Just so it’s clear. This is about the Hanoi Weekend Night Market — the one on Hang Dao Street on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. It covers the length of Hang Dao Street from the rotunda on the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake all the way to Dong Xuan Market. From end to end, it is about three kilometers long.
If you’ve never been to an Asian night market before, the Hanoi Night Market may be quite an experience. It’s a literal assault on the senses with so many products on display and, here and there, food stalls too.
If you simply want to get the feel of an Asian night market, by all means, visit the Hanoi Night Market. Experience haggling because, yes, it is expected.
Unique finds are, well… unique
Like many flea markets in Asian cities, once you’ve seen the first two dozen stalls at the Hanoi Night Market, you’ve really seen it all. The same bags, the same knockoff shoes, the same clothes. These goods come mostly from factories and they do not really represent local artistry.
There are a few exceptions, of course. There was a lady selling hand painted and hand made tote canvass bags. No photos allowed though. Sam chose two for herself and her sister.
There are also factory-made goods at very good prices. We were able to buy plenty of lounging shorts in the softest cotton you can lay your hands on.
Other than those, we just walked, looked and tried to find truly unique products but, in the end, we didn’t really buy a lot.
But that’s us. If you feel that the Hanoi Night Market is something that a visitor should experience to get an authentic feel of the place, here are a few things to consider.
You won’t find bathrooms in the night market
Attend to your necessities before going to the night market. Although there are restaurants and cafes in the vicinity, they will be overflowing with customers during the hours when the night market is open.
Street food at the night market is not all that good
Don’t think that the nibbling on street food while shopping is the equivalent of having a full meal.
Don’t think either that the street food at the night market is of the same quality as what you’d find in the Old Quarter, for instance.
There were plenty of hawkers selling skewered food. Take your pick, your chosen selection will be dunked in hot oil then drizzled with your preferred sauce. Sounds good, I know, until you take a bite and realize that the shrimps are not real shrimps but processed stuff shaped like shrimps. Same with the the sausages.
We moved to other food stalls.
I was able to get good banh mi. The bread was lighter and crispier than anything I had in Vietnam.
Sam had Korean fish cakes. I tried it but my tolerance for heat is not so good. I found the heat of the chili too overwhelming.
There are places in Hanoi where you’ll find stalls selling goods with better quality. These streets are lined with real shops, not pop-ups like the ones in the night market.
Hang Gai and Luong Van Can
These connecting streets are very near Hang Dao where the night market is on weekends.
Unlike the night market, the shops on Hang Gai and Luong Van Can are open from morning until evening everyday. Sam and I shopped there a few days later and we found the experience more rewarding.
Nha Chung, Nha Tho (Church) and Ly Quoc Su
These are streets in the vicinity of St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
At Nha Tho (Church) Street are shops selling bags, apparel and souvenir items. They’re not dirt-cheap but you can haggle. What I like about the shops there is that the products are, well, for lack of a better term, “curated.” They don’t look like factory rejects the way many of the products sold at the night market seemed to me.
Ly Quoc Su Street is a hodgepodge of small shops and eateries. Super cheap prices.
With all those alternatives, would I care to go back to the Hanoi Weekend Night Market? No. Really. No, thanks.