A peek inside one of Hanoi's grand colonial villas - Rusty Compass travel blog

A peek inside one of Hanoi's grand colonial villas

| 14 Sep 2018
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14 Sep 2018

A French colonial villa on Hanoi’s Chan Cam St has become one of the most photographed colonial ruins in the city. These days it’s occupied by designers, a popular cafe and other cool small businesses. We met Son, a young guy making beautiful ceramics with his father, that draw on the design traditions of Vietnam’s 10th and 11th century dynasties.

Hanoi’s streets are packed with incredible French colonial era villas in various states of disrepair. They have become one of the city’s most interesting features to travellers. And young local entrepreneurs are bringing them to life with boutiques, cafes and small shops.

The 1930 villa on Chan Cam St is especially popular with photographers and travellers seeking out some uniquely Hanoi atmosphere.

It’s usually assumed that large French colonial buildings were built and lived in by the French. Often that’s not the case. Many of the most extravagant villas in Saigon and Hanoi were built by wealthy Vietnamese families who prospered in the colonial era.


The 1930s colonial villa in Chan Cam St, Hanoi - and the local family that built it.
Photo: Supplied  The 1930s colonial villa in Chan Cam St, Hanoi - and the local family that built it.
Loading T Cafe, Hanoi
Photo: Mark Bowyer Loading T Cafe, Hanoi
Son from Hien Van Ceramics, Hanoi
Photo: Mark Bowyer Son from Hien Van Ceramics, Hanoi
Hien Van Ceramics, Hanoi
Photo: Mark Bowyer Hien Van Ceramics, Hanoi

Many of these buildings were confiscated and divided up under communist rule after 1954. It’s common for them to now have many owners.

I got a look at some old photos of the building and its original inhabitants (see above) during a recent visit.

A highlight of the visit was meeting Son, a young guy who, together with his father is creating beautiful traditional ceramics in Bac Ninh outside Hanoi and selling here at their shop, Hien Van. You can meet Son and see his wares in the video above.

For more independent travel info and the best things to see and do and eat and drink in Hanoi, check our handpicked guide here.


Rusty Compass has no commercial relationship with any of the businesses listed in this piece.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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