Last updated: October 18th, 2023
Heading to Hanoi? Here’s everything you need to know about the Hanoi French Quarter, from Famous Local Cafes to Iconic Ice Cream.
Overview of French Quarter Hanoi
The French Quarter in Hanoi is located in the south-east of Hoan Kiem Lake. It was established by French occupiers in the late 19th century, leaving behind many French buildings in this area. It’s not as famous as the Old Quarter, but has unique architecture and a range of food and drinks. There are also many yellow houses and Parisian-style streets. The French Quarter is considered the most luxurious corner of Hanoi, with 5-star hotels, high-end restaurants, elegant coffee shops, bookstores, boutiques, and galleries. It is also the center for embassies, government buildings, and wealthy neighborhoods.
>>> Check out: A Free & Self-guided Hanoi French Quarter Tour 2023
Things to do in French Quarter Hanoi
This neighborhood has plenty to offer year-round. Whether you’re visiting for the weekend or planning a future trip, we’ve got you covered. Here are 21 of the best things to do in Hanoi’s French Quarter.
Walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake on the weekend
The traffic in Hanoi can be very chaotic, but on the weekends, the streets around Hoan Kiem Lake are closed from Friday evening until Sunday evening, leaving plenty of space for street art performances, music events, and marathon races.
There are many interesting museums in this area. If you are a history lover, we highly recommend visiting the Vietnam National Museum of History, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum at 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, and Hoa Lo Prison.
There are many interesting museums in this area. If you are a history lover, we highly recommend visiting the Vietnam National Museum of History, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum at 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, and Hoa Lo Prison. For a unique museum experience, we also recommend House No. 5D Ham Long Street. Our team discovered this small museum a few months ago. It was the location where the first Communist Party Office was established and provides an overview of Vietnam under French rule.
→ Read more: Top 8 Must-Visit Museums in Hanoi – 2023
Visit art galleries
In the Hanoi French Quarter, there are several art galleries, including Green Palm Gallery, Nguyen Art Gallery in Hanoi, DC Art Gallary 13 Hang Gai, Thang Long Art Gallery at 41 Hang Gai Street, D&C Art Gallery, and Dao Anh Khanh Studio. They offer a diverse collection of antiques and paintings by renowned Vietnamese artists, including landscapes, portraits, and art made from lacquered wood and canvas. Consider buying a picture as a gift for your friends. However, keep in mind that if you want to bring the painting home, you will need to obtain the copyright paper from the art seller.
→ Read more: The 10 BEST Art Galleries in Hanoi from TripAdvisor review
Visit the Dinh Le Book Street.
Dinh Le is a bustling street near Hoan Kiem Lake, known as the book street of Hanoi. Bookstores here are similar in size and regularly updated with new titles. You can find Vietnamese and foreign literature, life sciences, foreign language textbooks, and rare out-of-print books. Despite the small alley location, bookstores attract a diverse range of customers of all ages. Visitors buy books for learning, reference, or relaxation.
Visit a cafe
This area has many French-style cafes, including Loading T Cafe, which is highly regarded. These cafes are very elegant and cozy, making them perfect for coffee lovers. They offer signature coffee blends a variety of pastries and light snacks for a quick bite or a leisurely brunch. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, providing excellent service to ensure a memorable experience. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or just looking for a cozy spot to relax, the French-style cafes in this area, especially Loading T Cafe, are definitely worth visiting.
→ Join our Coffee, History, and Architecture of the French Quarter to learn about the history of coffee and French building with a local expert.
Enjoy a meal at a fine restaurant
Discover unique architecture in the French Quarter, and don’t forget to try its delicious cuisine.
→ Read more: 7 best French Restaurants in Hanoi
Enjoy the local craft beer
Craft beer is a trending thing in Hanoi, and the highly recommended beer shop is Pasteur Street Brewing Co. – Hoan Kiem Taproom & Restaurant located at 1 Au Trieu, right behind St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi.
