Phung Hung Mural Street, Hanoi

One of Phung Hung Street’s murals

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Apparently, amid the hectic scenery of Hanoi, one can find an increasing number of art projects that aim at changing the capital’s gritty reputation. Stretching across the walls of a mid-city railway embankment is a series of whimsical Trompe-l'œil murals, whose realistic appearance blur the line between art and reality.

The railway line that cuts right through the very heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter is perhaps best known for the surreal sights of Train Street. However, a 200-meter-long elevated section of the line has recently gained its fair share of fame when it became an open-air museum, showcasing the city’s historic and cultural heritage.


In 2018, as part of a joint collaboration between the Hoan Kiem District People’s Committee and Korea Foundation, dozens of Vietnamese and Korean artists used a series of bricked up arched openings along Phùng Hưng Street as their canvas, replacing the blank surface with 17 Trompe-l’œil paintings.


At first glance, these hyper-realistic murals might seem as if they were a piece of photography, however, a closer look will reveal their true artistic nature. Curiously, all paintings depict traditional scenes from Hanoi’s cityscape, including the Trang Tien Department Store, Mooncake Festival at Hang Ma Street, street vendors with their conical hats and bamboo baskets as well as the artistry of a calligraphy master. Highlighting Hanoi’s role as the cradle of Vietnamese culture, the murals offer a glimpse of the city’s bygone era that slowly but steadily dissipates into oblivion.


In recent years, the paintings have become a quirky pilgrimage site for Instagrammers, who in turn doing their best to blend into the colorful background, becoming an indistinguishable part of the mural itself.