For an occasionally harrowing (but always interesting) peek into traditional Hanoi, spend an afternoon navigating the maze of the Old Quarter markets. Traditionally, certain streets were named after the product that was sold there (i.e. shoes, textiles, gold, etc.). Much of that tradition remains, and there seems to be very little you can't find here - from party products to jewelry to delicious street food. Keep your head up -- not just for the sights but also to be aware of the traffic whizzing by in all directions.
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The Old Quarter
Just north of the hotel, visitors encounter the maze and mayhem of the Old Quarter. This part of the city, also known as ‘36 Old Streets and Guilds,’ is a compact, densely populated, congested, seemingly unregulated patch of artisan workshops, temples, hotels, cafes, bars, street markets, and traditional medicine stores, and what many visitors to Hanoi remember most vividly of the city’s street life. One of the busiest lanes is Nha To, where visitors will find clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, cafes, and even Mediterranean restaurants. Photo by John Brennan/Flickr.
The traditional way to explore Hanoi's Old Quarter is by cyclo. You'll feel like royalty (or perhaps a bit conspicuous) as you're pedaled around the bustling city on a padded tricycle. Rates start at around $5 for an hour.
Speed around the Hanoi Streets on the Back of a Motorbike
A little bit apprehensive about hiring a motorbike and taking to the teeming streets of Hanoi? You don't actually have to. With phalanxes of xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers waiting on every corner, it is easy to hitch a ride. Hold on tight and don't forget to negotiate a fare before departing.