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Hanoi Free Walking Tours – Exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter on Foot

May 15, 2024

Hanoi, the vibrant capital of Vietnam, is a city that seamlessly blends its rich historical heritage with the rapid modernization of the present day. One of the best ways to experience the heart and soul of this enchanting destination is through the Hanoi Free Walking Tours, which offer visitors an immersive and authentic exploration of the city’s most captivating sights and local culture.

Hanoi Free Walking Tours

The majority of Hanoi free walking tour guides are students (Source: Collected)

History of Hanoi Free Walking Tours

The Origins of Hanoi Free Walking Tours

Hanoi’s free walking tours have their roots in the early 2000s, when a group of passionate local students and young professionals recognized the value in sharing their city’s remarkable history and traditions with foreign visitors. Inspired by the success of similar initiatives in other parts of the world, they decided to establish a free walking tour program that would showcase Hanoi’s unique charm and allow travelers to connect with the city on a deeper level.

The Emergence of a Thriving Community

As word of the Hanoi Free Walking Tours spread, the initiative quickly gained popularity among both locals and tourists alike. The tours were led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides who were eager to share their love for Hanoi, and the experience quickly became a must-do activity for anyone visiting the city.

The Evolution of Hanoi Free Walking Tours

Over the years, the Hanoi Free Walking Tours have evolved and expanded, with new routes and themes being introduced to cater to the diverse interests of visitors. Today, the tours cover a wide range of topics, from the city’s rich historical heritage and architectural landmarks to its vibrant street life, local cuisine, and thriving arts and culture scene.

Best Routes for Hanoi Free Walking Tours

Hanoi Free Walking Tours map

Hanoi Walking Tour Map

Exploring the Old Quarter

The Hanoi Old Quarter is the heart and soul of the city, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular destinations for free walking tours. Winding through the narrow, bustling streets, visitors can immerse themselves in the rich history and lively atmosphere of this centuries-old trading hub.

Discovering the French Quarter

Hanoi’s French Quarter is a testament to the city’s colonial past, with its grand, tree-lined boulevards and elegant colonial-era buildings. The free walking tours in this area offer a fascinating glimpse into the city’s colonial heritage and the enduring influence of French culture.

Navigating the Lakeside Neighborhoods

Hanoi is home to several picturesque lakes, and the free walking tours that explore these waterfront neighborhoods offer a more serene and tranquil experience. Visitors can stroll along the Hoan Kiem Lake, admire the stunning architecture, and immerse themselves in the city’s peaceful, community-oriented lifestyle.

Uncovering the Hidden Gems

Beyond the main tourist attractions, Hanoi is filled with countless hidden gems waiting to be discovered. The free walking tours that venture off the beaten path allow visitors to uncover the city’s lesser-known treasures, from local markets and artisanal workshops to historic landmarks and vibrant community hubs.

Benefits of Joining Hanoi Free Walking Tours

Insider Knowledge and Personalized Experiences

The Hanoi Free Walking Tours are led by knowledgeable local guides who possess a deep understanding of the city’s history, culture, and traditions. These guides are passionate storytellers who can offer insider insights and personalized experiences that go beyond the typical tourist itinerary.

Unparalleled Immersion in Local Life

By exploring the city on foot, visitors gain a unique and immersive perspective on Hanoi’s daily life. They can interact with locals, observe their customs and routines, and gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s vibrant street culture and community-oriented lifestyle.

Cost-Effective and Flexible Exploration

One of the main advantages of Hanoi Free Walking Tours is their affordability. As the name suggests, these tours are entirely free of charge, making them an accessible option for travelers of all budgets. Additionally, the flexible nature of the tours allows visitors to tailor their experience to their own interests and pace.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Exploration

By opting for a walking tour, visitors can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable form of tourism. The Hanoi Free Walking Tours also support the local economy by connecting visitors directly with the city’s residents and small businesses.

Tips for Enjoying Hanoi Free Walking Tours

Dress Comfortably and Prepare for the Weather

Hanoi can be hot and humid, especially during the summer months, so it’s essential to dress in lightweight, breathable clothing and wear comfortable walking shoes. It’s also a good idea to bring a hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle to stay hydrated.

