About Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the historic old quarter of 36 busy streets traditionally lined with different shops and small factories, with each street specializing in a different craft.
And not only that, but Hanoi Old Quarter is also the historic urban part of ancient Hanoi.
For many travelers to Hanoi, the Old Quarter is usually the only area in the city that they visit. And it kind of makes sense, at least for short visits, as the most famous attractions are right there.
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We lived in Hanoi for many months and frequently visited Hanoi’s Old Quarter, especially for the delicious Banh Mi 25 and cafes like Note Coffee. And we loved going around the Hoan Kiem lake on the weekends when it’s closed for traffic and super lively.
We also wrote a complete Hanoi guide with all the top things to do and experience, as well as an article about the many day trips you can do.
Click here to read our Hanoi Ultimate Guide.
Why is the Old Quarter in Hanoi so special?
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is special because of its historical importance and staying true to its historical look dating back to the 15th century.
The thing that fascinated us the most about the Old Quarter in Hanoi is the fact that there are so-called craft streets, where each street of the 36 streets has shops and small factories for one specific craft.
So you will have streets dedicated to selling shoes, those for metalwork, and those for wood items, like furniture, fences, and more.
Old Quarter Travel Tips
Location: Hanoi’s Old Quarter is easy to reach through Hanoi’s international airport (Noi Bai – HAN), about 45 minutes drive away, countless buses from all over Vietnam, and trains from the south.
Getting to and from Hanoi: We highly recommend 12go.asia for booking buses/trains from and to most destinations in Vietnam.
Transport: Going around Hanoi’s Old Quarter is usually easiest by walking, as most places in the Old Quarter are not too far.
Internet, calls: The easiest way to stay connected on your trip to Hanoi and Vietnam is to get an affordable local SIM card (at the airport or in one of the supermarkets/phone stores). You can also buy an affordable Vietnam eSIM online through Airalo or Holafly (perfect option for shorter trips).
Currency: The currency used in Hanoi and Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong, abbreviated as VND, and 1 USD is around 24.000 Vietnamese Dong.
Tours, activities, tickets: There are plenty of options for booking tours online and in many tour agency offices across the city, but the biggest selection of trusted ones is found on GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook (Klook is especially great for tickets).
Insurance: We recommend both Heymondo (get 5% off for being our reader) and SafetyWing (which we personally use at the moment).
Laundry: Get your laundry done in WorldWash; it’s in the Old Quarter, super close to Hoan Kiem Lake, and offers affordable express service.
Top things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter
1. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake
A must-visit in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as the Sword Lake or “The Lake of the Returned Sword”, surrounded by many trees and a nice walking path.
Hoan Kiem Lake is where many stalls pop up during holidays, events, and festivals, and many times performances or shows are also being held there.
During the weekend, the whole road around Hoan Kiem Lake is closed to traffic and becomes an excellent pedestrian zone. And that’s when it becomes really lively, especially at night when you can find dancing, playing games, karaoke and more.
So definitely check it out if you’re in the Hanoi Old Quarter on the weekend.
2. Cross the red bridge to Ngoc Son Temple
You can cross the iconic red bridge to reach the small island of Hoan Kiem Lake with the beautiful Ngoc Son Temple – Temple of the Jade Mountain.
It’s definitely worth visiting, as it’s quite a cool-looking place. And you can snap some lovely photos of the bridge, temple, and next to the lake.
The red bridge and Ngoc Son Temple ticket costs 30.000 VND ($1.3), and it’s open from 8 am to 6 pm daily.
And what’s interesting about the Ngoc Son Temple is that inside one of the rooms, you can find two preserved giant soft-shell turtles that lived in Hanoi Old Quarter’s Hoan Kiem Lake.
3. St. Joseph’s Cathedral
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the oldest church in Hanoi, just a few streets away from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi Old Quarter. And it’s one of Indochina’s first French colonial buildings.
Just a short walk from St. Joseph’s Cathedral, you can find the Collective Memory – The House of Curios shop, selling unique souvenirs from Hanoi’s outstanding artists.
