Hanoi Old Quarter – A Journey Through History and Culture

A Glimpse into the Past and Cultural Treasures

A Glimpse into the Past

Stepping into Hanoi Old Quarter is like stepping back in time. The narrow, winding streets are lined with centuries-old buildings, each bearing the marks of history and stories untold. From the iconic St. Joseph’s Cathedral to the ancient communal houses, every corner of this neighborhood whispers tales of bygone eras and dynasties long past.

The Spirit of Hanoi

As you navigate the labyrinthine streets of Hanoi Old Quarter, you’ll encounter a vibrant tapestry of sights, sounds, and smells. The aroma of sizzling street food mingles with the melodies of traditional music, creating an atmosphere that is both lively and enchanting. Explore the local markets, interact with friendly residents, and immerse yourself in the spirit of Hanoi that permeates every inch of this historic district.

Architectural Marvels and Hidden Gems

The architecture of Hanoi Old Quarter is a testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage. Wander through the narrow alleyways and discover hidden gems such as the iconic Long Bien Bridge, a symbol of resilience and endurance. Marvel at the intricate carvings of the Ngoc Son Temple and lose yourself in the tranquility of the ancient pagodas that dot the neighborhood.

Culinary Delights and Gastronomic Adventures

No visit to Hanoi Old Quarter is complete without indulging in the culinary delights that the neighborhood has to offer. From piping hot bowls of pho to crispy spring rolls and fragrant bowls of bun cha, the local cuisine is a feast for the senses. Follow your taste buds to the bustling street food stalls and family-run eateries, where you can sample authentic Vietnamese dishes prepared with love and care.

Finding Serenity in the Chaos

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Hanoi Old Quarter, there are pockets of serenity waiting to be discovered. Take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, where the ancient Turtle Tower stands as a symbol of peace and tranquility. Join the locals in their morning tai chi sessions or simply sit by the water’s edge and watch the world go by.

Location and Travel Duration

  • Location: The area is bordered by Hoan Kiem Lake to the south and west.
  • Travel duration: Normally, a Hanoi Old Quarter tour might take you around 3-4 hours. However, to truly experience its charm, I’d recommend spending at least two to three days exploring the Old Quarter. This should give you enough time to wander through its maze-like streets, visit key landmarks like the Bach Ma Temple and the Old City Gate, sample street food, and soak up the lively atmosphere.
  • Opening time: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm, Monday to Sunday

Best Time to Visit Hanoi Old Quarter

The most suitable time to visit this place depends on your preferences and tolerance for weather conditions.

  1. Weather Considerations: Hanoi experiences four distinct seasons:
  • Spring (February to April): Pleasant weather with blooming flowers, ideal for sightseeing.
  • Summer (May to August): Hot and humid weather, with occasional heavy rain. It can be uncomfortable for some visitors, but it’s still a lively time in the Old Quarter.
  • Autumn (September to November): Cool and dry weather, considered by many to be the best time to visit Hanoi due to comfortable temperatures and clear skies.
  • Winter (December to January): Cool and sometimes chilly weather, with occasional fog. It’s less crowded during this time, but you’ll need to pack accordingly for the cooler temperatures.
  1. Time of Day: The Old Quarter is active throughout the day, but it truly comes alive in the evenings when the streets fill with food vendors, shoppers, and locals enjoying the nightlife. So, evenings are generally the best time to soak in the atmosphere.
  2. Specific Locations: Some specific places within the Old Quarter might have optimal times for visiting:
  • Hoan Kiem Lake: Early morning or late evening for peaceful walks.
  • Dong Xuan Market: Mornings are usually less crowded, and it’s a great time to explore the market without the hustle and bustle of later hours.
  • Night Market: Open on weekends from Friday to Sunday evenings, it’s best to visit after sunset to experience the vibrant atmosphere and shop for souvenirs and street food.
  1. Special Events: Consider timing your visit to coincide with special events or festivals, such as the Lunar New Year (Tet) or Mid-Autumn Festival, when the Old Quarter is beautifully decorated and filled with festivities.

How to travel at Hanoi Old Quarter 

In Hanoi Old Quarter, there are several transportation options available for getting around the area:


The Old Quarter is a compact area with narrow streets and alleys, making it ideal for exploring on foot. Walking allows you to immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere, discover hidden gems, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of this historic neighborhood.

Detail information

  • Price: Free
  • Services: Walking allows for a leisurely exploration of the Old Quarter, providing an up-close experience of the vibrant street life, local shops, food stalls, and historical sites.


