Old Quarter, Hanoi

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  • victorwkf's Profile Photo

    The Old Quarter

    by victorwkf Updated Feb 20, 2007

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    The Old Quarter (Pho Phuong) is an ancient merchant quarter of Hanoi city developed during the 13th century. There is a total of 36 streets and each is named according to the merchandise on offer. For example, Hang Buom Street means "sails merchandise street" and Hang Giay Street means "paper merchandise street". This entire area is located at the northern portion of Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of Restored Sword) and is an interesting maze of small streets and old traditional buildings with temples, markets dispersed among them. There are also lots of shops here selling a variety of stuff ranging from clothings, shoes, souvenirs, groceries, food, drinks etc etc. The traffic is chaotic with lots of motorcycles, bicycles, cyclos, cars etc and you need to know how to cross the road properly (see warning section of this VT page). The important thing when exploring the Old Quarter is to bring a good map along as you will get lost, but not to worry because this is one place which you will always remember. More photos of the Old Quarter are at the travelogue section of this VT page, and I will introduce the various attractions at the Old Quarter at the later tips of this page.

    The Old Quarter area, Hanoi, Vietnam
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    Hanoi Old Quarter

    by muddybok Updated Nov 9, 2004

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    Hanoi Old Quarters is one of the most colorful sections of Hanoi. The area is packed with people, culture & surprises. I have tasted some home brewed beer at the price of VND4.000 at one of the eatery corners.

    Be brave (or you will never cross the street) and also be extra careful (motorbikes are all around you) when you cross the streets, ignore all the traffic rules if you must. Beware of those zapping motorbikes when you walk around the Old Quarter, because there is no one seems to understand the proper usage of pedestrian crossing like in our countries.

    Hanoi Old Quarters
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    Old Quarters - old but rich in cultures

    by myspices Written Jan 31, 2006

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    It is actually a maze. You can either do it on a trishaw or more interestingly, do a walk tour. Stop and look at the wares/goods displayed and you will be amazed how many types can be found within the circuit of the Old Quarters - bamboos, steel, pottery, shoes, clothes, leather, copper, thread, incense, sundries, blacksmiths, silversmiths, goldsmiths, medicines, baskets, pots and pans, papers, coffins, pickles, tid-bits, - you name it, they have it. Each "Hang" ie meaning "Street" will denote the trades they are selling. Between alleys and intermediates of shoplots, you will find some interesting local food being sold. Have a go on the local food and drinks whenever you are hungry or thirsty.

    Old Quarters - lanterns everywhere Old Quarters - towels of all sizes Old Quarters - the Shoe Street - Hang Giay Old Quarters - these are motorised Old Quarters - Bamboo Street  - Hang Tre
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    Old Quarters

    by imstress Written Jun 15, 2005

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    Old Quarters has 36 streets selling different things. The streets are occupied by shops along the narrow path.

    From travel agents, restaurant, motor repair shop, incense, casket, provision shops, electricals, lanterns, deco, clothing, swimwear, internet cafe, toys, silk, hotel .... you name it they should have it.

    Junction of Old Quarters
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    The Old Quarter..."Life in Motion"

    by Greggor58 Written May 20, 2010

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    There is plenty of information here at VT about the Old Quarter…it’s an incredible experience to walk the streets, smell the air, and experience for yourself the hectic and frenzied pace of this area of the city. You really have to experience it for yourself.

    Its really not much more than a conglomeration of businesses and PEOPLE going about they're daily lives and I think that this is what makes this part of the city so unique and interesting..The architecture is unique to say the least but this is where you are able to see some of the real people of Ha Noi just doing they're thing.

    Originally the Old Quarter of Ha Noi was a congregation of craftsmen that is believed to be the oldest “continuing” developed settlement in all of Vietnam that eventually evolved into an area where each street was synonymous with a particular craft or product type.

    Today it has changed and now for the most part there is a smattering of different businesses mixed together on each street. The street names are still the same and in some cases you’ll find the word “hang” incorporated into the street name.”Hang” translates in English as “merchandise”.

    The narrow alleys and busy streets teem with life’s every day activities, shopping, eating,food preparation,people walking, motorbikes, bicycles coming and going, the infamous tiny sidewalk tables and chairs, the horns honking, laughter, food cooking…it just seemingly goes on and on.

    Temples, communal houses, restaurants and homes and businesses are all crammed into an area sometimes referred to as the “36 streets”. You can loose yourself and a day or two quite easily if you would like to, exploring and participating in this “life in motion”.

    I wandered around the Old Quarter for a few hours a couple of times and I found it pretty interesting but I also found it to be quite tiring, after a while.One MUST check this out when in Ha Noi. The Old Quarter certainly provides a look into the lives of the people of Ha Noi.

    The Old Quarter,Ha Noi,Vietnam. The Old Quarter,Ha Noi,Vietnam. The Old Quarter,Ha Noi,Vietnam. The Old Quarter,Ha Noi,Vietnam. The Old Quarter,Ha Noi,Vietnam.
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    Old Quarter

    by yuet29 Written Nov 29, 2004

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    Hanoi Old Quarter consists of 36 old streets with every street selling different items.

