Covering an area of 100ha, the Ha Noi Ancient Quarter was founded from the 11th century as crowded trade area where artisans and traders concentrated to work and set up specific trade streets. The artisans from craft villages around former Thang Long Citadel gathered in areas which specialized in their work. This reason made the trade streets develop more and more. Every street was noisy, animated in trade and work as a miniature craft village. And street names were begun with "Hang" and originated from names of types of merchandise produced and traded such as Hang Gai (Silk), Hang Duong (Sugar), Hang Muoi (Salt)... Therefore Vietnamese people usually call Ha Noi as Ha Noi 36 streets, of which street means concentration place of artisans or traders who specialize in same merchandise.
Location: Including 76 streets, the Ha Noi Ancient Quarter is located next to Hoan Kiem Lake and surrounded by Hang Dau Street in the north; Phung Hung Street in the west; Hang Bong, Hang Gai, Cau Go and Hang Thung streets in the south, Tran Quang Khai and Tran Nhat Duat streets in the east.
Other specific characteristic of the Ha Noi Ancient Quarter is tube-shaped houses with sloping roofs. The present houses were mainly built in 18th and 19th centuries and their fronts are shops. The Hanoians arranged skillfully system of rooms, entresol, and courtyard for life's multiform demands. Therefore although ancient houses aren't large but they still have places for shop, work, rest, living-room, bedroom...
Arriving the Hanoi Ancient Quarter, tourists will be attracted by cultural values in about 100 old architectural works including communal houses, temples, pagodas, assembly halls... The typical cultural relic is Bach Ma (White Horse) Temple in Hang Buom Street considered as one of four defense temples of the Thang Long Citadel.
To begin with, many foreign tourists feel scared whenever they get lost in the old, similarly-named streets, the pavements crammed with food stalls and the roads filled with traffic chaos. However, these feelings are gradually passing, deeply loving instead when they realize that life of Ha Noi people is full of bustling, vibrant, constantly moving but also very poetic and lyrical. They are absorbed by many kinds of special food, such as bun cha (rice vermicelli and grilled chopped meat), pho (noodles served with beef, chicken, etc), chao ca (fish and rice gruel), bun ca (rice vermicelli and fish), trung vit lon (a fertilized duck egg), banh ran (glutinous rice doughnut), bun oc (rice vermicelli with fresh water snail), mien cua tron (mixed vermicelli and crab)...
And in the weekend (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays), when darkness covers Ha Noi, 3km-long walk route Hang Dao - Dong Xuan becomes night market. This is really an attractive tourist site for the tourists who want to discover Ha Noi by night because of its cultural features. Coming to the night market, the tourist can buy souvenirs, handicrafts; taste traditional foods or enjoy cultural activities such as ca tru, cheo, hat xam, quan ho in the evening of Saturdays.
The small tube-shaped houses, crowded streets, temples, pagodas, space, sound or flavour of dishes... in the Ha Noi Ancient Quarter create a unique beauty for Ha Noi.