French Quarter Hanoi: Things You Should Know Before You Go

Travel Guide to Hanoi French Quarter

Jane Pham
Jane Pham | Published: May 26, 2020

Hanoi Old Quarter is a famous and popular destination for both locals and tourists in Hanoi. However, crowdedness may make you feel tired and bored.

So, let’s think about another place.

There are more interesting things to explore in a closer area called Hanoi French Quarter. It is home to quaint temples, traditional Vietnamese arts, street markets, colonial buildings, embassies, government offices, etc, that are still worth checking out. 

    Location: Southeast of Hoan Kiem Lake

I. Overview of French Quarter Hanoi

French Quarter in Hanoi is located on the southeast of the popular Hoan Kiem Lake. Like the Old Quarter with 36 streets, this area is also a big and busy hub in the center of Hanoi.

As its name suggests, the area brings a feeling of France. In the late 19th century, French occupied Hanoi and replaced many of the old Vietnamese buildings with impressive and stunning French-style houses and villas in this area. The war ended but left behind many French traits in this area. That’s why it is called French Quarter.  

Though it’s not as famous as the Old Quarter, it is worth your visit with unique traits in architecture and a wide range of delicious food and refreshing drinks. Wandering along the streets in this area, you will find many houses painted in yellow and having typical street style of Paris – France’s capital.

In Hanoi, French Quarter is considered the most luxurious corner in the city. There are plenty of 5-star hotels and high-class restaurants. Besides, you also can find various coffee shops, bookstores, boutiques, and galleries.

French Quarter has an important location as it is the center for some embassies like Ireland and Italian embassies, government buildings, and wealthy residential neighborhoods. 

II. Attractions in French Quarter Hanoi

Since French Quarter Hanoi is a large area, you may get confused about the places to go and things to do. So, let’s look at the below list and choose some for your trip.

1. Hoa Lo Prison

Hoa Lo Prison in French Quarter
Photo: @debbyjdamen

Hoa Lo Prison is one of the most visited attractions in French Quarter. Also known as “Hanoi Hilton”, it is a famous prison with a great notoriety because it was used by French colonial government and later North Vietnamese fighters. In its long history, it has become a breeding ground for Vietnamese resistance movement and main holding camp for American Prisoners.

Built in 1886, the prison kept hundreds to thousands of prisoners at the same time. As time went, more and more prisoners were sent here, living in this small and deteriorated facility. There were so many thrilling methods of torture used to extract information from the soldiers here.

To give tourists and students a glimpse of Vietnamese history, the government has changed this place into a tourist site. Coming here, you will find  a horrifying array of whips, shackles, and other instruments of torture, etc.

2. Trang Tien Plaza

Trang Tien Plaza

Trang Tien Plaza is a high-end shopping mall which is home to many famous international brands including Dior, Cartier, Bvlgari, and Louis Vuiton, etc.

The shopping mall looks impressive with typical French architecture as it was built 120 years ago. Located in a corner next to Hoan Kiem Lake, this oldest shopping center is easily accessible.

Having 6 floors, it provides customers with everything you need, from clothes, shoes, electronics items, to food and beverages, etc. This place is truly a good place for shopping and see how French colonization influences architecture in Vietnam.

3. Vietnam National Museum of History

Vietnam National Museum of History

Vietnam National Museum of History was officially opened to the public in September 1958. The museum is a vivid historical book of Vietnam from the prehistory to 1945.

With an area of more than 2.200 square meters, it houses almost 7.000 original artifacts and the main system of exhibition is arranged chronologically. More than 100.000 specimens and artifacts of different materials, including many rare and valuable items.

Some objects on display even date back to ancient cultures like Champa sculptures, ancient ceramics, bronze items from Le dynasty. The new artifacts are also frequently updated to attract visitors to this museum. To enter the Vietnam National Museum of History, you just need to pay VND 40.000/ person (around USD 2). 

4. Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Opera House is one of the most appealing buildings among a number of yellow-painted architecture. At the moment, it is the biggest theatre in Vietnam and also considered as an important historical and architectural landmark in Hanoi.

Under the French colonization, it was built to serve entertainment needs. After 10 years of completion, it has witnessed very first exposure to Western arts and served many Vietnamese groups to perform plays. Nowadays, people can come here to enjoy various forms of music including opera, classical music to traditional plays and folk music.

If you have traveled to Paris, you may realize the influence of Paris’s Opera House and also classical Greek Architecture on this building. 

5. St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St Josephs Cathedral
Photo: @drive.hike.explore

St. Joseph’s Cathedral is an outstanding architecture in French Quarter Hanoi. Also called “The Big Church”, it is one of the very first structures built by French colonists during their expansion in Indochina. After 2 wars against the US and France armies, this cathedral still remains intact and is in a good condition.

Looked from afar, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is like a small version of Notre Dame de Paris with typical features of gothic revival architecture. The best time to visit this beautiful cathedral is the weekend when the Catholics ceremony happens. A large number of Catholics living in Hanoi flock here to participate in this ceremony. All ceremonies are big and formal with baptisms and ablutions. After your visit, there are plenty of nearby street food and drinks to enjoy.

III. Best Things To Do in French Quarter Hanoi

1. Take a Walking Tour

Hanoi walking street

Compared to the Hanoi Old Quarter, the French Quarter is less crowded. This makes it a great idea to take a walking tour to explore this area.

There are many tour agencies found in Hoan Kiem district so you can easily find the most suitable one for you.

With a walking tour, you will be picked up and guided by friendly local guides who are willing to give you useful inside tips. It surely helps you save a lot of time as well as know interesting destinations better.