4. Eat delicious Banh Mi
Hanoi Old Quarter is filled with plenty of small and big places serving fresh and delicious Banh Mi, the world-famous Vietnamese sandwich.
Where to eat delicious Banh Mi in Hanoi Old Quarter:
- Bánh Mì 25 (has vegetarian/vegan options)
- Bánh mì Phố
- Banh Mi Hoi An
- Mama bread (has vegetarian/vegan options)
- Bánh mì Long Hội (has vegetarian/vegan options)
- Banh Mi Paté
- Banh Mi Nhé (has vegetarian/vegan options)
- Vegan Banh Mi (a few minute walk from Old Quarter)
We often went to Banh Mi 25, as it’s the perfect spot for a quick bite and drink in Hanoi Old Quarter.
Not long after opening in 2014, Banh Mi 25 became so famous that it’s now also a tourist attraction. And it’s among the top things to do in many travel guides online (like ours) and even guidebooks. Be prepared to queue up if you’re visiting during the busiest time.
Oh, and on our recent visit in September 2022, we also tried their delicious Banh Mi Chao. Amazing! If you have the chance, give it a go.
Note: While Banh Mi 25 is the most popular spot for grabbing a delicious banh mi in Hanoi Old Quarter, there are many other less-famous but equally amazing banh mi stalls.
And you should give them a try as well!
5. Visit the Hidden Gem Coffee
Visit Hidden Gem Coffee, found in one of Hanoi’s narrow streets, to see the work of the creative owner that transformed trash into treasure by creating unique furniture and decorative pieces.
You can find beautiful murals of people along the upper walls of the Hidden Gem Coffee. And on one of them, you can see the owner’s grandma, and on another, him.
The team at Hidden Gem Coffee also organizes the Hanoi Backstreet Tours. And you can also visit their cafe as part of one of the tours.
6. Leave a note at The Note Coffee
Visit The Note Coffee next to Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake to experience a cool cafe concept where you can leave a note for others to read. And not only that, you receive a note from the staff with your drinks.
All the rooms in the cafe are filled with notes from thousands of visitors. So make sure to check some of them out. You never know what you will find.
7. Walk the streets
One of the best things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter is to simply walk the many small busy streets and observe the life around you.
There’s a distinct look and feel to Hanoi Old Quarter, and there’s always something happening. We loved going around capturing the moments.
Also, don’t pass on the opportunity to buy some delicious fruit from one of the iconic street vendors going around either on foot or by bicycle.
8. Pass by beautiful temples and shrines
Another thing to do in Hanoi Old Quarter is to pass by and observe the beautiful temples and shrines, which is actually inevitable if you walk any of the bigger streets around it.
There are many temples and pagodas scattered around Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and you can find them by writing “đền” or “chùa” in Google Maps.
Many temples found in the Old Quarter of Hanoi date back centuries, with the oldest one, Bach Ma Temple, built in the 11th century.
9. Eat delicious food
Hanoi Old Quarter offers delicious local food and all kinds of different world cuisines, from the food of neighboring countries to Italian, Mexican, and more.
Hint: Some of the best food in Hanoi Old Quarter is found at small street food popup stalls.
10. Find the Street Murals
You can visit the Hanoi Street Murals on Phung Hung street, where the arches under the train tracks are decorated with beautiful murals showing Hanoi’s tales and history.
Although some of the murals are no longer looking as good as in some photos. It’s been a few years since they were put up. But they are still pretty and worth visiting!
Note: The murals are right across the street from a few dog meat vendors. So don’t be surprised if you see that.
11. Walk to Long Bien Bridge to watch a sunset
Although Long Bien Bridge is not located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, it is within walking distance, as it begins on the quarter’s borders.
The Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi is the perfect spot to watch a sunset, and we did it on a few occasions.
We loved the view of the banana plantations, the city, and the river below.
Many photoshoots are always happening at Long Bien Bridge, as it’s regarded as one of the most romantic spots in the city. Hence, it’s often jam-packed with couples.
Note: People sometimes climb over the fence onto the tracks to take those great photos you might have seen online. And even though we really wanted to get that photo ourselves, we decided not to.
