Ma May Street Hanoi: Location, History, Attractions, and More

Ma May Street, nestled in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, is a vibrant tapestry of history, culture, and culinary delights. This narrow street, bustling with life, offers visitors a unique glimpse into both Hanoi’s rich past and its dynamic present. From ancient temples to modern cafes, traditional crafts to international cuisine, Ma May Street encapsulates the essence of Vietnam’s capital city. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or simply seeking an authentic Vietnamese experience, Ma May Street promises an unforgettable journey through the soul of Hanoi.

Ma May street in Hanoi
Ma May street in Hanoi

Where is Ma May street, how to get there?

Location of Ma May street Hanoi

Ma May Street is situated in the northern part of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its historical and cultural significance. The street runs parallel to the bustling Hang Bac Street, known for its silver shops and jewelry stores. Ma May is strategically positioned between Luong Ngoc Quyen Street to the west and Hang Duong Street to the east, making it easily accessible from various points in the Old Quarter.

The street’s central location places it within walking distance of several notable landmarks:

  • Hoan Kiem Lake: A 10-minute walk south
  • Dong Xuan Market: A 5-minute walk north
  • Bach Ma Temple: Less than 5 minutes on foot
  • Ancient House at 87 Ma May: Located directly on the street

This prime location makes Ma May Street an ideal starting point for exploring the Old Quarter and experiencing the authentic charm of Hanoi.

Transportation options to Ma May street

Reaching Ma May Street is relatively easy, thanks to Hanoi’s diverse transportation options. Here are the most popular ways to get there:

  • Public Transportation: Bus: Several bus routes serve the Old Quarter area. The closest stops to Ma May Street are on Hang Bac Street or Hang Buom Street. Look for routes 8, 31, or 36.
  • Taxi: Metered taxis are readily available throughout Hanoi. Make sure to use reputable companies like Mai Linh or Vinasun.
  • Ride-hailing apps: Grab is widely used in Hanoi and offers a convenient option with upfront pricing.
  • Private Transportation: Motorbike rentals: A popular choice for adventurous travelers. However, be cautious of the chaotic traffic, especially in the Old Quarter.
  • Cyclos: These traditional three-wheeled bicycles offer a unique way to experience the city. Negotiate the price before starting your journey.
  • Walking: If you’re already in the Old Quarter, walking to Ma May Street is often the best option. It allows you to soak in the atmosphere and discover hidden gems along the way.
Transportation Method Pros Cons
Bus Affordable, local experience Can be crowded, limited routes
Taxi Convenient, air-conditioned More expensive, potential for scams
Ride-hailing apps Upfront pricing, easy to use Requires internet connection
Motorbike rental Flexible, fun Risky for inexperienced riders
Cyclo Unique experience, good for sightseeing Slow, can be expensive for tourists
Walking Free, immersive experience Weather-dependent, can be tiring

Directions to Ma May street

Navigating to Ma May Street depends on your starting point. Here are directions from some popular locations in Hanoi:

From Hoan Kiem Lake:

  • Head north on Hang Dao Street
  • Continue onto Hang Buom Street
  • Turn right onto Ma May Street
  • Total distance: Approximately 800 meters

From Hanoi Opera House:

  • Walk west on Trang Tien Street
  • Turn right onto Hang Bac Street
  • Turn left onto Ma May Street
  • Total distance: Approximately 1.5 kilometers

From Long Bien Bridge:

  • Head southwest on Tran Nhat Duat Street
  • Turn left onto Hang Buom Street
  • Turn right onto Ma May Street
  • Total distance: Approximately 1 kilometer

From Dong Xuan Market:

  • Exit the market and head south on Dong Xuan Street
  • Turn left onto Hang Giay Street
  • Turn right onto Ma May Street
  • Total distance: Approximately 400 meters

When navigating the Old Quarter, keep in mind that street names often change every few blocks, reflecting the goods traditionally sold on each street. This can make navigation challenging, so don’t hesitate to ask locals for directions if you get lost. Most people in the touristy areas speak some English and are generally happy to help.

History of Ma May street

History of Ma May street
History of Ma May street

Origins of Ma May street

The history of Ma May Street dates back to the 15th century during the Le Dynasty, a period of significant growth and development for Hanoi. The street’s name, “Ma May” holds historical significance and offers insight into its origins:

  • Mã: Type of horse used by the Vietnamese military during this period.
  • Mây: Meaning rattan or wicker.

