Inside a modern and dynamic capital city of Vietnam, there appears a centuries-old quarter which represents eternal soul of the city. Most locals and foreigners often call it “Hà Nội – Ba mươi sáu phố phường” (translated as “Ha Noi – 36 districts” or “Hanoi – 36 Old Streets”), or “Phố cổ Hà Nội” (translated as “Hanoi’s Old Quarter”).
It takes you about 45 minutes away from Noi Bai International Airport and 15 minutes from Hanoi Train Station by car to this city’s top historical vestige and sight-seeing spot. Situated between Hoan Kiem Lake, Long Bien Bridge, a former city rampart, and a citadel wall, the Old Quarter was a snake and alligator-infested swamp. It later evolved into a handicraft complex made up of a cluster of workshop villages and soon gained its reputation as the most vibrant business trading areas of the Red River delta.The Old Quarter boasts its unique architecture, long history, culture and a variety of wares which brings the delightful life for its residents. Skilled craftsmen migrated to the Quarter to live and work together for years. Craftsmen or merchants producing similar goods locate their business in the same guilds, which forms a cooperative system for merchandise transportation to particular streets. Under French administration, the Old Quarter soon became a marketplace for trading goods between locals and merchants from China, India and France.
You will certainly be eager to walk around the old streets and stop by stores and buy specialties. Here are some suggestions for tourists who would like to explore the Old Quarter, with some names of specialized streets: China bowls (Bat Su St.), roasted fish (Cha Ca St.), silver or jewelries (Hang Bac St.), women accessories (Cau Go St.), shoes and sandals (Hang Dau St.), silk (Hang Gai St.), mixed fruits (To Tich St.), combs (Hang Luoc St.), jars (Hang Chinh St.), tour services (Ma May St.), candies and dry apricot (Hang Duong St.), fried and roasted sour pork hash (Tam Thuong lane on Hang Bong Street St.), bamboo products (Hang Buom St.), etc. In addition, visitors as well as city dwellers can go to the night market taking place along four walking streets: Hang Dao – Hang Ngang – Hang Duong – Dong Xuan in the evening from Friday to Sunday to taste exotic street delicacies and shop for lovely souvenirs at surprisingly cheap prices.
A trip to Hanoi would be incomplete without the Old Quarter. An exotic chaos lies inside a maze of old streets, creating an experience not to be found anywhere.