12. Try egg coffee at Cafe Giang
One of the top things to do in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is to visit the famous Cafe Giảng, the cafe owned by the son of Nguyen Giang, the original creator of the egg coffee during the milk shortage in the 1940s due to the French War.
Egg coffee is Vietnam’s specialty coffee made with, you guessed it, egg! It’s like an espresso shot that’s topped with a creamy egg mixture.
Arijana tried it and actually enjoyed it after questioning it for a short while! There is a hot and iced version, and the iced one is great on a hot day.
Note: While Cafe Giang in Hanoi Old Quarter is the birthplace of egg coffee, it is now very easy to find it not only all around Hanoi but also all around Vietnam.
13. Cool off with Kem Trang Tien’s famous ice cream
Not far from Hanoi Old Quarter is the Kem tươi Tràng Tiền shop, Hanoi’s most famous ice cream, which generations have come to know as the “original ice cream shop” since its opening in 1958.
While it’s located just outside the Old Quarter, in the French Quarter area, it’s within walking distance from Hoan Kiem Lake.
The ice cream is simple yet very tasty, but make sure to eat it very fast, as Hanoi’s hot weather will start melting it in seconds!
The Trang Tien ice cream is an icon of Hanoi, and unlike some places, the price is still an affordable 12.000 VND ($0.5) for one stick.
14. Visit the iconic Hanoi Train Street
Hanoi Train Street is the latest and greatest tourist attraction in Hanoi and a top thing to do in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
But, unfortunately, its quick rise to fame also brought problems, as they already closed it for the first time in 2019, then reopened shortly in 2021 and 2022. And then, they closed it again in September 2022 for the supposedly final time.
Read more: 📖 Hanoi’s Train Street – All You Need to Know (Is It Open).
Watch our YouTube video: 🎥 Hanoi’s Train Street.
Hopefully, they will find a way to re-open the street and maybe limit the number of visitors to keep it safer because it was a really cool experience.
Although, we must say that the locals and cafe owners there were very mindful of tourists and kept a close watch and ensured everyone was standing in a safe zone before the train passed.
15. Shop at Dong Xuan Market
Among the many markets in Hanoi, the Dong Xuan Market in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the biggest and most famous one.
You can find all kinds of things sold at Dong Xuan Market, from souvenirs, vegetables, fresh and dry fruit, and clothes, to shoes and other materials.
While it’s not your standard tourist market, it’s a great place to observe locals doing their shopping, mostly wholesale, as that’s the general vibe there.
16. Shop, eat and drink at Old Quarter Night Market
Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6 pm to 11 pm, you can visit Hanoi’s Old Quarter Night Market to eat and shop around.
The almost 3 kilometers long night market in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is filled with nearly 4000 stalls with street food, souvenirs, and cheap goods. It stretches from Hang Dao Street to the entrance of the Dong Xuan Market.
17. Drink a beer at Ta Hien Beer Street (Beer Corner)
Have a beer the Hanoi style, called Bia Hoi, translated to “fresh beer,” for only about 10000 VND ($0.4) per glass while sitting on tiny plastic chairs along the streets of Hanoi Old Quarter’s Ta Hien Beer Street.
Drinking Bia Hoi is a very social activity. And it’s one of the most popular ways for people to hang out in the evenings.
The price of Bia Hoi in Hanoi will vary, and you can pay as little as 5000 VND ($0.2) and as much as 15000 VND ($0.6). So for many, it’s often a game of finding the cheapest one.
18. Watch a show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Visit the famous Water Puppet Show, a performance dating back to the 11th century at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre next to Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi Old Quarter.
19. Learn pottery
Hanoi and the nearby villages like Bat Trang are famous for their pottery, and you can learn pottery as they do it there in one of the Hanoi Old Quarter Pottery Classes.
20. Join a cooking class
Join a cooking class in Hanoi Old Quarter to fully experience Hanoi’s local cuisine and what goes into preparing these wonderful dishes.
And the good news for all veggies is that they are also vegetarian-friendly!
21. Ride in a cyclo
Vietnam is famous for cyclo rides, and you can do one in Hanoi’s Old Quarter as well.
