi Old Quarter: 20+ Things to Do & Travel Guide
- About Hanoi Old Quarter
- Best things to see
- Best things to do
- What to do at night
- Where and what to eat
- Where and what to buy
- Suggested itinerary
- Other things to do in surrounding areas
Hanoi old quarter has long been known as the historical and cultural hub in the heart of Hanoi Capital.
- Located in Hoan Kiem District with a total area of approximately 100 ha.
- The Old Quarter consists of 36 streets, each street selling a different type of local products.
About Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi Old Quarter has long been known as the historical and cultural hub in the heart of Hanoi Capital. Wander around Hanoi Old Quarter, you can witness a unique blend of traditional and modern influences. Established a thousand years ago, this maze-like area comprises hundreds of narrow streets and alleys connecting with each other. The residential architecture features a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, and French styles with ceramic roof tiles. 36 streets have been dedicated to a specific trade or craft, and these names have largely been retained to this day. There also presents a sensory experience with a vibrant street food scene and lively atmosphere with motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians navigating on the streets.
Best things to see
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple
Leisurely strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake and visiting the lake’s historical sites are a great opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and connect with nature. The surroundings of Hoan Kiem Lake provide tranquility for locals and tourists. With local guidance, you can get to know the history and origin of the Restored Sword. Besides, do not miss a chance to soak up the peaceful atmosphere and take beautiful photos of the jade-green water, The Huc Red Bridge, and Turtle Tower - the symbol of the lake. Hoan Kiem Lake becomes extremely vibrating in the evening at the weekends when nearby streets are converted into pedestrian zones, gathering a lot of locals and visitors to come and participate in fun-filled activities.
Ticket price to Ngoc Son Temple
- Children under 15 years old: Free
- Students: 15.000 VND/person
- Adults: 30.000 VND/person
Note: You must dress properly before visiting the temple.
Ly Thai To Flower Garden
Ly Thai To Flower Garden is the most famous public place for residents in the region and tourists to come and enjoy common activities or simply take a leisure stroll. The highlight of the garden is a bronze statue of King Ly Thai To which measures 10.35m high. This architectural and cultural artwork was made to honor King Ly Thai To, the founder of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and the thousand-year-old Hanoi Capital.
Location: Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Trang Tien Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Market boasts one of the largest central markets of Hanoi and Vietnam’s northern region which has a long-lasting history dating back to the late 19th century. In this diverse and bustling market, you can find a wide range of goods from textiles, clothing, fabrics, and fashion items to electronics, household goods, souvenirs, fresh produce, and even street food vendors. By visiting Dong Xuan Market, you can not only go shopping but also have an opportunity to immerse in the local culture and daily life of Hanoi residents as well as enjoy local traditional food.
Location: No.15, Cau Dong Street, Dong Xuan Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Note: Bargaining is a common practice in this market so you should negotiate the prices before paying money.
O Quan Chuong Gate
More than just a historical site, O Quan Chuong Gate is a symbol of Hanoi’s enduring cultural heritage. The gate was constructed in the 18th century and was one of the five original gates of the Thang Long Citadel. Quan Chuong Gate features Vietnam architecture in the feudal period with sloping roofs and brick walls. Until now, the gate has been well-preserved and stands as a testament to Hanoi’s historical and cultural significance. This is a popular stop for locals and tourists to come and take wonderful photographs and delve deeper into the culture.
Location: No.4, Hang Chieu Street, Dong Xuan Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Long Bien Bridge
Long Bien Bridge is another notable historical relic of Hanoi Capital that runs across the Red River connecting Long Bien District and Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The cantilever bridge is known for its distinctive architectural design and historical significance that was built during the French colonial period. Long Bien Street is quite busy in the morning and late afternoon. From there, you can enjoy excellent panoramic views of the Red River and the surrounding areas. The scenery becomes magnificent, especially during the sunrise and the sunset.
Note: Long Bien Bridge is accessible for pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles only.
Hang Ma Street
Hang Ma Street is a must-visit destination for any tourists to Hanoi’s Old Quarter, especially during Vietnamese festivals and celebrations. The street hosts a vast range of shops and stalls selling festive items. Particularly, prior to Mid-autumn festivals and the Tet Holiday, you can immerse in a wealth of decorative paper lanterns, traditional masks, and other decorations. Hang Ma Street is also a favorite destination for shopping for souvenirs, crafts, and unique gifts to bring home.
Note: Do not hesitate to bargain the prices to get a better deal there.