A French Quarter Hanoi walking tour normally takes you to different streets in this area and popular places like Hoan Kiem Lake, the State Bank of Vietnam building, Hanoi Opera House, Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel, Trang Tien, etc. 

2. Enjoy Lemon Tea Near St Joseph’s Cathedral

lemon tea in Hanoi

It will be a miss if you haven’t tried lemon tea in Hanoi before leaving. Unlike other countries, drinking lemon tea in Vietnam is a brand new experience to try. Most local people prefer sitting on the pavement, gathering and chatting with their friends. Some people like having some street foods to enjoy also. And, near St Joseph’s Cathedral is one of the most favorite spots for having lemon tea. Sitting here, you will have a chance to enjoy the best views of the cathedral and crowdedness in the street.

3. Visit Art Galleries

Hanoi art gallery

Hanoi is not only the center of Vietnamese politics and economy but also the heart of contemporary arts and local culture.

Are you curious about arts in Vietnam?

In the Hanoi French Quarter, there are many art galleries scattered across this area. To name some awesome ones, there are Thanh Binh, Red Moon, and A Dong galleries. They are known for a diverse collection of antiques and paintings by renowned artists in Vietnam. There are different kinds of paintings, from landscapes to portraits. The materials are also various such as lacquered wood and canvas. If you are wondering what to buy for your friends, a good picture may be a great idea. 

4. Wandering Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake
Photo: @paramitahusein

Hoan Kiem Lake is the symbol of Hanoi, so there are no reasons to miss this place on your itinerary. The lake has a long history with special legends related to the sacred sword.

Nowadays, Hanoians love gathering around this lake. For foreigners, there are plenty of activities to join like playing some Vietnamese traditional folk games, dancing with locals, listening to beautiful songs from local youngsters.

It is highly recommended to visit this place on the weekend when more locals come here and there are abundant things to explore Vietnamese culture. 

IV. Hanoi French Quarter Vs Hanoi Old Quarter

Most travelers may confuse between French Quarter and Old Quarter Hanoi. When it comes to location, both are located around the Hoan Kiem lake but each occupies different sides. Besides, there are also other main differences that you can easily realize. Hanoi’s Old Quarter can be said to be the busiest place in Hanoi and it is surely more crowded than French Quarter. French Quarter has a contrasting vibe, more peaceful, with wider pavements and less traffic. The area is home to well-preserved colonial buildings and grand boulevards. Its architecture is impressive with French traits. On the other hand, Old Quarter has a more Vietnamese vibe with ancient houses and traditional Vietnamese food. Generally, each has its own charms and you can surely visit both of them as the 2 areas are quite close. 

V. Accommodations and Hotels in French Quarter Hanoi

There are many high-class hotels in French Quarter Hanoi which are ideal retreats for those looking for a relaxing stay in the heart of Hanoi. Staying in luxurious and popular hotels in French Quarter offers you a convenient access to art galleries, high-end shopping malls, and famous colonial establishments.

Here are 10 suggestions of hotels to stay in French Quarter Hanoi with Google review rate:

1. Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

Rate: 4.6/5

Location: 15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Price: from USD 240

2. Hanoi Emerald Waters Hotel & Spa

Rate: 4.8/5

Location: 47 Lo Su street, Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Price: from USD 73

3. Apricot Hotel

Rate: 4.5/5

Location: 136 Hang Trong street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Price: from USD 131

4. Melia Hanoi

Rate: 4.5/5

Location: 44 Ly Thuong Kiet street, Tran Hung Dao ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Price: from USD 101

5. The Lapis Hotel

Rate: 4.6/5

Location: 21 Tran Hung Dao street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi

Price: from USD 152

6. Hanoi Pearl Hotel

Rate: 4.5/5

Location: 6 Bao Khanh street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi

Price: from USD 62

7. Somerset Grand Hanoi

Rate: 4.4/5

Location: 49 Hai Ba Trung street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi

Price: from USD 106

8. Hotel de l’Opera Hanoi – Mgallery

Rate: 4.2/5

Location: 29 Trang Tien street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi

Price: from USD 119

9. Zephyr Suites Boutique Hotel

Rate: 4.2/5

Location: 4&6 Ba Trieu streert, Trang Tien ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi

Price: from USD 56

10. Hilton Hanoi Opera

Rate: 4.1/5

Location: 1 Le Thanh Tong street, Phan Chu Trinh ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi

Price: from USD 90

VI. Restaurants in French Quarter Hanoi

Hanoi French Quarter is home to high-end restaurants and cafe shops that cater to international clients and serve authentic European, French and American cuisine as well as premium cocktails and wines in classy settings. Restaurants here are also ideal for honeymooners and couples traveling to Vietnam who look for romantic dining experience.

Some suggestions of where to dine in French Quarter Hanoi include:

1. La Terrasse Du Metropole

Location: 15 Ngo Quyen street, Hoan Kiem district

Opening hours: 11:00 – 24:00 every day

2. RICO Steak House

Location: 56 Tran Quoc Toan street

Opening hours: 11:00 – 23:00 every day

3. Au Delice & Le Restaurant d’Arthur Hanoi

Location: 2B Ngo Thi Nham street

Opening hours: 9:00 – 22:00 every day

VII. Tips on Visiting French Quarter Hanoi

Here are some useful tips for you to have a nice trip in French Quarter.

  • When shopping in this area, keep your eyes on your belongings. Pickpocketing may happen in busy and crowded places.
  • It’s better to learn some Vietnamese sentences. They are really effective for bargaining.
  • Bring a map if you don’t want to get lost.
  • Plan your trip in advance so you won’t be confused in a maze of this busy city.

We highly recommend French Quarter Hanoi for a better understanding of Hanoi culture and history. A lot of beautiful moments and interesting places to go are waiting for you here. 

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