The Hanoi Old Quarter is a shock to your senses. The streets are filled with the thrum of engines as scooters, taxis, and cars all push their way through a mass of traffic. Vendors set up on the sidewalks, calling out their wares. The smells of spicy pork, sweet onions, and sharp chili drift on the air. Throngs of people browse sparkling shops and their voices rise to be heard over the din. It is a mess of energy and life, set in the heart of Hanoi amidst French architecture and Vietnamese traditions.
The Old Quarter is not to be missed. (Get an early start on a weekday to beat the crowds!) While you’re there, here are five things you want to make sure you take the time to see and do:
1. Wander the Streets
Nothing gives you a feel of a place quite like putting on a comfy pair of shoes and wandering the streets. There are lots of walking tours available through hotels, hostels, and tour companies, but it’s not really necessary to book one. Just grab a map and get out there!
You won’t want to miss the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. Keep your eyes out for the holy turtles that call the lake home, they are a rare and lucky site. You can also cross the Huc Bridge over to Jade Island to explore the Ngoc Son Temple.
In the heart of the Old Quarter, there are 36 original streets. The best way to find your way around is to just start exploring them. Each street is named after the goods that were historically sold there. Some of the streets still sell the same wares; others have changed and updated over time.
2. Shop for Souvenirs
With so much to offer, it can be an exciting, and possibly overwhelming, experience to shop in the Old Quarter. You’ll have uncountable options for silks, embroideries, bags, jewelery, medicines, coffee, toys, and art. Street names may give you clues to what’s being sold there, but not always. A few streets to keep in mind are Hang Gai (the best place to buy silks of all kinds), Hang Bac (for gold and silver jewelry), Hang Hom (for lacquerware and bamboo), and Lang Ong (where you can find all sorts of traditional medicines and herbs).
Don’t be afraid to bargain! Vendors expect to haggle over the price some, so don’t be shy. Do, however, remember to be friendly and fair– the prices are already low! With an afternoon in the Old Quarter, you’re sure to find all those perfect Vietnamese souvenirs you were hoping to get for yourself and your loved ones back home.
3. Drink a Bia Hoi (Beer) or a Ca Phe Den (Coffee)
When your feet are wary of walking, find one of the many corner bars or cafes that are tucked into the shops of the Old Quarter. Locals and tourists alike congregate in these spots, so they can be a great place to strike up a conversation or just spend an afternoon people-watching in the busy market.
The local beer is some of the cheapest brew in the world. Plastic chairs sit on sidewalks and are quickly filled with friends sipping on their bia hoi. Some of the best spots for grabbing a drink in the Old Quarter are on Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien streets.
Vietnam is one of the world’s top coffee producers, so a cup of java in the capital is definitely a must. Cafe Avalon, on Cau Go street, is a popular favorite. It offers a great view of the lake and the option to sit on a balcony above the noisy roads.
4. Munch on an Array of Street Food
Here’s your chance to truly sample some of the best Vietnamese food available. The streets of the Old Quarter are filled with vendors setting up shop and serving out fantastic local dishes.
- Pho is traditional rice noodles and can be found everywhere.
- Cha ca is a buttery fish sauteed with spices and peanuts and served with noodles and vegetables. (Cha Ca La Vong is said to be one of the oldest restaurants in Vietnam and the birthplace of cha ca.)
- Bun cha is grilled pork with noodles and herbs
- Nuoc mia is sugar-cane juice, a sweet drink sure to give you a burst of energy
- Banh cuon is pork, mushrooms, and shallots rolled up in thin sheets of rice served with sweet or spicy dipping sauces
These are only a few of the delicious treats waiting for you to try, and nothing beats the flavors from the street stalls, so be brave and dig in!
5. Enjoy the Night Life
Hanoi isn’t known for it’s nightlife, and most places close before midnight, but for the best options in the city, head to the Old Quarter. As the rest of Hanoi settles in for the night, the Old Quarter is still buzzing with life. Live music, discos, clubs, bars, and karaoke can all be found there.
You’ll also want to check out the Dong Xuan night market! It is the city’s largest night market, and can be a great place to find some extra-good bargains and sales. (Silk can often be found even cheaper here than on Hang Gai street.) This market is open from 7pm to 2am Friday through Sunday, although around 8pm is the best time to see it in full swing. So get out there for more food and shopping!
The Hanoi Old Quarter is a vibrant enclave of history, culture, and community. You can find so many of the things that make Vietnam unique all tucked into one section of the city, so make sure you spend enough time there to really get the most out of your visit. There are lots of great hotel options right in the Old Quarter, making it easy to get in and out of the market. Now get out there and start to explore! let start a wonderful year of 2017 with Vietnam tour packages that AsiaTourAdvisor offers. Please contact us via phone at (84) 4 3926 3858 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and book cultural trips with best prices and services.