Best things to do
Wander around narrow streets
One of the optimal ways to explore the Hanoi Old Quarter is to walk on foot which gives you a glimpse into Hanoi’s traditional way of life. It is best for you to wake up early and stroll around the streets, stop over at a local vendor to have breakfast while people-watching. Alternatively, a cyclo or motorbike excursion is also worth it.
Take a cyclo tour
If you do not have enough stamina, you can choose a cyclo tour as a more leisurely and immersive way to explore the bustling streets of Hanoi instead of walking for hours. The trip provides you with a slow-paced exploration on a three-wheeled vehicle with a comfortable seat. You’ll observe unobstructed views, take stunning photos, and sometimes ask the cyclo driver about local characters on the streets. Cyclo tours often pass by outstanding landmarks such as Hoan Kiem Lake, St. Joseph Cathedral, and the Old City Gate. Make sure you negotiate the price, and the route before starting the tour, and be cautious of minor crimes and your own properties.
The price for a one-hour cyclo tour is normally 100.000 - 150.000 VND.
Watch a Water Puppet Show
Watching a water puppet show is a unique and delightful cultural experience that you should not miss in Hanoi. This traditional Vietnamese art form was created centuries ago and has become a part of the country's rich cultural heritage. The performance involves puppeteers performing traditional folk tales and stories on a water stage, using intricately carved wooden puppets that appear to be floating on the water's surface. Live music, singing, and traditional instruments add to the show’s appeal. Hanoi’s Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is the prominent venue for water puppetry in Vietnam and you can easily reserve a ticket in advance.
Location: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District
- Common ticket: 100.000 VND/person
- Economy ticket: 150.000 VND/person
- VIP ticket: 200.000 VND/person
Savor local street food
Exploring local street food is an essential part of excursions to the city’s cultural and culinary traditions. Hanoi Old Quarter comprises a plethora of local vendors selling authentic dishes of Vietnamese cuisine. Must-try dishes include “pho”, “bun cha” (marinated charcoal-grilled meat with vermicelli), “cha ca” (grilled fish), Vietnamese bread, crab noodle soup, sticky rice, savory Vietnamese crepe, fresh spring rolls, and egg coffee.You should choose a stall crowded with locals because it is usually a good sign of delicious food and do not forget to ask for the menu or the prices beforehand.
A bowl of “pho” or crab noodle soup usually costs from 50.000 VND to 100.000 VND.
Shop for souvenirs
Purchasing traditional handicrafts and souvenirs to bring back to your homeland is a great option. Those can also be gifts for friends and relatives. Some notable items are silk products, lacquerware, embroidery and textiles, ceramics and pottery, watercolor paintings, and traditional Vietnamese hats. You can buy souvenirs and handicrafts at Dong Xuan Market, Old Quarter’s night market, and other famous souvenir shops such as Collective Memory, Hanoia House, Tohe Style Shop, The Craft House Cathedral, and so on.
What to do at night
Explore Ta Hien Street
Ta Hien is renowned as a lively “Beer Street” or Western Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The street is chocked full of numerous bars, pubs, and high-end restaurants that local youngsters and international tourists often flock there for its vibrant nightlife. Apart from imported beverages, Ta Hien Street is famous for fresh beer, a cheap beer for budget visitors. Street food options are also plentiful here, you can savor fried spring rolls, grilled meat skewers, and so on. Furthermore, many bars on the street feature live music performances at night and you can immerse in a mix of Vietnamese and international music while drinking or people-watching.
Best bars on Ta Hien Street: Hanoi Rocks Bar, The Republic, Beer 2KU, 1900 Club Hanoi, and Hanoi Beer Corner.
Go shopping at Hang Dao Night Market
Hang Dao Night Market or Old Quarter Night Market runs along 3km from Hang Dao to Dong Xuan Market. The night market takes place every weekend evening from 18:00-23:00, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). Both locals and foreigners enjoy visiting the marketplace to shop for a plethora of commodities and eat local street food such as hotpot, grilled fermented rolls, steamed sticky rice, and “pho”.
Take a leisure stroll around Hoan Kiem Pedestrian Streets at the weekend
Hanoi’s Old Quarter becomes more vibrant at the weekend when streets around Hoan Kiem Lake are made for pedestrians and festivities. Walking around the streets, you can catch sight of many groups with different activities such as playing traditional folk games, enjoying live musical performances, going shopping, and more.
Where and what to eat
Experiencing the fascinating food scene in Hanoi Old Quarter is a must-do activity that you can sample numerous delicious local specialties. Here are some notable dishes to enjoy in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and places to try:
Pho (Vietnamese noodles)
“Pho” is Vietnam’s worldwide known noodle soup and also the nation’s iconic dish. Thin rice noodles and meat including beef or chicken are dipped in a mouth-watering, aromatic broth. “Pho” is best served with fresh herbs and bean sprouts.