  • Free of charge
  • Flexibility to stop and explore at your own pace
  • Immersive cultural experience


  • Limited range
  • Maybe tiring for long distances
  • Can be challenging in crowded or uneven streets

Cyclo (Xích lô)

Cyclos are traditional Vietnamese cycle rickshaws that offer a unique and leisurely way to travel around the Old Quarter. You can sit back and enjoy the sights while your driver pedals you through the busy streets. Negotiate the fare before starting your journey.

Detail information

  • Price: Negotiable, typically around 100,000 VND per hour
  • Services: Cyclos offers a relaxing and scenic ride through the Old Quarter, with drivers providing insights into the area’s history and culture.


  • Unique cultural experience
  • Comfortable seating
  • Guided tour by local drivers


  • Negotiating fares may be required
  • Slower pace compared to motorbikes or taxis
  • Limited seating capacity


Taxis are readily available in Hanoi, including in the Old Quarter. You can easily hail a taxi on the street or use ride-hailing apps like Grab or Gojek to book a ride. Make sure the meter is turned on or agree on a price with the driver before starting your trip.

Detail information

  • Price: Metered fare or negotiated rate, starting around 10,000 VND
  • Services: Taxis provide a convenient and efficient way to travel around the Old Quarter, with air-conditioned vehicles and experienced drivers.


  • Quick and direct transport
  • Available 24/7
  • Suitable for longer distances


  • Potential for traffic congestion
  • Language barrier with some drivers
  • Meter tampering concerns

Motorbike Taxi (Xe ôm)

Motorbike taxis are a popular and convenient way to navigate the narrow streets of the Old Quarter. You can easily spot motorbike drivers wearing colorful vests waiting for passengers on street corners. Negotiate the fare before hopping on the back of the motorbike.

Detail information

  • Price: Negotiable, starting around 20,000 VND for short rides
  • Services: Motorbike taxis offer a fast and flexible mode of transportation, weaving through narrow streets and alleys.


  • Quick and agile in traffic
  • Affordable for short distances
  • Authentic local experience


  • Safety concerns without helmets
  • Bargaining for fares
  • Limited comfort for longer rides

Public Bus

Hanoi’s public bus system covers most parts of the city, including the Old Quarter. You can look for bus stops with route information displayed in Vietnamese and sometimes in English. Be prepared for crowded buses and limited English spoken by drivers or conductors.

Detail information

  • Price: Fixed fare of around 7,000 VND per ride
  • Services: Public buses cover a wide area of Hanoi, including the Old Quarter, providing a budget-friendly option for longer journeys.


  • Low cost
  • Extensive route network
  • Suitable for budget travelers


  • Limited English signage
  • Crowded during peak hours
  • May require exact changes in fares

Electric Car

Some areas of the Old Quarter offer electric car tours for visitors who prefer a guided sightseeing experience. These tours often include stops at key attractions and provide commentary in multiple languages.

Detail information

  • Price: Tour prices vary, starting around 200,000 VND per person
  • Services: Electric car tours offer a guided sightseeing experience of the Old Quarter, with multilingual commentary and pre-planned itineraries.


  • Informative tour guides
  • Comfortable seating
  • Convenient for group travel


  • Higher cost compared to other options
  • Fixed routes and schedules
  • Less flexibility for independent exploration

When choosing transportation in Hanoi Old Quarter, consider factors such as budget, convenience, comfort, and cultural experience to select the option that best suits your travel preferences. Each mode of transport offers a unique way to discover the charm and heritage of this historic neighborhood.

5 Must-Do Activities in Hanoi Old Quarter

Explore the Streets

Getting Lost in the Labyrinthine Alleys

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways. Each turn reveals a new surprise, from bustling markets to hidden temples. Take your time and allow yourself to get lost in the labyrinthine alleys. You never know what you might find around the next corner.

Admiring the Colonial Architecture

One of the highlights of Hanoi’s Old Quarter is its colonial architecture. The buildings are a blend of French and Vietnamese styles, with ornate balconies and colorful facades. Take a moment to appreciate the intricate details and imagine what life was like in the city during the colonial era.

Interacting with Friendly Locals

The people of Hanoi are known for their warm hospitality, and the locals in the Old Quarter are no exception. Strike up a conversation with a shopkeeper or street vendor and learn about their daily life. You might even pick up a few words of Vietnamese along the way.

