Hanoi Old Quarter is one of the city’s most famous tourist areas. It offers a plethora of great restaurants, bars, historical sites, hotels, and hidden treasures, making it a must-visit for both locals and tourists. With so much to explore, it can be overwhelming if you only have one or two days here. That’s why I’ve created this self-guided tour to help you discover the best of the city, just like a local. Drawing from my 5 years of experience in conducting local tours, I hope you enjoy it.
>>> Check out: A Free & Self-guided Hanoi French Quarter Tour 2023
Highlights of Hanoi Walking Tour: Tips & Tricks
Where is the Old Quarter of Hanoi?
The Old Quarter, also known as Phố cổ Hà Nội in Vietnamese, is the historical heart of Hanoi. It is located in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake. This area used to be a residential and commercial hub, where people lived, worked, and conducted business. Each street had its own specialty in manufacturing or commerce.
Before you go
The streets are narrow and everything is nearby, making walking the best way to explore the areas. Therefore, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and clothing. It is also advisable to use a phone with internet connectivity. In case you do not have a local SIM card, you can ask a local café or restaurant owner for Wi-Fi access. Nearly all cafés and shops provide wifi services.
>>> Check out: 10+ Hanoi Mistakes: What You Can Miss & Where to Avoid
Places to visit on this Hanoi Old Quarter walking tour
Hanoi Skyline Rooftop Bar
I believe starting the self-guided tour with an overview of the city from above is a great idea. From this vantage point, you can see most of the main sites. On the left side, you can spot the Nhat Tan Bridge, which connects the city center to Noi Bai Airport. As you move around, you’ll come across Banana Island, known for its abundance of vegetables and banana trees. Next, you’ll see the famous Long Bien Bridge, which was built by the French and was bombed 16 times during the Vietnam War. Continuing on, you’ll encounter the renowned Hoan Kiem Lake and the French Quarter. You can even catch a glimpse of the top of St. Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi, West Lake, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and Lotte Tower, the second tallest building in town.
The average price for drinks here is around 80,000 VND, including juice, soft drinks, and coffee.
Hang Be Local Market
Next, we explore the local market, starting with Hang Be Market. This market is frequented by locals after office hours, who come here to buy fresh vegetables, tofu, meat, and cooked dishes for their families. Visiting this market provides valuable insights into the lives of the local community.
Giang Cafe and Lam Cafe
Stop at the famous Giang Cafe to get some egg coffee
Well, egg coffee is an iconic beverage in the city with an interesting history. It was invented by Mr. Giang.
Another great option is the Lam Cafe where you can visit one of the most valuable art collections in Vietnam, This is where the Vietnamese artists met each other back in the day to discuss ideas. From the wall, it looks like a great art museum with paintings from the most famous Vietnamese artists. Not to mention that Nguyen Huu Huan Street is known as the coffee street with about 80 coffee shops on this street alone.
→ Read more: Top 7 BEST coffee shops in Hanoi
The Ancient House at 87 Ma May Street
Then you head to the Ancient House at 87 Ma May Street. This House is a small museum, you can understand how the Vietnamese lived back in the day with the traditional staff and the living space from the chairs in the yard to the kitchen and water tank to save the rainwater. From the second floor, you can learn how Vietnamese worship their ancestors. The ticket is 10,000 VND with the information about the house that you can enjoy yourself here.
>>> Check out: The Heritage House of 87 Ma May, Hanoi
Ta Hien Beer Street
The next place to visit is the famous Ta Hien Street, which is probably the most Instagrammable spot in the city. It offers a stark contrast between day and night. During the day, you can admire the architectural blend of Vietnamese and French styles. However, it becomes bustling from 7 PM until midnight, making it the perfect time to sit down and enjoy a beer with some local hot pot. One thing to be cautious of is street vendors selling items like doughnuts. These can often be scams, and you might end up paying more than they are worth.
>>> Check out: Bia hoi: Hanoi local beer – a unique drinking culture
Bach Ma Temple
After exploring the busy streets of Ta Hien, make sure to pay a visit to the magnificent Bach Ma Temple. This ancient temple, which has stood for over a thousand years, is a true testament to the rich history of the region. Adorned with a captivating blend of Chinese and Vietnamese architectural styles, the temple is a sight to behold. Take your time to immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere, and appreciate the cultural significance of this remarkable place.
Dong Xuan Market
Then, you can walk to Dong Xuan Market. This area is my favorite in the city because of its colorful local vegetable shops. It can be quite chaotic during rush hour. While you can go inside the building, I personally prefer walking on the grass bridge to observe the locals going about their day. If you capture this scene on film, it appears as if the bustling never stops. One tip is to be mindful of the shops, as they don’t want you blocking the traffic. Additionally, if you’re vegan, this may not be the best place for you as there are raw meat shops nearby.
>>> Check out: Dong Xuan Market – The Biggest Local Market in Hanoi
Long Bien Bridge
The next place to visit is the Long Bien Bridge. It is important to note that this is the only left-driven bridge in Vietnam. From here, you can get a sense of how traffic flows in Vietnam. The bridge holds significant historical value as it was constructed by the French and was bombed by the US on 16 occasions. When trains pass over the bridge, it shakes noticeably, but it is considered safe. There is a nearby coffee shop called Serein that offers the best view of the bridge.
Banh Mi 25
Returning to Banh Mi 25 for their delicious banh mi is definitely worth it. You deserve a reward, and there’s no better option than Banh Mi 25. They offer banh mi with beef, egg, pork, and chicken. If you’re vegan, they also have a variety of options like mushrooms and avocado. The juice selection is excellent too. Additionally, they have a well-maintained restroom available for your convenience at the end of your walk.
>>> Check out: Banh mi: Where you can taste the best banh mi in Hanoi
To uncover the hidden stories of the Old Quarter, it is highly recommended to join our Old Quarter Walking Tour. We have received excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and Airbnb Experience. Join us and experience the city’s highlights as if you were exploring it with a local friend.