    A streets selling cemetery items, a street solely sell food, a handicraft street, a shoes street, hat street, hardware street, toy streets etc..

    For those who like to go Hatyai, Thailand for the toy keychain will become mad in old quarter toy street coz there are too many choices, compare to Hat yai.

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    The Old Quarter…87 Ma May Street

    by Greggor58 Written May 20, 2010

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    This structure is a restored house of Chinese origin that illustrates the design elements of a merchant’s home of 19th Century Ha Noi.

    The structure is designed to maximize natural occurring elements of weather to ventilate as well as illuminate the interior. Incorporated into the design is an open air courtyard that provides light as well as ventilation.

    This is a typical structure that would have been occupied by a merchant living and doing business in what is today the Old Quarter of Ha Noi. The main floor would be the area of the structure used for business; the food preparation area was at the rear of the structure as was a water source... a well. The living quarters and shrines are found on the upper floors.

    Today you can visit free of charge and wander around and look for yourself at this wonderful wooden building.You can pay a small fee though and be "guided" throughout the house. There are a few people working there dressed in the traditional clothing of Vietnam, a couple of women wearing the lovely Ao Doi and an artist, a man working on calligraphy. There was available for purchase some of his work…sorry I didn’t inquire about pricing as I wasn’t shopping. The quality of his work was quite good though.

    The natural lighting of the home was warm and inviting, the furniture made from wonderful dark wood, the walls and interior were decorated with paintings and live plants growing here and there. The structure itself was of wonderful wooden post and beam construction and quite well built.

    I enjoyed a great conversation with the man, we talked a little about art, poetry and politics I suppose how government was not as “close” to the experiences of real people as was the artist, and how he tried through his art to convey his perspective to the “normal everyday person”.

    I think you’ll enjoy a visit here to this old house…I thought my experience here was rather unique and Im certainly happy that I had my “Ha Noi Kid” LoAn around to help translate our conversation!

    87 Ma May Street,Old Quarter,Ha Noi. Greggor and LouAn,87 Ma May Street,Old Quarter. 87 Ma May Street,Old Quarter,Ha Noi. Caligrapher,87 Ma May Street,Old Quarter,Ha Noi.
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    Old Quarter

    by neurochic Written Nov 10, 2005

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    The Old Quarter is a place in Hanoi where you can get lost for hours. It consists of multiple blocks of old houses that are built narrow but long and high. Just imagine a series of rectangles next to each other. It is considered a UNESCO world heritage site. Each of the separate businesses sells one particular specialty. For instance you will find a store that just sells red lanterns, another that just sells goldfish, another jewerly, another stationary and so on. Its so neat to think that in Hanoi these businesses make it selling just one particular type of item coming from America where we like to have one stop shopping in our WalMarts.

    Old Quarter Intersection
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    Old Quarter

    by SPW Written Aug 12, 2003

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    What a wonderful place to wander, get lost and absorb the experience!
    This area, traditionally 36 streets named after each of the crafts practised there, is full of people, traffic, colour, noise, shops and people going about their everyday lives. The streets and buildings are narrow, adding to the charm and chaos. The streets are still thematic, though most are not related to the original trades, so there is an area where stall after stall sells towels or baby food, foodstuffs in general, traditional medicines as well as those with coffins and goods for the after life, tin goods, shoes, silks, clothes...And lots of places to eat, stay (although peole reported to us that it tended to be noisy at night) and buy souvenirs.

    Shady part of theOld Quarter
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    Hanoi's Old Town

    by King_Golo Updated Jul 20, 2014

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    Definitely the number 1 sight in Hanoi, its Old Town is a place to spend days and days and days. Just wandering through the streets, you will discover so many different things - ranging from hectic markets, kitschy toys, tranquil backstreet pagodas and numerous street vendors to smoky meats for lunch, gravestone carvers, the smell of hundreds of herbs and essences made from them or a collection of 150 flower pots on an overcrowded balcony. It's close to impossible to describe Hanoi's Old Town in a tip as short as this one - you could easily write a book about its multifariousness! Let's try anyway...

    The Old Town originally consisted of 36 streets, each of them selling a different product. Back then you would go to the silk street to get your silk dresses, to the sugar street to stock up on sugar or to the bamboo street to buy a bamboo ladder. Nowadays, these things are all mixed up. The names of the streets still exist, but they are no more limited to only one product. Interestingly, there's still the trend that a street or a row of houses in one street only sell the same thing - for instance glasses in lower Luong Van Can, tin products in the area around Hang Non or gravestones in Hang Bac. Hang Gai is still responsible for silk - but I suppose prices have risen skywards since the old days!

    Getting lost in this labyrinth of streets and awaiting curiously what is sold around the next corner is one of the best things you can do in Hanoi. In case your time is limited, you might want to hire a cyclo driver to pedal you through the old quarter.