Familiarize Yourself with the Meeting Point

Most Hanoi Free Walking Tours have a designated meeting point, often in a central and easily accessible location. It’s important to arrive at the meeting point on time and to familiarize yourself with the location beforehand to ensure a seamless start to the tour.

Bring Cash for Tipping and Optional Activities

While the Hanoi Free Walking Tours are free of charge, it’s customary to tip your guide at the end of the tour. Additionally, some tours may offer optional activities or visits to local shops and businesses, for which you may need to bring cash.

Stay Engaged and Ask Questions

The Hanoi Free Walking Tours are designed to be interactive and engaging, so don’t hesitate to ask your guide questions or share your own insights and experiences. The more engaged you are, the more you’ll learn and the more memorable your tour will be.

Popular Landmarks Covered in Hanoi Free Walking Tours

1. The Temple of Literature

Hanoi City Tour

Foreign tourists visit the Temple of Literature in Hanoi

One of the most iconic landmarks in Hanoi, the Temple of Literature is a well-preserved Confucian temple that dates back to the 11th century. The temple complex, which also housed Việt Nam’s first national university, offers a fascinating glimpse into the country’s rich cultural and educational heritage.

2. The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum

The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is home to a diverse collection of artworks spanning various historical periods and artistic traditions. Visitors can explore paintings, sculptures, and other works that reflect the country’s vibrant artistic legacy and the themes of patriotism and national identity.

3. The Hanoi Flag Tower

The Hanoi Flag Tower is a historic landmark that has stood as a symbol of the city for centuries. Originally built during the Nguyen Dynasty in the early 19th century, the tower is a remnant of the city’s fortified citadel and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

4. Hanoi Train Street

Checkin in Hanoi Train Street

Checkin in Hanoi Train Street

Hanoi Train Street is a unique and thrilling feature of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where a busy rail line runs precariously close to residential buildings and shops. The Hanoi Walking Tours offer visitors the chance to experience the excitement and adrenaline of this one-of-a-kind urban landscape.

5. Saint Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Saint Joseph’s Cathedral is a stunning example of French colonial architecture, with its impressive neo-gothic facade and intricate stone carvings. The cathedral, which has stood in Hanoi’s heart for over a century, remains an important religious and cultural landmark.

6. Ly Quoc Su Street

Ly Quoc Su Street is a vibrant and historic thoroughfare in the Old Quarter, known for its bustling shops, artisanal workshops, and the Ly Quoc Su Temple, which dates back to the 11th century Ly Dynasty.

7. Hang Gai Street

Hang Gai Street, or “Silk Street,” is a hub of textile and fashion-related businesses, offering visitors the opportunity to browse high-quality silk garments, accessories, and other locally crafted products.

8. Hang Quat Street

Hang Quat Street is renowned for its shops selling traditional Vietnamese fans, Buddhist statues, and other cultural artifacts, making it a popular destination for those seeking authentic souvenirs and handicrafts.

9. Hang Can – Cha Ca Street

Cha Ca Street, named after the famous Cha Ca La Vong dish, a quintessential Hanoi culinary delight, is a must-visit for food lovers exploring the city’s vibrant street food scene.

10. Lan Ong Street

Lan Ong Street in the Old Quarter is a fascinating area where you can find a significant community of ethnic Chinese selling traditional herbs and medicines from historic storefronts. The street is lined with charming interiors featuring dark-wood cabinets, drawers, buckets, and bins filled with a unique variety of dried goods. The original buildings on this street date back to the 17th century, including the former communal house at no. 40 which now serves as an elementary school. Keep an eye out for the low roofs, narrow entries, and moss-covered tile roofs of the original Chinese homes along the length of the street.

11. Hang Duong Street

Hang Duong Street, also known as Sugar Street, is famous for its traditional buildings. One notable structure is the communal house located at no. 38 Hang Duong St. As you head north, it can be found on the left side. The communal house features a beautiful banyan tree in its courtyard and has a mysterious charm with its smoky interior. On weekends, Hang Duong Street transforms into a pedestrian area, bustling with a market selling tourist souvenirs and local products.

Just a brief deviation from Hang Duong Street is the Thanh Ha Communal House, dating back to the 13th century. You can easily reach this historical site by taking a short stroll eastward on Ngo Gach Street, also known as Brick Street.

12. Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market is situated on Dong Xuan Street, but can also be accessed from Cau Dong or Hang Khoai Street with a short walk from the nearest stop. Established in the early 20th Century, it is now Hanoi’s largest wholesale market. The market offers a wide variety of goods, including electronics, silk, clothing, and fresh produce such as chicken, meat, and vegetables. Additionally, it is known for its vibrant night food scene, featuring numerous street-food vendors.

13. Old East Gate (O Quang Chuong)

O Quan Chuong

O Quan Chuong

The O Quan Chuong gate is the sole surviving entrance of the Thang Long citadel, showcasing both architectural beauty and preserving the historical significance of ancient Hanoi. As the last standing old city gate in Hanoi, O Quan Chuong symbolizes the legacy of the Thang Long capital and serves as a testament to the resilience of the local people in resisting foreign aggression.

14. Hang Buom Street

Hang Buom (Sail Street) was situated next to a small tributary of the To Lich River, serving as a hub for goods brought into the city. Local merchant vessels frequented Hang Buom for ship repairs. Noteworthy sights include colonial buildings, traditional Vietnamese houses, and a communal house at no. 22 Hang Buom.

At no. 76 Hang Buom Street stands the Bach Ma Temple, dating back to A.D. 1010. This temple venerates the White Horse of folklore, believed to have guided King Ly in defending his city. Inside, visitors will find a grand courtyard with imposing red pillars, along with Buddhist statues and altars.

15. Ma May Street

Ma May Street marks the start of the bustling budget tourist area in the Old Quarter. Amidst Internet cafes and tourist restaurants, visitors can admire a mix of traditional and colonial architecture. Noteworthy landmarks include the Huong Tuong Communal House at no. 64 Ma May, and the captivating Heritage House Hanoi at no. 87 Ma May. For a nominal fee of 10,000 VND, guests can enjoy an insightful tour of this restored traditional house led by a knowledgeable guide dressed in an elegant ao dai gown, providing valuable insights into life in the Old Quarter from centuries past.

16. Luong Ngoc Quyen Street

There is a cluster of snack food stalls offering a range of traditional cakes such as Banh Day, Banh Gio, and Banh Chin Tang May. This bustling area attracts crowds in both summer and winter who gather to sit and enjoy beer. Feel free to take a break and join them for a local beer or some snacks.

17. Hang Bac Street

You are situated in the bustling backpacker district known as Hang Bac, which translates to “Silver Street.” Here, you can still discover artisans and vendors specializing in silver and gold jewelry. This area offers excellent shopping opportunities and a wide array of goods and services.

Notably, at no. 72 Hang Bac, you will find the renowned Golden Bell theater, which served as a strategic location for troops during the resistance against the French following the August Revolution in 1945.

18. Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake

Exploring the lake side and capturing some photos of the green water surface would be a delightful experience. Visiting Ngoc Son temple located on the northern end of the lake is highly recommended. To reach the temple, you can cross the red Bridge of the Rising Sun. This area offers one of the best views in the city. Conclude your walking tour by relaxing at a lakeside cafe, indulging in some ice cream, or watching a water puppet show.

While there are still some old streets like Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, or Hang Ma Street left to explore, it is advisable to save them for a night trip. Hanoi’s charm truly shines at night on these streets, as bustling trading stores make way for street-food stalls and souvenir shops. The ambiance is further enhanced by the sight of twinkling red lanterns adorning Hang Ma Street.

How to Book a Hanoi Free Walking Tour

Booking a Hanoi Free Walking Tour is typically a straightforward process. Many tour operators and local organizations offer these tours, and visitors can often find information and sign up for them through their hotel concierge, local tourism offices, or by searching online.

It’s worth noting that while the tours themselves are free of charge, some operators may suggest a voluntary tip or donation at the end of the tour to support the guides and the continued operation of the program.

Local Guides for Hanoi Free Walking Tours

The success of the Hanoi Free Walking Tours is largely due to the dedicated and knowledgeable local guides who lead them. These individuals are passionate about their city and are eager to share its rich history, culture, and traditions with visitors from around the world.

Many of the guides are university students or young professionals who have undergone training to become experts in Hanoi’s history, architecture, and cultural heritage. They possess excellent language skills and a deep understanding of the city’s unique charm, allowing them to provide engaging and informative tours.

One of the key advantages of the Hanoi Free Walking Tours is the opportunity for visitors to connect with these local guides on a personal level. The tours often include interactive elements, such as visits to local businesses, markets, and community hubs, where visitors can engage directly with the guides and gain a more authentic understanding of daily life in the city.

Cultural Experiences in Hanoi Free Walking Tours

In addition to exploring the city’s historical landmarks and architectural wonders, the Hanoi Free Walking Tours also offer visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the local culture and traditions.

Discovering Traditional Crafts and Artisanal Workshops

Many of the tours include visits to artisanal workshops and small businesses, where visitors can witness the intricate processes behind the creation of traditional Vietnamese crafts, such as silk weaving, lacquerware, and ceramic production.

Experiencing Vibrant Street Life and Local Markets

The Hanoi Free Walking Tours often take visitors through the bustling local markets and lively street scenes, where they can observe the daily routines and interactions of the city’s residents, as well as sample the diverse array of street food and local produce.

Engaging with the Performing Arts and Cultural Traditions

Some tours may also incorporate visits to cultural performance venues, where visitors can witness traditional Vietnamese music, dance, and theater, or participate in interactive workshops that showcase the country’s rich artistic heritage.

Safety Measures for Hanoi Free Walking Tours

The Hanoi Free Walking Tours are generally safe and well-organized, but as with any travel experience, it’s important to take certain precautions to ensure your personal safety and the security of your belongings.

Staying Vigilant and Aware of Your Surroundings

While Hanoi is generally a safe city, it’s important to remain aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas and when navigating the busy streets. Follow the guidance of your tour guide and keep a close eye on your personal items.

Staying Hydrated and Seeking Shade

Hanoi can be hot and humid, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated throughout the tour and seek shade whenever possible. Bring a water bottle and wear appropriate clothing and sun protection.

Respecting Local Customs and Traditions

When visiting cultural and religious sites, it’s important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Follow the guidance of your tour guide and be mindful of any dress code or etiquette requirements.

Securing Your Belongings

While instances of theft are relatively rare on the Hanoi Free Walking Tours, it’s still a good idea to keep your valuables secure and to avoid flaunting expensive items.


Q: Are the Hanoi Free Walking Tours really free? A: Yes, the Hanoi Free Walking Tours are entirely free of charge. The guides work on a voluntary basis, and the tours are supported by local organizations and tourism boards.

Q: Do I need to make a reservation for the Hanoi Free Walking Tours? A: While it’s not always necessary to make a reservation, it’s a good idea to check with the tour operator or local organization to confirm the tour schedule and availability, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Q: What should I bring with me on a Hanoi Free Walking Tour? A: It’s recommended to bring comfortable walking shoes, a water bottle, sun protection (hat, sunscreen), and any necessary medications. You may also want to bring cash for optional activities or tipping your guide.

Q: Are the Hanoi Free Walking Tours suitable for families with children? A: Yes, the Hanoi Free Walking Tours are generally family-friendly and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The guides often adapt the tours to accommodate the needs of children and ensure a safe and engaging experience for all participants.

Q: Can I customize the Hanoi Free Walking Tour to my interests? A: Many tour operators and organizations offer a variety of Hanoi Free Walking Tour options, catering to different interests and themes. You can often find tours focused on specific aspects of the city, such as its history, architecture, cuisine, or cultural traditions.

The Hanoi Free Walking Tours offer a unique and unparalleled opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of this captivating Vietnamese city. From exploring the vibrant Old Quarter and discovering the city’s colonial heritage to uncovering hidden gems and engaging with the local culture, these tours provide an authentic and enriching experience that is truly priceless.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, the Hanoi Free Walking Tours are an essential part of any journey to this remarkable destination. By connecting with passionate local guides and engaging with the city on a deeply personal level, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for Hanoi’s history, traditions, and the enduring spirit of its people.

So, if you’re planning a visit to Hanoi, be sure to set aside time for a Hanoi Walking Tour. It’s an experience that will not only leave you with lasting memories but also a profound understanding of this captivating city and its vibrant culture.