The 36 streets of Hanoi Old Quarter expand a small area, but try to spend time here without getting lost! A rundown below of some of the main streets and what you can find there will be useful.
The Origin of Hanoi Old Quarter
Of all the initial protections around Hanoi Old Quarter, the East Gate is the only to remain. The fortified walls and ramparts aren’t necessary anymore in this modern world. The Mongol warlords long gone and replaced by free trade, investors, and transnational corporations. Although Vietnam’s resurgent economy has brought about unbelievable change, 36 Streets of Hanoi old quarter, have still met to do business.
The 36 streets in the Old Quarter are homogenous. In the past, the storekeepers had to pay taxes equivalently to the width of their business area; thus, the inhabitants had to spend the rear of the buildings for living space and storage. As a consequence, the local built many narrow and long tube houses.
Besides functioning as the business area, Hanoi Old Quarter used to be also a rich religious heritage as well. The craftsmen brought their religious practices with them; therefore, pagodas, temples and communal houses were transferred to this new location. That is why there was at least one temple on each street. Nowadays, though the Hanoi Old Quarter is a bustling business place, some of the old buildings still maintained its architecture and structure.
Hoan Kiem lake, in the centre of Hanoi, has always been home to the powerful. For most of two thousand years, traders and artisans from villages around the area have sold their goods here. They were communities of silk, silver, bamboo, brass and so much more. People named the streets for what they sold. There are around 36 streets in Hanoi Old Quarter, but the factual streets are up to 70. The number 36 has rooted from the 15th century when the streets turned from workshop area into streets. Let ‘s explore most famous streets out of thirty-six to have a closer look to the Hanoi Old Quarter.
Most Iconic Streets of Hanoi Old Quarters
Hang Be Street
In the Old Quarter, almost the streets started with the word “Hang” which means merchandise or shop. Hang Be street was the place where the craftsmen made bamboo rafts in the middle of 19th century. Each raft included from 12 to 15 bamboo poles lashed by the bamboo bark. People sold these bamboo poles in Hang Tre street. Bamboo raft had an important role in traveling and fishing of the residents as they could easily move through shallow river, swamps and lakes around Hanoi.
Hang Bac Street
Hang Bac is one of the oldest streets in Vietnam that dated back from 13th century. “Bac” means silver. The street had a silver manufacture under the reign of King Le Thanh Tong. The street has performed more functions since the 18th century. Besides making silver ingots, the street sells jewelry and exchanges money, too. If merchants needed a large amount of money for business transactions, they would exchange the metal bars on Hang Bac. Though people used the money paper later, the name Bac maintained as the unique point of the street. Nowadays, the street sells gold, silver jewelry and exchanges money.
Hang Dao Street
Hang Dao is one of the main streets in Hanoi Old Quarter running from the north to the south, dividing the old quarter into two halves. “Dao” means the pink peach blossoms, the symbol of Vietnam’s Tet holiday. At that time, a huge demanding for this color increased, so peopple named the street after that story. In the past, Hang Dao street was a center for silk products. On the first and sixth days of lunar months, people tried silk products for French and Hanoians. From 19th to 20th century, the street sold not only silk but also western clothing products. Now, this street is specializing in ready-made clothes.
Dong Xuan Market Street
Located at the meeting point of Red river and To Lich River, Dong Xuan Market was the oldest, most bustling and biggest market in Hanoi. When the French conquered Hanoi, they required merchants to sell goods inside the market so as to collect tax. When the number of merchants increased, the market was enlarged. There were five gates, each gate was used for special goods. Nowadays, the market is almost for wholesales and the goods sold here are more various than they used to.
Cau Go Street
Cau Go Street means “Wooden Bridge Street”. It is by the lake shore. Many years ago, there was a bridge connecting Hoan Kiem Lake and Thai Cuc Lake. Under the French colonialization, the land filled the stream and lake, so people didn’t used the bridge anymore. However, it was still a regular street for local people. Nowadays, the street is a business street to specialize in women’s accessories.
Ma May Street
The street is a combination of two streets. While Hang May sold products from rattan, Hang Ma sold sacred joss. At the end of the 20th century, people called the streets Ma May. Nowadays, the street does not sell any special products but becomes a common tourism spot for foreigners.
Hang Mam Street
Mam was from “fish sauces”which is a kind of common ingredients in Vietnam dishes. The street was initially on the riverside near the day’s catch. After people made the sauce, they stored them in barrels made on Hang Thung Street. From 1940, a ceramics industry consisting of memorial stone etching, coffin and tombstone appeared and replaced the fish sauce business.
Hang Thiec Street
People produced the tinsmiths on this block in the past. At beginning, the craftsmen manufactured small tin cone-shape to make conical hats. After that, people transported the tins to the nearby Hang Non Street where made the hats. The street made candlesticks, opium boxes and oil lamps, too.
Hanoi Old Quarter is a legacy of Hanoi through a very long history, but the area is facing huge challenges because of fast development. Tourism has also changed much of Hanoi Old Quarter, bringing in hotels, travel agencies and Western bars, the region represents a wonderful link between the past and the present. And, for all the history, culture and new faces coming in every hour on international flights, there’s still that sense of a vibrant community here. It’s still wonderfully Vietnamese.
During your Vietnam holiday in Hanoi Old Quarter, you will feel busy in the morning with thousands of merchandise shops and a number of restaurants and bars in the evening. Spending a few days there on a Hanoi city tour will not make you upset.