Hanoi is a village metropolis—though it is latticed by busy boulevards, if you turn off into an alley you’ll discover tiny shops, tea stalls and noodle stands that seem immune to modern progress. It’s a fairly decentralized city, so wherever you choose to live you’ll have access to shopping, restaurants, and basic services. There are no depressed areas of town to avoid for reasons of high crime rates, but the southwest of the city is known as the “dust bowl” of Hanoi, and generally has few advantages as a place to reside.
Space and sound are two of the most important considerations in choosing a place to live in Hanoi. Many areas are congested, and noise pollution can be overwhelming near the center of the city—this is why many expats choose to live in one of the quieter, less frenetic neighborhoods along northern side of West Lake. However, living in West Lake means a 20 to 30 minute drive into the Old Quarter–or more, at rush hour–so you’re a bit removed from the social and cultural center of the city. Choosing the best place to live is a matter of considering your priorities and responsibilities. If quiet and repose are the most important considerations for you, then you’ll gravitate towards the outskirts—but for easy access to the restaurants, bars, cafes, galleries, films and performances that are the fabric of Hanoi social life, then you may wish to find a place in the center.