- Pho Bat Dan: No.49 Bat Dan Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Pho Thin: No.13 Lo Duc Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Pho Ly Quoc Su: No.10 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hoan Kiem District
Bun Cha (Vietnamese rice noodles with charcoal-grilled pork)
Vietnamese rice noodles with marinated charcoal-grilled pork is among the most typical delicacies in Hanoi. The dish appeals to travelers with the tasty flavor of marinated pork grilled over charcoal and fresh herbs. Pork and noodles are dipped in a bowl of aromatic fish sauce to enhance appetite.
- Bun Cha Hang Quat: Alley 74, Hang Quat Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Bun Cha Dac Kim: 01 Hang Manh Street, Hoan Kiem District
Price: A set of “bun cha” is often 35.000 - 60.000 VND
Bun Oc (Snail noodles)
Snail noodle is most famous in Dong Xuan Market. The dish has a unique taste with snails dipped in the warm, flavorful broth. This is a common breakfast dish for Hanoians.
Suggested location: Dong Xuan Market, Hoan Kiem District
Price: A bowl of snail noodles is priced at 35.000 - 50.000 VND
Cha Ca La Vong (Grilled fish with turmeric and dill)
Cha Ca La Vong, also known as La Vong grilled fish with turmeric and dill, is another must-try specialty in Hanoi’s Old Quarter with over 130 years of history. The dish comprises fried fish marinated with turmeric, spring onions, and dill and eaten together with vermicelli, herbs, and fish sauce.
Suggested location: No.14, Cha Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District
Price: A set of “cha ca La Vong” is priced at 150.000 - 200.000 VND
Trang Tien ice cream
Trang Tien is one of the best-known ice cream brands in Hanoi with a variety of flavors and options to serve different tastes. Here you can find popsicles, ice cream bars, soft-serve ice cream, and even ice cream sandwiches at affordable prices. There are a multitude of Trang Tien ice cream shops in Hanoi but the one on Trang Tien Street, near Hoan Kiem Lake is the most popular.
Suggested location: No.35 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District
Price: The price of Trang Tien ice cream is less than US$1
Dried beef salad
Walking along Hoan Kiem Lake, you’ll see plenty of food stalls and eateries selling “nom bo kho” or dried beef salad. This specialty comprises dried beef, pickled papaya, carrots, roasted peanuts, fresh herbs, and family recipe broth. A big portion of dried beef salad is then mixed together to create a savory flavor.
- Nom Long Vi Dung: No.23 Hoan Kiem/ 51 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Nom Hai Sinh: No.53 Hoan Kiem/ 57A Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Nom Bo Gia: No.1 Nguyen Trung Truc Street, Ba Dinh District
Price: The price ranges from 25.000 - 40.000 VND/plate
Where and what to buy
When visiting Hanoi, you should not miss a chance to buy exclusive souvenirs to bring home. Here are some notable suggestions for your purchase:
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is well-known for silk products namely scarves, clothing items, and accessories. You can find numerous high-quality silk shops in Hang Gai Street, Hang Dao Street, and Dong Xuan Market.
- Thao Silk Store: No.49 Hang Gai Street, Hoan Kiem District
- Ha Dong Silk: No.102 Hang Gai Street, Hoan Kiem District
“Ao Dai”, the traditional Vietnamese dress is a signature item that you can buy for yourself and relatives at home. The dress can be tailor-made to fit your size and preferences.
Suggested location: Luong Van Can Street, Hoan Kiem District
Prices can range from US$50-US$200/item
Ceramics and pottery
If you are looking for souvenirs to decorate your house or send to your friends as a gift, ceramics and pottery are great options. You can buy plenty of items like bowls, plates, cups, vases, tea sets, and coffee sets.
Suggested locations: Bat Trang Ceramic Village, Ngoc Son Temple Gift Shop, and Hai Duc Pottery
Vietnamese conical hat (Non La)
Non La is an iconic accessory with practical use for tourists to bring home. This bamboo hat represents Vietnamese culture and can be used while getting out. There are numerous places selling Non La, especially in local markets, street vendors, and stores in Hanoi Old Quarter.
Suggested locations: Dong Xuan Market
Price: A piece of Non La is often priced at 50.000 - 100.000 VND
With so many interesting things to do and explore, you may need a schedule to arrange the activities. Here is a suggested itinerary for one day in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
- Kick off your day with a hearty bowl of Vietnamese “pho”, “bun cha” (charcoal-grilled pork with Vietnamese vermicelli), or sticky rice for breakfast at a local eatery.