→ Read more: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO HANOI CRAFT BEER FROM A LOCAL
Enjoy the nature
If you find it hard to deal with chaotic traffic and the noise of the city center, take a break and relax in the park located in the center of the city. Here, you can watch locals walk, run, and play sports. If you’re in the French Quarter, the Dien Hong Flower Garden is an ideal location to visit. It’s located near the Metropole Hotel and is best visited in the afternoon when locals gather here to play sports. Another option is the Thong Nhat Park, which is about 1.5 km away. It’s one of the most beautiful parks in Hanoi, with lots of trees and more space. It’s worth a visit, and you can walk there in about 20 minutes from the French Quarter.
Learn about local history
The Hanoi French Quarter is an excellent place to explore the history of Vietnam during French rule and the Vietnam War period. The buildings are full of fascinating stories to discover.
→ Join us on the French Quarter Walking Tour to enjoy the history with an expert.
Shop around the souvenir shops in the French Quarter area
→ Read more: 10 Best Places to Go Shopping in Hanoi
Try a favorite local Banh mi
The baguette was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the mid-19th century, during the Nguyen dynasty, and became a staple food by the early 20th century. The history of the banh mi sandwich began, oddly enough, with the spread of Christianity in Asia. From as early as the 17th century, French missionaries were in Vietnam converting people to Catholicism. In the late 1950s, banh mi was invented by Mr. and Mrs. Le in Ho Chi Minh City. They tweaked the French baguette by using Vietnamese ingredients and putting ingredients inside the bread directly, so people could take it with them. Now banh mi is a great dish to discover. We highly recommend Banh mi Van Mit at 52 Ly Quoc Su, Banh mi Mama on Ly Quoc Su Street, and Banh mi Vui at 7 Hang Da Street.
→ Read more: The Curious History of Vietnam’s Bánh Mì Sandwich from Culture Trip
→ Read more: Story of the banh mi: Vietnam’s super sandwich that took on the world from SCMP
→ Read more: Banh mi from Wikipedia
Try the famous Pho
You haven’t truly experienced Hanoi until you’ve tried Pho. Pho is arguably the most popular Vietnamese dish. But where can you find the best one in town? Well, there are many amazing options in Hanoi, but my personal favorites are Pho Bat Dan and Pho 10, located at 10 Ly Quoc Su Street. Pho 10 is conveniently just a few minutes away from Hoan Kiem Lake. If you’re planning to visit the French Quarter, Pho 10 is the perfect stop. Afterward, you can cross the street to Loading T and continue exploring this part of town.
Enjoy the famous Trang Tien ice cream
Trang Tien is one of the most iconic ice cream brands in Vietnam and a cherished memory for generations of Vietnamese people.
Ice cream was first brought to Vietnam by the French during the colonial period. Initially, it was a luxury dish that only the wealthy could afford. The Grand Hotel, located on Hang Trong Street in Hoan Kiem District, was one of the first places to offer ice cream in Vietnam. It was not until 1958 that Trang Tien ice cream was introduced to the public at 35 Trang Tien Street, after which the brand was named.
Trang Tien offers several types of ice cream, including fresh ice cream, popsicles, cone ice cream, and mochi. Among them, the best-seller is the ice pop. Today, Trang Tien still produces the four basic ice cream flavors on a stick, exactly like they did over 60 years ago. These flavors of vanilla, strawberry, taro, green tea, and durian have been cherished childhood memories for many Hanoians.
Shopping malls: Trang Tien Plaza
Trang Tien Plaza is Vietnam’s first and only luxury shopping center, offering more than 200 fashion brands, cosmetics, handbags, footwear, and accessories. It features over 50 leading international brands, including most of the top 10 brands in the fashion world such as Burberry, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex. In addition to retail shops, the plaza also provides over 215,000 square feet (20,000 square meters) of space for offices, coffee shops, and food outlets.