This combination suggests that Ma May Street was originally associated with the production or trade of items related to horses and rattan goods. The street’s formation was part of the larger development of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, known as “36 Streets”, where each street specialized in a particular trade or craft.

During its early years, Ma May Street likely served as:

  1. A hub for military-related goods, particularly those associated with horses
  2. A center for rattan and wicker craftsmanship
  3. A residential area for artisans and traders involved in these industries

The street’s layout and architecture during this period would have reflected its dual purpose as both a commercial and residential area. Narrow tube houses, a characteristic feature of the Old Quarter, began to emerge during this time. These unique buildings were designed to maximize street frontage while minimizing tax liabilities, which were based on the width of the facade.

Evolution of Ma May street over the years

As Hanoi grew and changed over the centuries, so did Ma May Street. Its evolution can be traced through several key periods:

Late Le Dynasty and Tay Son Period (16th-18th centuries):

  • The street continued to develop as a craft and trade center
  • The guild system strengthened, with artisans and traders organizing into professional associations
  • The foundations of many of the street’s traditional houses were laid during this time

Nguyen Dynasty (19th century):

  • Ma May Street saw increased commercial activity
  • The influence of Chinese merchants grew, introducing new architectural styles and business practices
  • The street began to diversify beyond its original specializations

French Colonial Period (late 19th – mid 20th century):

  • Ma May Street, like much of the Old Quarter, experienced significant changes
  • French colonial architecture began to blend with traditional Vietnamese styles
  • New goods and services were introduced, catering to both local and French clientele
  • The street became a melting pot of Vietnamese and Western influences

Post-Independence Era (1954 onwards):

  • After Vietnam gained independence, Ma May Street adapted to the new economic and political realities
  • Many buildings were repurposed or subdivided to accommodate more families
  • Traditional crafts and trades began to give way to more modern businesses

Contemporary Period (late 20th century – present):

  • Ma May Street has become a popular tourist destination
  • Efforts to preserve the street’s historical character have intensified
  • A balance between modernization and preservation continues to shape the street’s development

Today, Ma May Street stands as a living testament to Hanoi’s rich history, with buildings and businesses representing various periods of its evolution. The Ancient House at 87 Ma May, a beautifully preserved 19th-century merchant’s home, offers visitors a glimpse into the street’s past.

Significance of Ma May street in Hanoi’s history

Ancient House 87 Ma May
Ancient House 87 Ma May

Ma May Street holds a special place in Hanoi’s historical narrative, serving as a microcosm of the city’s broader development. Its significance can be understood through several key aspects:

Architectural Heritage:

  • Ma May Street showcases a unique blend of architectural styles spanning several centuries
  • The street’s tube houses exemplify traditional Vietnamese urban design
  • Colonial-era buildings reflect the influence of French rule
  • This architectural diversity makes Ma May Street a valuable resource for understanding Hanoi’s built environment over time

Economic History:

  • The street’s evolution from a specialized craft center to a diverse commercial hub mirrors Hanoi’s economic development
  • It illustrates the adaptability of Vietnamese merchants and artisans through changing economic conditions
  • Ma May Street’s current mix of traditional and modern businesses demonstrates the ongoing negotiation between heritage and progress

Cultural Preservation:

  • Efforts to maintain Ma May Street’s historical character have made it a model for urban conservation in Vietnam
  • The restoration of buildings like the Ancient House at 87 Ma May has helped preserve traditional craftsmanship and architectural techniques
  • These preservation efforts contribute to maintaining Hanoi’s cultural identity in the face of rapid modernization

Social History:

  • The street’s changing demographics over time reflect broader social shifts in Hanoi
  • From guild-based communities to diverse modern neighborhoods, Ma May Street tells the story of Hanoi’s social evolution
  • The street’s current role as a meeting point for locals and tourists exemplifies Hanoi’s growing international connections

Tourism and Cultural Exchange:

  • As part of the Old Quarter, Ma May Street plays a crucial role in Hanoi’s tourism industry
  • It offers visitors an authentic experience of Vietnamese urban life and history
  • The street facilitates cultural exchange between locals and international visitors, contributing to mutual understanding and appreciation

Ma May Street’s significance extends beyond its physical boundaries. It serves as:

  • A living museum of Hanoi’s urban development
  • A case study in the challenges and opportunities of heritage preservation
  • A symbol of Hanoi’s resilience and adaptability through centuries of change

By walking down Ma May Street today, one can trace the footsteps of countless generations of Hanoians, from ancient artisans to modern entrepreneurs. Its continued vitality and relevance make it not just a historical artifact, but an integral part of Hanoi’s contemporary identity.

Attractions around Ma May street

Bach Ma Temple
Bach Ma Temple

Cultural sites near Ma May street

Ma May Street is surrounded by a wealth of cultural attractions that offer visitors a deep dive into Hanoi’s rich heritage. Here are some of the most notable sites:

Bach Ma Temple:

  • Location: Just a short walk from Ma May Street on Hang Buom Street
  • Significance: One of the oldest temples in Hanoi, dedicated to a legendary white horse
  • Features:
    • Beautiful architectural details
    • Intricate wood carvings
    • Regular ceremonies and rituals

Ancient House at 87 Ma May:

  • Location: Directly on Ma May Street
  • Significance: A well-preserved example of a traditional Hanoi merchant’s home
  • Features:
    • Original 19th-century architecture
    • Period furnishings and decor
    • Insight into daily life in old Hanoi

Dong Xuan Market:

  • Location: A short walk north of Ma May Street
  • Significance: Hanoi’s largest indoor market, dating back to 1889
  • Features:
    • Wide variety of goods, from fresh produce to souvenirs
    • Bustling atmosphere
    • Food court with local specialties

Hoan Kiem Lake:

  • Location: About a 10-minute walk south of Ma May Street
  • Significance: The heart of Hanoi, steeped in legend and history
  • Features:
    • Ngoc Son Temple on a small island
    • The iconic Huc Bridge
    • Peaceful walking paths around the lake

St. Joseph’s Cathedral:

  • Location: A 15-minute walk southwest of Ma May Street
  • Significance: The oldest church in Hanoi, built in 1886
  • Features:
    • Neo-Gothic architecture
    • Beautiful stained glass windows
    • Regular masses and services

These cultural sites offer a diverse range of experiences, from religious ceremonies to historical exploration and local commerce. Visitors can easily spend a full day exploring these attractions, all within walking distance of Ma May Street.

Shopping opportunities in the vicinity

Hang Gai Street
Hang Gai Street

The area around Ma May Street is a shopper’s paradise, offering everything from traditional handicrafts to modern fashion. Here’s a guide to the shopping opportunities in the vicinity:

Hang Gai Street (Silk Street):

  • Location: Parallel to Ma May Street, about 5 minutes walk south
  • Specialties:
    • High-quality silk products
    • Traditional Vietnamese clothing (Ao Dai)
    • Custom tailoring services
  • Notable shops:
    • Tan My Design

Hang Bac Street (Silver Street):

  • Location: Runs parallel to Ma May Street, just one block over
  • Specialties:
    • Silver jewelry and accessories
    • Gold items
    • Gemstones
  • Tips:
    • Bargaining is expected
    • Check for quality stamps on silver items

Lan Ong Street (Traditional Medicine Street):

  • Location: A short walk northwest of Ma May Street
  • Specialties:
    • Traditional Vietnamese herbs and medicines
    • Aromatic spices
    • Natural beauty products
  • Experience:
    • Unique sights and smells
    • Insight into traditional Vietnamese healing practices

Hang Tre Street (Bamboo Street):

  • Location: Intersects with Ma May Street
  • Specialties:
    • Bamboo and rattan products
    • Traditional Vietnamese musical instruments
    • Handmade souvenirs

Ma May Street itself:

  • Offers a mix of shops catering to tourists and locals alike
  • Find:
    • Souvenir shops
    • Local fashion boutiques
    • Art galleries featuring Vietnamese artists
Street Name Specialty Best For
Hang Gai Silk Clothing, fabrics
Hang Bac Silver Jewelry, precious metals
Lan Ong Traditional medicine Herbs, spices
Hang Tre Bamboo products Souvenirs, instruments
Ma May Mixed General shopping

Shopping tips for the area:

  • Bargaining is common and expected in most shops, except for fixed-price stores
  • Quality can vary widely, so inspect items carefully before purchasing
  • Be cautious of counterfeit goods, especially for branded items
  • Many shops can arrange shipping for larger purchases
  • Consider hiring a local guide for a curated shopping experience

Entertainment options close to Ma May street

Bia Hoi in Ta Hien Street
Bia Hoi in Ta Hien Street

While Ma May Street itself is primarily known for its historical significance and shopping, the surrounding area offers a variety of entertainment options to suit different tastes:

Bia Hoi in Ta Hien Street:

Location: Just a 5-minute walk from Ma May Street

  • Experience:
    • Fresh, locally brewed beer served on the street
    • Lively atmosphere, especially in the evenings
    • Great for people-watching and mingling with locals
  • Tips:
    • Busiest from 5 PM onwards
    • Bring cash, as most places don’t accept cards

Water Puppet Theater:

  • Location: Near Hoan Kiem Lake, about a 15-minute walk from Ma May Street
  • Features:
    • Traditional Vietnamese puppetry performed in water
    • Live music accompaniment
    • Shows typically last about an hour
  • Booking:
    • Advance booking recommended, especially during peak tourist season

Chops Old Quarter:

  • Location: On Ma May Street itself
  • Offerings:
    • Live music performances
    • Craft cocktails
    • International cuisine
  • Atmosphere:
    • Relaxed, trendy vibe
    • Popular with both locals and tourists

Hanoi Opera House:

  • Location: About a 20-minute walk south of Ma May Street
  • Performances:
    • Classical music concerts
    • Ballet and dance shows
    • Traditional Vietnamese performances
  • Tips:
    • Check the schedule in advance
    • Dress code may apply for some performances


  • Location: A 15-minute walk southwest of Ma May Street
  • Offerings:
    • Independent and art house films
    • Film festivals and special screenings
    • Small cafe for pre or post-movie refreshments

Long Bien Bridge:

  • Location: About a 15-minute walk northeast of Ma May Street
  • Experience:
    • Stunning views of the Red River, especially at sunset
    • Historical significance as a target during the Vietnam War
    • Popular spot for photographers

Evening entertainment options:

  • Rooftop bars:
    • Several hotels in the Old Quarter offer rooftop bars with panoramic views
    • Notable options: La Siesta Classic Ma May, Hanoi La Selva Hotel
  • Night markets:
    • Weekend night market on Hang Dao Street (Friday to Sunday evenings)
    • Offers: Street food, Souvenir shopping, Live performances
  • Cooking classes:
    • Several establishments in the Old Quarter offer cooking classes for those interested in learning how to make traditional Vietnamese dishes
    • Typically include a market tour to buy ingredients
    • Hands-on experience in preparing and cooking local recipes
    • Popular choices include: Duong’s Cooking Class, Hanoi Cooking Centre, Hidden Hanoi
  • Live music venues:
    • Various bars and cafes in the Old Quarter host live music performances
    • Genres range from traditional Vietnamese music to contemporary covers
    • Check local listings for upcoming shows and events
    • Recommended venues: The Doors Cafe Bar, Funky Jungle
  • Nightclubs:
    • For those looking to dance the night away, there are a few nightclubs in the area
    • Expect a mix of international and local DJs playing different music genres
    • Popular spots include: Savage Club, Dragonfly Bar Lounge
  • Cultural shows:
    • Some venues in the Old Quarter offer cultural shows showcasing traditional Vietnamese arts
    • Options may include water puppetry, folk music performances, and more
    • Great way to immerse yourself in the local culture
    • Top picks: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, Golden Bell Show

With a diverse range of entertainment options available near Ma May Street, visitors can easily find activities to suit their preferences and interests. Whether it’s enjoying a traditional water puppet show, exploring the vibrant nightlife scene, or simply relaxing at a rooftop bar with a view, there is something for everyone in this bustling area of Hanoi.


In conclusion, Ma May Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is not just a historical thoroughfare but a vibrant hub of culture, shopping, dining, and entertainment. From its humble origins as a residential street to its current status as a must-visit destination for tourists and locals alike, Ma May Street has evolved over the years while retaining its charm and significance.

Exploring Ma May Street and its surroundings offers a glimpse into Hanoi’s rich history, with attractions like the Old House at 87 Ma May providing insight into traditional Vietnamese architecture and lifestyle. The street’s proximity to other notable areas such as Lan Ong Street for traditional medicine and Hang Tre Street for bamboo products makes it a convenient starting point for a day of shopping and sightseeing.

When visiting Ma May Street, travelers can indulge in a variety of dining options, from traditional Vietnamese cuisine to international fare, and explore the numerous shops offering everything from souvenirs to high-quality silk and silver items. Additionally, the area boasts a range of entertainment choices, including live music venues, cultural shows, and even cooking classes for those interested in learning more about Vietnamese gastronomy.

Overall, Ma May Street encapsulates the essence of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, blending history with modernity to create a dynamic and engaging destination for visitors. By following the recommended tips, respecting local customs, and taking advantage of the diverse experiences available in the area, travelers can make the most of their time exploring this iconic street and its surroundings.

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