Most people when coming to Vietnam will want to visit the Old Quarter. But right next to it is the French Quarter, another spectacular spot for diversion in Hanoi. Totally opposite to the hustle and bustle Old Quarter, the French Quarter is brimming with majestic, elegant, Parisian-style buildings and a calmer atmosphere. Nowadays the Capital's expansion to the South and West has made the French Quarter the centerpiece of commercial and tourism activities, along with its main role of showcasing the legacy of the European colonialization of Vietnam.
History of establishment
The French Quarter was built and developed mainly during the French occupation, from early 20th century till 1945. The French, after destroying many ancient monuments, replaced them with a range of Parisian-style buildings and infrastructure, in order to regenerate the image of Paris right amidst the center of Citadel of Vietnam.
This is the center for Vietnamese and French white-collar workers in Hanoi, its infrastructures include offices for governance bodies or important venues (the State Bank of Vietnam building, the Building of the Governor of Tonkin (North Vietnam), National Library, banks, …); or separate mansions for high-income citizens.
Where is the French Quarter?
The French Quarter lies right next to the Old Quarter, extends from the area south of Hoan Kiem Lake to Thien Quang Lake.
Some must-see sites in the French Quarter
- St Joseph Cathedral
- Hoa Lo Prison Opera House
- National Museum of Vietnamese History
- Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel
- Main Branch of Trang Tien Ice Cream
Things to see and do
Harmonious combination of Vietnamese and French architecture
The architecture here is the focal point to any visitor. It is deeply influenced by the French architecture with a chess-board structure, wide pavements, gray slate tiles, and many trees.
Both Eastern and Western architecture were subtly combined, which made the French Quarter so majestic, unique and maintain the characteristics of Vietnamese culture. Its values also lie in its consistency in terms of styles, heights, density, even the influence lifestyle of people in this area. National Museum of Vietnamese History is an example. Designed by a French architect, however, he still exhibited images of tiled-roof houses, bronzes from the Dong Son culture, Hindu statues from the Khmer and Champa kingdoms, and especially displays relating to the French occupation and the Communist Party.
Besides, many mansions still exist designed by Vietnamese architects with support from French people. These mansions were permeated intricately with Northern French style. One of them was Palace of The Governor - General of French Indochina, built from 1900 to 1902, now is the Presidential Palace.
Another notable monument is The Hanoi Opera House, located at the beginning of Trang Tien Street. Having been built from 1902 to 1911, this is undoubtedly one of Vietnam's greatest architectural and cultural artwork. After over 100 years, it still remains as the largest theater in Vietnam with its magnificent beauty and excellent composition.
An ideal place for exploration of Hanoi's history and culture
If considering the heritage of Thang Long Citadel an epic novel about the development of people living here, the French Quarter is its main chapter. It marked a major step of urbanization and cultural integration of Hanoi to Western culture. Just a quick look at each store by the streets will give you an idea about the reception of urban space design, the development, and alteration based on French arts and architecture. They deeply reflect the ideas and mindset of Hanoi people during that time.
To better understand about this area, visitors can stop by a bookstore for the abundance of materials in multiple languages about the history and culture of Hanoi and Vietnam generally.
A great variety of entertainment
The French Quarter is home to some of the fanciest, hundred-year-old bookshops and art galleries, restaurants and hotels in Hanoi. Some rare books and art pieces about Vietnamese history are only available there. Besides, if you love wandering to explore the Quarter's cuisine but do not want to spend too much money eating at luxurious restaurants, try significant “bún đậu mắ m tôm”, fried rice, etc at Trang Tien Valley at a surprisingly cheap price! For musical lovers, they can have some high-quality time at The Opera House. They put on regular concerts and plays at reasonable prices.
Strolling around the French Quarter streets is another activity for leisure that you should not miss, or get on a pedicab – “xich lo to visit around the Quarter is also not a bad idea. Although the streets are always packed with traffic and crowded pedestrians swarm around, the scenery is certainly photogenic and there are still many wide pavements for people to enjoy the view at a slower pace.[0 You might have no choice but to participate in the bustling streets with other local people, but the experience of this historical place will be absolutely worth it.