Hanoi’s first book street promises to become new hangout for book lovers

May 17, 2017 | 10:15 am GMT+7

After many years, the long awaited book street has finally become a reality for Hanoi located on December 19 Street in Hoan Kiem District. Only weeks after it was first launched on May 1, Hanoi’s first book street has received a warm response from local readers and international tourists, not only due to being a convenient location to browse and purchase books but also as it has created a new cultural and creative space in the 1,000-year-old capital city.




The December 19 Book Street has not only been beautifully designed but it is also home to a wide-range of books from different well-known publishers such as Nha Nam, Thai Ha Books, and Hanoi Publishing House. (Credit: NDO/Trung Hung)


An official book street

Situated nearby the Hanoi People's Court and the historical attraction Hoa Lo Prison, built during the time of French colonialism, the 200m book streets was designed in the form of a pedestrian street, stretching between the Ly Thuong Kiet and Hai Ba Trung Streets.
Promising to become a popular destination, the first street in Hanoi dedicated to books welcomes thousands of visitors each day to look for books and enjoy a new reading environment, particularly during weekends.
The book street stands out with a modern gray brick road. It features 16 booths of famous publishing houses, continuously introducing new books to readers. The booths are also well equipped with reading chairs inside for visitors to buy and read books inside the stores.
Previously, when referring to the “book street” in Hanoi, people often immediately thought of the areas surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake including Dinh Le, Trang Tien and Nguyen Xi Streets. This is because for a long time these streets have been known to be home to many bookstores in the centre of Hanoi and become familiar amongst readers looking for the latest books and thus was dubbed the “book streets" by many generations of Hanoians.
However, since May 1, 2017, Hanoi authorities launched the first official book street, with the aim of creating a new attraction for the capital city and to promote reading culture among both domestic and foreign readers.
The biggest difference between Dinh Le, Trang Tien and Nguyen Xi “book streets” and the December 19 book street is the cultural message. Bookshops located on Dinh Le, Trang Tien and Nguyen Xi are purely for commercial purposes, while the new book street located on December 19 Street combines both book display and trade, but more importantly it creates a cultural space for book lovers and tourists to walk around, purchase books in a peaceful environment with support facilities integrated to enjoy books and entertain visitors.
The booths are beautifully designed in harmony with the surrounding architecture and landscapes.
Dedicated to books and furthermore
According to Nguyen Van Pha, 65, a local residing in nearby Hai Ba Trung Street, December 19 Street was previously used to park cars but now Hanoi’s authorities have turned it into a walking street and more significantly the street features many book stores with support facilities and a friendly environment.
“It’s great. Now I do not have to walk a long distance to the overcrowded Dinh Le or Nguyen Xi Streets for books, I only have to walk several metres to December 19 Street and find the one I need,” Pha said, adding that setting up bookstores in December 19 Street is an extremely meaningful endeavour.
The unique feature of Hanoi’s book street is the harmonious combination between a walking street and reading culture. With the presence of dozens of publishers, the street offers a range of books in various genres and contents. In addition, as a walking street, it is not as noisy as other pedestrian streets downtown. The tranquility creates a peaceful place suitable for readers to walk and relax while enjoying their favorite books.
The books are diverse in genres, aimed at serving readers of all ages.
Bookstores at the book street were setup in the form of separate traditional houses, bringing a familiar feeling to visitors when entering each store. Empty spaces between each stall makes the street become more spacious. Flower pots and green hanging gardens have been set-up in the vacant spaces and next to outdoor reading seats. Reading seats are arranged in numerous places around the book street, with easy access for people with disabilities, children and the elderly to enjoy their new books.
The area has a small square for exchange activities, talks and book launches, as well as public information stations and electronic books, free Wi-Fi and water, a coffee-book area, flower and souvenir stalls, and architectural designs suitable with the surrounding area.
In addition to books, visitors are also facilitated with support facilities and services at the book street, such as free Wi-Fi, outdoor reading chairs, public e-information stations, toilets and free water.
Environmentally friendly reading corners like this are set up between the spaces next to each bookstore.
The open book and coffee space offer a comfortable reading corner for those who want to enjoy a coffee whilst reading their newly purchased books.
In addition to traditional books, publishing houses also feature modern services and new trends of reading at the book street. This picture features a multimedia corner dedicated to both English learning and books on Hanoi.
Reading chairs are located in numerous parts of the street. They are arranged everywhere to allow visitors to take a sit after hours browsing at the bookstores.
A promising hot destination
According to the book street management board, with experiences in organising small-scale book streets during Lunar New Year festivals or during major holidays, the Hanoi Department of Information and Communications, Hoan Kiem District, and other relevant agencies started construction for the December 19 Book Street and selection of eligible publication units joining the space on December 19, 2016.
The book street officially opened to the public on May 1, 2017 and after more than two weeks since its launch, the destination has gradually come into steady operation, offering readers easy access to a wide variety of books, along with chances to join exchanges, discussions and competitions related to books. Several thousand visitors both from home and abroad have flocked to the street, especially on weekends and public holidays.
A lot of young people flock to the book street to find a good book.
Nguyen Thi An, a third-year student from Vietnam University of Commerce, said that the book street is an appealing destination for all, particularly youngsters. Coming to the bookstores there, visitors can not only buy and read books in a quiet atmosphere, but also take pictures with the beautifully decorated booths and green spaces.
Showing her excitement for the new book street, Ngo Thi Hoa from Thanh Xuan District said that the space is suitable for people from all walks of life. If visitors do not buy books, they can also come here to relax, take a stroll, read a book or take pictures. It is a quiet, safe and clean cultural space for everyone, particularly children and the elderly, as well as a place to help develop and maintain a reading culture among the community.
Dinh Thu Trang from Ba Dinh District said, “I do love taking my children to this new space. There are a lot of interesting books that are beneficial for my children. It is an ideal place for developing reading culture for them right from their young age.”
New and must-read books are introduced to readers through various means.
Neither too long or too wide, December 19 Book Street is a spacious, clean, modern and attractive space, which will be sure to become a new destination for many to explore. Besides their own commercial features, bookstores also bring together cultural values when providing beautifully decorated corners for people to read and exchange, thus developing reading culture in the community.
Not only in cafes or libraries, people can now also read books in the street after buying their favourite books from bookstores located on December 19 Street. Truly an enjoyable experience to try out when visiting the first book street in Hanoi.
Readers can spend hours passionately enjoying their favourite books thanks to air-conditioned bookstores, indoor chairs and helpful assistance provided by booksellers.
A young girl is interested in illustrated and colorful books.
The book street is also a new destination for taking photos and is favoured by many young people because of its attractive design and cleanliness.
On sale are also decorations in reading rooms and on display tables.
A tiny pocketbook like this is a perfect gift for any book lover.
Hanoi’s book street welcomes guests all days in the week, from 8am to 10pm.