The 10+ Best Things to Do in Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter is a captivating neighborhood that encapsulates the rich history, vibrant culture, and enchanting charm of Vietnam’s capital city. This mesmerizing district, with its labyrinthine streets, ancient temples, bustling markets, and delectable street food, offers an immersive experience that transports visitors to the authentic heart of Vietnamese heritage. Below are some best things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter.

1. History and Culture of Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi Old Quarter

The Enduring Legacy of 36 Streets

Hanoi Old Quarter, also known as 36 Streets, has a captivating history dating back centuries. Each street in this historic district was once dedicated to a specific trade or craft, giving it a unique character and identity. From silk weavers and silversmiths to medicine traders and herbalists, the Old Quarter bustled with artisans and merchants, showcasing the diverse skills and traditions of Hanoi’s inhabitants.

A Vibrant Hub of Commerce and Culture

Today, the Old Quarter remains a vibrant hub of commerce and culture, with shops selling everything from traditional handicrafts to modern fashion. You’ll discover hidden gems like ancient temples, colonial-era buildings, and historic sites that tell the story of Hanoi’s rich past, making it a fascinating destination for history enthusiasts and cultural explorers.

2. Things to Do in Hanoi Old Quarter

The Old Quarter offers an array of captivating activities and attractions that cater to every traveler’s interests. Here are some of the top things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter enchanting neighborhood.

2.1. Explore Hanoi Old Quarter by Cyclo

Tourists take a cyclo to visit the old town
Tourists take a cyclo to visit the old town

Immerse yourself in the Old Quarter’s charm by taking a leisurely cyclo ride. These traditional three-wheeled vehicles, adorned with colorful decorations, provide a unique and nostalgic way to navigate the narrow streets and discover hidden gems. As you pedal along, your cyclo driver will share fascinating stories about the history and culture of the area, adding depth to your experience.

2.2. Explore Hanoi Old Quarter by Double-Decker Bus

For a more comprehensive overview of the Old Quarter, hop on a double-decker bus. This convenient and affordable option allows you to explore the major landmarks and attractions while enjoying panoramic views of the city. The bus makes stops at popular destinations, giving you the flexibility to hop off and explore at your own pace, ensuring you don’t miss any of the highlights.

2.3. Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake

Nestled in the heart of the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake is a tranquil oasis surrounded by lush greenery. Take a leisurely stroll along the lake’s perimeter, enjoying the serene atmosphere and admiring the iconic Turtle Tower, a symbol of Hanoi’s resilience. Cross the iconic Huc Bridge, known as the bridge of the rising sun, and visit Ngoc Son Temple, a historic pagoda perched on a small island in the lake.

2.4. Explore Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple, also known as the Temple of the Jade Mountain, is a sacred place of worship and a significant historical site. Dedicated to the legendary Tran Hung Dao, a revered Vietnamese general, the temple features intricate architecture, beautifully ornate shrines, and a serene atmosphere. Ascend the tower for breathtaking views of Hoan Kiem Lake and the surrounding Old Quarter, providing a unique perspective on this captivating neighborhood.

2.5. Take Photos at St. Joseph’s Cathedral

A majestic landmark in the Old Quarter, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture. With its soaring spires, intricate stained-glass windows, and elegant facade, this iconic cathedral is a popular spot for photography and sightseeing. Take a moment to admire the grandeur of this architectural masterpiece and feel the spiritual essence that permeates the air.

2.6. Explore Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market

As darkness descends upon the Old Quarter, a vibrant night market comes to life. Strolling through this bustling bazaar, you’ll encounter an array of stalls selling souvenirs, handicrafts, clothing, and delectable street food. The night market is a sensory delight, with the aroma of sizzling dishes, the sounds of lively chatter, and the vibrant colors of traditional textiles and artisanal goods.

2.7. Shopping at Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Market

For a quintessential Hanoi shopping experience, visit Dong Xuan Market. This sprawling indoor market is a treasure trove of local goods, from fresh produce and spices to clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere, negotiate with vendors for the best deals, and enjoy the thrill of discovering unique finds amidst the lively chaos.

2.8. Take a Cooking Class in Hanoi Old Quarter

Discover the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine by enrolling in a hands-on cooking classes in the Old Quarter. Many reputable schools offer engaging classes that teach you how to prepare traditional dishes like pho, banh mi, spring rolls, and more. Learn about the ingredients, techniques, and cultural significance of these culinary delights while creating a delicious meal you can enjoy with your fellow classmates.

2.9. Enjoy Iced Tea or Sidewalk Cafe

Sidewalk Cafe
Sidewalk Cafe

Indulge in the quintessential Vietnamese experience of sipping iced tea or coffee at a sidewalk cafe. The Old Quarter is dotted with charming cafes, where you can escape the hustle and bustle and observe the lively street life. Grab a seat on the pavement, order a refreshing drink like “cà phê vẻ hè” (Vietnamese iced coffee), and watch the world go by as you savor the relaxed ambiance.

2.10. Enjoy Trang Tien Ice Cream

No visit to Hanoi Old Quarter is complete without indulging in the iconic “kem tràng tiền” (Trang Tien ice cream). This delightful frozen treat is made with fresh milk, eggs, and a touch of sweetened condensed milk, creating a rich and creamy texture that lingers on your taste buds. Grab a scoop or two from one of the many street vendors and savor the cool, refreshing flavors as you explore the neighborhood.

