The Old Quarter area is the oldest area in Hanoi. It the city’s economic center and main tourist destination. It is in the heart of everything – history, architecture, old buildings, tourist attractions, shopping malls, sightseeing venues, hotels, restaurants, markets (night market and regular market), parks, and many more. Without the Old Quarter area, Hanoi wouldn’t be the same.
Here are 6 reasons on why experiencing and exploring the historical Old Quarter area in Hanoi is a must-do and truly well worth it:
1.Many major attractions – Most of the major attractions in Hanoi are located within or nearby the Old Quarter area. This includes the elaborate French colonial buildings, beautiful architecture like overhanging bay windows and a high sloping roof, Hoan Kiem Lake, St Joseph’s Cathedral, National Museum of Vietnamese History, Ba Dinh Square, the one Pillar Pagoda, Buddhist and Daoist Temples (e.g. Bach Ma Temple), shopping malls, markets, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, and many more.
While strolling around the quarter, we found interesting classic Old Quarter Tube Houses. It’s called a tube house because it’s a house that looks like a long narrow tube of space divided into many sections. I have learned that up until today, many Vietnamese prefer to build a tube house so they would pay less taxes. There also several communal houses that have been existing for hundreds of years. These were established to serve as places for the community and help plan the socio-economic development and other activities of the communities. I noticed that the more time we spent in the Old Hanoi, the more adept we got at discovering the old buildings among the new ones.
2.Activities – While exploring the city, I realized that there are two must-do activities at the Old Quarter. First, wander around the place. We spent most of our time walking around and we felt a unique vibe and energy there that dates back to the 13th century.Second, try their local tea or coffee while sitting right on the sidewalk. I found it to be the best place to observe how the world go by in the quarter. Moreover, there are many culinary classes in the area: if you love cooking and Vietnamese food, this is an ideal place where to learn.
3.Shopping – Undeniably, the Old Quarter is a shopper’s delight. There are so many different shops around the area – high-end shops, boutiques, Dong Son (the largest market in the city), night market, etc. The shops offer lovely artistic products from around the country, designed by many top craftsmen and artists. There, you can easily find many popular souvenir items such as silk products, embroidered fabrics and bags, conical hats, lacquer ware, coffee beans, paintings and many more. When shopping, don’t forget to wear your smile while bargaining. One thing I have learned about shopping there is that one shouldn’t be shy while negotiating the price because the sellers expect their customers to do so.
4.Food – I love Vietnamese cuisine! My favorite ones are pho rice noodles and cha ca. I also like banh goi. It’s luscious! In addition to their great food, you can find French baguettes and coffee everywhere – locals love it and I love it too! 🙂 I also love their super delicious street food without getting sick. Furthermore, I have also noticed that when dusk comes, lots of people sit on the incredibly tiny chairs on the sidewalks while eating, enjoying themselves and socializing with others. I love this great idea! Since we tried both their high-end restaurants and streets stalls, I would say that the food choices in the Old Quarter is good and the dishes come at cheap to affordable prices no matter where you prefer to dine.
5.Nightlife – The Old Quarter area is a very lively place, 24/7. Live music, discos, clubs, bars, and decent karaoke – name it you can find it all there. It seems like it is where the night owls head to as it keeps people from all walks of life happy.
6.Life on the streets – The life on the street and the Zen of negotiating the traffic is the heart of the Old Quarter. Jillion of scooters, bicycles and cars fill the streets of the quarter and flock around the pedestrian crossings. The motorists honk all the time making it quite tricky and scary to cross the streets. However, I found it fascinating to watch Vietnamese people slipping through the traffic smoothly and calmly – wait for the right moment, no brusque/rough action, keep moving. In spite of the so busy place, a walk through the quarter gave us a good flavor of Hanoi which has a distinct French feel with an Asian touch. In fact to me, getting lost on its streets that look like a maze of chaotic branches was fun and one of the biggest delight we enjoyed in the city.
Overall, it was such a pleasure to be in a place with old buildings with much French influence that has real appeal. It is indeed a fascinating place for all kinds of travelers even with or without a family.
What did you like best about the Old Quarter?