Photo: All your button and other haberdashery needs along Hang Bo.

Hanoi's 36 streets

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The 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter spread over a small area, but just try spending time here without getting lost! Here’s a rundown of some of the main streets and what you can find there.





But first, some background. Back in the day—around the 13th century, give or take—these streets became hectic with (possibly) 36 humming artisan guilds, either being established to provide goods to the emperor, or to trade with merchants, depending on who you read. Each guild was built surrounding its own temple dedicated to its patron spirit. The Old Quarter back then was gated and protected behind ramparts; only the eastern gate remains standing today.

The east gate is the only original gate left around Hanoi's Old Quarter. Photo taken in or around Hanoi's 36 streets, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

The east gate is the only original gate left around Hanoi's Old Quarter. Photo: Samantha Brown

Some streets still specialise in selling certain objects, but only a few remain properly faithful to their original craft. Some of the original streets and their merchandise include Cho Gau for rice, Hang But for brushes, Hang Huong for incense and Hang Than for charcoal.

The etymology of the 36 behind the 36 streets is unclear. Some believe there may have in fact been 36 guilds originally, but it’s also possible the 36 derives from four times nine, where four refers to north, south, east and west, and nine represents plenty.

Hang Ma is home mostly to colourful paper votive items. Photo taken in or around Hanoi's 36 streets, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Hang Ma is home mostly to colourful paper votive items. Photo: Samantha Brown

These days aside from some 70 or so streets in the Old Quarter, there are plenty more little alleys to wander around, too. While you wander, keep an eye out (and up) for tube houses, originally built with very narrow fronts and long rooms stretching back from the street in order for the owners to avoid paying property taxes based on street frontage. Houses were also restricted to being two-storeys high in deference to the palace and any passing royalty. A good example is 87 ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Location map for Hanoi's 36 streets

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