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Northwest of the lake is the legendary Old Quarter with its winding alleyways and hundreds of quaint shops, guesthouses, galleries, and places to eat. Tourists flock into locals' establishments, open long after the doors have shut elsewhere in the city. It’s also crammed with temples and monuments to ponder over between eating and shopping.
Ba Dinh District, to the west of the lake, is the place to head for a little historic enlightenment – The Mausoleum, the Museum of Ho Chi Minh and the Hanoi Old Citadel all reside there – and the Old French Quarter, south of the lake, will transport you back to the days before the French realised that the Vietnamese were a force to be reckoned with. Upscale restaurants, hotels and embassies now occupy the stunning white villas.