The old quarter of Hanoi is one of the most interesting, everyday and chaotic places to visit in the city and an essential stop. Also known as Hoan Kiem, it is a neighborhood of narrow streets that in every corner reminds you of the country's history, colonization and war, while blending perfectly with contemporary Vietnam.
It is a neighborhood with a very personal and multicultural character. It is one of the best areas to stay in Hanoi (which we will talk about later) and it is a perfect area to discover some of the most characteristic curiosities of the city.
In this article we will take a walk and tell you what to see in the Old Quater of Hanoi.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE OLD QUATER OF HANOI
Hoan Kiem Lake
Ho Hoàn Kiém means “lake of the restored sword”. Its name is no coincidence, since it is related to an ancient myth of the city. Legend has it that the emperor threw a magic sword into the lake which ended up turning into a golden turtle. That is why the turtle is so important in Vietnamese symbology. The turtle also represents a place of sages, since this temple was dedicated to the Taoists and Confucians.
It is a fairly large lake where you can walk around. It is a very interesting place surrounded by colonial buildings, street food stalls, bicycle sales of flowers and fruit, locals playing board games and, above all, the Ngoc Son Temple "The Temple of the Jade Mountain". One of the essential places to see in Hanoi.
Ngoc Son Temple
The Ngoc Son Temple or Jade Mountain Temple is one of the most representative of Hanoi. It is located on an island in the middle of Hoam Kiem Lake, a very photographed place thanks to its red bridge and its entrance "The door of the Moon".
I tell you everything in detail about the Lake and the Temple, in this article: Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple (Hanoi).
Hanoi Train Street
If there is something that we have seen a lot on social networks, it is the famous street of the railway in Hanoi. Although you can see this road in many places in the city, since it crosses the same, the best area is the entire route that is in the Old Quater.
In it you will find houses attached to the road, with small bar chairs so you can eat, have a drink... there are even shops, street vendors.
The train pass 2 times a day. When it reaches this section it goes very slowly, however you always have to be careful.
It is recommended that you go along Hong Luoc Street to the railway track and go down the Railway Street to the intersection to Cua Dong to re-enter the old town. If you feel like continuing, you can continue and reach Trang Thi to take Hang Bong Hang Gai avenue to reach the Lake again.
Dong Xuan Market
This market is located north of the old town and is a beautiful building built by the French in 1889. It opens at 7am until 9pm. I recommend you go up to the second floor and look down, you will be able to appreciate the hustle and bustle of the market in its full splendor. The best time is in the mornings, when the market is full of locals.
Here you can find anything you are looking for; food, crafts, textiles...
Discover its hidden temples
In Hanoi (and in any part of the country) it is not difficult to find small and large temples that go unnoticed by travelers. As soon as you enter, you will find a row of peace and tranquility, something unthinkable considering the chaos of the city.
One of the temples in the old town is the Bach Ma Temple, it is the oldest in the city. It is a beautiful little Buddhist temple.
If you have the opportunity, I recommend making yourself known after dark, before closing time. Normally every day there is a ceremony, where the locals gather to worship the Buddha. Incense, candles, songs and music.
another of the hidden temples in Hanoi's Old Quater is on P Hang Bac street. It is inside a house. When you get to number 102 there is a small red sign. Enter the dark corridor (without fear) and you will hallucinate with this place. It is a temple completely unknown to tourists (a local with whom we struck up a conversation told us about it and luckily we paid attention to it).
Ngoi Nha, a traditional Vietnamese house in the Old Quater
If you want to get an idea of what to eat, it was the traditional houses, in the old Quater, on Pho Ma May Street. It is an old merchant's house in very good condition. With wooden details and a nice interior patio.
Hanoi Old Quarter and its 36 streets
Formerly it was known as the artisans' neighborhood since, along its 36 streets, each guild was established exclusively in one of these streets. The great thing is that today, this tradition continues to be established, so you will have the street of the blacksmiths, the street of the shoemakers, the street of pharmacies, the street of clothes, the street of bamboo, food... It's something very curious to see. I assure you that you will want to walk through all its streets, to marvel at each store and corner.
The Old Quater is a chaotic neighborhood that hooks like no other.
The streets of Hanoi would not be the same without its well-known street markets, an orderly chaos that leaves no one indifferent. At night in the Old Quater there are two streets where you will find the night market. They appear marked on all tourist maps.
It is the perfect time to stroll between stops, see the traditional dishes, eat a meat or seafood skewer for less than 1 euro, eat the famous iced sugar balls...
In addition, we not only find night markets. In Hanoi you will find street vendors everywhere, who either walk or ride a bicycle/motorcycle carrying a huge basket with their products. They sell flowers, fruit, sweets...
Saint Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi
The Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hanoi was built in 1886, making it the oldest church in the city and is in neo-Gothic style. The church has 5 bells, 4 small ones and a big main bell. The dimensions of the Cathedral are: length 64.5 meters, height 31.5 meters and width 20.5 meters.
The very special thing about this cathedral was its location (Nha Chung), since the surroundings are full of charming corners, restaurants and cafes and many colonial buildings.
Free tour of Hanoi's Old Quater
A good option to get to know the Old Quater of Hanoi is to do a free tour. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! The guide that touched us was amazing, he also explained to us corners of Hanoi that were not popular for tourists (which I will tell you about later).
Remember at the end of the tour to tip the guide, he surely deserves it very much.
Leaving the old quarter we find some of the most essential places to see in Hanoi. Do not miss the articles related to the city, where I tell you everything you need to know to prepare your trip to Vietnam.
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I hope you enjoy your trip to Vietnam very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.
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A hug and see you soon!