Ready to take on the capital of Vietnam and its most famous area? Not only does Hanoi Old Quarter showcase some of the most unique food and architecture anywhere in Asia, but you’ll also be able to explore it completely on foot! Here’s some tips for the Old Quarter of Hanoi to find your way, and discover what this amazing city in Vietnam is all about.
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12 Awesome Tips For Hanoi Old Quarter
1. How to Get to Hanoi Vietnam
Before we can dive into the famous Old Quarter of Hanoi you should know how to get to the capital city! Here are the 3 ways we recommend traveling to Hanoi from around the world.
Flight: When traveling from abroad you’ll have no problem finding flights into Hanoi! Sometimes it is cheaper to fly into Ho Chi Minh City in the South. However, if you can find a direct flight into the capital of Vietnam it’s usually worth the extra money. Noi Bai International Airport is a 30 to 40 minute drive from Hanoi Old Quarter, and you can easily get a driver for around $10 USD.
Bus: Most travelers utilizing this mode of transportation arrive into Hanoi via overnight bus. Obviously, a flight is much faster and easier if you can afford it. Domestic flights are actually very affordable, especially if you book in advance.
Train: The train runs all the way up the coast to the capital of Vietnam. A common route to Hanoi is from Da Nang in the center of the country. You can also take the train further north where you can visit the famous rice paddies in Sapa.
2. Understand Hanoi Old Quarter
The Old Quarter of Hanoi is without a doubt the most popular area of the city. The narrow 36 Old Streets are surrounded with colorful “tube houses” stacked together above. While there are many new things to see in the city, it does have a deep history to explore!
Hanoi Old Quarter dates back to the 11th century when Emperor Ly Thai To gained independence from China. He then moved the capital from Ninh Binh to Hanoi and built historic structures such as the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long which still stand today.
This section of the city is the perfect blend of historic sites and new age energy that every traveler will love!
3. Getting Around the Old Quarter of Hanoi
Now that you’ve made it to Hanoi Old Quarter get ready to walk! The hectic streets can be tough to navigate, but apps like Grab make it much easier. Just simply type in where you want to go, and someone will be at your door within minutes.
If you’re a single rider there’s even a motorbike feature that’s cheaper if you dare. Regular taxi’s can be cheap as well, but we definitely prefer the grab app so we know the price beforehand.
Even with options like Grab, the best way to get around is simply walking the streets. Honestly, the traffic is so crazy that most of time it’s not worth it to even take a car. Plus there’s so many neat alleyways and side streets to explore that you’ll be missing out!
While we’re on the topic of traffic, make sure you be extra careful crossing the street. Our best advice would be to follow a local or group of people your first time. Then just hope for the best as motorbikes swerve around you!
4. Where to Stay in Hanoi Old Quarter
In case you didn’t notice yet, Hanoi Old Quarter is the heartbeat of the city. You might as well stay right in the middle of all the action!
As we mentioned above, this part of the city is easily walkable. So no matter where you stay in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, you’ll be able to get around. Here’s some of our favorite accommodations to check out!
Peridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel – Amazing luxury property with a rooftop swimming pool overlooking Hanoi.
Nova Luxury Hotel – Right next to the Hanoi Old Quarter with a beautiful chic design.
Scent Premium Hotel – Located in the center of the Old Quarter and just a quick 2 minute walk to the lake.
Little Charm Hanoi Hostel – Clean rooms, soft beds, and in the heart of Hanoi. Great budget option in one of our favorite places to visit in Vietnam.
5. Eat Traditional Northern Vietnamese Specialities
The capital of Vietnam is not only a booming metropolis, but also our favorite place to eat street food the country! With cooler temperatures than the rest of the country, comes heartier food and more flavorful pho soup. Yet, pho isn’t all you should expect to eat in Hanoi Old Quarter!
There’s in insane amount of food popping up on every street corner, and so many delicious meals to try. Below we share some of our favorite spots to eat in the city. If you prefer you can also take a guided street food tour.
