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Vietnam's Historical Old Quarter Pulsates

Updated on July 12, 2011

To experience the Old Quarter, Hanoi is to glimpse into the Asia of old. Hanoi has been long recognized as a city of charm with historical buildings. The Old Quarter is chaotic, noisy, vibrant and at times challenging for tourists.

The narrow streets in this area pulsate from early morning with markets, quaint shops, industry and trade. Motor cycles overloaded with people and goods to deliver weave expertly in and out of the narrow, congested streets.

In the early evening it becomes quieter but you can be sure that the cycle will begin again in the morning when traders arrive back in the old city with wares to sell – the fresh organic produce, colorful flowers, herbs and spices, pirated books and much more.

Art for sale in the Old Quarter
Art for sale in the Old Quarter

Over 1000 years ago guilds (trades) each took a street and named it after their trade. The streets are often named Hang, meaning merchandise, and then tagged with the name of the product which was sold. Hang Bo sells baskets Hang Giay shoes etc.

Hang Bac is the original home of silversmiths, in Hang Gai you can buy (or have made) very reasonably priced silk clothes, Hang Chieu displays colorful mats, Hang Huong incense, Hang Non for hats etc. Where else would you find a whole street of shops selling locks of every size and shape?

Although each of the original 36 streets were, originally, the exclusive domain of one guild today its less regimented and different merchandise is offered in many of the streets. A walking tour around these old streets, which now number fifty, is a fascinating insight into life in the Old Quarter.

Start the Walking Tour by Lake Hoan Kiem

Make your first stop the information centre which is on the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake to pick up a map (or print the one attached to this hub) and then just meander. If you take your time to stroll around the Old Quarter, this fascinating city will reveal itself to you.

Although you can see some of the sights of the Old Quarter streets in as little as one hour, but your experience will be richer if you allocate four or five hours.

There are many places to stop awhile with a refreshing cold Hanoi beer and a snack on Vietnamese food while you observe the hustle and bustle of life in the Old Quarter.

Try a Cyclo Tour

Alternatively you can relax in the back of a cycle while being peddled around the streets giving you a relaxing view of the sights.

Cyclo Tour Warning!

Many cyclo drivers will rip you off! It’s not uncommon for them to demand more money at the end of the ride. To avoid that, negotiate the price with the cyclo driver before you start. Ensure that the currency of the agreed fee and that its for a two person ride, not one person!

Writing down the agreed price (and currency) might save you some anguish at the end of the tour.

Fascinating Hanoi

Travel Vietnam and in particular Hanoi is fascinating and best enjoyed at a relaxed pace. A walking tour around the Old Quarter will be a favorite travel memory with many photographic opportunities to share with your friends.

Hanoi's Old Quarter Map

Hang Be Street:
Hàng Bè, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang Bac Street:
Hàng Bạc, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang Ngang:
Hàng Ngang, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang Buom:
Hàng Buồm, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang Ma:
Hàng Mã, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang Ga:
Hàng Gà, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Lo Ren:
Lò Rèn, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang thiec:
Hàng Thiếc, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang Quat:
Hàng Quạt, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

Hang Gai:
Hàng Gai, Hanoi, Vietnam

get directions

And finally.....

This article and the photographs are copyright Travelespresso.  Please do not copy!

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    • Edwin Clark profile image

      Edwin Clark 

      6 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      I've never been to Hanoi before, and now thanks to your hub I know what to check out because I particularly love to visit the old quarters of anywhere I visit.

      I do plan on taking a cyclo and I've never been ripped off yet. But your tip about having the price written down is tops. Though in recent visit to HCMC I didn't mind paying a little more than I should have. Because I can imagine how a skinny guy feels pushing a 200lb. guy like me through the crazy traffic while keeping us both alive.

    • jtrader profile image


      8 years ago

      I would defintiely write down the price agreed on, as you have suggested.

    • travelespresso profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Thanks for the compliments RC. The photos are all mine too! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    • reversecharles profile image


      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Fascinating hub and great photos.

    • Seakay profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      I only have sad memories of Viet Nam, from the days of the Viet Nam "conflict." Both my brothers served in the war. I was fortunate that they both returned. Our neighbor did not. It was not a happy time for me. Unfortunately, that is how I think of Viet Nam now. However, that does not overshadow your presentation!

    • travelespresso profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      I am very lucky to do this traveling. However, the decision to do this wasn't done lightly and was difficult to implement!

      Thank you for following me and there are many places in Africa I would love to see. Thank you for your comment.

    • killrats profile image


      8 years ago from Cape town South Africa

      I think you are very lucky to be able to do what you love. If at some stage you can fit South Africa into your plans do so. You will be amazed at what we have to offer.

      Will be following


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