Hanoi, the beautiful cultural capital of Vietnam, has many things to see and do. A few days in the city doesn’t do justice, but luckily, most attractions are located within walking distance of one another. You can easily map out an itinerary for yourself and enjoy a day of wandering around, taking in the contrasting beauty between the old and new. Make sure to visit as many of these attractions as possible to fully enhance your experience in Hanoi.
1. Hoan Kiem Lake
Known as the lake of the returned (or restored) sword, this lake marks the historical center of ancient Hanoi. The name comes from a legend in which Emperor Le Loi was given a magical sword by the gods, which he used to drive out the invading Chinese. Later, while boating on the lake, he encountered a giant turtle, which grabbed the sword and carried it down to its depths.
Every morning at around 6am local residents practice traditional t’ai chi on the shore. The lake also houses Jade Island, home of the eighteenth century Temple of the Jade Mountain. The island is reachable via the red-painted and picturesque Morning Sunlight Bridge.
2. Hanoi's Old Quarter
The old quarter is a mesh of the old and the new, as antique narrow streets snake between old brick buildings, covered in modern motorbikes and street vendors. This region of Hanoi is a mix of French Colonial architecture and ancient temples, and sits along the shore of Hoan Kiem Lake. It is the center of many attractions in Hanoi, from temples to the water puppet show to its street market. As the quarter was designed around the market, you will find that the streets here are all named for the kind of products that were once sold along its sidewalks, from wood to silver to paper.
3. Ba Dinh Square
Nowadays, Ba Dinh Square is one of the few green and unoccupied areas of urban Ha Noi. Many important events such as parades and commemoration of veterans take place at the square. Interestingly, despite its solemnity during the day, during the night time, the square is a popular gathering place for the local: families who want a walk, elderly who want to exercise and friends who want to hang out. A visit to Ba Dinh Square can be combined as a day or half-day trip to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum and One-pillar Pagoda.
4. Ha Noi Opera House
Standing in the heart of Hanoi, the opera house was located in a beautiful intersection downtown, where five main city roads lead to. The building was completed in 1911 after 10 years of construction, by two French architects, Broyer and V. Harley, resembling the Opéra Garnier de Paris.
Hanoi Opera House is not only a historical, artistic building but also a home to classical art lovers. In this article, everything you need when visiting the place is provided and recommended by locals. Let us show you around!
5. St. Joseph's Cathedral (Nha tho lon Hanoi)
St. Joseph's Cathedral (Vietnamese: Nhà thờ Lớn Hà Nội) is a church on Nha Chung Street in the Hoàn Kiếm District of Hanoi, Vietnam. Its a late 19th-century Gothic Revival church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi to nearly 4 million Catholics in the country. The cathedral was named after Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam and Indochina.
Construction began in 1886, was one of the first structures built by the French colonial government in Indochina when it opened in December 1886. It is the oldest church in Hanoi.
6. Tran Quoc Pagoda
This is one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam on the eastern shore of West Lake .The current structures are very impressive and date back to 1842. The pagoda is just off the road that divides West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. Tran Quoc Pagoda is the foremost symbol of Buddhism in the country. The landmark is beautiful offering good ambience and nice photos.
7. Temple of Literature
This is one of the temples of Confucius, and home of the nation’s first university. Originally built in 1070, the temple is meant to honor all scholars. Today, calligraphists will come and write good will wishes in Han characters during the Asian New Year at the steps of the temple, to give as gifts. The temple was built to replicate Confucius’ birthplace, with five courtyards and various temples and other buildings throughout the expansive grounds. Of special note are the Stelae of Doctors, a series of over 100 carved blue stone turtles, which honor the names of all who pass the royal exams.
8. Uncle Ho's Stilt House
Uncle Ho’s stilt house is a traditional house supported by wooden stilts. Take a look into the interior of the stilt house, there is a ground floor where Uncle Ho used to welcome visitors. There is a wooden table with many small wooden and bamboo chairs around. Moreover, there is also a rattan chair that he used to sit, read and have a rest. The furnishings of the house are also humble with typewriter, books, some newspapers of his day, and an electric fan in his room and a wooden bed, electric clock, an antique telephone and a radio in his bedroom.
9. Vietnam Museum of ethenology
Like many colonial regions that were united by European rule, the country of Vietnam is actually a coagulation of 54 different officially recognized ethnic groups. The Museum of Ethnology strives to give a better understanding of each one, and does so quite elegantly. It is widely believed to be the best of all the modern museums in Vietnam. Displays include a combination of art, everyday objects, and historic artifacts to better tell the story of each unique culture.
10. One Pillar Pagoda
If Buddhists were to build a treehouse, it would likely look a lot like this. This eleventh century temple was built by the emperor in gratitude for finally being blessed by a son. The temple was meant to look like a lotus flower blossoming from a single pillar in the pond, similar to the one seen in the prophetic dream of a child that this emperor had received. Inside, there is a small shrine to the Bodhisattva of Mercy. The current structure is a rebuild, as the French had the first destroyed after their retreat from the country.