Two women washing dishes outside their house
Street photography,  Sunday Stills,  Travel galleries,  Vietnam

Gallery: a walk on the streets of old Hanoi

In the Old Quarter of Hanoi life is lived on the street. Meals are cooked and eaten, food and other goods sold, games played by young and old alike. Shops spill out on to pavements, while rickshaws, cyclo-rickshaws, bicycles, scooters and motorbikes all weave amongst the shoppers and strolling tourists.

Known more properly as the Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a street photographer’s dream!

Click on the photos for a slideshow

Train Street

For the most part it is fun just to wander around the district with no particular sight in mind. But one must-see is the so-called Train Street, where a railway line cuts through the city down the centre of the road. Trains run through here a couple of times a day, passing just inches from some of the buildings; signs at various little cafés along the road advertise the times. I would have loved to have seen that but even without a train this is a very photogenic spot.

As well as all the activity it was interesting to see the mix of architecture, with old and sometimes crumbling French Colonial buildings interspersed with a handful of newer ones, and almost all with some sort of business operating out of the ground floor. Vietnam may be a Communist-run country, but since opening up to the world it has also opened up to private enterprise.

This gallery is my contribution to the Sunday Stills photo challenge ‘City Sidewalks’. I hope you’ve enjoyed walking with me through the streets of old Hanoi.

See more of my street photography in another of my galleries: Focus on the subject

I visited Hanoi in 2020 (just before the pandemic took its hold on the world)


  • thebeerwanderer

    Great images and fun to see. We missed the train street in 2004, don’t even remember reading about it and certainly atmospheric for pictures. I had to ask D to make sure, she’s got a much better memory than me!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I only read about Train Street after our visit Richie, but it seems to be quite a draw, although it’s hard to be sure as already in mid February this year, when we were in Hanoi, tourism was tailing off because of COVID. Our guide led us there as part of a meandering walk through the old quarter 🙂 Thanks for visiting and commenting, glad you enjoyed the photos 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, I saw your comment to Terri 🙂 I’ve never been to Seoul so can’t compare – certainly life in North Korea is nothing like this!! But I agree about India and not just the south – Old Delhi was an amazing place for street photography because so much of daily life happens out in the open like this. And markets everywhere are indeed well worth a visit. I always head for a local market wherever we are, whether in Asia like this or many parts of Europe (Italian markets are wonderful, for instance!)

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    A street photographer’s dream indeed, Sarah! Lovely shots of every day life in Hanoi. I guess social distancing is not a thing there. I remember my uncle moved to Seoul Korea in the 70s and sent back photos very similar to your images. I suppose that lifestyle is timeless.

    • margaret21

      That’s really interesting! We were in South Korea three years ago now, and I was on the point of commenting that these images paint a picture rather unlike our experiences there, where we didn’t see that much evidence of street life of this kind outside the market areas. We’re not experts of course, as we were only there for a month, so I expect to be corrected. Markets however, were wonderful, and a fully necessary part of life in a way that has ben lost here, as far as I can see.

  • Nemorino

    I didn’t see the train street when I was in Hanoi in 1995. In fact, I don’t think I ever even heard of it until ten or twelve years later, when I read about it on VT.

  • katieshevlin62gmailcom

    I visited Hanoi in 2004 when I was teaching English in Saigon. You reminded me how colourful and alive the city is. You’ve shown a great selection of photos and I loved looking at them.

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