- Stroll to Hoan Kiem Lake, explore Ngoc Son Temple, and enjoy the serene atmosphere there.
- Next, you can check in Hanoi Opera House with its stunning French colonial building and the nearby Ly Thai To Flower Garden.
- Consider eating Vietnamese “pho”, crab noodle soup, or vermicelli with grilled pork meat at a local restaurant in Hanoi.
Suggested locations: Bun cha Hang Manh, Pho Bat Dan, cha ca La Vong
- Spend the whole afternoon exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter streets on foot or on a cyclo. Here you can seek many beautiful souvenirs, and traditional crafts, and enjoy local street food.
- Enjoy a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater and soak up its unique and entertaining cultural experience.
Location: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District
- In the late afternoon, take a break with a cup of coffee. You can try signature Vietnamese egg coffee or iced coffee with condensed milk.
- Your dining options in the evening can vary in a local restaurant or night market.
- Round off your day with the lively atmosphere in Ta Hien Street which is renowned for fresh beer, bars, pubs, and live music performances.
Other things to do in surrounding areas
The surroundings of Hanoi Old Quarter boast a vibrant and culturally rich destination where you can experience a blend of historical charm and modern touch. Thriving culinary delights and fascinating cultural activities bring on your most memorable journey. Let’s find out the best things to experience in Hanoi.
Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex is a not-to-miss destination that holds the embalmed body of President Ho Chi Minh and other historical and cultural attractions. The monumental structure was built from gray granite and features a simple architectural style with spacious Ba Dinh Square in the front. Adjacent to the mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda is a small but iconic Buddhist temple built in the 11th century. The pagoda holds historical and religious significance, resembling a lotus blossom rising from a pond. On the grounds of the complex, you should also visit Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house, Presidental Palace, and a fish pond with various species of fish.
The entrance is located on the corner of Le Hong Phong and Ngoc Ha Street. The entrance ticket for foreigners is US$1/person.
Location: No.8, Hung Vuong Street, Dien Bien Ward, Ba Dinh District
Ticket price: US$1/person
Take a biking tour around West Lake
If you prefer a more refreshing and active way to explore Hanoi, you can rent a bike at your accommodations or bike rental centers to ride around West Lake, the largest lake in Hanoi. A cycling adventure may last for an hour, covering a 17-km route. You’ll pass tree-lined paths, pagodas, gardens, coffee shops, and eateries along the road.
Plan your ride in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid traffic congestion and the heat of midday. Wear comfortable clothes and remember to bring enough water bottles.
The cost for daily bike rental can vary from 120.000 VND to 150.000 VND.
Recommended bicycle rental centers: Bike Plus, Good Morning, Van Chinh Bike Rental Hanoi, and Vibike Bike Rental.
Embark on a cultural tour to Hanoi’s museums
By visiting Hanoi’s museum, you can get insights into the city’s history, culture, and art. For instance, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology offers knowledge of Vietnam’s ethnic groups, traditional customs, and artifacts while the Ho Chi Minh Museum displays documents, photographs, and personal belongings of President Ho Chi Minh. For a close look at Vietnam’s wide range of artifacts, ancient tools, sculptures, and ceramics, you can visit the Vietnam Museum of History. Additionally, Hoa Lo Prison Museum which used to cage political prisoners stands a chance for you to delve deeper into Vietnam’s war.
Ticket prices for Hanoi museums usually range from 10.000 VND for children and 30.000 VND for adults.
Visit the Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is one of Hanoi’s important iconic and cultural landmarks as it is Vietnam’s first national university and Confucian temple. The temple has a traditional exterior with multiple courtyards, gateways, and pathways. There are also several pavilions and altars of Confucius and various scholars. Remember to wear modest clothing and respect the place. It would be better to have a guide to discover more about the temple’s history and significance.
Students: 15.000 VND/person ( student cards required)
Adults: 30.000 VND/person
Discover traditional craft villages
The rich cultural heritage of Hanoi is partly revealed through traditional craft villages that house craftsmanship and artisanal skills for generations. Bat Trang Ceramic Village in the outskirts of Hanoi is among the most renowned villages for high-quality ceramic and pottery products. There, you have a chance to watch artisans create sophisticated ceramics and try your hand at pottery-making as well. Van Phuc Silk Village is another destination notable for its silk production. The village has been established for a thousand years specializing in making intricate silk products. Besides, you can explore other traditional villages such as Ha Thai Lacquerware Village, and Duong Lam Ancient Village.
Well-known villages to explore: Bat Trang Ceramic Village, Hai Thai Lacquerware Village, Van Phuc Silk Village, and Duong Lam Ancient Village.