Looking for something a bit different (and local) to do in Hanoi, Vietnam? Here’s everything you’ll need to plan a visit to Quang Ba Flower Market and Long Bien Market—with sunrise over Long Bien Bridge, Dong Xuan Market, and breakfast in Hanoi Old Quarter thrown in.
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There are two things I’ll always associate with Hanoi: Street food, and ladies wheeling bicycles laden with fresh-cut flowers. These two vibrant industries are part of the city’s character—without them, Hanoi just wouldn’t be the same. Street vendors are some of Hanoi’s hardest-working residents, and they start their days long before the rest of the city has woken up. One of the best things you can do when visiting Hanoi is check out the morning markets, where it all begins.
Quang Ba Flower Market (Hanoi’s main marketplace for fresh-cut flowers) and Long Bien Market (Northern Vietnam’s biggest wet market) are two of the best, most atmospheric markets in Southeast Asia. If you want an authentic, local experience in Hanoi, I can’t think of a better place to go. Unfortunately, most tourists miss out on the morning markets because of the early hours. Quang Ba Flower Market is most lively between 2am and 4am, while Long Bien Market peaks even earlier (around 1am) and peters out by sunrise.
These markets are not the place you go to do your souvenir shopping. Both are wholesale markets frequented by locals (street vendors, restaurateurs) and see relatively few tourists. (When we visited in July 2018, we were the only obvious tourists around.) Both markets are grungy and gritty—quite frankly, it’s a bit of a sensory assault. But hey, this is Asia and that should be part of the appeal! The main reason to visit Quang Ba Flower Market and Long Bien Market is to take photos and soak up the atmosphere.
Life in Hanoi’s markets
As an advocate of responsible tourism, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the ‘dark side’ of Quang Ba Flower Market and Long Bien Market. This is by no means limited to these two marketplaces either, and should be something you keep in mind whenever you visit a big market in Vietnam or elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Huge markets like these employ hundreds of people, from stallholders to truck drivers, labourers to cleaners. In the case of Long Bien Market, many of the porters have emigrated to Hanoi from rural areas in a bid to earn money to send back home. Pay is, unsurprisingly, very low; the hours and long and the labour back-breaking. Workers are vulnerable to abuse and often live in terrible conditions in dormitories. The street vendors (mostly women) who go on to sell flowers and vegetables on the streets of Hanoi have a similarly difficult life—lots of manual labour and very little in return.
This isn’t meant to ruin your experience of the markets—but as you make your way around, do keep in mind that there’s often more to these markets than meets the eye.
Everything you need to know before visiting Quang Ba Flower Market & Long Bien Market
Here’s your complete guide to visiting Quang Ba Flower Market and Long Bien Market—from transport info, to opening hours, to marketplace etiquette.
Location & getting there
Quang Ba Flower Market (Chợ Hoa Quảng Bá) is located in Hanoi’s Tay Ho (West Lake) district, about 7km (or a 25-minute drive) north of the Old Quarter. The main entrance to the market is off Au Co Street (the same dyke road you take from the airport to reach the city). There is also a listing for ‘Quang An Flower Market’ on Google, but they both pinpoint the same location. A Grab car to Quang Ba Flower Market will cost you around 100K VND (yes, it’s possible to order a Grab at this hour!). Expect to pay slightly less for a Grab bike, and slightly more for a taxi.
View the exact location of Quang Ba Flower Market on Google Maps.
Long Bien Market (Chợ Long Biên) is located roughly 3km (or a 10-minute drive) north of the Old Quarter and 4km (or a 15-minute drive) south of Quang Ba Flower Market. It sits at the foot of Hanoi’s iconic Long Bien Bridge, which spans the width of the Red River. (If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this magnificent structure, I highly recommend reading up before you go.) A Grab car from Quang Ba Flower Market to Long Bien Market to will cost you around 70K VND.
View the exact location of Long Bien Market on Google Maps.
Opening hours & the best time to visit
Quang Ba Flower Market is open daily and has two sessions: 2am until 4am (for wholesalers) and 4am until midday (for retailers). The market is at its most vibrant and interesting in the wee hours, so I recommend visiting for the first session. Generally, it gets quieter and less ‘pretty’ as time wears on and all the lushest blooms get snapped up. Quang Ba is extremely lively in the lead up to Tet (Vietnamese New Year) and other holidays, but it’s good to visit any time of year.
I recommend spending at least 90 minutes at Quang Ba Flower Market.
Long Bien Market operates 24/7 but really gets going after dark. At around 1am, the produce trucks start arriving from as far away as China. It’s good fun to watch them being unloaded. The market peaks at around 3am; then the later it gets, the hotter and the smellier it becomes. Vendors are supposed to stop selling at 5am. Police start patrolling the area in vans, warning people to close up (they usually pop back up once the trucks are out of sight). Things have well and truly wrapped up for the morning by sunrise, and at 6am, the street cleaners move in. The market does continue though, and it can still be nice to wander around in the light of day.
I recommend setting aside 2 hours for Long Bien Market. You could easily stay for longer if you’re really into street photography.
Suggested itinerary for visiting Quang Ba Flower Market & Long Bien Market
Here’s my recommended itinerary for visiting Quang Ba Flower Market, Long Bien Market and Bridge, plus Dong Xuan Market and the Old Quarter. I recommend heading to Quang Ba first before taking a taxi to Long Bien for sunrise.
2am | Wake up call! Take a car to Quang Ba Flower Market (about 20 to 25 minutes from the Old Quarter).
2.40am-4am | Quang Ba Flower Market.
