Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and ever since I had seen through videos the beauty of Old Quarter and the French Quarter, I have had always wanted to come.
Early in August, Cebu Pacific had a seat sale for September and I knew that was my chance to visit Hanoi and of course, Halong Bay. Once I booked, the exciting part for me began — planning! I just really love the research part, makes me excited for what to expect, what to see, what to eat, etc.
Okay, so we are spending 3 full days in Vietnam. To maximize our visit, I opted to schedule 2 tours, and 1 day dedicated to exploring Hanoi City — which we did the first day.
Planning for Hanoi at first seemed overwhelming; there’s just a lot of districts, “must see”, must try, etc. I did not know where to start, what I did was list down ALL the districts, and research the location: what to see or eat per district to see if it is worth visiting (given that we are time constricted during this visit)
I will be putting in details for the districts I considered visiting, and what I found during research. Some of the details here are from my Hanoi Itinerary research, but will be listing down the 12 Hanoi districts.
Ba Dinh District
Ba Dinh district is the political center of Hanoi, here you will find most of the embassies, government offices, and the Central Office of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
Ba Dinh district is also where you will find the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Within the area, you may also visit the One Pillar pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Stilt house, and the Presidential Palace. A few minutes from the Ba Dinh Square, you can also visit another historical ground — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thang Long Imperial Citadel.
Other places you can visit in the district: Ho Chi Minh Museum, Quan Thanh Temple
The French Quarter is divided into two, one part in Ba Dinh district and the other in Hoan Kiem district with the Old Quarter being in the middle of it.
Hoan Kiem District
Probably the most popular area in Hanoi, Hoan Kiem district is a busy center of the city. For first time visitors, this is the recommended area to find your hotel as it is easy to get to know the Hanoian culture, with every streets filled with Vietnamese food and street food, shops, etc.
On weekends, the streets are lively and everyone seems to just be out and having fun around the Hoan Kiem Lake area. The weekend market also add life and light to the streets, where you can buy clothes in bulk and affordable quality clothes. Vietnam is home to a lot of clothing brands’ factories.
Hoan Kiem is home to Hanoi Old Quarter, which is comprised of 36 ancient streets:
Nha Tho Street is definitely a heaven on earth for food-lovers. This is also where St. Joseph Cathedral is located. Around the Cathedral area there are many famous restaurants and street food vendors. There are all kinds of food you can choose, from Western food, Eastern food like Japanese food, Korean food to Vietnamese food.
Hang Duong Street In Hang Duong, they sell “Omai”, jams and others sweet food. Omai is salted dry fruit or sugared dry fruit and is a favorite traditional nosh for many Vietnamese people. There are several Omai brand such as: Hong Lam, Gia Loi, Tien Thinh, but the most popular is still Hong Lam Omai.
Din Liet Street is famous for selling scarves and hats, especially woolen hats. There are a variety of scarves to choose: silk scarves, cotton scarves, woolen scarves. Winter is peak time here, that is when people start shopping for woolen scarves and hats to keep warm in the cold weather.
Hang Dao Street is one of the oldest street in Hanoi and was once popular for selling and dyeing cloth and fabric. Hang Dao now specializes in selling clothes, travel products, consumer goods such as jewelry, fashion, watches. The customers here range from local people to foreign tourists.
Hang Dau street Shoe shoppers will be in retail heaven with hundreds of shoe sellers lining Hang Dau Street. Western men may not find much over size nine but there is plenty of choice in women’s shoes. Most of the footwear consists of brand names made at Vietnamese factories that have been rejected as seconds, making them a great purchase with usually only a small imperfection. There are also plenty of fake reproduction bags where Hang Dau Street meets Lo Su.
Other Places to see in Hoan Kiem: Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Pagoda, Hanoi Opera House, Hotel Metropole (Birthplace of the Egg Coffee), Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnamese Women’s Museum
Tay Ho District
With the view of Hanoi’s biggest lake: West Lake and the iconic Red River, Tay Ho is said to be one of the most scenic districts in Hanoi. Quite different from the crowded and busy streets of Hoan Kiem, Tay Ho is more relaxing and has been a hotspot for freelancers and digital nomads.
One way to see the district is by hopping into a motorcycle and just riding along Trich Sai road, a beautiful and picturesque lane along the lake.
Hai Ba Trung District
Found at the south of Hoan Kiem, the less dense district of Hai Ba Trung is mostly known for shopping, being the home of two of the largest malls in Hanoi: Vincom Center and Vincom Times City.
After some shopping, you can get a fix of a complete coffee experience along the the streets of Trieu Viet Vuong, Le Dai Hanh, and Thai Phien which lines up traditional cafes.
Don’t miss the Thong Nhat Park, one of the biggest parks in Hanoi. Hai Ba Tung is also known as the “working district” in Hanoi.
Dong Da District
Known as the “intellectual hub” in Hanoi, Dong Da district is the neighborhood of universities. It is where you will find some of the known universities of Hanoi like: Vietnam National Academy of Music and Foreign Trade University, Hanoi Law University, and the notable Imperial Academy.
Other places to see in Dong Da: Temple of Literature, Lang Pagoda
Cau Giay District
- The most notable tourist spot in Cau Giay is the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: with their extensive collection and series of well-curated exhibits, learn about the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam.
Other districts in Hanoi:
Hoang Mai District
Thanh Xuan District
Long Bien District
Nam Tu Liem District
Bac Tu Liem District
Ha Dong District
After getting to know the different districts of Hanoi, during research you will find the must visits, must eats, where to find, popular tourist spots, etc. I list them down (per district), plot them in Google Maps to see the distance of each spots from our hotel.
From there, you’ll know where to start your tour route. For us, we started at Tay Ho: Tran Quoc Pagoda work our way to Ba Dinh District then to Thanh Xuan District where we visited the Vincom Royal City Megamall back to Hoan Kiem.
In Hoan Kiem alone, we focused to get our must tries in terms of food in Hanoi. We were guided by our hotel receptionist as to where to get the best Pho, Banh Mi, etc. around. Realizing that it is quite okay to get a little lost around Hoan Kiem, to enjoy the jump around French Quarters and the Old Quarter.
Each street do offer something different, something you must try. The food in Hanoi has become a cultural things, that adds into knowledge about who they are, their practices, etc.
Must Eats and Where To Find Them
Naming a few of the must eats in Hanoi, and around Hoan Kiem 🙂
Banh Mi – Banh Mi 25 (25 Hàng Cá, P, Hoàn Kiếm,)
Pho – Pho 10 (10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm)
Cha Ca – Cha Ca Thang Long (21 – 31 Đường Thành, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm)
Egg Coffee – Cafe Giang (39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm)
Pho Bat Dan – Phở Gia Truyền Bát Đàn (49 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm)
Xoi – Sticky Rice (vendors along the streets)
Bun Thang – Quán Bún Thang Bà Đức (48 Cầu Gỗ, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm)
Watch our Hanoi city and Foodventure here: