Dominating the centre of the capital, Hoan Kiem Lake is a widely popular attraction for both tourists and locals. Taking a walk around or sitting at the water’s edge is a welcome respite from the busy streets of the Old Quarter.
Meaning ‘returned sword’, the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake originates from the era of King Le Loi, who is rumoured to have been given a magical sword by the gods in order to drive out certain invaders. During a boat outing across the lake, King Le Loi encountered a giant turtle, which is said to have grabbed the sword to return it to the gods. Keep an eye on movement below; giant turtles are thought to still inhabit the lake.
Addres: Quang Ba
Opening Hours: 2am until sunup
Open every evening, come rain or shine, Quang Ba Night Flower Market has the largest variety of flower species sold throughout the country. By night, especially around Tet (Lunar New Year), the flower market becomes something of a Hanoian refuge.
The real excitement starts around 2am, making the flower market the perfect place for customers, tourists, young locals and even Hanoian flower shop owners, in search of a bustling atmosphere. As the sun starts to rise, Quang Ba draws to a close, but the fragrances linger the whole day through.
Address: Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi
Closed: November 5th to December 5th, Monday & Friday
Entombed much like the great communist leaders before him – Stalin, Lenin, Mao – Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place is open to pilgrims from all over the country, and visitors to the nation’s capital. Constructed between 1973 and 1975, the mausoleum was inspired by Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow, but still incorporates distinct Vietnamese architectural touches, such as the sloping roof.
Be mindful of the strict behavioural rules and dress code, and leave your bags and cameras at the hotel, wear long pants and don’t wear hats. As it is a sacred site, you should also remain quiet and respectful.
If you follow the path that leads behind the mausoleum, you will come across the large, yellow Presidential Palace, the former home of the Governor General of Indochina. Here, you will also see the stilt house said to have been the home and workplace of Ho Chi Minh from 1958 until his death in 1969.
Finally, within this complex of historical sites, you will come across the charming One Pillar Pagoda, which is open daily from 6am to 6pm. Dating back to the 11th century, it makes for a wonderful spot for reflection.
Address: 19 Ngoc Ha Street, Ba Dinh Square
Opening Hours: 8am to 11am & 2pm to 4pm
Closed: Monday and Friday
Completed in 1990, this fascinating museum is full of memorabilia and photographic displays covering the history of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh’s fight against imperialism. The second floor is home to a variety of photos and letters, but the really enthralling pieces are on the third floor. Expect a fair amount of political propaganda intermixed with a lot of historical information introduced as one man’s life and his country’s struggle.
While outside, take a step back and look at the architecture. The gleaming white outer walls represent the lotus, Vietnam’s national flower.
Address: 1 Trang Tien, August Revolution Square
Built by the French Colonialist Government between 1901 and 1911, the Hanoi Opera House is a beautiful structure. As one of the most famous cultural and architectural monuments in Hanoi, the Opera House was modelled after Palais Garnier, the older of Paris’ two opera houses.
Performances range from classical concerts and traditional Vietnamese music recitals to trendy pop music acts, as well as a range national and international art exhibitions and dance shows.
Address: Van Mieu, Dong Da
Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm
The site of Vietnam’s first university, built in 1070 and founded as such in 1076, the Temple of Literature’s architecture is stunning. The temple is representative of Confucian ways of thought and behaviour, and is perhaps the most significant temple in all of Vietnam, as well as a historical and cultural relic.
If you’re visiting Hanoi on a limited schedule, this is one of the sites that is absolutely worth your time.
Address: 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:15am to 5pm
Enjoy the evolution of Vietnamese art as shown throughout three floors of this former French Ministry of Information building. All party-approved, this stimulating museum exhibits charming silk paintings, Buddhist and revolutionary art covering the wars of the 20th century, and much more.
Address: Nguyen Van Huyen Street, Cau Giay
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30am to 5:30pm
Focussing primarily on the culture and ritual practices of the various ethnic groups throughout Vietnam, visitors can enjoy the open-air exhibit that features ethnic group housing and inhabitants in traditional wear.
If you find yourself a little hungry after a few hours touring the city’s relics, here you’ll find a not-to-be-missed café serving delicious food and excellent people watching.
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street
Performances: 6:30pm and 8pm daily and 9:30am on Sundays
Started by rice farmers from Northern Vietnam, water puppetry dates back over 1000 years. Live musicians accompany folk legends from Vietnamese history as told by wooden men, women and dragons, dancing and splashing atop the water. This act has travelled the world over and is well worth an hour of your time, even if you don’t understand the language.
Keep an eye out for special effects, that even 1000 years later, in the 21st century, will astonish audience members.
Address: Bat Trang, Gia Lam
“I wish I could marry you, I will buy Bat Trang bricks to build our house…” Likely established between the 14th and 15th centuries, this small village is approximately 13 kilometres from the city centre. Two stories surround its humble beginnings, the first being the return of three scholars from a mission trip to China during the nation’s independence and initial growth period, who brought the ceramic craft industry back with them to teach the locals of Bat Trang. The second story takes the village back to the 10th century when the area was full of white clay, which lured potters to the area to settle for work and trade.
Best known for its high-quality ceramics and pottery exported around the world, you can observe whilst they are created by hand. Leave time to take a pottery-making workshop or purchase ready-made goods from local artisans.
Address: Van Phuc, Ha Dong
Located 15 minutes outside of the city centre by car or motorbike, and perfect for a one-day tour, Ha Dong Silk Village is a traditional trade village that invites visitors to discover its different colour silks. True to the small factories and houses that have been around since its origin, much of the village remains untouched by the passing of time.
Originally built by the French administration, this landmark trading post has been around since the end of the 19th century. Located in the Old Quarter, only 600 metres north of Hoan Kiem Lake, Dong Xuan market is popular with both local Vietnamese and foreigners. The night market runs throughout the weekend from 6pm and remains invariably busy until closing. Relish in the value and excitement of trade, whilst also getting an up-close and personal view of Hanoi’s culture and tourism.
Whether it’s rich cultural lifestyle or historical landmarks that attract your attention, it takes longer than you think to explore the best of Hanoi. Spend more time discovering the city and receive greater savings as you stay 5 nights or above. View more >>
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