4am | Depart for Long Bien Market (about 15 minutes’ drive south).
4.15am-5.30am | Long Bien Market.
5.30am (summer) | Watch the sun rise over Long Bien Bridge before returning to the market.
6am | Have a quick look at Long Bien Train Station before continuing a few hundred metres south to Dong Xuan Market.
6.30am | Time for breakfast and a well-deserved cà phê sữa!
We stuck to this exact itinerary on our visit in July 2018. When we arrived at Quang Ba, we were worried we were too early—but the timing turned out to be perfect.
Navigating the markets
Quang Ba Flower Market is compact and easy to navigate. The main entrance is via a marked archway, sunken down off the Au Co Street. There are two main corridors through the market, each lined with stalls on both sides. On the right, you’ll see a big undercover shed where some covered shops are housed. Along the outer left-hand side of the market there are half a dozen street food stalls. Majority of the flower shops are makeshift and lit by bare light bulbs, which gives the market a great atmosphere but makes for challenging photography conditions! Towards the back, Quang Ba Flower Market opens up into a small car park where lorries congregate to offload their blooms. Motorbikes speed up and down the corridors, loading and unloading flatbed trolleys full of flowers. Be extremely cautious of traffic!
Long Bien Market is less formal than Quang Ba Flower Market. Stalls and sellers stretch out far beyond the boundaries of the market proper onto the surrounding roads and sidewalks. The main entrance to the main market is off Street, right underneath Long Bien Bridge. Once you’re inside, the market breaks off into a number of roads and alleyways. At first, we stuck to the right, following the cement wall (the other side of Hanoi’s mosaic), which goes on for blocks and blocks. People sit in the bottoms of shop houses, peeling, slicing and dicing all kinds of fruit and veg. Huge stacks of pineapples and potatoes are piled up against the concrete wall opposite.
The indoor portion of Long Bien Market is well-lit but jam-packed—expect to be jostled along a bit by busy shoppers and porters. Avoid the area where the trucks unload (you’ll know it when you see it) as the traffic can be perilous. Long Bien Market mainly stocks agricultural products, but there’s also a seafood section at the back (you’ll know it when you smell it). I couldn’t stomach it, so we chose to avoid this area.
For a birds-eye view of Long Bien Market, head up to Long Bien Bridge (enter on the right, opposite Long Bien Train Station). Note that motorbike traffic flows the opposite way to normal (i.e. people drive on the left). There’s a raised concrete pathway on the far edge of the bridge reserved for pedestrians. Before dawn, you’ll see lots of locals walking or running up and down the pathway. It could do with some repairs, but it’s safe. I recommend walking right up to the halfway point, where the bridge widens considerably into a something of a viewing platform.
To reach Dong Xuan Market from Long Bien Market, walk 900m southwest along Hang Dau and Hang Giay Streets (see directions here). My favourite stalls are located outside along the eastern side.
Bargaining | A bunch of flowers from Quang Ba Flower Market can brighten up your guesthouse or serve as a thoughtful gift for your hosts in Hanoi. If you do decide to purchase a bunch of flowers, remember to haggle (it’s part of the process), but do so respectfully. Long Bien Market is a wholesale market, so I don’t recommend attempting to purchase anything unless you know what you’re doing. Dong Xuan Market is also wholesale but slightly more tourist-friendly. If you do want to pick up some fresh fruit or veg, do it there.
Photography | Both Quang Ba Flower Market and Long Bien Market are packed with people going about their daily business. Getting in their way when taking photos can tick people off—and it can also be dangerous if you end up stepping into traffic. Be mindful of photographing people’s faces—if in doubt, ask first and show them the picture after. One lady at Quang Ba insisted I didn’t photograph her stall—I’ve no idea why, but I respected her wishes.
Safety | It’s fine to whip out your camera or phone to take photos at Quang Ba and Long Bien. But I would recommend leaving your passport at home, and only carrying minimal cash on you. We both carried backpacks inside the markets and at no point did we feel threatened. Use common sense and be aware of your surroundings. Traffic is by far the biggest hazard—especially at Long Bien Market. Watch out for motorbikes, which speed through the narrowest of passageways and often creep up on you or start reversing with no warning. If you’re visiting Long Bien Market later in the morning, be wary of city buses on the main street, which start their routes at around 5.30am.
Where to go for breakfast after visiting the markets
If you follow my itinerary and finish your route at Dong Xuan Market, you might like to continue walking a few more blocks south into the heart of the Old Quarter, where there are dozens of street food spots to choose from. If you’re craving something different, Lifted, The Hanoi Social Club and Chops (all in the Old Quarter; all open from 8am daily) are three of my favourite Western breakfast joints.
If you just end up visiting Quang Ba Flower Market, I recommend breakfasting at the nearby Maison de Tet Decor, which opens at 7am.
If you finish early before any cafes or restaurants open, jump in a taxi and head to Xofa, which is open 24/7 (serving breakfast from 7am).
Prefer to take a tour?
Local outfit Vietnam in Focus offers a sunrise tour of Long Bien Market that’s very much geared towards photographers. The itinerary promises to show you some of the best vantage points while offering photography and camera tips along the way. I haven’t ever done a tour with Vietnam in Focus, but they do come highly recommended by other travellers.
A number of other operators run tours of Quang Ba Flower Market. Ask at your hotel/hostel for recommendations of reputable companies.
What’s the earliest you’ve ever woken up for an activity while you were travelling? Was it worth it!? Would you wake up early to visit Hanoi’s morning markets?