Hanoi Area Guides
Everything You Need to Know About Hanoi Districts
Covering an area of more than 900sqkm and with a population of over six million (and countless motorbikes to match), Hanoi is the second largest city in Vietnam. Previously known as Thang Long, it was named Hanoi in 1831 at a time when Hue was the capital.
Large areas of present-day Hanoi were built during the French occupation and are reflected in its broad boulevards and French-inspired architecture, which bestows a unique charm on the city.
Other Hanoi's Districts
Ba Dinh Square
Ba Dinh Square is a big open space, west of Hoan Kiem Lake. It has been Vietnam’s political nucleus ever since the French occupation and was where Ho Chi Minh, widely regarded as the father of modern Vietnam, declared independence in 1945.
Ba Dinh Square is much appreciated by architectural enthusiasts as it presents several of the finest samples of French colonial architecture in Southeast Asia, include the Presidential Palace, a yellow three-storey building built in Renaissance and Beaux Art style.
There are many historic and important sights in and around the square, such as Ho Chi Minh’s Soviet-styled mausoleum and his stilt house, the One Pillar Pagoda and Hanoi Flag Tower – to name just a few.
Hanoi’s City Centre (Hoan Kiem District)
Hoan Kiem District is the commercial centre of Hanoi with the Old Quarter as the main point of interest for travelers and Hoan Kiem Lake the main attraction for locals. Despite the radical economic growth and modernisation of the city you’ll still see women in coolie hats, shops with altars inside and families of four or more on one motorcycle.
Hanoi’s city centre is not big and in theory the area can be explored on foot but it might be a challenge for non-locals as the footpaths are pretty jammed with street vendors and parked motorbikes. However, one can’t help but be impressed by the many bia hoi corners where ridiculously cheap fresh beer stalls operate. These are the perfect locations to people watch so don’t be shy, join in!
The French Quarter of Hanoi
Located to the south and east of Hoan Kiem Lake, the French Quarter (or Ba Dinh District) is where the government offices, embassies, desirable residences are located. It consists of shaded boulevards and elegantly restored homes and villas with French architectural influences.
Part of its main road – Trang Tien – is a busy shopping area, featuring up-market restaurants, bookshops, galleries, boutiques and the Trang Tien Plaza, a big, three-story complex retailing bling-bling merchandise. Notable attractions in the area include the infamous Hoa Lo Prison (aka Hanoi Hilton), Museum of Vietnamese Women and Cho 19–12 Market, a small, old-style covered market offering fresh fruit, vegetables and meat (sometimes dog).