This guide of the best things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter is ideal for travellers looking to experience the rare sense of timelessness that seems to sum up this area of the city – you can still see glimpses of previous generations despite the modernisation that is going on relentlessly. This prominent district is relatively pedestrian-friendly compared to other cities in Vietnam - on weekends and evenings, the streets are closed off to motorised vehicles to make way for bia hoi bars and food stalls selling a variety of Vietnamese food.
For a feel of rich old Vietnamese customs, you can also stroll along ancient commercial streets surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake, which are named after their original businesses dating back about 1,000 years. Located on the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old Quarter’s most popular attractions comprise mostly quaint Buddhist shrines, street markets, and traditional Vietnamese arts.
- Small-Group Evening Street Food Tour
- Night Walking Tour with Water Puppet Show
- Private Van Phuc Silk Village Half-Day Tour
- Vietnamese Culture Tour
- Ionah Show Admission with Dinner & Transfer
- Historic Art of Calligraphy Class
- Back Seat Motorbike City Tour
- Local Flavors Food Walking Tour
- 10-Day Northern Vietnam Excursion
- Fine Art, Walking Tour & Traditional Show
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, located along Dinh Tien Hoang Street, comprises 17 short sketches using traditional puppets within a one-hour performance. A Vietnamese orchestra accompanies each story, with musicians playing traditional operatic songs using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals. Aside from the general admission fee of VND 100,000, there's an additional camera or video fee if you wish to photograph or film the show. Tickets sell out well in advance so it’s worth booking yours as soon as you arrive in town. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily 15:00, 16:10, 17:20, 18:30 & 20:00
- Location: 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- Tel: +84 43 824 9494
- Price Range: VND 100,000
Hoan Kiem Lake is where you can find locals jogging, enjoying a coffee and even practising Tai Chi and line dancing in Hanoi Old Quarter. This peaceful lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, an 18th century pagoda sitting in on a small island that’s accessible via an ornate wooden bridge. Inside the temple are several altars dedicated to military leader Tran Hung Dao, large bronze bust, some ancient artefacts including ceramics, and a preserved specimen of a giant turtle found in the lake weighing 250kg. Tickets to Ngoc Son Temple can be purchased at a booth in front of the bridge. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily 07:30 – 17:30 (Ngoc Son Temple)
- Location: Hanoi Old Quarter
- Price Range: VND 20,000 to enter the temple
Dong Xuan Market is the largest market in Hanoi and has a wide array of products for sale over four floors. Located on the northern edge of the Old Quarter, it is an imposing Soviet-style building, surrounded on all sides by merchant shops and stalls. It is a rough-and-ready type of market (some might even say ‘dirty’), especially in the ground floor wet market area. However, head up the stairs and you will find cheap printed tees, bolts of fabric, school uniforms, luggage stalls and much more, all available at wholesale prices. It is quite an experience, even if you only leave with a pair of cheap sunglasses and a Vietnamese conical hat. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily 06:00 - 19:00
- Location: Dong Xuan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Saint Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi is known as the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the city. Prior to the construction of the cathedral in 1886, the French occupation demolished Bao Thien Pagoda, an important Vietnamese temple that was built during the Ly Dynasty. Saint Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi was inspired by Notre Dame de Paris, boasting a neo-Gothic architectural style, twin bell towers, intricately-designed altar, and colourful paintings and stained-glass windows from France. Surrounded by plenty of trees and flowers, a statue of Mother Maria is also set within the courtyard in front of the cathedral.
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 – 17:00
- Location: 40 Nha Chung Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Bach Ma Temple dates back to the 11th century, and is widely known as the oldest of its kind in Hanoi Old Quarter. Constructed during the reign of Emperor Ly Thai To, this small pagoda honours a white horse which locals believed had guided the emperor in constructing walls of the Hanoi Citadel. Bach Ma Temple has undergone several refurbishments throughout the years, where you can see colourful murals, a red-lacquered palanquin, the shrine of Confucius, and a phoenix altar that were added in the 18th century. Open daily, entrance is free of charge but do dress appropriately out of respect for the local monks and devotees. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 08:00 – 11:00 & 14:00 – 17:00
- Location: 76 Hang Buom Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Maison Centrale in Hanoi, also known as Hoa Lo Prison and the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ housed Vietnamese revolutionaries and American POW during the Vietnam War. The fortress was once a vast colonial-style prison, most of which was torn down in the 1990s. Visiting today you will find the small southern section resting alongside a hotel and office complex. The prison is still a popular tourist attraction for those on the war history trail. Official records claim inmates numbered in their hundreds although it was not unknown for up to 2,000 prisoners to be crammed into a space reserved for 600 inmates. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 - 17:00
- Location: 1 Hoa Lo Street, Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- Tel: +84 43 824 6358
- Price Range: VND 30,000
The Weekend Night Market in Hanoi is a busy, bustling gathering of stalls and vendors that brings crowds in droves. Taking place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 19:00, the market runs through the Old Quarter, starting from Hang Dao Street and running north to the edge of Dong Xuan Market. The fashion items on sale won’t turn many heads and the souvenirs can all be found in the surrounding stalls, but there it is a fun environment and the endless food vendors have interesting and exotic things to try. Bartering is normal here and, as with all busy markets, be aware of your belongings. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Friday - Sunday 19:00 - 23:00
- Location: Hang Dao Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi