If you think old is boring, a trip to Hanoi
’s Old Quarter will leave you a changed person. You haven’t truly gotten to know the Vietnamese capital until you’ve walked these historic streets, seen the beautiful old buildings on either side, chose to eat your meals in top restaurants or right from the equally tasty and filling street stalls, and browsed shops specialising in everything from jewellery to combs. We’ll help you go one better with a booking from our Hanoi Old Quarter hotels where you’ll begin and end each day with some of the city’s best streets right at your doorstep.
The Old Quarter has the old spirit and sights of an ancient city, but the hustle and life of a modern one. It is a fantastic experience to walk the streets of this square kilometre district, sharing the sidewalk with shop owners crafting furniture, carving stone, shaping tin or serving steaming bowls of delicious noodles. The roads are no less busy either, as cars and scooters weave around those on foot.
Look up at the street signs and oddly shaped buildings in the Old Quarter and you are looking at history. Most street names here begin with hang, which means road, and the second word shows what was once each road’s specialty product. Hang Gai was famous for silk, Hang Dong was home to bronze shops, and Hang Bac must have been quite a wealthy place because it specialised in silver.
Today, the products no longer match the street names but the Hanoi Old Quarter is pure heaven to shoppers and foodies – and let’s be honest, who doesn’t let the wallet and waistline go a little during holidays? You’ll find a great many cafes dotted throughout the Old Quarter and greater Hanoi, where you can sit back and relax in an old-school environment with classic movie posters hanging from the brick walls and antique decorations all around. It’s a good way to take a break from the buzzing street life outside, and the coffee will certainly give you a boost - Vietnam is second only to Brazil in coffee production.
Among or within the tube houses – narrow but long or tall buildings – you’ll find restaurants that serve a mouth-watering blend of French and Vietnamese food with such style that they’d be upper-class venues anywhere else, but in the Old Quarter you’ll be let in most eateries with even a tank top and sandals. But as mentioned earlier, you can barely walk an entire street here without the smell of grilled meats, noodle broth or local deserts flowing through your nostrils. Don’t miss out on these delicious and cheap treats, and if you like a drink with your meal, order some bia hoi, the local draft brews.
You’ll be able to take all sorts of souvenirs home for yourself or friends, from stringed instruments to vibrant silks, but during your travels don’t overlook the Old Quarter’s religious attractions. The impressive, weather-worn bell towers of St. Joseph’s Cathedral change the atmosphere from fast-paced to tranquil and spiritual. Within you’ll find a quiet sanctuary with coloured light filtering through stained glass windows all the way from France.
Book your Old Quarter accommodation and a flight to Hanoi
to feel the real pulse of this city within a city.
Image credit yeowatzup
under Creative Commons