Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake

Hanoi Travel Guide

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam with history of over 1,000 years old. With the vicissitude of Vietnam, Hanoi has taken into itself huge cultural influences from the East and the West. The blend of culture is the special draw card that attracts a large number of foreign visitors to travel to Hanoi every year.

Adventure Travel, Things To Do and Tourist Attractions in Hanoi

Let us start our tour of Hanoi with a visit to the site of the ancient Thang Long Citadel which was first built by King Ly Thai To (Ly Cong Uan) in 1010 A.D. The citadel faces south and the Flag Tower was at the front of the complex.

Nowadays, the Flag Tower is in the yard of the Army Museum of Vietnam. Visiting the Flag Tower, you'll also have a good look into the Vietnamese Army history and the wars that ravaged the country for thousands of years. We’ll climb the flag tower and have good views of the remains of the citadel and the surrounding. The Flag Tower and the Military History Museum should take 1-2 hours.

The Flag Tower of Hanoi Citadel
The Flag Tower of Hanoi Citadel

 Leaving the Flag Tower, we'll head north along Hoang Dieu Street for visiting the citadel. After the entrance for visitors, you'll see a huge yard in front of the South Gate of the Citadel (Doan Mon). Passing through Doan Mon, you'll be in the Purple Forbidden City of the Royal Citadel earlier. A visit to the Thang Long Hanoi Citadel should take from 1 to 2 hours.

Thang Long Citadel
Thang Long Citadel

It is necessary to know that in the 19th century, the capital city of Vietnam was moved to Hue and the citadel in Hanoi was rebuilt and reduced in scale to make it smaller than the Imperial Citadel in Hue. And Hanoi Citadel nowadays is only a small version of the once splendid Thang Long Citadel earlier. These two citadels were on the same site and of different scales and functions. 

The The Huc Bridge, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
The The Huc Bridge, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

 Leaving Hanoi Citadel, we’ll proceed to the One Pillar Pagoda which was a part of the Royal Garden of the Thang Long Citadel back in time. The pagoda was built according to the King’s dream that he saw the Goddess of Mercy who took his hand and led him to a lotus flower pond. According to a trusted Buddhist monk that got certain omen and hence the construction of the pagoda. The old pagoda had been reconstructed several times. In 1954, the French destroyed the old pagoda when they withdrew from Hanoi. The current pagoda was built in 1955.

The Turtle Tower, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
The Turtle Tower, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Then we’ll proceed to visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Presidential Complex and learn a bit of the most revered man of Vietnam and a bit of the Vietnamese modern history. Next to Ho Chi Minh Museum is the Presidential Palace where the President of Vietnam works nowadays. The building was of the French General Governor of Indochina back in the colonial time. It was here that the French delegation was contained by the Japanese Army when they came back to Hanoi in 1945 seeking ways to re-establish their power in Indochina. The Ho Chi Minh Complex should take 1-2 hours and more time is needed if you plan to visit Ho Chi Minh Museum in the same compound.

Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum in Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum in Hanoi

The Temple of Literature is only less than 10 minutes walk from Ho Chi Minh’s complex. Originally it had been a Confucius Temple for praising education in Vietnam. In 1076 the First National University was added to the site. To get admission to this school lots of efforts and talents were required. Back then the King of Vietnam recruited mandarins through exams and knowledge was much appreciated in the whole Kingdom. The traditions lives on nowadays. There are still stone steles in the temple which records the Royal Exams back in the early days of the country. Visiting the temple, you’ll find students who come here and pray hoping that they’ll get some good luck and good study results.

Once you have completed a tour of Hanoi with the above sites and if you have paid enough attention, you should get quite a lot of the Vietnamese history and traditions. If you love learning more, then there are several other sites for different topics which get you further in-depth knowledge.

Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam
The Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam

But trying to learn to much is no good and you should get some entertaining time wandering or taking a rickshaw trip weaving the amazing traffic in the Old Quarter of Hanoi which dates back from the 11th century also. This was the business area of the capital city, and it was where businessmen and craftsmen from the whole kingdom came and did business. It is chaotic nowadays but no doubt you’ll have great moments getting lost in it!