Experts say Hanoi could learn some lessons from other cities around the world to improve its walking-only streets.
Hanoi is one of Vietnam’s leading places in the development of pedestrian squares. To add to existing streets around Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter, more will come up in Tay Ho, Ba Dinh and Nam Tu Liem districts.
But the no-vehicles streets have had some long-standing issues like under-utilization of their economic, tourism and cultural potential and poor connectivity.
Experts say they do not met the “esthetic” demands of the public, lack defining features, and seem more like fairs instead of proper pedestrians-only streets.
Tran Ngoc Chinh, head of the Vietnam Urban Development Planning Association, said many Chinese cities have pedestrian squares that manage to integrate both tourism and commerce, bringing economic benefits.
These could be models for Hanoi to follow to maximize its earnings from tourism, he said.
He pointed to the 1.5-km Wangfujing Street in Beijing, which began as a place for commerce 700 years ago, and is now known for its glamorous shops and brands.
It attracts around 600,000 visitors every day, and the number could double during peak tourism periods, according to China Highlights.
In the South Korean capital Seoul, Insa-dong is a prime example of a famous shopping street. It displays all kinds of souvenirs and other products made in the country. The street, which runs 700 m in the city’s downtown, succeeds in attracting tourists by balancing traditional and modern features, according to The Seoul Guide.
People go to Insa-dong not just to shop, but also to stop by coffee places, tea rooms and art galleries.
It is also known for its colorful festivals and street performances.
Chinh said the Chinese and South Korean models would also be appropriate for Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District thanks to the presence of malls and clothing shops.
Using the walking street to boost the district’s commercial and shopping potential is feasible, he added.
Speaking about proposed walking-only streets in future in districts like Ba Dinh and Tay Ho, Chinh said they could learn from Thailand, for example Bangkok’s Khao San Street, which is only 600 m long but is well known for its diverse and affordable local cuisine.
To Anh Tuan, head of the Hanoi Urban Planning Development Association, said the city’s pedestrians-only streets should seek to capitalize on cultural values.
For instance, Japan is famous for its cherry blossoms and manga and anime culture, and so there are streets dedicated to tourists who want to learn about them, Tuan said.
He cited the example of Tokyo’s Akihabara, which is a well-known destination to explore manga and anime despite only opening on Sunday afternoons.
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