Ma May Street in Hanoi: A Journey Through History, Culture, and Delicacies

Nestled in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Ma May Street is a bustling thoroughfare that has witnessed centuries of history and cultural evolution. Its narrow streets, lined with ancient shophouses and bustling with life, offer a glimpse into Hanoi’s rich past and vibrant present. From historical landmarks and architectural wonders to culinary delights and vibrant nightlife, Ma May Street is a microcosm of all that Hanoi has to offer.

Introducing Ma May Street

Ma May Street
Ma May Street

A Street That Has Stood the Test of Time

Ma May Street is one of the oldest streets in Hanoi, with records dating back to the 15th century. Back then, the street was home to wealthy merchants and artisans. Over the centuries, it has survived numerous wars, colonial rule, and socioeconomic changes. Despite witnessing tremendous upheavals, Ma May Street retains its original layout and architecture. The street offers visitors a chance to travel back through different eras of Hanoi’s history. Walking along the street today, you can catch glimpses of life in 15th century Hanoi, see traces left behind by the French colonial administration, and experience the boisterous energy of 21st century Vietnam.

The Beating Heart of Commercial Activities

Ma May Street history
Ma May Street history

In addition to being a living museum of Hanoi’s history, Ma May Street has also been the beating heart of commerce in the Ancient Quarter for hundreds of years. Generations of merchants have plied their trades here, selling silk, porcelain, traditional medicines, and an incredibly diverse range of goods.

Map of Ma May street

Even today, Ma May street is lined with shop houses, each narrow facade crammed with merchandise. You can find anything from textiles, handicrafts, and souvenirs to modern fashion boutiques. The street really comes alive in the evenings, when residents set up makeshift food stalls to serve hungry locals, tourists and party-goers. The vibrant street culture, combined with historic charm, makes Ma May street an essential Hanoi experience.

Ma May Street Attractions

Ancient house in Ma May street
Ancient house in Ma May street

Admire Magnificent Architecture

Ma May Street is home to some magnificent examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. The area largely avoided damage during 20th century wars, leaving whole blocks of two- and three-storey shop houses intact. Strolling north along the street from Hang Bac, one of the most impressive structures is the 19th century Dao Thuc house at No.87.

The wooden columns, intricate carvings and tiled roof are wonderfully preserved. Across the street at No.98, flanked by silk shops, the tall and imposing red-brick Quan Chuong Gate stands firm. Dating from 1627, this commanding structure was once one of the main entrances through Hanoi’s city walls. Visitors can appreciate the fortified design, decorated beams and imposing dragon and unicorn symbolism.

Discover Places of Worship

In among the shop houses, restaurants and hotels along Ma May street, you’ll also discover temples, memorials and pagodas which reveal the importance of religion and ancestral worship to locals. On Hang Mam street, a peaceful alley running parallel to the east of Ma May, sits the Ancient House Temple where merchants and residents have worshipped for generations. Dedicated to the patron Thanh Hoang, this Taoist temple honours local protective spirits.

Back on Ma May itself opposite No.56, above a line of porcelain and pottery shops, an elevated pavilion-style memorial pays tribute to the sacred 15th century general Tran Hung Dao. Further along past Luong Van Can street, the Cho Hang Ma pagoda at No.79 also worships Thanh Hoang with offerings and lanterns. Visitors can take a peaceful break from the bustle of Ma May to admire the explained architecture and devotional atmosphere inside these places of worship.

Ma May Street Food

Sidewalk stalls on Ma May street
Sidewalk stalls on Ma May street

Mouth-Watering Local Delicacies

Ma May Street offers an incredible diversity of Hanoi street food to tempt your tastebuds. Multiple vendors set up mobile carts and stools along both pavements to serve hungry locals, worker and tourists into the late evenings. Your nostrils will guide you to favourites like ca kho to (catfish claypot), with caramelised fish simmering in a pungent broth packed with veggies. Or try delicate nem ran (fried spring rolls) bursting with pork, mushrooms and glass noodles for dipping in sweet chilli.

Locals flock to pho cuon stalls like the famous No.14, where bundles of rice noodles enveloped in herbs get freshly grilled and served with dipping sauce. And you can round off any street food crawl along Ma May with Vietnamese iced coffee or a cooling glass of xoi nop sweet sticky rice.

Atmospheric Restaurants and Cafes

Duong's 2 restaurant
Duong’s 2 restaurant

As well as snack vendors stalls, visitors can also experience Vietnam’s amazing cuisine by settling in at one of Ma May Street’s atmospheric restaurants or cafes. Highlights like Highway 4 (No.5 hang Tre) fuse local dishes like bun cha Hanoi with craft beer in a shabby-chic colonial style interior. For a romantic dinner, Duong’s 2 restaurant (No.101), Red Bean restaurant (No.94). And to start your day, Cafe Lam (No.60 Nguyen Huu Huan street) has been serving egg coffee and banh mi baguettes from its hidden first-floor balcony since the 1950s. From casual street-side plastic stools to elegant date-night venues, Ma May street caters to all appetites and budgets when it comes to enjoying iconic Vietnamese dishes.

Ma May Street Hotel

Charming and Convenient Accommodation

Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa
Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa

For visitors looking to fully immerse themselves in the culture of Ma May Street, spending a night or two at one of the local hotels offers charm and convenience. Tucked behind the main thoroughfare, you’ll discover leafy courtyards, colonial architecture and modern comfort. For boutique luxury, Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa (No.94 Ma May) provides rooms with freestanding bathtubs, rainfall showers and sleek oriental decor. And for budget travellers, the Awesome Hanoi Hostel (No.51) supplies clean twin rooms with air-con, minibars and city views from $30 a night. Staying along Ma May Street allows visitors to experience Hanoi’s vibrant nightlife then retreat back to their room in just a few steps.

Dining and Entertainment on Your Doorstep

Rooftop Bar at Tirant Hotel
Rooftop Bar at Tirant Hotel

Visitors who choose accommodation along Ma May Street will have plenty of after-hours dining and entertainment options right on their doorstep. As you venture out in the evenings, you’ll discover the pavement lined with low plastic stools as vendors set up makeshift street food outlets serving everything from crispy deep-fried snacks to hotpots bubbling away. Or for some evening elegance, Red Bean Restaurant (No.94) offers creative fusion food and signature cocktails.

Further along at No.38 Gia Ngu, the Rooftop Bar at Tirant Hotel provides panoramic views over Hanoi’s skyline while you sip imported beers, wines and whiskeys into the early hours. With non-stop food outlets, hip cafes, atmospheric bars and even late-night karaoke lounges surrounding you, Ma May Street truly offers round-the-clock action for thirsty, hungry or just plain insomniac visitors.


From its rich history and resilient architecture to mouthwatering street food and charming hotels, Ma May Street offers visitors an authentic taste of Hanoi life stretching back through the centuries. Walking this atmospheric street transports you back through periods of dynasties, colonisation and war, yet also plunges you into the colours, smells and sounds of Vietnam today. The area around Ma May Street deserves exploration over the course of a full day or longer to truly soak up the magic of tradition and modernity mingling together here. Whether you’re interested inrban history, culinary adventures or simply absorbing vibrant Asian street culture, a journey down Ma May Street will leave you enchanted with Hanoi’s enduring charm.