Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam.
Before being named “Hanoi” as present, the capital had had several names throughout history. In 1010, Ly Thai To, the first ruler of the Ly Dynasty, moved the capital of Đại Việt (the Great Viet) to the site of the Đại La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thăng Long (Ascending Dragon) – a name still used poetically to this day with the belief that this was good omen of the country’s future. It remained the capital of Vietnam until 1397, when the capital was moved to Thanh Hoa, also known as Tây Đô (Western Capital). Thăng Long then became Đông Đô (Eastern Capital). King Minh Mang, under the Nguyen Dynasty, has laid the name “Hanoi” on the capital since 1831. This means “a city lying Between Rivers or River Interior”, which are Red and Day rivers. Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976.
Many historians reckon that the city was established more than 1,500 years ago. Therefore, with the length of living, Hanoi is very rich of cultural, historical and traditional values.
Today, Hanoi is a rapidly developing city, but one that has kept its striking colonial embellishments. Indeed, it’s ironic that this capital city of fiercely independent people, who have battled for generations against foreign invaders, possesses a decidedly European air. Hanoians may brag about their beautiful city while eating baguette sandwiches and sipping café au lait, but they’re reluctant to admit that much of what makes it so is a legacy of the French. The colonial architecture, together with an abundance of trees and lakes, gives Hanoi an unmistakably romantic air, unusual for an Asian city.
Since the late 1990s, with the help of Korean and Taiwanese investors, the city has transformed itself from a rather sleepy backwater into a bustling metropolis. Luxurious shopping malls and apartment complexes have sprung up beside 200-year-old temples, and each day, new restaurants, cafés and shops open along the city’s busy avenues. Despite, or because of, the rapid progress, Hanoians are passionate about protecting their ancient traditions and culture, and a number of preservation works have been announced to protect important historic sites.
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- Old Quarter
A rapidly developing city where changes take place every hour, Ha Noi Old Quarter with its old-styled narrow streets full of antique brick houses seems to nostalgically resist the flow of time while still actively trying to adapt to the dynamic atmosphere of the modern city.
Once a bustling area where merchants and artisans gathered to sell their products, Ha Noi Old Quarter consists of 36 streets, meandering streets, each bears the name of the goods that was specifically traded there such as Hang Bac (Silver Product), Hang Ma (Paper Product), Hang Dong(Bronze Product), just to name a few.
You will have chance to explore the modest but energeti life of local a hundred years ago, where there were no high rise building, but lots of fancy store, busy traffic make their unique atmosphere
- Museum of Ethnology
This is the most recent yet probably the largest and undoubtedly the most interesting Museums in Hanoi and Vietnam. The Museum comes out of the recognition that Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country and that more attention should be paid to promote socio-cultural diversity. Despite being out of the way compared with other museums in Hanoi, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is worth a thorough visit, for those who are keen to learn about the multiculturality of Vietnam and for those who would appreciate some green space.
- Water puppet show
The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large bamboo rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.
- Cyclo tour
Cyclo, one of the most typical vehicles in Hanoi, is a human-powered transport with a seat at the front for passengers and the driver at the back.
- Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is often cited as one of Hanoi’s most picturesque tourist attractions. Originally built as a university in 1070 dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages, the building is extremely well preserved and is a superb example of traditional-style Vietnamese architecture.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is an important historical attraction of Hanoi, known for honoring the national hero: President Ho Chi Minh. The building is where visitors can express their admiration and gratitude towards the common father/uncle of Vietnamese who has led the country to independence and reunification. It is popularly known among Vietnamese as Uncles’ Mausoleum, for the intimate and familiar atmosphere Ho Chi Minh always created when he was alive. Built over 2 years from 1973 to 1975, the Mausoleum is also a lively illustrator of national unity.
- Hoan Kiem lake
Hoan Kiem lake means “lake of the returned sword.The lake is one of the major scenic spots in Hanoi. It is a large lake surrounded by urban landscape, roads, businesses and walkways. This lake is a central gathering place in the center of the city. People come here to socialize, to talk, to do business, and to relax..
- One Pillar Pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. It is regarded alongside the Perfume Temple, as one of Vietnam’s two most iconic temples
- Hoa Lo Prison
At 1 Pho Hoa Lo on the corner with Pho Hai Ba Trung, is all that remains of the former Hoa Lo Prison, ironically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US POWs during the American War. Those incarcerated at Hoa Lo included Pete Peterson, who would later become the first US Ambassador to Vietnam following the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1995.
- Opera House
Hanoi Opera House is located on the August Revolution Square, the center of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the Vietnam History Museum. The theatre, designed and overseen by the French, was constructed from 1901 and was finished in 1911. Its design is influenced by the European architectural style under the Renaissance period.
At first, the theater was reserved solely for the Western artists coming every year to perform for French officials and wealthy Vietnamese.
Later, the Opera House started to hold public performance organized by Vietnamese for charity (aid for flood victims or old folks’ homes). Since 1940, many of the Vietnam performance group could rent the “Western theatre” to host their performances.
- Tran Quoc Pagoda
Chùa Trấn Quốc (or Tran Quoc Pagoda) is located beside the dazzling West Lake, on Thanh Nien Road, Hanoi. Particularly, it is seated on an island linked by a bridge to the causeway between the two most romantic lakes of Hanoi: West Lake and Truc Bach Lake.
The construction of the pagoda started in 541 and was completed in 545 under the reign of King Ly Nam De (544-548) under its original name of Khai Quoc (National Founder). It was initially built on the bank of the Red River (then West Lake and the Red River met).
Until the early 17th century, under the reign of King Le Kinh Tong (1600-1618), the pagoda was moved to the Kim Ngu (Golden Fish) Islet due to the river bank crumbling and was renamed Tran Quoc (National Defence).
- Dong Xuan Market
The Dong Xuan market, built in 1889 by the French, is the largest in Hanoi market covered and without a doubt, one of the most popular and crowded city markets. The popularity of Dong Xuan market is not so much by the variety of products nor by its price, but also because it is located in the Centre of Hanoi, just 5 minutes walk from the central lake in Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake.