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Vietnam travel guide

Hà Nội Old Quarter (Phố cổ Hà Nội)

Location : Quận Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Việt Nam

With the large area of 100 hectares, the Old Quarter in Hanoi has a very long history of thousand years of existing. When King Lý Thái Tổ moved his capital from Hoa Lư to Thăng Long in 1010 the Old Quarter was the trading hub of the new capital, and it was here in the 13th century that 36 guilds were established, each occupying a different street – hence the original name ’36 Streets’.

Nowadays, the Old Quarter includes about 50 streets. Their names are originally formed based on the goods that the citizens living in these area made and sold such as Hang Gai (silk), Hàng Quạt (fans), Hàng Giày (shoes), Hàng Bạc (silver), although comparatively few streets now specialize in any particular trade.

The ‘tube house’ design which predominates in the Old Quarter originally evolved in response to a tax on the width of shop fronts; surviving examples of the original design are just 2 to 4 metres wide and two storeys tall, with a shop in the front portion, rooms containing manufacturing or assembly facilities in the middle and residential and dining quarters in the rear.

Unfortunately the older houses so beloved of conservationists generally offer cramped and substandard living conditions to the numerous families that share them, and not surprisingly many were destroyed during the 1980s and early 1990s in the rush to build more suitable accommodation.

Over the past few years the Hà Nội People’s Committee has been seeking to balance the needs of modernization and development with measures to protect what remains of the Old Quarter’s architectural heritage. Hà Nội People’s Committee has entrusted responsibility for the preservation, conservation and development of the Old Quarter to the Hà Nội Old Quarter Management Board, which has restored two of the quarter’s most noteworthy houses (see below). Efforts are currently focused on seeking recognition of Hà Nội’s Old Quarter as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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