Shopping in Hanoi is bifurcated—you can either shop traditional, or shop modern. Most Vietnamese still shop on the street—from daily vegetables and meats in their neighborhood markets, to furniture, electronics, clothes, tools, and other goods in the part of town where shops for a particular kind of commodity are clustered. Most expats enjoy a combination of these shopping experiences—shopping in local markets and shops entails bargaining, going from shop to shop, and learning a bit about local culture, while a centralized shop with marked prices is familiar and convenient.
Commerce is dispersed all across the city—in a sense all of Hanoi is a shopping area, with different goods dispersed to different sectors of town.
The Old Quarter is the nexus where markets have converged for more than a thousand years. Here you can buy local goods and produce at practically scandalous prices, but there is also a new crop of businesses that cater to tourists, selling lacquer-ware, textiles, paintings, and western clothes. Bargaining is a must here, whether at a tourist shop or a local outlet for bamboo, rice, or bedsheets.
Many shops catering to expats have also sprung up in West Lake, along Xuan Dieu and Nghi Tam Streets, due to the large expat population there. You can shop for groceries, furniture, and clothes without coming into the center of the city. Most of the staff in these shops speak English, but the prices are higher than local prices due to their specialty nature.
About 3 kilometers straight south of the Old Quarter, on Ba Trieu Street, there are many textile, shoe and clothes shops clustered around Vincom City Towers. Vincom itself is home to high-end designer clothing, shoe, jewelry, and cosmetic shops, with commensurate prices, but many of the shops at street level are much more “locally” priced.
On the southern edge of the Old Quarter, on Hai Ba Trung Street, you can find many electronics and appliance stores–these are local shops, but sellers will often try to add a “foreigner tax” to your purchase–you can bring a Vietnamese friend along to try to bargain your way out of this.
Ly Nam De street, just west of the Old Quarter, is a long street crammed with computer shops. Computers and printers can be expensive in Vietnam, but peripherals such as mouses and keyboards are extremely cheap.
Any time you’re having trouble finding something in Hanoi, check the “Ask the NH” page of the New Hanoian website. Often an expat who has been here for years and knows the city inside-out has already wanted, searched for, and found what you’re looking for: http://newhanoian.xemzi.com/en/aska/questions