Remember that although the cyclos are now used purely for tourism, they were used as an actual mode of transportation up until the 1990s. However, they were used mainly by the wealthy, not so much by the working class.
Hanoi Old Quarter one-day itinerary
Hanoi Old Quarter is easily experienced in one day, so here’s our suggested one-day itinerary:
- Start your day off with a delicious Banh Mi
- Walk the streets finding temples and observing local life
- Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake and visit Ngoc Son Temple
- Go for a coffee or egg coffee
- Leave a note for future travelers at Note Coffee
- Eat delicious local food
- Finish off the day at the Night Market or Beer Street
In case you want to do any activities like a cooking class, you would, of course, need more than only one day in Hanoi.
And if you would like to learn more about the history and culture while exploring Hanoi Old Quarter, you can join one of the many walking tours.
How to get to Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Getting to Hanoi Old Quarter is easy with frequent private and shared transport from Hanoi International Airport and by getting a taxi or Grab car from the main bus and train stations.
> Book your transport to Hanoi on 12Go. <
We highly recommend booking a transfer from the airport to Hanoi Old Quarter in advance, or you can download the Grab app and order a car that way when at the airport.
How to get around Hanoi’s Old Quarter
The best way to get around Hanoi Old Quarter is on foot, as all the attractions are within walking distance of one another.
Otherwise, if you want to go to some spot further away, the most convenient way is by booking a Grab car (download the app, it’s like Uber).
And if you’re a solo traveler, you can also book a Grab bike. It’s what we used when we didn’t have a bike rented and had to run some errands (you get everywhere super fast).
Where to stay in the Old Quarter of Hanoi
Staying in the Old Quarter while in Hanoi will allow you to visit most attractions on foot. And there are some great options for accommodation in the old quarter or right next to it in the French Quarter.
Note: Often, many hotel/hostel rooms come without any windows in Hanoi, especially in the Old Quarter. Once you visit, you will understand why (narrow houses, closely together). So make sure to check when you’re booking a room so that you know in advance.
> Check the top-reviewed Hanoi Old Quarter Hotels on Agoda <
> Check the top-reviewed Hanoi Old Quarter Hotels on Booking.com <
We’ve researched the best places to stay in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, depending on different budgets. Find them below.
- Peridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel (rooftop pool, gym, spa)
- The Oriental Jade Hotel (next to Hoan Kiem lake, rooftop pool)
- Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (Hanoi’s landmark since 1901, close to the Opera House, with spa, gym, pool & gorgeous rooms)
- Hanoi Esplendor Hotel and Spa (central location – we stayed here for a few nights, great room, lovely staff)
- Golden Sun Hotel Trendy (simple, clean studios)
- Lubi House Homestay (well-equipped, beautiful studios)
- Hanoi La Cascada House & Travel (simple and clean rooms, kind staff)
- La Ava’s Home (spacious rooms, great value for money)
- Hanoi Elpis Grand Hotel (big rooms, great location)
What to eat in Hanoi’s Old Quarter
There are so many fabulous places to eat delicious food in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, from street food stalls to local and international cuisine restaurants.
We love Vietnamese food the most out of all cuisines we have tried so far (and it will probably stay like that). But if there’s one “western” place we recommend checking out in Hanoi, then that’s definitely one of Pizza 4P’s restaurants.
And please, try their eggplant Margherita; it’s the pizza we dream about regularly. It’s so amazing that there’s even a Reddit post about Pizza 4P’s eggplant pizza.
They have many store locations in Hanoi, but the one close to the Old Quarter is Pizza 4P’s Bao Khanh.
Is Hanoi Old Quarter a safe destination?
Like all of Vietnam, Hanoi Old Quarter is a safe destination for any traveler.
No matter the general safety situation, we always advise against traveling outside your country without valid travel insurance.
We recommend the following for Vietnam:
- Heymondo (get 5% off as our reader)
- SafetyWing (we currently use this one)
Is Hanoi’s Old Quarter worth visiting?
Hanoi’s historical Old Quarter is absolutely worth visiting, as it’s the heart of Hanoi, offering interesting historical sites to visit, delicious food to eat, and friendly people to meet.
We hope you have a great time strolling around Hanoi’s Old Quarter!