Hanoi has been a market town for centuries—in fact, all the streets of the Old Quarter are named after goods that were once sold there, like Hang Dao, the street that was originally home to Hanoi’s silk market. As the commercial center for northern Vietnam and a major regional hub, Hanoi is still a market town. Nearly everything is available in Hanoi, though for some things—western-sized clothes, or certain computer equipment, for example—it may take a bit of time and effort to find what you want.
While there are some major shopping centers around Hanoi that approximate a western shopping mall, shopping is generally decentralized, with small shops scattered throughout the city. The primary exception is Vincom City Towers, where you can find clothes, shoes, consumer electronics, office supplies, and furniture, and where there’s an excellent supermarket as well.
Prices for goods produced anywhere in Asia (except Japan) are much lower than in the West, but brands imported from Europe, America or Australia have substantial mark-up. Local or independent shops can be substantially cheaper than the retailers conglomerated in shopping centers like Vincom City Towers.
After you’ve settled in and taken care of your basic needs, you’ll enjoy shopping in the Old Quarter—there’s a great selection of local handicrafts such as textiles and wood carvings, as well as dozens of galleries selling local paintings.
Local food markets open early and close late–6 a.m. to 7 p.m., though supermarkets are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For all other goods, stores are generally opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. The only real hiatus in shopping in Hanoi is Tet, the lunar new year. If you’ll be in town then, stock up on food and drinks a week in advance!