Book Street Hanoi stands as a sanctuary for literature enthusiasts. For those with a passion for reading journeying through Hanoi, this literary haven filled with hidden gems is an unmissable stop.
Top 4 Book Streets in Hanoi
19/12 – Book Street Hanoi
Lying quietly between the bustling Ly Thuong Kiet and Hai Ba Trung streets, the 19/12 Book Street carries a history that few are privy to. This quaint street once served as a parking area for the renowned “Hell market”.
However, embracing a new chapter of its existence, it transformed into a dedicated book street, officially inaugurated in May 2017. This metamorphosis has since turned it into a favorite haunt for not just the locals of Ha Thanh but also visitors from far and wide.
As you embark on a stroll down this 200-meter stretch, a beautifully crafted stone column greets you at its commencement. Etched with “Hanoi book street” and graced by the emblematic cultural symbol of the city, the Temple of Literature, it sets the tone for the literary journey ahead.
But 19/12 Book Street is not just about the sale of books. It embodies Hanoi’s cultural heartbeat. It serves as a hub for literary happenings where new literary pieces are unveiled, and readers have the golden opportunity to engage in enriching dialogues with authors.
Among the many booths that line this path, renowned publishers such as Kim Dong, Phuong Nam, Nha Nam, and Tien Phong showcase their masterpieces. While the exhibition spaces may appear modest in size, focusing predominantly on new and standout titles, they offer a glimpse into the contemporary literary scene, though perhaps not an exhaustive genre representation.
The ambiance of 19/12 Book Street is evocative of Hanoi’s historic quarters. Dark green stalls reminiscent of yesteryears, trees cloaked in moss flanking both sides, and the subdued hue of paving bricks create a tranquil backdrop. This setting seems almost crafted by design for indulging in a good read, leisurely walks, or deep conversations.
Dinh Le Book Street
Address: Dinh Le Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.
While the 19/12 Book Street can be seen as an emerging prodigy, Dinh Le stands as the seasoned elder, having matured alongside the rich tapestry of Hanoi’s growth. Locals from the vicinity of the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake often share an old saying: “When at Hoan Kiem Lake, don’t forget to wander through Trang Tien Plaza, savor the delights of Trang Tien ice cream, and make a must-visit stop at Dinh Le Book Street.”
Historically, this street was a beacon for book lovers. It once housed Hanoi’s two preeminent state-owned bookstores, Quoc Van Bookstore and Foreign Language Bookstore, thereby cementing its reputation as the ultimate hub for bibliophiles.
Yet, the essence of Dinh Le’s fame can be attributed to the small store founded by Mrs. Pham Thi Mao. What began as an unassuming venture has, over time, metamorphosed into the famed Mao bookstore, an institution in Hanoi that few are unaware of.
Even with the burgeoning of myriad bookstores across the city, “Mao” retains a special place in the hearts of many, particularly students. The ambiance of Mao is reminiscent of a time gone by – its walls lined with towering bookshelves, crowned by the emblematic spiral staircase. For anyone with a penchant for books, Mao is nothing short of a sanctuary.
But Dinh Le is more than just Mao. The street boasts an array of shops offering a vast expanse of genres – from educational materials, international literary classics, spine-chilling horror tales, riveting detective stories, to introspective narratives on life.
With books spanning across different times and geographies, these densely-packed bookshelves cater to diverse audiences – from inquisitive young students and discerning middle-aged readers to seasoned seniors.
Despite its long-standing history, Dinh Le’s prime location near Hoan Kiem Lake, coupled with its illustrious reputation, ensures that it remains a bustling hotspot, with its allure intensifying over weekends.
Lang Book Street
Address: Lang Street, Lang Thuong, Dong Da District, Hanoi.
Amidst the urban sprawl of Hanoi, Lang Street stands as a testament to the city’s rich literary tradition, particularly as the proud home to titans of the capital’s book industry: Tien Tho and Duc Tri bookstores.
