The mix of Vietnamese and French architecture still adorn the streets of Hanoi along with the beautiful cultural and religious temples and beautiful gardens. Sightseeing in Hanoi will drive you visiting plenty of world-unique attractions. The city itself is located in the northern part of Vietnam near the red river delta surrounded by both lush green jungles and the beautiful mountains.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and has been an important city within the region for centuries.
And with a brief intro
Hanoi is the second biggest city of Vietnam and is second to only Ho Chi Minh City in its commercial importance.
The city was founded around the 11th century by the famous Vietnamese King Ly Thai To. In those days it was called Thang Long until 1831 when it was renamed and given its present form Hanoi. In 1873 the French invaded Hanoi and made it their administrative center.
Even during World War 2, the city was important and the Japanese conquered it during their invasion until the Vietnamese rose up and rebelled against them.
Afterward, Hanoi was decided to be the capital and it was to remain the capital of Vietnam even after the Vietnamese war when the US troops left.
Today it still stands as the countries capital and the history of the city is shown within its walls.
Hanoi Sightseeing and attractions. Enhance your experience with easy tips
Sightseeing in Hanoi
Hanoi is the cultural and political center of Vietnam and several great and ancient dynasties have left their eternal signature within the city as a tribute to their city.
Of course, since Hanoi has been a place of geographic importance for centuries it has faced many battles and been through many wars and for this reason, not all the historical landmarks have survived but even though it’s faced so much the city still has beautiful buildings coupled with majestic pagodas and slumbering temples.
The city is famous for its culture and mix of races each who has contributed towards the history of the city. The city is also famous for its silks delectable and mouth-watering food and the electrifying nightlife. We are bringing you a list of some of our favorite things to do in Hanoi.
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
This is a collection of imperial buildings smack dab in the middle of the Hanoi. The Citadel itself was originally constructed when the city was properly founded in 1010AD.
Nowadays you can find mostly foundations of buildings and whatever was dug up after the excavations began but French after the invasion of Hanoi didn’t care to fix the old and broken buildings and decided to just simply tear them down.
The citadel was not only the capital for several centuries but once the Nguyen empire shifted the seat of their empire to Hue the supreme court still remained within Hanoi. Within the walls of the imperial citadel, you can find some magnificent relics and places of historical importance.
During the Vietnamese war, the Northern Vietnamese army used the citadel as there headquarters and within the citadel you can find the building even today just passed Kinh Thien hall.
The house which the headquarters actually consisted of is called D67 and along with is an escape tunnel that the officers would use for an escape in case of danger.
Within the house is various equipment they used against the Americans that are set out for visitors to see.
Within the citadel were once old French barracks which the government tour down to make way for the museum which you can now find within.
One of the most famous attractions though is the flag tower.
The flag tower was one of only a few buildings left intact by French when they ransacked the place. It stands at over 40meters tall and from it, you can see the beautiful views the city has to offer.
The timings for visiting the imperial citadel are 8am to 5pm and it costs around 30,000 Vietnamese Dong which is approximately $13 per person.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
This is the final resting place of the great revolutionary leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam President Ho Chi Minh. Even though he was buried here against his wishes the mausoleum was created as his final resting place and is one of the most famous tourist sites in Vietnam.
It is open Tuesday to Thursday from 7:30AM to 10:30PM and on Saturday and Sunday from 7:30AM to 11:30PM.
The mausoleum began its construction on the 2nd of September 1972 and is made from grey granite signifying that Uncle Ho as he was lovingly called will live on forever. The building itself is 21.6meters high and 41.2 meters wide and is surrounded by gardens.
The leader himself lies within the central chamber enclosed within a glass room protected by an honor guard. Uncle Ho is usually sent to Russia every October so that the body is checked and maintained.
It is free to visit the mausoleum but there are strict rules like you have to wear respectable clothing that means no shorts or skirts and definitely no lollygagging since you cannot hold up the queues because there is generally a lot of people there.
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple
If you are interested in getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the crowded roads then taking a trip to Hoan Kiem Lake and the accompanying temple called Ngoc Son is a good option. The lake and the temple are located within the old quarter next to the post office and are open from 7:00am to 5:00pm.
A relaxing atmosphere
The surrounding trees offer cool shade for you to lie down and watch the people of the city do yoga and tai chi in the various corners of the park. In the middle of the lake sits a small island called the Jade Island and home to the Ngoc Son Temple.
