• A Free & Self-guided Hanoi French Quarter Tour 2023

    Le CongSeptember 6, 2023
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    Hanoi is famous for its delicious street food, including Banh mi and Pho, among others. It is also one of the most historically significant cities in Vietnam, with a wealth of history to be uncovered from the Vietnam War and the War against the French. In addition to the Old Quarter, which is famous for its nightlife and food, the French Quarter is worth a visit and exploration with many buildings with Hanoi’s Colonial Architecture. Here is a free, self-guided tour of the Hanoi French Quarter that you’ll love to follow.

    Practical tips and tricks to make the most of this Self-guided Hanoi French Quarter Tour

    This walk is best attempted on a sunny day because of the numerous outdoor things to see and do within the city! However, if it happens to rain during your stay, rest assured that there are plenty of cafes, local bookstores, and shops en route where you can shelter from the rain, warm up with a delicious hot coffee, or do a little boutique shopping.

    → Read more: Coffee shops in Hanoi

    Photo: National University of Vietnam in the French Quarter

    Unlike the Hanoi Old Quarter, where the streets are small and narrow, the streets in The French Quarter are much larger, so you can easily walk around. However, it’s best to wear comfortable shoes.

    As the French Quarter is the modern part of Hanoi, you’ll soon discover that many people speak English fluently. Nevertheless, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language, in this case, Vietnamese. Bring along a Vietnamese phrasebook like this one to help you get by.

    Walking time: 2 hours

    Distance covered: 3.5 km

    Rouen Walking Tour Suggestion

    For a more enjoyable walk, we suggest starting at around 9 AM in the morning. This way, you can take in the peaceful surroundings before it gets too busy. You’ll have plenty of time to appreciate the scenery and take photos without feeling rushed or having to weave through crowds. Plus, starting early helps you avoid the heat of the day, which makes for a more pleasant journey. So, pack some water and snacks, wear comfy shoes, and set off at 9 AM for a peaceful and enjoyable experience.

    If you’re looking for breakfast ideas, we recommend trying the best Pho in Hanoi at Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su. Afterward, head to the nearby coffee shops at Loading T. Vietnamese tend to have breakfast, followed by coffee, before starting their days.

    Have a coffee at Loading T

    Located on the second floor of a French colonial house, Loading T Café at 8 Chan Cam Street is a hidden gem. The vintage furniture and patterned flooring, along with the plant-filled corners that bring freshness to the space, add to the café’s old-world charm. Behind the coffee shop, there is a small ceramic shop. The street view from the café is beautiful and relaxing. It is recommended to come here on foot, as the parking area is about 200 meters away on Phu Doan Street.

    When you visit, be sure to try the coffee with condensed milk (Cafe sua da). The coffee here has a unique cinnamon taste. Even if you are not a coffee drinker, you can still enjoy the chocolate and flower tea.

    → Read more: Top 7 BEST coffee shops in Hanoi

    You are now ready to explore this beautiful part of Hanoi.

    St. Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi

    This first place is a magnificent architectural masterpiece located in the French Quarter of Hanoi. It is a religious site that attracts both locals and tourists from all over the world. The cathedral has stood the test of time and has been an integral part of Hanoi’s history and culture.

    Constructed between 1884 and 1888, you can visit the cathedral any day of the year. Masses are held in English, Vietnamese, and French. The cathedral is especially beautiful during Christmas time.

    → Read more: St. Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi

    Next, we visit one of the most famous tourist attractions in Hanoi. Typically, visitors spend around 1-2 hours here exploring the history of Vietnam, with a focus on the Vietnam War and the war against the French.

    I took this photo of the St. Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi on September 2, 2023. It was the Independence Day of Vietnam, so it was very busy.

    Hoa Lo Prison

    Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” was a prison used by French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later used by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War to hold American prisoners of war. The prison is now a museum, where visitors can learn about the history of the prison and the treatment of prisoners during its use. It is a somber but important site to visit in Hanoi.

    → Read more: Hoa Lo Prison: A Somber Reminder of Vietnam’s History

    Then you walk all the way to the famous ice cream.

    Trang Tien Ice Cream

    It would be a shame to visit the French Quarter without trying the iconic Trang Tien ice cream. There are many flavors to choose from, including com (young sticky rice), vanilla, and chocolate. During our last visit, they even had a dessert with green beans and ice cream with mochi flavor. However, please note that the ice cream contains dairy, so if you are vegan or vegetarian, be sure to check with the staff before ordering.

    Hanoi Sofitel Metropole Hotel

    The Sofitel Legend Metropole, situated in the heart of Hanoi’s French Quarter, is a century-old hotel that blends colonial charm with modern luxury. It was the first five-star hotel in French Indochina (now Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia), built in 1901.

    Over the years, the hotel has welcomed famous guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene, and Jane Fonda. It is also where Giang, the legendary inventor of Hanoi Egg coffee, once worked as a chef. In this blog, we will explore the hotel’s timeless luxury.

    → Read more: Sofitel Legend Metropole: A Timeless Luxury Hotel in Hanoi

    Hanoi Opera House

    The Hanoi Opera House is a stunning, French colonial-style building in the heart of Hanoi’s French Quarter. Built between 1901 and 1911, it was modeled after the Palais Garnier in Paris and is considered to be one of the architectural highlights of Hanoi.

    The Opera House hosts a variety of performances, including classical music, opera, and ballet. Visitors can take a guided tour of the building to learn about its history and architecture.

    → Read more: Hanoi Opera House: A French Colonial Gem in the Heart of Hanoi

    Hoan Kiem Lake

    Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as the Lake of the Restored Sword, is a beautiful lake located in the heart of Hanoi. It is a popular destination for both locals and tourists and is surrounded by greenery and historical landmarks. One of the most iconic features of the lake is the red bridge that leads to the Ngoc Son Temple, which is situated on an island in the lake. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around the lake, admire the scenery, and take in the peaceful atmosphere.

    → Read more: Hanoi French Quarter – 21 Best Things to Do

    Photo: Hoan Kiem Lake

    We hope you find this self-guided tour of Hanoi’s French Quarter useful during your trip. While you can certainly explore the city on your own, we strongly suggest joining our Walking Experience in the Hanoi French Quarter to discover the area’s historical and cultural beauty. Our walk covers specific areas of Hanoi that guidebooks often overlook, and provides in-depth information on the city’s rich history in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Our local experts have many interesting stories to share.

    Our local walking experience has been ranked as the top choice on Airbnb Experience and TripAdvisor. Come join us for a unique and unforgettable journey!