Looking for serious urban fun while visiting Vietnam? Head to Hanoi’s Old Quarter! This historic area of Vietnam’s second-largest city is full of energy and life.
By day, scooters zip around the roads, carrying cargo and getting business done. Visitors check out the temples and the Old House museum, then grab their favorite version of the local sandwich.
At night, Old Quarter turns up the volume. The bars bring in the DJ, start up light shows, and do everything they can to invite you to join their party. Fresh kegs of local beer are flowing. The scene gets a little wild.
If you’re visiting northern Vietnam and want to know the best things to do in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, then this is the list for you.
1. Finish Off a Pitcher or Two of Bia Hoi
Bia hoi translates to fresh beer. It is a very cheap lager-style beer that is brewed daily, matured for a very short time, then delivered in steel kegs. The alcohol content is very low (around 3%) and so is the cost, ranging from 12,000 VND to 3,000 VND (about $0.50 to $0.10 USD). This unique experience is a top thing to do in Hanoi’s old quarter.
It is best to get bia hoi from places that are reputable and busy. There are a variety of vendors at the famous bia hoi corner, but our favorite spot in Hanoi’s Old Quarter to get bia hoi is Hang Bia Hoi – a large restaurant with the yellow chairs and signs at the bia hoi corner. You can’t miss it. It serves the most bia hoi and also has a good selection of food. It also has scooters zip past all night, so watch your feet and knees.
2. Scarf Down a Bahn Mi Sandwich
Bahn mi (Bánh mì) is the Vietnamese word for bread, but it is also used to describe a very popular sandwich made on a small baguette, sliced in half, and stuffed with a variety of fillings. Some sort of pork or egg are the most common fillings, along with Laughing Cow cheese. But you can also get tofu, mushroom, chicken, and plenty of other fillings in Vietnam. We tried quite a few and loved tofu and a particular mushroom one sold in a different part of Hanoi.
In Old Quarter, the V-Sandwich Eatery serves up a solid bahn mi at a good price. It’s a small stall in the heart of the Old Quarter in Hanoi. The people were always friendly. Another favorite is Quán bar & cafe PATETA, who throws in a free banana with each order and has bia hoi on tap. Bahn Mi 25 is likely the most popular shop in the Old Quarter so check it out if you want to see what the fuss is about (we did, and it’s good but we like to help out the smaller businesses).
Obviously, you should also try some of the other amazing street food and one of the best ways to do it is to take a guided street food tour of Hanoi’s old quarter.
3. Party it Up in Old Quarter’s Night Clubs and Bars
Old Quarter Hanoi has incredible fluctuations in energy throughout the day. Without a doubt, the most lively time in Old Quarter is the nighttime crowd who’s looking to party. There are three main blocks full of restaurants, bars, and clubs to entertain you. Servers and staff members try to hail you down as you walk past, offering enticing “happy hour” specials (which usually run all the time).
You can’t go wrong by making your way around Ta Hien (a popular tourist area) if you want to have some fun.
4. Browse the Best of Hanoi in a Busy Market – Day or Night
There are two main markets in Old Quarter and visiting them is a top thing to do in Hanoi. The main market which runs during the day is Dong Xuan market. It’s inside of a 4-story building in the northern section of Old Quarter.
The other major market in Old Quarter is the weekend night market which runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting around 7pm. It is located on Hang Dao Street and running north to the edge of Dong Xuan Market.
This cooking class includes a tour of a food market and local rice whiskey.
Don’t forget to bring you haggling game to the table at the markets.
5. Take a Step Back in Time at Old House (Ma May House)
Tucked inside the craziness of Old Quarter is a traditional Vietnamese home which has been made into a museum. Check out historical furniture and walk through the house on a self-guided tour of the interior.
6. Experience the Beauty at Bach Ma Temple
Bach Ma temple was originally constructed in 1010 and again reconstructed int he 17th and 18th centuries. It is on the smaller side of temples, but has lots of beautiful artwork and sculptures in a wonderful setting. Definitely worth checking it out. Quan De Temple is another temple around the corner and a good thing to do in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
7. Browse Some Outdoor Backpacks and Gear
Well, this is a bit of a joke. But there is an insane amount of outdoor and travel gear from The North Face and other outdoor manufacturers sold around Old Quarter. But to be clear – even though some companies, including The North Face, do manufacture items in Vietnam, the ones sold in Hanoi’s Old Quarter can often be imitations of lower quality. If you’re paying a fraction of the usual cost, you’re most likely getting a counterfeit item.
8. Get Some Bling on Gold Street
One of the things to do in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is to shop for gold, other precious metals, and jewelry in general. Located on Hang Bac, this street is filled with vendors hawking jewelry of all types. As usual, you’re going to have to be very careful to make sure you’re getting a good deal on an authentic product. Buyer beware.
9. Zip Around on a Scooter or Motorbike
There is one thing that is downright impossible to avoid in Old Quarter Hanoi: Scooters, motorbikes, mopeds – whatever you want to call them – are constantly flying around Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Used for food deliveries, taxi services, and just general transportation needs, scooters fill the streets and the sidewalks. Tourists buy them for long term visits and rent them by the hour or day. Locals use them for everything from a run down the street to hauling as much cargo as they can.
The driving is on the risky side of the things, but no visit to Hanoi would be complete without some type of scooter ride.
Things to Do In Hanoi’s Old Quarter Summary
Hanoi’s Old Quarter will not leave you bored. Check out the temples and museum, grab a bahn mi, then wash it down with a bia hoi and a night full of excitement. Whatever you choose, there is no shortage of things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam’s Old Quarter.
Want to read more about areas to visit in Vietnam?
- Check out our guide to Cat Ba Island for adventure near the water!
- Amazing Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam
- The Best Things to Do in Hanoi
Have you visited a place that had a unique local drink? Bia hoi was a memorable experience to say the least! Leave a comment below so we can keep searching for the best local drinks!
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