The salubrious Trang Tien in Hanoi is a wonderful promenade and one of the capital’s most fascinating streets in terms of architecture.
he Old Quarter of Hanoi is also sometimes referred to in Vietnamese as “36 streets” and local Hanoians often refer to Trang Tien as the 37th street. However, compared to the skinny and congested streets of the Old Quarter, Trang Tien is much wider and opulent thoroughfare replete with colonial buildings.
Its history is obviously tied to France’s colonial administration. But it existed before the French arrived. The original name of the street was Truong Tien in reference to the state mint which was established in 1808 under the Nguyen dynasty.
The mint was demolished in 1887 by the French colonial authorities who had grand plans for the capital of Tonkin, the French name for northern Vietnam. Looking down the 700-metre long road from Hoan Kiem lake you can see a colossal colonial icon in the shape of the Hanoi Opera House, a small-scale replica of Palais Garnier in Paris. Built in 1901, the Opera House is still one of the city’s most prominent landmarks.
The whole of Trang Tien street was originally built by the French for the French. It was to be a boulevard that wouldn’t look out of place in the heart of Paris. At the time the street was named Rue Paul Bert after the French zoologist, physiologist and politician, who was appointed resident-general of Annam and Tonkin in early 1886, and died of dysentery in Hanoi later that same year.
Shopping and ice-cream!
Trang Tien plaza, 24 Hai Ba Trung
For Hanoians, Trang Tien is now synonymous with shopping. In colonial times the French also came to the street to shop. Where once there was a department store called Gouda now there is a modern shopping mall, Trang Tien Plaza.
The plaza opened at the turn of the last century and was at the time the most modern commercial centre in Hanoi. Shoppers can find all sorts of brand names for clothes, footwear, sportswear, jewellery and accessories such as watches and sunglasses. During summer the plaza is always a bustling place as Hanoians look to escape the intense heat on the street.
Trang Tien street is home to a number of fashion shops catering for both men and women. Phu Hung at 8, 14, 20 Trang Tien is well known for its tailor made suits. At 48 Trang Tien, Trang Tien Glasses you can pick some shades by Dunhill, Cartier, Lastes, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, L’AMY or Gucci. You will also find a great selection of shirts, dresses, pants, coats and skirts for women in Nem at 60 Trang Tien.
Trang Tien is well known for being a haven for bookworms and has become the biggest and the busiest book-street in Hanoi. There are a number of large bookstores catering mostly to Vietnamese but you can find increasing amounts of English language books as well as newspapers and magazines. You can also find plenty of resources for studying Vietnamese.
Trang Tien Ice-cream, 35 Trang Tien
Trang Tien Ice Cream is an institution in Hanoi – on hot days you can see massive crowds outside the small outlet near the junction of Ngo Quyen- Trang Tien. You can find lots of delicious flavours such as green bean, chocolate or “com” (green rice flakes).
Established in 1958, Trang Tien is now expanding with more outlets opening up throughout the city but Hanoians always prefer to head to the source. The ice cream is well known for its quality and taste but it’s also cheap so even those less well off can enjoy a scoop.
The Workers’ Cinema, 42 Trang Tien
Currently being redeveloped for the the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi next year, the Workers’ Cinema was originally built in 1917 by the French colonial authorities and known as Eden cinema. After the capital was liberated in 1954, the cinema was renamed the Workers’ cinema. After it reopens the building will be used for art performances and exhibitions.
The National Museum of Vietnamese History, 1 Trang Tien
This museum once belonged to the Far East Research Institute of France. Today, the museum showcases Vietnam’s history with large displays of Dong Son-period bronze drums, Bat Trang ceramics, Shiva statue and vestiges of wars. The building was designed by the architect Ernest Hébrard and constructed in 1932.
It is considered a successful blend of French colonial and traditional Vietnamese architecture – a genre known as “Indochina architecture”. Hébrard created double walls and balconies to create a natural ventilation system and protect the interior from sunshine. The museum is open daily except for Mondays.
The Hanoi Opera House, 1 Trang Tien
The Hanoi Opera House is still a cultural centre for the capital and a frequent venue for classical concerts, operas and ballets as well as theatre performances.
The Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra, which first formed back in 1959, regularly plays concerts with guest conductors and musicians from around the world. Check out www.ticketvn.com for upcoming shows.
L’Espace, 24 Trang Tien
A cultural bridge between Vietnam and France, L’Espace is a reincarnation of Alliance Francaise, which was originally established in 1993. Funded by the French government, L’Espace ceaselessly promotes arts and culture with regular exhibitions, concerts and theatre performances. It also provides a space for the study of the French language with a multimedia library and modern study rooms.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!
BBQ Chicken, 35 Trang TienTapping Vietnam’s growing demand for modern fast-food restaurants, the Korean-owned BBQ Chicken has opened numerous outlets across the capital city, competing toe-to-toe with the more internationally known KFC. The simple recipe of grilled chicken seems to be popular with the local palate.
Hanoi Cafe & Restaurant, 43 Trang Tien
Hanoi Café & Restaurant is both a culinary and a cultural space. Located in a French designed house you can find traditional Vietnamese and international cuisine as well as an art gallery, which highlights the work of some of the best Vietnamese contemporary artists.
Green Palm Gallery, 15 Trang Tien A mid- sized gallery, near the Hanoi Opera House, Green Palm displays the works of contemporary artists such as Bui Huu Hung, Dao Hai Phong and Nguyen Thanh Binh as well as work by lesser-known or emerging artists.
Adong Art Gallery, 61 Trang Tien Established in 1998 this gallery showcases the work of several senior artists from Vietnam’s Fine Art Association, professors and lecturers from various fine art institutions as well as younger talents; an excellent starting point for anyone interested in discovering more about the multi-faceted art scene with a wide variety of styles on display. Art lovers should also check out Good Home Gallery and New Gallery at 21 Trang Tien, Thanh Mai Gallery at 11 or Viet Art Gallery at 18.