The Old Quarter, the best area to stay in Hanoi
Without the Old Quarter, Hanoi would not be Hanoi that you see today, which is where the city was born from, back in the 13th century. Much is like what it was back then with a winding maze of streets with present-day chaos taking over the 13th century-day chaos. The Old Quarter is the perfect place to stay in due to the location with many tourist attractions close by and the amount of beautiful architecture that surrounds you. Just walking along one of the many narrow streets or alleyways off the main strip will take you past many old French-style buildings and villas as well as traditional Vietnamese buildings. You will notice many Communal Houses that are a lot like small temples, which honour the local god called ‘Bach Ma’, who represents the city. As well as the small temples you will also see many Buddhist and Daoist temples with the most popular one being the Bach Ma Temple, which has wonderful gardens, beautiful sculptures and engraved carvings. There are also a fair few museums in the area including the Vietnamese Woman’s Museum, which contains a huge amount of information on many female heroines of Vietnamese history. Another particular museum to note is the Army Museum, which has various exhibitions about Vietnamese military and showcase things like weaponry, armour, tanks, jet fighters, bombs and much more. Another major tourist attraction in the neighbourhood includes the Hoa Lo Prison, which has now been turned into a museum, though bits of the prison can still be seen. The museum displays the barbaric French colonial regime in the early 20th century, who imprisoned and killed many Vietnamese revolutionaries and the prison was also used in the Vietnam War for holding American POW’s. At the centre of the neighbourhood is the Hoan Kiem Lake, which is a lovely park and has a few monuments like the Tortoise Tower that are dedicated to legendary King Le Loi. The park has many spots where you can relax and watch the world go by as well as the many tai chi participants that take their classes here. Nearby the park is the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and is a must see as it is where live musicians accompany puppets, which tell legendary stories from Vietnamese history. Another excellent theatre is the Golden Bell Show, which is where you can see many different traditional art performances including dance and music shows. The Old Quarter also holds the largest market, Dong Xuan, which is a maze of little streets that have thousands of stalls that sell everything from school clothes to pets. You will also notice that a lot of streets dedicate themselves to trades, which have been like this for many years and is where you can find anything from various metals, leather, carpets, bamboo and much more.
There are many street food stalls that line the streets and are generally clean and safe to eat and offer that true authentic taste of Vietnam. Otherwise Nguyen Sieu street or the area around the lake as they both have plenty of restaurants as well as pubs. The Old Quarter happens to have lots of accommodation options from small little hostels to 5 star luxury hotels, you are definitely spoilt for choice in this neighbourhood.