Walk down iconic Trang Tien Street
During the French colonial times, Trang Tien Street was known as Rue Paul Bert and was the most modern street in Hanoi. Although the street has undergone significant changes over time, it has retained some of its original features. Today, it is one of the best places for tourists and locals to visit, located by the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake.
→ Read more: Hanoi’s Trang Tien Street before and now from Dan Tri
Enjoy the nightlife
Hanoi’s nightlife offers a wide variety of interesting things to see and do. You can sit on a low plastic stool on the street and enjoy the cheapest beer in the world, go to a lively bar, or dance in a nightclub. The Hanoi French Quarter is the best place to enjoy the nightlife. We highly recommend Polite & Co at 5 Bao Khanh Street and Nê Cocktail Bar at 3B Tong Duy Tan Street.
→ Read more: 10x best Nightlife in Hanoi – A complete guide from Local Vietnam
Visit the nearby Vietnam National Museum of History
The French Quarter in Hanoi offers many museums for locals and tourists. One impressive museum was built between 1925 and 1932 and was formerly home to the École Française d’Extrême-Orient. Its architect, Ernest Hebrard, was among the first in Vietnam to blend Chinese and French design elements. We recommend spending time at the National Museum of History, which is just a 2-minute walk from the Hanoi Opera. This museum provides a wealth of information on Vietnamese history and is built in French architecture.
→ Read more: The Most Fascinating Museums in Hanoi, Vietnam from Culture Trip
Wander through Ly Thai To flower garden
Located near Hoan Kiem Lake, the heart of Hanoi’s capital, Ly Thai To Garden is a popular flower garden in Vietnam. This park on the eastern side of the lake is a good spot to relax. Behind the statue of Ly Thai To is a nice kiosk and plenty of park benches in the shade.
Enjoy local street food: Nom Bo Kho
According to many travelers, Hanoi is the best place in the world for street food. One must-try dish is the beef noodle salad at a local shop on Nom Bo Kho – Ho Hoan Kiem Street, located beside the Thang Long Water Puppet Show. Don’t forget to also try Tra Chanh, an iconic Vietnamese drink made with green tea and lemonade.
→ Read more: Top 5 BEST Street Food in Hanoi Old Quarter
Thang Long Water Puppet Show
The Thang Long Water Theater in Hanoi is the perfect place to enjoy Vietnamese traditional water puppetry. As a popular tourist attraction, it is open every day and offers unique performances that tell historical stories through puppets on the water. Don’t forget to visit the Thang Long Water Theater during your Hanoi travel journey to experience the cultural richness it has to offer!
→ Book the Thang Long Water Puppet Show in advance from their website here.
Attractions in French Quarter Hanoi
Hoa Lo prison
The ‘Hanoi Hilton‘, where Vietnam War prisoners were held captive, displays the experiences of prisoners of war in Vietnam. It includes displays such as a French guillotine, chilly cells with rusted iron stocks, and the flight suit and parachute of John McCain, war vet, US Senator, and Republican presidential nominee.
Vietnam National Museum of History
The French Quarter in Hanoi has numerous museums for visitors and residents alike. One museum, built between 1925 and 1932, was once the École Française d’Extrême-Orient and designed by Ernest Hebrard, who was one of the first architects in Vietnam to combine Chinese and French design elements.
Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Opera House, located in downtown Hanoi, is a symbol of the exchange between Vietnamese and Western cultures. It hosts important cultural shows and is a popular attraction for visitors.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral of Hanoi
The St Joseph Cathedral in Vietnam was built in 1884, modeled after the Notre Dame de Paris. It was one of the first structures constructed by the French colonial government in French Indochina and opened to the public in December 1886.
Hanoi Post Office
Built on the site of Bao An pagoda between 1893 and 1899, the Hanoi Post Office is a French colonial building with a bright yellow facade and a large rooftop clock. It was badly damaged during the resistance war but is still a hub of Vietnam’s parcel post service. Nowadays, it’s a great spot to admire colonial French architecture and mail postcards.
Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Hotel
The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is an iconic luxury hotel located in the heart of the city, with a rich history. Built-in 1901, it was the very first five-star hotel in French Indochina. Over the years, it has welcomed many famous artists and politicians and has become an important venue for meetings.
→ Read more: History Of The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel
Cafe shop: Loading T
Located in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Loading T Café is a charming second-floor coffee shop in a French colonial house. The vintage furniture, patterned flooring, and plant-filled corners give the café a delightful old-world feel. Don’t miss their Vietnamese coffee with cinnamon for a unique aftertaste, or the exceptional “Ca Phe Sua Chua” – black coffee with yogurt and condensed milk.
Madame Hien restaurant
The restaurant is situated in a lovely courtyard and features French colonial style. Madame Hien, located on Chan Cam Street in the heart of Hanoi, is a French antique building designed by the chief architect of the renowned Hanoi Opera House. It is also the latest venture of the most celebrated French chef in Vietnam, Didier Corlou, in addition to La Verticale.
Upon entering Madame Hien, customers may immediately sense its cozy atmosphere, created by the art of installation and luxury furniture, accentuated by red lanterns throughout the rooms. The restaurant is divided into different areas, including both enclosed and open-air spaces, which can provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.
Ly Quoc Su Pagoda
Every spring, people in Hanoi visit Ly Quoc Su Pagoda to wish for good fortune, happiness, and prosperity in the coming year. The pagoda is not only a place of worship but also a symbol of the city’s rich cultural heritage and history. Visitors come to gain a deeper understanding of its significance, learn about customs and traditions, and appreciate the beauty of its architecture and design. The Ly Quoc Su Pagoda is a place of awe and wonder, a testament to the enduring spirit of the people of Hanoi.
Vietnam National University and Hanoi University of Pharmacy
The building that houses the VNU University of Science was originally designed in 1926 by French architect Ernest Hébrard as the Institute of Indochina University. Its beautiful architecture is located within walking distance of Hanoi’s Opera Theatre (450m) and the Vietnam National Museum of History.
The campus at 19 Le Thanh Tong was the foundation of the University of Indochina, established in 1906. It is a valuable architectural heritage designed by the famous French architect Ernest Hébrard and built during the French colonial period in the neoclassical French architectural style. This complex is a cultural monument with important historical and architectural value, representing a rare architectural treasure of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Vietnam.
Government Guest House at 12 Ngo Quyen Street
This beautiful house, constructed in 1918, previously served as the residence of the Governor of Tonkin. The architect Adolphe Bussy designed the house in the French classical architectural style. Renamed Tonkin Palace during the first and second Indochina Wars, the building witnessed numerous historic events and served as the workplace of President Ho Chi Minh in 1945. The building is located near the stunning Vuon Hoa Con Coc Park.
The State Bank of Vietnam
The State Bank of Vietnam building was previously the Hanoi branch of the Bank for Indochina, founded in 1875 in Paris to issue currency for French colonies in Asia. The building’s facade features an oriental seal and octagonal patterns, commonly seen in Vietnamese communal houses and pagodas. The bank’s branches in Hai Phong and Saigon also have unique French architecture.
Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum
This is a museum of Vietnamese art housed in a beautiful colonial building that used to belong to the French Ministry of Information. The collection includes traditional, religious, modern, and contemporary pieces, such as ancient Champa carvings, 20th-century folk paintings, and 21st-century abstract works.
Vietnamese Women’s Museum
This museum showcases ethnic minorities, including their colorful costumes. It also highlights the roles of Vietnamese women in wartime, as street vendors and as mothers, including single mothers. Overall, it provides a good overview of Vietnamese history and culture. Additionally, there is a discovery zone and games room for kids to learn and have fun.