The temple itself was built to honor the great warrior called Tran Hung Dao who fought courageously against the Yuan dynasty. The temple was constructed in the 18th century.
People also pay their respects to the great Confucian master Nguyen Van Siue and Scholar Van Xuong.
To enter the island you must cross the beautifully designed bridge painted in scarlet red iconic of Vietnamese architecture.
- It is called the Huc Bridge and once you cross the bridge you will see two towers with Chinese writing inscribed on them guarding the Ngoc Son Pagoda.
The temple and the lake having an intriguing legend about them. It is said that a king was gifted a sword that had magical properties that he used to defeat the Ming Dynasty that had come from China. Upon the defeat of the great Chinese empire, the great turtle god returned to the lake.
In honor of this legend a turtle tower was built and even today endangered softshell turtles inhabit the lake and it is considered to be a symbol of great luck that one sees one of the turtles.
Within the temple, itself are the remains of an old turtle found within the lake weighing around 250kgs and an altar dedicated to the legendary warrior.
Visiting the late is free of charge but do remember that you will have to pay 20,000VD or what is nearly $1. 0.86 cents to be exact.
Hanoi Opera House
The biggest opera house in Vietnam. This opera house was created by the French in 1911 during their reign of the colony. The opera house is beautifully constructed and is created in the traditional gothic style the Europeans were so found of.
The Hanoi opera house is one of the most famous historical and cultural landmarks of the city and it was modeled after the French Palais Garnier theatre.
Nowadays you can find many operas, concerts, and ballets that are performed to the large crowds attracted to the beautiful opera house.
The history of this place is long and magnificent. During the French time here it was used to pleasure the elite but after they left it was used for the first meeting of the new National assembly after the revolution began.
It went its decline but in 1997 efforts were made to restore it to its former beauty and today some of the best operas are the song within the three-story hall of this magnificent opera house.
Entry is not free so expect to pay 100,000 to 2,000,000 Vietnamese Dong or $4 to $86 for the various performances.
The Temple of Literature
Dedicated to the famous Chinese scholar Confucius. It was a university built around 1070 AD dedicated to teaching sages and scholars.
The building is a great example of classic Vietnamese style architecture. Originally the university only accepted the elite and members of the aristocracy but now it is open to anyone.
The most famous and successful of graduates from the university have their name chiseled on a stone stele which is positioned on top of the stone turtles. Along with the university are halls that once were walked only by the Vietnamese royalty.
A lake called the lake of literature, many beautiful pavilions, and elegantly preserved gardens and even a pond called the well of clarity. This beautiful and ancient university has seen thousands of scholars and doctors graduate from within its halls for nearly a thousand years.
Truly a remarkable place to visit and see with your own eyes how ancient and magnificent this place is.
The historical landmark consists of five courtyards, two gardens, and the pond. One of the courtyards has a statute in the remembrance of the scholar Confucius and is called the sage courtyard.
In the last courtyard are the face bell tower and a huge drum. It is said that the design of the temple is supposed to look like the birthplace of Confucius himself.
It is open from 8:30am to 10:30pm and costs around 10,000VD or 0.43 cents.
Located in the Son Mountains around 60kms outside of Hanoi the journey takes about 2 hours by car or bus and then a boat ride to the foot of the mountains.
The journey itself is an adventure on its own. The boat will take you through rice fields and temples.
Upon reaching the base of the mountain you will have a one hour climb in order to reach the Huong Tich cave which is shaped like an open dragon’s mouth.
The temple itself is known in the local language as Chua Hong or the inner temple. It is thought that the first temple within the cave was built around the 15th century but some say that a Buddhist monk built the first temple over 2000 years ago.
The site is an incredibly holy place with worshippers traveling from far and wide to pay their respects and touch the stalactites and stalagmites that are considered bestow blessings upon people.
There are many temples and pagodas to visit around the area the majority of which are Buddhist while a couple are an animist.
Within the cave are two statutes one of Buddha the other Quon Am the Buddhist goddess.
The area has a very peaceful feeling about it and has a lot of beautiful trees surrounding it with magnificent waterfalls and streams.
The Old Quarters
If you want to experience what Hanoi truly is like and wish to feel what tourists actually believe what Hanoi actually looks and feel like then visit the old quarter. The old quarter is packed full of old shops and street vendors selling different souvenirs and food.
You can walk along the street but be careful because the motorbikes weave in and out between the people and the cars speeding past.