3. What to Eat in Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter is a culinary paradise, offering a diverse array of mouthwatering dishes that showcase the rich flavors and traditions of Vietnamese cuisine. From iconic street food to hidden gems, the area is a destination for food lovers seeking an authentic and unforgettable gastronomic experience.

3.1. Pho Bat Dan

Pho Bat Dan
Pho Bat Dan

No visit to Hanoi is complete without indulging in a steaming bowl of “phở bát đàn” (Bat Dan pho). This iconic beef noodle soup is a staple in the Old Quarter, with vendors serving up piping hot bowls of broth, perfectly cooked noodles, and tender slices of beef. Savor the rich flavors and aromatic spices as you slurp up the noodles, a true taste of Vietnam’s culinary heritage.

3.2. Bun Cha Obama

Dubbed “bún chả Obama” after former US President Barack Obama’s famous visit to a local eatery, this grilled pork and noodle dish is a must-try in Hanoi Old Quarter. Savor the smoky grilled pork patties, fresh herbs, and flavorful dipping sauce, all served with a plate of crisp vermicelli noodles. It’s a delightful combination of textures and flavors that will leave you craving for more.

3.3. Banh Mi 25

Banh Mi 25
Banh Mi 25

Banh mi, the iconic Vietnamese sandwich, is a street food staple in Hanoi Old Quarter. But one particular spot, “bánh mì 25,” stands out for its exceptional sandwiches. Served on crispy baguettes, these banh mi are loaded with savory fillings like pork, pate, pickled vegetables, and a variety of sauces and herbs, creating a delicious and portable meal that captures the essence of Vietnamese flavor.

3.4. Cha Ca La Vong

“Chả cá lã vọng” (La Vong grilled fish) is a legendary dish in Hanoi Old Quarter, with a history dating back over a century. This unique dish features freshwater fish fillets marinated in turmeric and galangal, then grilled over hot charcoal and served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a delightful dipping sauce. The smoky aroma and flavors will tantalize your senses, making it a must-try culinary experience.

3.5. Grilled Meat Skewers

The bustling streets of Hanoi Old Quarter are lined with vendors grilling up mouthwatering “thịt xiên nướng” (grilled meat skewers). From pork, chicken, and beef to more exotic meats like frog and snail, these skewers are a popular snack or appetizer. Enjoy them hot off the grill, with a side of fresh herbs, lime wedges, and a variety of tantalizing dipping sauces.

3.6. Yen Sticky Rice

For a sweet treat, indulge in “xôi yến” (Yen sticky rice), a delightful dessert made with sticky rice, grated mung beans, and flavored with pandan leaves. This dish is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, offering a delightful combination of textures and flavors that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Find it at 35b Nguyen Huu Huan street.

3.7. Bia Hoi

Bia Hoi
Bia Hoi

No visit to Hanoi Old Quarter is complete without stopping for a refreshing glass of “bia hơi” (fresh draft beer). This inexpensive and light lager is brewed daily and served at numerous open-air eateries and street corners. Enjoy a glass or two with friends, accompanied by delicious snacks and the lively atmosphere of the Old Quarter’s vibrant streets.

3.8. Egg Coffee

For a unique and indulgent coffee experience, try “cà phê trứng” (egg coffee), a beloved Hanoi specialty. This rich and creamy beverage is made by whisking egg yolks with sweetened condensed milk and blending it with robust Vietnamese coffee. The result is a velvety, decadent drink that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.

4. Where to Stay in Hanoi Old Quarter

To fully immerse yourself in the charm and energy of the Old Quarter, consider staying in one of the many boutique hotels and accommodations located within the heart of the neighborhood. Here are some top choices to consider:

4.1. Flora Centre Hotel & Spa

Flora Centre Hotel & Spa
Flora Centre Hotel & Spa

The Flora Centre Hotel & Spa is a luxurious option that offers a serene oasis in the midst of the Old Quarter’s hustle and bustle. With its elegant decor, spacious rooms, and exceptional service, this hotel provides a comfortable base from which to explore the surrounding sights and attractions.

4.2. Cristina Boutique Hotel

For a more intimate and personalized experience, the Cristina Boutique Hotel is a charming choice. This boutique hotel features stylish rooms, friendly staff, and a prime location that puts you within easy reach of the Old Quarter’s top destinations.

4.3. Hanoi Calista Hotel

The Hanoi Calista Hotel is a modern and stylish accommodation option that offers a perfect blend of comfort and convenience. With its sleek design, well-appointed rooms, and central location, it’s an excellent choice for travelers who value contemporary amenities and easy access to Hanoi’s iconic sights.

4.4. HOTEL du LAC Hanoi

HOTEL du LAC Hanoi
HOTEL du LAC Hanoi

Situated near Hoan Kiem Lake, the HOTEL du LAC Hanoi provides a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city. This luxurious hotel boasts spacious rooms, a stunning rooftop pool, and a prime location that allows you to explore the Old Quarter and nearby attractions with ease.

4.5. Meritel Hanoi

The Meritel Hanoi is a stylish and modern hotel that offers a comfortable stay in the Old Quarter. With its contemporary design, well-equipped rooms, and excellent service, it’s a fantastic choice for travelers seeking a high-quality accommodation option in a prime location.

Conclusion

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and unforgettable experiences. From exploring the labyrinthine streets and ancient temples to indulging in delectable street food and immersing yourself in the vibrant nightlife, this enchanting neighborhood has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply seeking an authentic glimpse into Vietnamese heritage, the Old Quarter will leave you enchanted, inspired, and longing to return to this remarkable corner of the world.

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