Hanoi Police Museum – Museum of People’s Public Security
This small and free museum features friendly staff who can speak English well. They can guide you through displays that cover the history of the Vietnamese police force from French colonial times to the present day. You can also explore the museum on your own, as the signage is informative. The displays cover a variety of topics, including costumes, drug smuggling, fake goods, kidnappings, and scam rings, providing a broader picture of Vietnam’s society throughout history.
Accommodations and Hotels in French Quarter Hanoi
French Quarter Hanoi has numerous high-class hotels that offer a relaxing stay in the heart of the city. These hotels are conveniently located near art galleries, high-end shopping malls, and famous colonial establishments. Here are 10 top-rated hotels in the French Quarter Hanoi according to TripAdvisor reviews:
Hilton Hanoi Opera
Location: 1 Le Thanh Tong street, Phan Chu Trinh ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
Price: from USD 90
Location: 136 Hang Trong Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Price: from USD 131
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Location: 15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Price: from USD 240
Location: 44 Ly Thuong Kiet street, Tran Hung Dao ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Price: from USD 101
Somerset Grand Hanoi
Location: 49 Hai Ba Trung street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
Price: from USD 106
Hotel de l’Opera Hanoi Mgallery
Location: 29 Trang Tien street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
Price: from USD 119
Many beautiful Airbnb homes are located in the French Quarter area. With prices ranging from $15 to $100 per room, this area is quieter than the Old Quarter with fewer cars and scooters.
→ Read more: Where to stay in the Hanoi French Quarter
Restaurants in the French Quarter of Hanoi
The French Quarter boasts many excellent restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, from Vietnamese street food to French dishes. Among them, we highly recommend Mediterraneo restaurant and Quan An Ngon restaurant.
Cafe shops in the French Quarter Hanoi
Hanoi boasts several beautiful bars and cafes. Among the best are Cong Ca phe, located near the St Joseph Cathedral, Cafe Loading T at 8 Chan Cam, Dinh Cafe, Xofa Cafe & Bistro at 14 Tong Duy Tan, Cafe Pho Co at 11 Hang Gai, The Little Plan Cafe at 11 Phu Doan street, and Dinh Cafe at 13 Dinh Tien Hoang street.
Tips for Visiting the French Quarter Hanoi
- Book the Thang Long Water Puppet Show in advance from their website.
- The traffic in the area can be busy during the weekends.
- When shopping in this area, be aware of your belongings. Pickpocketing incidents may occur in busy and crowded places.
- Utilizing the self-guided tours of the French Quarter can help you discover the best of the area for free.
Join our Walking Experience in the Hanoi French Quarter and discover the historical and cultural beauty of Hanoi. Our walk will take you through specific areas of Hanoi that are rarely covered by guidebooks, providing in-depth information on the city’s rich history in a relaxed and joyful atmosphere.
You’ll have the chance to learn about Vietnamese general history over a cup of authentic Vietnamese coffee at a French villa coffee shop and get a brief overview of French influences in Hanoi and the Vietnam War. The tour includes visits to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Trang Tien ice cream, Hanoi Opera House, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Post Office, Trang Tien Street, Hanoi Metropole Hotel, the very first university in French Indochina, and many more!
Is the French Quarter in Hanoi worth visiting?
The Quarter is an underrated part of Hanoi, with yellow houses, Parisian-style streets, 5-star hotels, high-end restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, boutiques, galleries, embassies, government buildings, and wealthy neighborhoods.
What is the difference between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter in Hanoi?
The French Quarter Hanoi offers spacious roads and a mix of French and European architecture, while the Old Quarter has an old-world vibe with ancient homes and Vietnamese cuisine.
Is it safe to walk to the French Quarter?
Certainly. The French Quarter is even more secure than the Hanoi Old Quarter, featuring plenty of restaurants, cafes, bookstores, and Hoan Kiem Lake.
Posted on October 11, 2023
October is a pleasant season in Hanoi, characterized by nice weather. It is the perfect time to savor a cup of Vietnamese coffee, indulge in a breakfast of Pho or Banh mi, and take a leisurely stroll around the French Quarter of Hanoi.