Hanoi Vietnam Food Tour
Breakfast at Phở Gia Truyền Bát Đàn
While this might be the most internationally known meal of Vietnam, Hanoi makes the best in the country. We usually gravitate towards other soups like bun bo instead, but the pho broth is richer and more delicious here in Hanoi.
The first eating spot on our Hanoi food tour does come with a warning. It’s only open in the morning till 10am and will shut early if they sell out. Be prepared to wait in line, and also be okay sitting the first random seat that comes open.
Bún Chả Đắc Kim for Lunch
Once the yummy pho has worn off and you’ve explored some of the city, it’s time for lunch! This place is actually close to Hanoi’s famous train street so you might want to plan to visit that before or after.
Just to be clear this is a very local restaurant! Jake and I had the same dish at one of the tourist places and it didn’t have the same taste.
Bun Cha Hanoi is a smoky savory broth, served in a bowl with mixed pork slices and meat paddies. On the side is thin rice noodles that you mix into the broth in scoops with a piece of crunchy spring roll.
If you have any questions on how to eat this dish just look around and watch a local. There’s no wrong way to really do it, but there is a science to getting the perfect bite!
Dinner at Chả Cá Lã Vọng
Last but not least on our Hanoi Old Quarter food tour… A dish that’s so good they named an entire street after it! Cha Ca La Vong is a meal that you probably haven’t heard of before arriving in Vietnam, but it certainly won’t be one that you’ll ever forget.
An entire wok is brought to the table, where a thick oil fries lightly battered white fish mixed with dill. Once the fish is cooked you scoop it onto Vermicelli noodles, add the clear sauce, and enjoy!
Cha Ca started as a meal to feed hungry soldiers battling french colonial rule, and much like the Hanoi egg coffee it still lives onto this day.
Don’t be surprised if you have a little trouble finding the original restaurant as it’s 130 years old. If you question if you’re walking into someones home, you’re probably in the right place!
6. Try Egg Coffee & Fresh Beer
There is no better way to start off your day in the city than with a delicious Hanoi egg coffee. It will truly be unlike any other drink you’ve ever had. Think rich, sweet coffee mixed with a thick egg meringue.
We know it sounds a little strange, but a trip to the capital of Vietnam wouldn’t be the same without trying this! Make sure to head to Giang Cafe to get a taste of where the Hanoi egg coffee was invented. They can also be found all over the city, with some great ones being on the famous train street.
At night keep an eye out for Bia Hoi! Literally translating to “fresh beer,” this drink is a staple of Northern Vietnam and can be found on street corners of Hanoi Old Quarter.
However, this is not your average beer! It’s typically made and drank in the same day which makes it different from the usual brewing process. You will see it served from kegs and is sold for as low as 5,000 VND (.20 cents USD).
7. Weekend Night Market in Hanoi Old Quarter
If you’ve been to other parts of Vietnam you’ll see that Hanoi is a much different ballgame. This means depending on the time of year, you’ll probably have to do some shopping!
You may be surprised to find that the biggest brand you’ll see is actually a U.S. company. Now whether the North Face clothing you’ll find in Hanoi city is authentic is certainly debatable, but at least it’s comfy and warm!
The weekend night market of Hanoi Old Quarter is the best place to do some shopping and take in the city from a different perspective.
Filled with food, clothing, and interesting souvenirs, this is easily one of the top things to do in the capital of Vietnam! Even if you’re not planning on buying anything, it’s still a fun opportunity to walk around and take in the area.
8. Stroll Through Phung Hung Mural Street
Starting in 2018, Phung Hung Mural Street was an art project done by both Korean and Vietnamese artists. It was created as a celebration of 25 years of political relations between the two countries.
Now the bright murals line the sidewalk, and lanterns fill the sky in this once random street along the bridge. We loved how they tell the history of the city through these colorful paintings.
During your time in Hanoi you should also stop by the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum.
