VIETNAM | Hanoi Old Quarter & French Quarter One Day DIY Walking Tour | Lakad Pilipinas

Hanoi Old Quarter French Quarter DIY Walking Tour

Having already done a chaotic no-direction two-day walking tour of Hanoi on our first visit to the city, it was time to do a more organized one this time around. But having seen some of the sights before at the French Quarter and Hanoi’s Old Quarter, we turned to those we haven’t been to before.

But just for your sake, my dear readers, I’m rounding out a one day walking itinerary of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and French Quarter—which, by the way, are both in Hoan Kiem District—in one go. And this one’s much more organized than what we actually did in real life.

I recommend starting your Hanoi DIY walking tour from Hoan Kiem Lake. Well, you can actually start anywhere near your lodging, but for the sake of this guide, since the lake is one of the central area of the district, I’ll start there. For food stops, check out my Hanoi Food Trip post, or you can just eat wherever suits your fancy, you won’t run out of food places in Hanoi. And lastly, keep your eyes open between destinations, it’s where you’d really find what Hanoi is all about. So, ready your walking shoes, this would take almost the whole day!

 

 

HOAN KIEM LAKE

  ADDRESS: HOAN KIEM, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 24 HOURS DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: NONE


Dividing the Old Quarter and French Quarter, the Hoan Kiem Lake is the center of Hanoi. Distances are measured from this lake park and it is considered as one of the iconic places in the city.

Stretching for almost a kilometer on its longest side, it’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists to hang out on. There are benches along the banks sheltered by lush old trees, and the flower gardens surrounding the waters are very well tended.

The water is greenish in color and is home to tortoises. Legend has it that an emperor was given back a magical sword by a Golden Turtle God right in these waters, hence its name, which translated means Lake of the Returned Sword.

Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi

 

 

NGOC SON TEMPLE

  ADDRESS: DINH TIEN HOANG ST., HOAN KIEM, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 8:00AM – 5:00PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: VND30,000.00 (USD1.50)


On Jade Island, a small islet at Hoan Kiem Lake stands the Ngoc Son Temple or the Temple of the Jade Mountain. Accessed by a shockingly red curved wooden bridge on the east side, the temple is built in the 18th century in honor of Tran Hung Dao, a 13th-century military leader who fought during the Yuan Dynasty.

Inside, you’d find a couple of towers and an actual temple where people worship. There’s also a museum, a few shops, and a 250-kilo stuffed tortoise on display!

Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi

Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi

Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi

 

 

LY THAI TO PARK

  ADDRESS: DINH TIEN HOANG STREET, HOAN KIEM, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 24 HOURS DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: NONE


Fronting the lake, right on the same eastern side as Ngoc Son Temple, stands a square with a regal statue of Emperor Ly Thai To, the first king of Ly Dynasty in Vietnam. He’s the guy responsible from transferring the imperial capital of 11th century Vietnam from Hua Lu in Ninh Binh to Thang Long—which is now Hanoi—making him, effectively, the founder of the city.

The statue, cast in pure bronze, is the largest bronze statue in all of Vietnam. It’s said to be built in 1896—well, according to the marker at the base of the sculpture. In reality, its construction was much more recent, like 2004 recent. It was created by Vi Thi Hoa, a sculptor who won it on a design competition commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hanoi’s Capital Liberation Day.

Ly Thai To Park Hanoi

 

 

SOFITEL LEGEND METROPOLE

  ADDRESS: 15 NGO QUYEN STREET, HOAN KIEM DISTRICT, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 24 HOURS DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: NONE


While not really a tourist spot per se, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is one of the oldest hotels in the whole city. It’s still standing, and still very much majestic. In between Ly Thai To Park en route to the Grand Opera House, a quick visit is worth anyone’s while.

Besides the French-colonial vibe of its architecture and interiors, there are also a few exhibits showcasing relics from the Vietnam War. For hotel guests, they have a Path of History Tour, where they’ll take you to an actual bomb shelter right under the hotel’s swimming pool. It’s where American folk singer, Joan Baez, actually recorded a song while Hanoi was being bombed by American Forces from above during the Christmas of 1972.