The old quarter is chalked full of colonial-style French architecture reminiscent of when they first came and built the buildings all those many years ago.
The old quarter is one of the most famous tourist hot spots in Hanoi and people from all over come to visit the place and take a stroll or do some shopping and maybe eat some local food.
Thang Long Puppet Theatre
Thang Long is one of the most famous water puppet theatres in the region. The water puppet theatre is one of Asia’s and indeed Vietnam’s most artistic creations steeped in history and cultural importance. Thought to have originated around the 11th Century.
When the water would flood the rice fields the farmers would entertain themselves and the people in the villages by jumping into the waist-high water and putting on shows with puppets that were moved via a rod.
The performances are today done in a large pool of water with around 8 puppeteers controlling the puppets from behind a bamboo wall. Now a days the performances consist of short sketches depicting rural life and harvest along with the occasional story of the Hoan Kiem Lake and the famous Turtle god.
The show consists of live music where the singers also shout at the puppets encouraging them.
The theatre is packed all the time so it is best to book your tickets in advance and they cost around 100,000 Vietnamese Dong which is around $4.
Ba Vi National Park
Ba Vi national park lies just 48kms away from the center of Hanoi and is famous for the three peaks that lie within the park.
The national park is an incredibly beautiful place to visit with lush green jungles nature beauty.
The place is one of the great escapes from the hustle and bustle of daily life and the fresh cool mountain air accompanied by the amazing views are something that not only relaxes the mind and body but also the soul.
For all those of you who need some extra treatment at the base of the mountains near the foothills is a resort smack dab in the jungle where you can get relaxing massages and therapies all while enjoying the natural beauty.
The three mountains form a sort of three-headed hump a top of which lies an old temple dedicated to the mountain god.
The name of the three mountains from the shortest to highest are Ngoc Hoa at 1,131meters, Tan Vien at 1,226 meters and Dan Vua at 1,296 meters but all of the peaks are generally not visible since they are tucked behind clouds. The Ba VI National Park was originally a hill station made by the French.
Today it attracts thousands of visitors who love to hike on the mountain trails.
There is also an orchid garden within the national park and a bird garden filled with local birds but the place that tops the cake is the temple situated at the peak of the mountain.
The ho chi Minh temple at the top was built in 1999 to commemorate the wishes of Uncle Ho because he wanted his ashes to be scattered in three places one of which was Ba VI.
The temple can be accessed from the foot of the mountains and you must ascend 1320 steps.
Along the way, you will experience the lush jungle scenery with the mist rolling in from the top all the way to the bottom giving you that very feeling.
The temple is decorated in traditional Vietnamese architecture. Within the center of the temple is a copper statue of Ho Chi Min and top of this is a board that reads “nothing is more precious than independence and freedom.” from outside the temple you can see the entire district sprawled out before you. The beautiful vistas are just awe-inspiring.
The beautiful clouds at the top below you can see the rolling mist combining with the beautiful lush green forest.
Vietnamese Central Circus
The Vietnamese Central Circus is a fun place to visit if you want a change of pace or want your kids to have a little fun. You can play fairground games and enjoy the various clowns clowning around.
There are also animal shows that you can see and enjoy your time. There is a schedule for the circus so you can plan your trip so that you do not miss and get to enjoy it while it’s there.
It’s a fun break for you and the family.
Dong Xuan Market
The Dong Xuan Market is one of the most famous markets in Hanoi. It is a four-story complex that has all sorts of apparel for you to buy at some of the best prices in the area.
It is designed in the classic Soviet-style architecture and is open from 6am in the morning till 7pm at night.
The place was originally established in 1899 and has been used ever since as a market. The market used to sell groceries and day to day items but now it caters to many different things that the locals might need like clothes, food, souvenirs, and accessories.
This is Hanoi’s biggest indoor market and since it is four stories each level sells something different like on the ground floor you will find vendors selling meat and fishes.
Along with some of the selling pets and flowers.
The upper levels sell clothes souvenirs and electronics. There is even a food court within it which is what we personally look forward too.
Within the food court, you can find local delicacies like duck blood soup and fried frogs on offer.
Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and because of this, it is steeped in rich culture. Its roots are embedded deep within the country since it has been the lifeblood of the political, historical, artistic and cultural history of Vietnam.
The city has played its role in being conquered and has set the stage for great battles that are enshrined in the lore of Vietnam. Hanoi is a great place to visit because of all the history and culture along with the great variety of places to stay and the nightlife is on point.