9. Circle Hoan Kiem Lake
It would be hard to miss Hoan Kiem Lake as it sits right on the edge of Hanoi Old Quarter. The large lake is an iconic body of water and longstanding symbol of the city. The most noticeable feature of Hoan Kiem is the Temple of Jade Mountain.
For a small fee you can actually cross the red bridge and see the 18th century temple on Jade Island. Take a stroll around the lake, or overlook it from one of the many benches and cafes along the water.
10. Have Some Drinks on Beer Street
Still thirsty after tasting a fresh beer? Well, it wouldn’t be right to leave this popular street out! The rightly named “Bia Street” will be packed from late afternoon until early morning, and is home to dozens of bars that spill out into the streets.
If you’re looking where to go it’s called Old Quarter Ta Hien Corner on google maps. Just know that when you walk onto beer street after a certain time you’re entering a legit party zone!
There isn’t as much of the fresh beer available here anymore. Yet, local Vietnamese beer will only cost you between 20,000-30,000 VND (around $1 USD).
11. Don’t Miss Hanoi Train Street
One of the coolest things we did on our trip to Hanoi Vietnam was stop by the famous train street. One side is more local with rustic old apartments while the other is full of cute cafes.
This is where you can sit right on the tracks and watch the train go by! You may have seen videos of this online and it’s quite the spectacle to witness in person.
You should know that the train only runs select times of day. We’ve also heard it’s been shut down multiple times to tourists in recent years. Be sure to look for updated news before your visit.
12. Watch Out For Holidays in Hanoi Old Quarter
During our first trip back in 2015 we had no idea how weird of a Hanoi experience we were in for! Unexpectedly, we were there for Lunar New Year which meant almost every single business was shut down.
The celebrations last for several days after the new year, but are usually done within the homes with families. Can you imagine being in a city of almost 8 million without a single soul in sight?
Even in the bustling Hanoi Old Quarter there was barely anything open for about 3 days. We mention this because it falls in January which is a popular time for travelers coming from the USA and Europe.
Have More Time After Hanoi Old Quarter?
Hopefully, you have just as an amazing experience as we did in the Old Quarter of Hanoi! Many travelers start their adventures from the capital of Vietnam, or use the city as a base to explore more of the country.
We loved how easy it was to get around from here. Below are 3 ideas if you have time to explore after Hanoi!
Check out all our Vietnam articles to help plan your trip! We cover everything from the best Vietnamese food to 50 travel tips & how to get around. You can also find our Northern Vietnam and Southern itineraries as well as an amazing 1 month route!
3 Places to Go From Hanoi Vietnam
The Ha Giang Province has been crowned the “New Sapa” for its rolling hills and mind blowing views of the Vietnam countryside. From Hanoi you can take an overnight bus north, and then rent a motorbike to tour the entire region.
Expect to drive through tiny remote villages, over bridges, and through one of the most gorgeous and unexplored mountain ranges in the world!
Halang Bay is just 2.5 hours away from Hanoi Old Quarter, and one of the most popular places to visit in Vietnam. You sail through the stunning limestone cliffs in a budget boat or even spring for a luxury cruise in this famous UNESCO area. If you have time plan for at least a one to two night Ha Long Bay trip to truly take in all of it.
Heading south instead? Then you’ll want to make your first stop Tam Coc! To get here you can book a shuttle from Hanoi or jump on a full day tour of the area. The Ninh Binh region is home to some of Vietnam’s most impressive nature.
Here you can taste some delicious grilled goat and take a riverboat ride where the women actually row with their feet! Also, don’t miss out on the Mua Caves and hiking up to the viewpoint at Lying Dragon Mountain.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own tips for the Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Vietnam Travel Planning
Transportation: 12Go is what we use to book ferries, trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Vietnam!
Tours: Get Your Guide is an amazing place to find fun activities all over Vietnam! There is everything from a Hanoi Cooking Class and market tour to a Mekong Delta Pagoda & rowing boat trip, and even the Phu Quoc Cable Car Ride with three island snorkeling tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
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