Probably one of the most exciting places in the whole of Hanoi is the popular Old Quarter in the Hoan Kiem District. Featuring the chaotic but beautiful street life of Ha Noi, the Old Quarter is the city’s main business, tourist, and food hub. Some of the major characteristics of the famous Old Quarter include the cramped dining spots, the super busy night and shopping markets, the colorful rickshaws, the crowded streets, and the tons of people just walking around and doing their own thing. All these make the Old Quarter a must-visit spot in the Vietnamese capital. In fact, no trip to Ha Noi would ever be complete without a trip or two to this bustling but endearing local cultural gem.
With that said, let me share with you ten great reasons why I always made it a point (when I was still living in Vietnam) to visit the Old Quarter every single week.
The Chaotic Stroll
I’m pretty sure a chaotic stroll isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But to be honest, once you’re there, and you get to experience the excitement, the drama, and the total chaos, I’m sure that you will find that it is so worth it. I personally enjoy long strolls especially when I see fresh and new things along the way. And the Old Quarter is just perfect for that.
If you can’t decide what to bring home to your family and friends, be sure to drop by the Old Quarter. The Hanoi Old Quarter is a treasure chest of gift ideas that are both nice and affordable. All the souvenirs that I brought home from Vietnam and gave out to family and friends were actually from the Old Quarter.
Hanoi Old Quarter Has Everything You Could Ever Need
The Old Quarter is not just about souvenirs and gift items, however. The district basically has EVERYTHING that you could ever need. From food ingredients to hair clips and wigs, the Old Quarter is a perfect one-stop-shop. Aside from amazing souvenir items, I also usually visit the Hanoi Old Quarter to buy clothes and shoes.
You Get to Meet People from All Walks of Life
The Old Quarter is basically Hanoi’s melting pot. As one of the Vietnamese capital’s most visited destinations, the Old Quarter is frequented by both locals and visitors alike. If you stroll around this district, you will surely meet people from all corners of the world. With that said, I’m pretty sure you’ll also meet Pinoys somewhere along the way.
This Amazing Food Alley in Hanoi Old Quarter
The Ngõ Đồng Xuân or Dong Xuan Alley is a small alley right next to the Cho Dong Xuan Market – Hanoi’s biggest covered market. Both visitors and locals visit this famous alley for its many amazing culinary offerings. When I was in Vietnam, I personally made it a point to visit this alley once a week for my most favorite Vietnamese dish Char Siu Pork. Trust me, you need to give it a try.
The Char Siu Pork
The Pho Tiu or the Char Siu Pork is one of the many items you will find at the Dong Xuan Food Alley. This dish is very similar (in terms of ingredients) to a lot of noodle dishes available in the area. The unique overall taste of the dish, however, makes it my most favorite Vietnamese dish of all time. Do not miss it! If you’re in the area, be sure to grab a bowl!
These Colorful Rickshaws
If walking for miles isn’t your thing, you can always choose to explore the Hanoi Old Quarter on a colorful rickshaw. For a couple of dollars, you get to ride on the rickshaw and experience the Old Quarter and enjoy its many exciting sights by just simply being seated.
The Hanoi Old Quarter is a Cultural Trip
A trip to the Old Quarter is actually also a quick lesson on Vietnamese history and culture. If you’re a keen observer, you will easily notice the different elements and influences on Ha Noi’s architecture, lifestyle, and cuisine that make the city unique and truly a must-visit. Also, you will get valuable lessons and inputs from the locals themselves!
Hidden Dining Destinations
The structures at the Old Quarter are built so close to each other that a lot of them can be hidden from plain sight. And this is exactly what makes the Old Quarter even more interesting. It has tons of shopping and dining destinations that are hidden from plain view. But don’t worry, the locals are very friendly. Just ask for the nearest ‘egg coffee’ or ‘bun cha’ place and they’ll point you in the right direction.
You Get More for Less at Hanoi Old Quarter!
As one of the biggest shopping districts in the country, the Hanoi Old Quarter is swarming with both buyers and sellers. If you want more value for your money, be on the lookout for these ladies selling their stuff on foot. Their products are usually not only fresh and delicious, but they are also a whole lot cheaper. If you’re lucky, you can even take home some items for free!
Check out my other Vietnam stories below:
- Walking Around Bac Ninh City in Northern Vietnam
- A Look Inside the Vietnam Military History Museum
- How I Found Hanoi’s One Pillar Pagoda by Chance
- In Photos: The Cho Dong Xuan (Dong Xuan Market) in Hanoi, Vietnam
- Exploring the Lý Bát Đế Temple in Bac Ninh, Vietnam
- Hanoi on Foot: Journey Through the Streets of the Vietnamese Capital
- A Closer Look at Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake
- Welcoming the Lunar New Year in Lạng Sơn, Vietnam
- A Memorable Journey to Đồng Đăng in Lạng Sơn, Vietnam
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Paying Respects to ‘Uncle Ho’
- Phat Tich Pagoda: Vietnam’s Cultural Giant
- The Super Cool Detour to Da Lat, Vietnam
- Bút Tháp Temple: Vietnam’s Cultural Gem
- Visiting the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long
- Tay Ho: The Biggest Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam
- Hoa Lo Prison: Vietnam’s “Hanoi Hilton”
- My Memorable First Winter in Vietnam
- Hoan Kiem Lake: The Heart of Hanoi, Vietnam
- “Pot Sessions” at the Bat Trang Pottery Village
- First Stop: Temple of Literature in Hanoi