What sets Lang Street apart from its counterparts is not the modernistic flair of 19/12 Book Street, nor the storied longevity of Dinh Le Street, but its unique charm emanating from its specialized offering of used books.
The bookstores lining this street are akin to treasure troves, boasting expansive collections that encompass various genres – be it literature, history, geography, accounting, banking, or foreign languages. The sheer variety and depth of this collection are so profound that merely mentioning a title often results in the shopkeeper promptly presenting the desired book.
Historically, Lang Book Street carved its niche by predominantly trading in second-hand books. However, recognizing the evolving demands of the reading populace, these shops have now expanded their offerings.
Today, alongside vintage classics, one can find brand-new releases, contemporary stories, magazines, and specialized literature catering to diverse readership needs. A noteworthy perk for bargain hunters is the potential to stumble upon brand new books at slashed prices, often reduced by 30-40% compared to mainstream market rates.
In essence, Lang Book Street serves as a bridge, connecting Hanoi’s past with its present, offering both timeless classics and contemporary tales, all within the cozy confines of its antiquated stores.
Pham Van Dong Book Street
Address: Pham Van Dong, Dich Vong Hau, Cau Giay, Hanoi
Situated between the gates of the University of Foreign Languages (part of the esteemed Hanoi National University) and the Tran Quoc Hoan Street, Pham Van Dong Book Street has historically been a Mecca for students. The reason? Its unbelievably affordable book prices.
The sidewalk stalls along this street present a medley of literary offerings. Ranging from foreign language guides to textbooks, reference materials, and books on economics, these stalls primarily cater to a student demographic. However, what truly adds to its allure are the unique events hosted here.
Whether it’s a full-fledged book fair or innovative selling strategies like ‘books by the kilogram,’ these events have a magnetic pull, drawing in thousands of enthusiastic visitors daily.
But the crown jewel of Pham Van Dong Book Street is its cost-effective approach to book selling. With many books priced at a mere 10k, this street is a boon for book-loving students on tight budgets. They can satiate their reading appetites without burning a hole in their pockets. In essence, Pham Van Dong stands as an emblem of affordable education and reading for all, making it a cherished spot in the heart of Hanoi’s literary community.
Tips for Visitors to Book Street Hanoi
Best Time to Visit
- Morning Serenity: The early hours from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM offer a peaceful environment, perfect for those looking to indulge in undisturbed reading or a serene coffee experience.
- Afternoon Bustle: If you want to experience the hustle and bustle, come by in the afternoon, especially during weekends. This is when the street comes alive with locals and tourists alike.
- Festive Seasons: Visiting during the Tết festival or other national holidays can be a unique experience. The street is often adorned with festive decor, and there are special events and readings.
Making the Most of Your Visit
- Cultural Etiquettes: While the Vietnamese are hospitable and understanding, it’s always good to show respect. When entering stores, a nod or a smile can go a long way. If you’re attending any readings or events, make sure to clap and show appreciation.
- Bargaining: While some prices are fixed, especially in more established stores, you can try your hand at bargaining in some of the smaller outlets. Always approach with politeness and a smile. Remember, it’s more about the experience than the final price!
- Navigating: Book Street Hanoi is a pedestrian zone, making it a joy to explore on foot. It’s advisable to start at one end and make your way down, taking in each store. If you’re not fluent in Vietnamese, having a translation app or a small phrasebook can enhance your interactions with the locals.
Book Street Hanoi stands as a timeless testament to Vietnam’s deep-rooted love for literature. Beyond its quaint bookstores and aromatic cafes, the street captures the very essence of the Vietnamese spirit. Each page turned reveals not just tales of fiction, but stories of a nation’s past and its aspirations for the future. In a world racing towards the digital, Book Street Hanoi is a gentle reminder of the enduring power of books and the shared histories they carry. It’s not merely a street, but a journey into Vietnam’s literary soul.
>>> See more: 36 streets in Hanoi