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

 

 

HANOI OPERA HOUSE

  ADDRESS: 1 TRANG TIEN STREET, HOAN KIEM DISTRICT, HANOI | OPEN HOURS: 10:30AM MON & FRI | ENTRANCE FEE: VND400,000.00 (USD20.00)


Fronting a rotunda swarming with motorcycles stands one of the most graceful structures in the French Quarter, the Neo-Classical Hanoi Opera House. Constructed in 1901 as a replica of Paris’ famous Palais Garnier, it later opened to the public in 1911. It is the largest theater in Vietnam and is still in use up to this day.

Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Opera House

 

 

HOA LO PRISON MUSEUM

  ADDRESS: 1 HOA LOA STREET, HOAN KIEM DISTRICT, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 8:00AM-5:00PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: VND30,000.00 (USD1.50)


Take a straight line across Trang Tien Road plus a few turns and you’d find yourself at the Hoa Lo Prison or Hell’s Hole Prison. Built in the 1880’s, it was used as political prison during the French-colonial period and later, as detention for US prisoners of wars during the Vietnam War. The GI prisoners dubbed it as Hanoi Hilton, in comic reference to the Hilton hotel chain. Now, it stands as a museum—well, its gates and a few parts, at least—since the actual prison was demolished in 1990.

Hoa Loa Prison Museum Hanoi

 

 

QUAN SU TEMPLE

  ADDRESS: 73 QUAN SU STREET, HOAN KIEM DISTRICT, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 8:00AM – 4:00PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: NONE


A few meters away from the prison museum is a Buddhist temple built during the Le Dynasty in the 15th century. With yellow walls, it was formerly used to receive foreign ambassadors in Hanoi, and since most of these were Buddhists, a temple was then decidedly built on site. Surrounded by trees, the courtyard is quite serene, while the interior has a very intricate design, typical of such worship places.

The only structure remaining today is the temple itself, and it’s still being used by Buddhist practitioners in Hanoi. Ten percent of Vietnamese people are Buddhists, and Quan Su Temple is the headquarter of the Vietnam Buddhism Association since 1858.

Quan Su Temple Hanoi

Quan Su Temple Hanoi

Quan Su Temple Hanoi

 

 

ST. JOSEPH’S CATHEDRAL

ADDRESS: 40 NHA CHUNG STREET, HOAN KIEM DISTRICT, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 6:00AM – 7:00PM DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: NONE


Doubling back near the west side of Hoan Kiem Lake is the Hanoi Cathedral. Officially named as St. Joseph’s Cathedral, it sports a twin bell tower with a Neo-Gothic fa├žade quite similar to Notre Dame de Paris, sans Quasimodo. There are about four million Catholics in Vietnam, and this serves as their Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

Built from stone slabs and brick with a granite exterior in 1886 by the French-colonial government, its interiors soar on a gracious rib-vaulted ceiling, similar to those in medieval Europe, with windows designed and built in France before being shipped to Vietnam. It’s one of the first to be constructed under colonial rule in Vietnam and is one of the oldest churches in Hanoi.

St Joseph's Cathedral Hanoi

St Joseph's Cathedral HanoiSt Joseph's Cathedral Hanoi

St Joseph's Cathedral Hanoi

 

 

TA HIEN WALKING STREET

  ADDRESS: TA HIEN STREET, HOAN KIEM DISTRICT, HANOI | OPENING HOURS: 24 HOURS DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: NONE


To cap the day, walk towards Ta Hien Street, for an evening of street food and beer! Dubbed as Hanoi’s beer street, Ta Hien is more like an alley which, I think, is closed to motorized traffic (an occasionally motorbike still runs through it). It stretches for around two hundred meters, with both sides lined with small restaurants, street food vendors, and bars.

Most visitors prefer to sit on small stools off the sidewalk than inside the restaurants, with Bia Ha Noi and the cheap Bia Hoi as the drink of choice. The place swarms with both tourists and locals during the mornings, but becomes even more alive come evenings. Choose a spot on one of the many beer joints along the intersection and watch as Hanoi buzz right before your very eyes.

Ta Hien Street Hanoi

Ta Hien Street Hanoi

Ta Hien Street Hanoi

 

 

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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Thursday, February 1, 2018

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