Soaking up the Vibrant Atmosphere

The Old Quarter is a vibrant and bustling neighborhood, full of energy and excitement. From the sounds of street vendors to the smells of cooking food, every sense is engaged. Take a deep breath and soak it all in.

If you’re planning a trip to Hanoi, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Old Quarter. Wandering through its narrow streets is the best way to experience the charm and character of this historic neighborhood. Admire the colonial architecture, interact with friendly locals, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere. You won’t be disappointed.

Join guided tours 

The Gateway to Rich History and Heritage

Embark on a guided tour through the Old Quarter and unlock the secrets of its past. From ancient traditions to modern influences, each corner holds a piece of history waiting to be discovered. Let the expert guides lead you through a journey of enlightenment.

Immersing Yourself in Stories and Traditions

Guided tours not only showcase the physical landmarks but also bring to life the stories and traditions that have shaped the Old Quarter over the centuries. Listen to captivating narratives and anecdotes that breathe life into the streets and alleys you walk through.

Connecting with Local Culture

As you participate in guided tours, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with locals who are passionate about sharing their heritage. Engage in cultural exchanges, witness traditional practices, and gain a deeper understanding of the vibrant tapestry that makes up the Old Quarter.

Unveiling Hidden Gems

Guided tours often unveil hidden gems that may go unnoticed by the untrained eye. From tucked-away temples to artisan workshops, these tours offer a curated experience that showcases the best-kept secrets of the Old Quarter, adding a layer of intrigue to your exploration.


You can search for information or book a tour based on your requirements. Below are several suggestions we have put together for you:

  • Tripadvisor

Hanoi Old Quarter Walking Street (This tour is suitable for all ages from 0 to 120, with a maximum of 10 people per group. The price is over $25 per person, and the duration of the tour is 3 to 4 hours. Mobile tickets are accepted, and there will be a live guide providing commentary in English throughout the tour) 

  • Viator

Hanoi Old Quarter (This tour lasts for 3 hours and costs over $25. Pickup service is provided, and you can use a mobile ticket for entry. The tour is conducted in English)

Taste the Local Cuisine

Hanoi Old Quarter is a foodie’s haven, with street food stalls and family-run eateries dishing out some of the finest Vietnamese delicacies. Dive into a hot bowl of pho, try crispy spring rolls, and relish the flavors of bun cha. Follow the enticing aromas to the lively food markets and let your taste buds lead you to culinary delights.

Hanoi Old Quarter boasts a lively street food scene, offering a diverse array of delectable dishes. Some top food choices in the Old Quarter include:

Pho: A classic Vietnamese noodle soup, pho is a must-try in Hanoi. Numerous street vendors and restaurants in the Old Quarter serve this beloved dish.

Recommend: Phở Gia Truyền –  49 Bat Dan, Hoan Kiem District

  • Price: Pho at this place costs around 40,000 VND to 60,000 VND per bowl.
  • Other information: The restaurant is open from morning till evening, with limited seating but delicious pho that is worth a try.

Banh Mi: A Vietnamese sandwich on a crunchy baguette, banh mi is a popular street food in Hanoi. Vendors offer banh mi with fillings like grilled pork, pate, and pickled veggies.

Recommend: Bánh Mì 25 – 25 Hang Ca, Hoan Kiem District

  • Price: The banh mi here is around 15,000 VND to 30,000 VND per sandwich.
  • Other information: The shop is open from early morning till evening, serving quick and delicious banh mi.

Bun Cha: Featuring grilled pork patties with vermicelli noodles and herbs, bun cha is a tasty and satisfying meal that’s well-loved in Hanoi.

Recommend: Bún Chả Hương Liên – 24 Le Van Huu, Hai Ba Trung District

  • Price: The bún chả here costs around 40,000 VND to 60,000 VND per serving.
  • Other information: The restaurant is open from noon till evening, with a clean space and attentive service.

Cha Ca: A Hanoi specialty, Cha Ca consists of grilled fish marinated in turmeric and dill, served with rice noodles, herbs, and peanuts. Seafood enthusiasts shouldn’t miss this dish.

Recommend: Chả Cá Lã Vọng – 14 Cha Ca, Hoan Kiem District

  • Price: The chả cá dish here is priced at around 150,000 VND to 200,000 VND per serving.
  • Other information: The place is famous for its delicious chả cá and professional service.