    Apart from that, the Old Town is also the place to be when it comes to touristy things such as shopping or tour booking. The majority of tour agents is found here (literally one at every corner) as is the majority of silk shops. Prices are pretty high, though, so that you might want to check out other parts of Hanoi as well. Then there's the food: home to several small street markets (and the bigger Dong Xuan market), there is no better place than this to find out how these strange thorny fruit taste like that you see everywhere... Hint: it's durian, and it tastes, let's say, "interesting"!

    Ah, I could go on forever. Let's keep it short: Hanoi's Old Town is a must. If you have but one hour to spend in the city, spend it here!

    PS: See my travelogue for more impressions of Hanoi's Old Town!

    Business as usual in the Old Town of Hanoi

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    Mid-autumn festival in Hanoi

    by thuyduongvn Updated Oct 4, 2012

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    The Mid-autumn festival is very special to Vietnamese people. It's a harvest festival but it's also a day for children to have fun. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. This year, it's is held on Sunday, Sep 30 in the Gregorian calendar.

    The celebrations on this day usually include eating Mooncakes, drinking tea, carrying lanterns (usually Star Shaped lanterns), floating Water Lantern (lotus shaped), wearing paper or plastic masks, making pomelo dogs, watching Lion dancing or Dragon dancing and the most important thing is the whole family gather together. Parents tell children stories about the Full moon day, and then the children usually hold each other hands ,go around the neighborhood and sing.

    In this occation, you could see someone who sell lanterns or masks everywhere . But when you go to Hang Ma street (street of joss paper) in Hanoi, the view there may surprise you. Many people who sell masks, lanterns or red drums sit both sides of the street. In the afternoon, a lot of people go there just to buy a small drum or to take a picture,babies are carried in their father's shoulders. Crowded street, but that's what make the day unique.

    Star Shaped Lanterns A woman sells red drums Traditional Lanterns Red is the main color Pomelo Dogs
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    You must explore the Old Quarter on foot.

    by worldkiwi Written Jun 2, 2005

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    A "must do" in Hanoi is a walking tour of the city's Old Quarter. This was the site of the original centre of Hanoi and the streets still bear the names of their original functional characteristic. Streets were devoted in a guild-like way to selling particular goods. Hence there was (and still is) a "tin street", a "paper street", and a "copper street". Today you can still experience remnants of this old city characteristic in the narrow, twisting lanes of the Old Quarter.
    If you own a Lonely Planet guidebook, there is an extensive walking tour in there for you to follow.
    Some highlights include the Hang Thiec Street (the tin street) and Hang Ma (the paper street), but everywhere you go in the Old Quarter, there are great sights, sounds, smells, and tastes!

    Hang Ma Street, Hanoi.
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  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Old Quarter

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Nov 16, 2006

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    The Old Quarter is an amazing array of streets filled with tourists, hotels, cafes, markets, bia hois, and traffic. This area is also packed with local shops filled with craftsmen and sales people. You can spend hours here walking around, shopping, eating, and chatting with the locals. Our hotel was in this area, and here we spent much of our time.

    The Old Quarter is located just north of Hoan Kiem Lake.

    Woman in the Old Quarter, Hanoi Buddhist music shop? Buddha shop, Old Quarter Lamp Shop in the old quarter
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    The Old Quarter...Communal Houses..

    by Greggor58 Written Jun 7, 2010

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    Scattered throughout the Old Quarter you can find more than a few Communal Houses that are so attached to the culture of the people of Vietnam and Ha Noi.

    Communal Houses in Vietnam have been in existence for hundreds of years. Initially as Chinese peoples moved southwards into what is now Vietnam these “Dinh Lang” or what today is referred to as communal houses were established in most communities to plan the economic and social development and other activities of the communities that they served. Communal Houses also served as places for worship for the community “founding fathers”.

    This is true also in the early years in the development of the “communities” found within what is today the Old Quarter. As mentioned in other tips referring to the Old Quarter, each street was the central location of a particular trade or guild and in effect these were independent “communities. This is one of the reasons that there are so many small communal houses seen throughout the Old Quarter of Ha Noi.

    I stopped briefly at two of them. One can be seen at 33 Pho Bat Dan…and the other at 85 Hang Gai …both structures are simple yet elegant in there own way and VERY colorful.

    Do take the time to take a look at these small and ornately decorated places that are so unique and significant to the culture of the people of Ha Noi.

    The ones that I visited were free of charge to access.

    Communal House,33 Pho Bat Dan,Old Quarter,Ha Noi. Communal House,33 Pho Bat Dan,Old Quarter,Ha Noi. Communal House,33 Pho Bat Dan,Old Quarter,Ha Noi. Communal House,85 Hang Gai St.,Old Quarter,Ha Noi. Communal House,85 Hang Gai St.,Old Quarter,Ha Noi.
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    Walking around The Old Quarter in Hanoi

    by Starsa Written Mar 6, 2008

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    The Old Quarter in Hanoi is an interesting place to walk around. There are so many things to see and lots of merchants located near Hoan Kiem lake, including a night market Friday thru Sunday. There are lots of shops to buy souvenirs, clothing, shoes and other inexpensive items.

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