Hanoi Shopping and Districts

(Hanoi, Vietnam)

While there are glitzy malls popping up in Hanoi, shopping in the Vietnam capital is mostly on the street. There are markets galore and strings of local shops with all sorts of knickknacks, and those into souvenirs and handicrafts will have a ball.

It won't take you long to notice that the Vietnamese, particularly in the North, take their shoes very seriously. Dozens of open shoe shops, with original and knock off brands manufactured cheaply in Vietnam are found in Hanoi, on the west side of Hoan Kiem Lake. Ho Chi Minh city is a better place for trawling shopping malls, while the North is more conservative about Western consumerism.

The labyrinthine Old Quarter is the most popular shopping area in Hanoi, since it is crisscrossed with dozens of streets and has a buzz about it. It also includes the Hoan Kiem Lake area, which itself is surrounded by streets full of shops and markets. A good buy are the excellent-value original oil and water colour paintings on display in numerous local galleries.

When to Shop and Where

Hanoi is particularly good for fabrics and clothing, especially silk and embroidered goods. It is also good on ethnic handicrafts and silverware - some of the best of which can be bought in the streets near Hoan Kiem Lake. Church Street (Nha Tho Street) is recommended, while the Trang Tien Plaza to the southeast of the lake is good for luxury items.

Other shopping streets in the Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake include Hang Dau Street in the northeast for shoes, Ba Be and Bang Be streets for copied goods, especially music, and Trang Tien Street within the French Quarter at the south of Hoan Kiem Lake for art.

Hanoi is also loaded with markets and they are often the best bet for picking up bargain souvenirs. Hang Da Market and its neighbouring streets have everything from second-hand clothing to pets and fabrics. Cho Hom is one of the best places for fabrics, with materials from budget to top-end, while Dong Xuan is more of a wholesalers' market and a great place to take in the local 'market atmosphere'.

Cash is king when shopping in Hanoi and there are ATMs all over the city where you can pick up Vietnamese dong and US dollars. You can usually buy using either currency, but should always keep an eye on exchange rates.