The must-see places to visit in Hanoi and its surroundings
- on Nov 23, 2020       By: BN
Restful and full of charm, Hanoi city is particularly known for its thousand-year-old history rich with legends and discoveries as evidenced by its formidable heritage both culturally and architecturally. To answer your question “what to do in Hanoi?” here is our selection of must-see sites in the capital which, not far enough from each other, are easily discovered by motorbike or even by bicycle due to their good accessibility.
Visit Hanoi in the city centre
Temple of Literature
Dedicated to Confucius and to the homage of great scholars, the Temple of Literatureis the symbol of the millennial tradition of national education. Here was inaugurated in 1076 the first university of Vietnam, intended for the instruction of the princes and the sons of mandarins and then the competitions of the feudal dynasties. In a wooded setting, its five interior courtyards contribute to a unique and original architecture where serenity reigns as well as the philosophy of honouring morality and talents. The place is particularly remarkable for its garden of 82 Doctors' headstones, classified as a World Documentary Heritage due to its exceptional historical values. This is one of the first sites to discover on a trip to Hanoi.
Hoan Kiem Lake and its legends
In the heart of the capital, Hoan Kiem Lake (the restored Sword) sparkles in a setting of ancient trees in the middle of the noisy streets. Residents and passengers alike enjoy a deep breath of fresh air and a pleasant stopover to stroll or simply to contemplate the daily rhythm and habits very dear to many generations of Hanoians. The lake and its collection of remains with the Turtle Tower, The Huc Bridge, Ngoc Son Temple and other surrounding sites, full of legends, is the promise of an unforgettable visit.
Hanoi Old Quarter
Its narrow streets, constituting a "district of 36 streets and corporations", have since the 15th century been named after the trades of the time, some of which are still in full swing today. Shaped by typical mossy mansions where residents, small traders and temples rub shoulders, the old quarter can be discovered absolutely on foot to immerse yourself in its activities at full speed, day and night. The soul of the old town, its charm is felt in all directions, whether through its livelier atmosphere, its pretty shops or its exceptional street food. Its multiple facets, both mystical and fabulous, mixing tradition and modernity, welcoming you in a friendly and warm atmosphere to bring to life an unforgettable change of scenery.
Tran Quoc Pagoda & West Lake
It is on a peaceful islet in West Lake that sits the Tran Quoc Pagoda, one of the oldest in Vietnam. This 15th-century religious gem seduces visitors with both its charming architecture and its relaxing atmosphere where it is good to stroll for half an hour while breathing a breath of fresh air from the vast surface of West Lake's shaded shores. This charming building is well worth the detour to understand a very pleasant facet of the capital.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnography
Located in the middle of a spacious and green park, the Museum of Ethnography of Vietnam, despite a little far from the centre, rewards you with its space as rich as it is attractive on the great cultural variety of Vietnam. The visit is well worth the detour for a superb showcase on the preserved traditions, the daily and religious life of the 54 ethnic groups who have coexisted in harmony in Vietnam over the centuries. In a relaxing and warm setting, the authenticity and ethnic wealth are highlighted through exhibitions on religion, customs, architecture, clothing, folklore, etc. All those objects will reveal to you a fabulous Vietnam from every angle.
Vietnam Women's Museum
This is an exciting place to see for all women, but everyone too. Particularly instructive and moving in presentation and information, the Vietnam Women’s Museum is an exceptional tribute to Vietnamese women throughout its history full of vicissitudes. Focused on three themes, family, history and fashion, with trilingual explanations, it highlights the multiple facets of Vietnamese women of yesterday and today, for their important role in several impulses, and in daily life until the war. Ranked the most attractive tourist site in Hanoi in 2012 by TripAdvisor, this beautiful museum is also one of the 25 most interesting museums to visit in Asia in 2013.
Hoa Lo Prison
Erected in 1896 by the French colonial authority, the historic Hoa Lo Prison is a living witness to a terrible page in Vietnamese history. Known as one of the ten most awful prisons in the world, the place is a touching reminder of a time of Vietnamese independence struggle, but also great lessons for visitors to think about. Rich in information and clearly explained, the visit is also facilitated by translations into English and French.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
It is not obvious that many visitors recommend an hour of diving into the thrilling and colourful folk scenes of the puppets at Thang Long Theatre, located very close to the centre of town. An experience to try, especially for a family vacation in Vietnam, because of the cool shows intimately linked to the beautiful traditions and legends of a country full of mysteries. Far beyond original entertainment, the theatre performances invite you to appreciate a cultural speciality that appeals to so many international audiences.
Visit the surroundings of Hanoi
Don't know what to see in the Hanoi surrounding area? Spanning between 15 and 40 km in diameter, there is no shortage of vestiges steeped in history to enhance your getaway in this wide area. A journey of to the suburbs is particularly interesting to admire the postcard painted by the old entrance to the village, and the communal house under the shade of a secular banyan tree, which remains present in the ancient villages of Nom, Duong Lam, from Dong Ngac... The traces of a Vietnam of yesteryear are also well anchored in an important religious heritage represented by many pagodas, each more charming than the next, including Thay pagoda,Tay Phuong pagoda, and Perfume pagoda. Without forgetting a multitude of craft villages of great interest not to be missed such as Bat Trang (pottery and ceramics), Van Phuc (silk), Ha Thai (lacquer) Chuong (conical hat), Chang Son (paper fan), Dao Thuc (water puppets)…
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