Walking Tour Old Quarter Hanoi

Old Quarter Hanoi

A visit to the Old Quarter in Hanoi should rank number one on any list of “must-do” Vietnam travel activities. Why? The Old Quarter deserves this spot because it's unique, historical, fascinating, bustling with activity, it has rich aromas and its noisy.

The Old Quarter in Hanoi is over one thousand years old and today retains much of the old flavor that made the area special in earlier times.

In the Old Quarter Hanoi each street was the exclusive domain of one trade (guilds) so there are whole streets of blacksmiths, silver shops, paper shops, headstone makers and more.

Originally there were just 36 streets in the Old Quarter but today there are more than 50 streets. Although many of the streets are short, and the area is rather compact, I recommend visitors allow four or five hours to soak up the atmosphere and sights.

Old Quarter Streets

Each street begins with the name Hang which means merchandise and the second word represents the product service. In this fascinating area some of the streets are: Hang Gai is silk street, Hang Bac (silversmiths), Hang Bo (baskets), Hang Quat (fans), Hang Thiec (tin), Hang Gaiy (paper or shoes - imagine that ladies!), Hang Huong (incense), Hang Bong (cotton) etc.

These days many of the streets cater to mixed businesses but there is sufficient activity to link one to a time long since gone.

The maze of streets here are narrow and bustling with activity from early in the morning. Although the streets are quieter at night there is still much activity.


The area begins around the well known landmark of Hoan Kiem and extends to the north and west of the lake. A good place to start is at the northern end of the lake by the Visitors Center where you can get a map which is invaluable as its easy to get disorientated in this area.

The Lonely Planet Guide has a suggested walking tour and has a good map with some useful background information on the area. Alternatively just wandering the streets marveling at the activity taking place on the pavements is a joy.

Welders crouch on the pavement welding boxes, hat stands or whatever else the client wants, delivery scooters weave in and out of traffic, stopping awhile here and there to pick up or drop off merchandise.

In the street for locks it’s said that you can get any type of lock your heart desires.

Another street sells mats and that’s all. Merchandise tumbles out onto the pavement right to the gutter in places forcing the casual wanderer out onto the street to compete with the scooter riders and cars - all tooting relentlessly.

Now some of the streets are mixed with other trades or services or they have changed to meet the market (such as toy street) but there are still many streets with exclusive trades to glimpse into a life of a bygone era.

Street Crossing in an art form

Crossing the street here, as in many places in Vietnam is an art form. You need to pick your moment and move slowly into the traffic. Don't take on the buses or cars! Move slowly forward keeping your eyes on the vehicles coming towards you. NEVER step back. Just edge slowly forwards and somehow the traffic moves around you.

Food Options Abound

Food in the Old Quarter Hanoi

Today, for the tourist, there are plenty of places to stop for refreshments. And you will need it! Local food places, restaurants markets, bars, juice cafes, the local coffee and tea cafes all compete for a narrow corner of space in this bustling area of Hanoi.

Join with the locals as they shop for their days supplies at the local markets, buy a loaf of French bread and munch it as you wander the shady tree lined streets.

What you won’t find in the Old Quarter Hanoi are the fast food chains so prevalent in many other tourist spots around the world.

Stopping awhile at a local café with tables which spill out onto the street affords travelers the opportunity to sit comfortably and watch the activity happening around you. You certainly see much more when you stop awhile and just observe.

Lonely Planet Vietnam (Country Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Vietnam (Country Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet is a great guide for Vietnam Travel

 
The Rough Guide to Vietnam
The Rough Guide to Vietnam

Rough Guide is another good guide for Vietnam Travel

 

The ambience in the area is captivating and addictive encouraging visitors to return again and again.


It's so interesting in this small corner of the world that I don't think you can see everything there is to see in one visit.

However, if your time is limited, take a stroll around the area and eat in one of the cafes with outdoor seating. You will have memories to treasure.


The Old Quarter, Hanoi in my view definitely deserves to be the number one activity on any travel Vietnam itinerary.

Noodles - Old Quarter

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Comments 25 comments

Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 6 years ago from USA or America

Hey Travelespresso, Thank you so much. I learned quite a bit. I was looking for something and I found it. I'm quite impressed, you did an excellent job in 30 minutes. Awesome and thank you for taking part. :)


wilderness profile image

wilderness 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Great hub! Someday I'd like to visit the far east - you just whet my appetite.


Website Examiner 6 years ago

This is a well-written hub, which captures the reader right from the start. I like the images and layout of the hub.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Thanks for setting up the thirty minute challenge Cags. I enjoyed taking part.

I've been wanting to write this hub, ever since I visited the Old Quarter two years ago. Then I went there again last month and saw new things and your challenge just galvinized me into action! Thanks for your comments.


Ohma profile image

Ohma 6 years ago

What no Hubtrail Tag?

Just kidding Joy. Very nice hub. Very impressive for 30 minutes.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Ooh Ohma...you must know that I will get to it! I want to add some more photos but that will wait until I have more time to select and edit them. You will see it on the hubtrails sometime soon!!!

Thanks for stopping by.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Website Examiner it was a pleasure to work with you in the instant hub challenge. Thank you for your nice comments and for commenting on my hub.


Website Examiner 6 years ago

Travelespresso, the pleasure was all mine. I can see how very capable you are as a writer, and have also noticed your good sense of humor and that you have good advice to offer to others. Thank you very much.


Polly C profile image

Polly C 6 years ago from UK

Fantastic travelogue, and I see you wrote it in 30 mins? Wow, that is amazing. It really made me feel as of I had been there already; I got a real feel of the atmosphere of the streets. And the pictures are wonderful too - awesome :)


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Thanks for your generous comments PollyC. Saying you felt as though you had been to the Old Quarter in Hanoi is very flattering. Thank you.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I visited Vietnam back in the late 60s. It was very noisy. I couldn't quite get to Hanoi but it was very noisy there too. Thank you Travelespresso!


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

It is very noisy Micky Dee but well worth the visit! Thanks for your comment.


europewalker profile image

europewalker 6 years ago

Very well done and interesting. It almost felt like I was walking along the streets with you.


Ohma profile image

Ohma 6 years ago

Joy Just put you on the map. umm. so to speak.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Eruopewalker that's a very flattering comment for any travel writer to receive. Thank you very much.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Amazing! Love the detail and the pics!


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Thanks for your kind comments habee. Glad you like the pics - I sure had fun taking them!


Christine 6 years ago

Joy, you have made me want to go back again. Hanoi was one of my favourite place in Vietnam. Good writing as usual:)


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Hanoi is one of my favorite places too Christine. Thanks for commenting.


lamincome profile image

lamincome 6 years ago

Thanks for the post. I had a hard time walking across the street but when i see an old granny crossing the road with ease, it made me feel like a wimp. LOL


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

I know just what you mean lamincome! One old chap took me by the hand and helped me across the street when I first went to Saigon. It was really touching. Thanks for your comment.


Constanttraveller 5 years ago

Arrive in Hanoi on Sunday. Can't wait.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 5 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

I hope that you enjoy Hanoi and take time to let the old city imprint itself on you. Thanks for commenting.


Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 5 years ago

Hanoi sounded like a fascinating place to visit. You have just tempted me !

I heard about eating snake in Vietnam for good health. Have you tried that ?


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 5 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Hanoi is truly a fascinating place to spend time. Its frenetic but so very lively.

I haven't tried snake yet but the Vietnamese eat just about everything they can. Some unusual things like banana flowers are absolutely divine in hot pots.

I hope you get to go there soon. Thanks so much for your comment.

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