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  • Writer's pictureMary Ann Issac

10 Must do things in the French Quarter, Hanoi

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

The French Quarter is so different from the rest of Hanoi. There is less traffic & the streets are wider, ( especially in comparison to the Old Quarter). The French architecture in this part of town is maintained beautifully, and there are some beautiful hotels that were built during colonial rule as well. When in the French Quarter, it is no surprise, that there will be a few bakeries that dish out some delicious croissants & eclairs as well. Read on to see what you can do in the French Quarter of Hanoi!

1. St. Joseph’s Cathedral

It is a Neo-gothic cathedral located in the French Quarters of Hanoi, and is the epitome of French colonial architecture. Its architecture is similar to that of the Notre Dame in Paris, and is called the ‘Big Church’ by locals. The construction of the church began in 1886, and it was built on the site of the Bao Thien Pagoda. The Buddhist temple ,which was built during the reign of the Ly Tran Dynasty, was demolished to make way for the cathedral.

Post the French retreat from North Vietnam in 1954, the cathedral was seised by Vietnamese Nationalists. The church & its priests suffered at the hands of the the Vietnamese Nationalists. (The property was expropriated and priests arrested.) It was not until Christmas Eve of 1990 that mass was allowed to be celebrated here.

It is now a popular site for wedding photoshoots-there was a photoshoot happening when I visited!

Unlike other churches, its doors aren’t always open for visitors. One can enter the cathedral only during mass.

Check out my Practical guide to Vietnam for information about the currency, buses, taxis, domestic travel, visas, & more!

Check out my guide to Hanoi!

Mass Timings

Weekday- 5.30 AM & 6.15PM

Saturday-6 PM

Sunday-5 AM, 7Am, 9AM, 11AM, 4PM,6PM, 8PM

Address: 40 Nha Chung Street

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St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi

2. Hanoi Opera House

The Opera House, completed in 1911 is a beautifully maintained vestige of French architecture in Hanoi. It was inspired by the Opera Garnier Theatre in Paris. Do catch one of the highly acclaimed shows here, some of which have toured the world with their spectacular acts.

It has also played an important part in the history of Vietnam. In 1945, a meeting in front of the Opera House was held to celebrate the establishment of Viet Minh (National Liberation Front).

In 1946, the National Assembly of the Democratic republic of Vietnam held its first meeting inside the Opera house.

Address: 40 Nhà Chung, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000

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Hanoi Opera House

3. Hoa lo Prison

It was built by the French in 1896 to detain anti colonialist & Vietnamese revolutionaries. The artefacts here are remnants of the painful and heroic past of the nation.

Address: 1 Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

4. National Museum of Vietnamese history

The architecture of the museum is different as compared to the rest of the colonial buildings of the area- it is a combination of Asian & European architecture.

Vietnam Women’s Museum

The museum is a tribute to the women of Vietnam, and has three floors, each dedicated to the women at home, women in history, women’s fashion through the ages.

Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

5. Cho Hom Market

Though in the heart of the posh side of Hanoi, there is a local market that specialises in clothing, unstitched material. The ground floor is for stalls selling seasonal fruit, vegetables, seafood, yummy street food, & much more. The second floor is where the clothing is. Local tailors, designers, & even tourists come here to buy silk, cotton, tweed, & brocade materials at wholesale rates. To shop at a market like this, polish your bargaining skills to get the best deal!

It is the place to stop, if you want a cheap bite to eat in the area. I got my favourite mochi ice cream here. ( I know it’s not Vietnamese, but, I never miss a chance to eat it!) Also, there are charging points available, so keep a lookout for a free sot on the wall, or ask the friendly shopkeepers like I did!

Address: 293 Tran Nhan Tong, Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

6. Take a Guided tour of the French Quarter

There are FREE guided tours available for the French Quarter led by enthusiastic students, if you would like a deeper insight into the area. A quick google search will get you all the details of the same.

7. Shop the luxury brands

In case you were wondering where the luxury shopping of Hanoi is located- it is here! All the brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, are here. I obviously did not go in- but it is worth the visit for those who indulge in luxury brands.

8. Explore the heritage hotels

The hotels of the French Quarter exhibit colonial charm as do the other buildings of the area.

The Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole was built in 1901 & is the epitome of colonial luxury in Hanoi. It is located near the Opera house, & has hosted many heads of state, actors, & playwrights, including Charlie Chaplin!

The cafe seating outside is whimsical & calls you in! Also keep an eye out for their collection of vintage cars that will be parked outside!

9. Cafe hop in the French Quarter

Do stop at one of the cafes alongside the road for a coffee, croissant, & eclair!

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Cafes in Hanoi

10. Explore the art galleries

There are some art galleries around here as well, which have on display the works of local artists.

Do leave me a comment below & let me know your thoughts, or if you have any questions!

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