1.Hanoi Old Quarter – History

“Pho Co” (The Old Quarter) is long known as the heart of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Vietnam with a history dating back 1000 years. Historically, the Old Quarter first began its existence in the 11th century during the Ly dynasty (1428 – 1789).

At that time, Vietnam gained independence from China and Emperor Ly Thai To made a bold decision to leave the Hoa Lu Capital, Ninh Binh and move to Thang Long, Ha Noi. Nowadays, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long (Ba Dinh district) and O Quan Chuong gate nearby the Old Quarter is a golden imprint of a significant milestone in Vietnamese history.

In the 15th century, the Old Quarter became much more lively and crowded, making it a business hub. People from different corners of the world rush to Hanoi to do a thriving trade and they chose the Old Quarter to be the place where they gathered and exchanged goods and resources. The trading of guilds here is so bustling that this oldest place is called “Hà Nội – ba mươi sáu phố phường” (36 Old Streets”) and each street is named after the specific crafts sold at that street such as Hang Ma Street (selling volatile papers, seasonal decorations and other goods relating to the worship custom or holidays of Vietnam) or Hang Gai aka Silk Street (selling silk, tailors, colorful galleries and handcrafted souvenirs).

During the French colonization, the Old Quarter experienced a thunder of changes, but still, save the most treasured values of the Vietnamese nation. Instead of merging, the Old Quarter makes the most of modernization from the French and upholds its own remarkable historic beauty.

2. Hanoi Old Quarter – Highlights

The Old Quarter is located between Hoan Kiem Lake and Long Bien Bridge. Even though people call it “36 Old Streets”, the Old Quarter actually comprises more than 70 streets.

Undergoing the ups and downs of history, the Old Quarter is home to multiple civilizations. Most people are impressed by the Franco-Chinese hybrid architecture in the Old Quarter because these designs perfectly combine three cultural and architectural styles from three nations. Also, we particularly conserve Confucian Confucian scrolls, Taoist yin-yang signs and Buddhist lotus sculpture since Communism and Buddhism contributed greatly to our morality and harmony.

Another marked feature is the tube houses which are small, and narrow but extremely tall and long. This distinctive home style is a response to the high property tax imposed by the Nguyen Dynasty which is based on the width of the property from the street. Despite the confined space, Vietnamese people have wisely designed their tube houses with exposure to as many skylights as possible to keep the yin-yang balance.

3. What to DO and EAT in Hanoi Old Quarter?

3.1. Take a self-guided walking tour

Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) is an ideal hangout spot, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. If you start your day in the early morning, you may be surprised that many people here are real early birds and they go on a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake to enhance their stamina and endurance. Others may take lighter exercise also. You can bump into groups of women dancing in their pajamas, and some men sitting in a corner smoking tobacco. At sunset, the lake is in a melancholy mood and lures young people to come there for some artistic photos.

Ngoc Son temple is a prominent spiritual symbol of Hanoi. The atmosphere is quiet and peaceful, so it’s best for tourists to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. To explore Ngoc Son temple, you need to buy a ticket at a booth located on the left-hand side before you cross the bridge. The temple opens at 8 am and closes at 5 pm every day.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral is believed to be another version of Notre Dame in Paris. It features French architecture or a Neo-Gothic style. Holding religious and sentimental values, the ST. Joseph’s Cathedral attracts a large number of tourists who admire ancient beauty.

The Old Quarter is a friendly-walking space and pedestrian zones in some streets have received positive feedback from both locals and tourists. People head to pedestrian zones to enjoy the greenery, fresh air, and some folk games such as kicking a shuttlecock, tugging of war, and capturing mandarin square.

If you are an art lover, do not miss the Hanoi Opera House and Thang Long Puppet Theater. The former is traced back to 1911 and its exterior stands out with the French style with Gothic themes on the doors and domes with pillars, shuttered windows, and balconies. It is even more magnificent with a T-shaped white marble staircase and crystal chandeliers. Soundproof walls and the auditorium ensure you bring you wonderful acoustics. The latter represents a traditional practice of Vietnam that tells historical stories of Vietnam in a subtle but enthralling way.

Hanoi Opera House

  • Location: No.01 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
  • Opening hours: 10:30 AM every Monday and Friday

Thang Long Puppet Theater

  • Location: 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang street, nearby Hoan Kiem Lake.
  • Timings: 03:30 pm – 08:00 pm
  • Ticket Price: 60.000 VND ($2.53)

3.2. Enjoy street food & drink

If you are looking for the real taste of Vietnamese food, give street food and drink in the Old Quarter a try and you will not regret it.

You can eat Bun Cha at the Huong Lien food stall where former US President, Barack Obama used to eat it during his visit to Vietnam. “Phở” (vermicelli) is another must-try food that will take your breath away at the first try with its unforgettable taste.

Bun Cha Huong Lien

  • Location: 24 Le Van Huu, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Price: 40.000đ – 60.000đ ($1.69 – $2.53)

A Trang Tien Ice cream will quench your thirst when walking around the Hoan Kiem lake and shout to your heart’s content that it’s a kind of dainty food. Serving yourself a cup of tea and coffee, two principal export commodities of Vietnam, and getting the panoramic view of the Old Quarter from vintage shops is also preferred by many travelers. Sometimes, looking at the tidal wave of people underneath will urge you to contemplate the meaning of life.

Trang Tien Ice Cream

  • Location: 35 Trang Tien Street (Trang Tien Ward, Hoan Kiem District)
  • Price: less than $1 USD

3.3. Go on a shopping spree 

The Old Quarter is a business hub and it is home to numerous antiques. You can hunt for cool collectibles or just wander around some stores to buy clothing, bags, shoes or sportswear. The fabrics on Hang Gai street are extremely fabulous, so head there to pick your favorite ones. Craft House Cathedral also offers accessories, stationery, and candles for tourists to take home.

Hang Gai Street

  • Location: 95 Hang Gai Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

3.4. Experience interesting Street Food cooking class 

Recently, inbound and outbound tourists pay attention to learning how to cook Vietnamese food rather than just eating them. In the Old Quarter, there are several cooking classes that you can enroll in easily and quickly to experience it. Please contact Metta Voyage to book this interesting experience!

By attending street food cooking classes, you will seize the chance to make yourself some famous delicacies of Vietnam. Throughout the lesson, you would also get a grasp of diverse Vietnamese ingredients and seasonings, and even differentiate them, which is interesting and challenging at the same time. After the class, you would be confident to treat your beloved family and friends to the mesmerizing Viet dishes

Click here to see more information: Hanoi Cooking Class with Locals

3.5. Immerse in the bustling nightlife 

By nightfall, the Old Quarter is packed with people throwing parties, playing music, and walking hand in hand. In particular, there is a beer corner on Ta Hien Street. Let’s have a fresh beer and speak with friendly locals to openly know more about Vietnamese people. Also, you will be taken aback when hearing others saying loudly “Bottom-up!” to create a festive atmosphere.

Ta Hien Street

  • Opening: 6:00 – 02:00.
  • Location: Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi.

Make a day of the Old Quarter, Hanoi and you will lose your heart to this place immediately. Metta Voyage hopes to give you the best brief journey to the Old Quarter and it’s your turn to make it real.

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