Egg Coffee: A distinctive Hanoi treat, egg coffee is prepared with whipped egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk, resulting in a creamy and rich coffee beverage enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Recommend: Giảng Cafe – 39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem District

  • Price: The egg coffee at this cafe costs around 20,000 VND to 30,000 VND per cup.
  • Other information: The cafe has a sophisticated ambiance and excellent egg coffee, so it’s recommended to arrive early to avoid long waits.

In essence, Hanoi’s Old Quarter presents a wide array of tantalizing food choices that highlight Vietnam’s culinary heritage. Don’t miss the chance to wander the lively streets and alleys, uncover hidden culinary gems, and sample some of the city’s finest dishes.

Visit the Ancient Temples and Pagodas

Hanoi Old Quarter is home to some of the most beautiful and historic temples and pagodas in Vietnam. Marvel at the intricate carvings of the Ngoc Son Temple, seek serenity at the Bach Ma Temple, and explore the ancient architecture of the One Pillar Pagoda. These sacred sites offer a glimpse into the spiritual and cultural traditions of Vietnam.

Ngoc Son Temple

  • Located on a small island in Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple is one of the most picturesque and iconic temples in Hanoi. The temple is known for its beautiful architecture, intricate carvings, and stunning setting surrounded by the tranquil waters of the lake. Visitors can cross the iconic red bridge to reach the temple and explore its various halls and altars dedicated to different deities.
  • Entrance Fee: The entrance fee to Ngoc Son Temple is around 30,000 VND per person. Additional fees may apply if you want to visit other areas within the temple complex.
  • Tips: Visitors are required to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting temples in Vietnam. It is recommended to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees out of respect for the sacredness of the site.

Bach Ma Temple

  • Bach Ma Temple, also known as the White Horse Temple, is one of the oldest temples in Hanoi, dating back to the 9th century. This temple is dedicated to a white horse that is said to have guided the founders of the city to the site of the temple. Visitors can admire the ancient architecture of the temple, including its ornate roof and intricate decorations, and experience a sense of peace and tranquility within its sacred grounds.
  • Entrance Fee: The entrance fee to Bach Ma Temple is approximately 10,000 VND per person. Additional donations for the maintenance and preservation of the temple are appreciated.
  • Tips: Visitors should remove their shoes before entering the temple and maintain a quiet and respectful demeanor while inside. Photography may be allowed in certain areas, but it’s important to ask for permission first.

One Pillar Pagoda

  • The One Pillar Pagoda is a unique and iconic pagoda in Hanoi, known for its distinctive architecture and historical significance. Built in the 11th century by Emperor Ly Thai Tong, the pagoda is designed to resemble a lotus blossom emerging from the water. The pagoda is supported by a single pillar, symbolizing purity and strength. Visitors can explore the pagoda and learn about its rich history and cultural importance in Vietnamese Buddhism.
  • Entrance Fee: The entrance fee to the One Pillar Pagoda is typically around 25,000 VND per person. Additional fees may apply for guided tours or access to specific areas within the pagoda.
  • Tips: Visitors should be mindful of their behavior and avoid touching or climbing on any sacred objects or structures within the pagoda. It is customary to make a small donation to support the upkeep of the pagoda.

When visiting these ancient temples and pagodas in Hanoi, it’s important to respect the religious and cultural significance of the sites by following the rules and guidelines set by the authorities. Remember to dress appropriately, behave respectfully, and support the preservation efforts of these historical landmarks.

Shop for Souvenirs and Handicrafts

No visit to Hanoi Old Quarter is complete without a shopping spree. The neighborhood is famous for its handicrafts, silk products, and traditional Vietnamese souvenirs. Browse the stalls at Dong Xuan Market, hunt for bargains at the weekend night market, and take home a piece of Hanoi’s rich cultural heritage.

Insider Tips and Recommendations

For those planning a visit to the Old Quarter, here are some insider tips to enhance your experience:

  • Start your day early to avoid the crowds and witness the neighborhood come to life.
  • Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking on uneven pavement.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle at the markets to snag a good deal on souvenirs and local products.
  • Take a guided tour to gain insights into the history and culture of the Old Quarter from knowledgeable locals.


Hanoi Old Quarter is a place where the past meets the present, where tradition and modernity coexist in harmony. Whether you’re a history buff, a food enthusiast, or a culture seeker, this neighborhood has something to offer everyone. So pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and embark on a journey through the enchanting streets of Hanoi Old Quarter. The adventure awaits!

Experience the magic of Hanoi Old Quarter and create memories that will last a lifetime. Are you ready to explore this historic gem in the heart of Hanoi?