The grid of streets found just north of Hoàn Kiếm Lake is Hanoi's Old Quarter. Once home to merchants and craft guilds, this section of town is now firmly in the hands of tourism. But if you can block out the thousands of travel agencies advertising Sapa Tours, and ignore the constant sales pitches of the cyclo drivers, it's possible to get a sense of how the Old Quarter must have felt in... well... the old days.
Because the Old Quarter of Hanoi has given itself over so completely to tourism, it can be hard to get a sense of its history. But if you'd like to see how families lived in the 19th century, head to the Heritage House, in the heart of the backpacker district at 87 Ma May.