Vietnam’s northerly capital is home to around 6.5 million people and offers an abundance of authentic Vietnamese charm. Between broad boulevards, narrow Old Town alleyways, ornate colonial buildings, romantic lakes and the shadows of gigantic trees, you’ll find countless sights to see and numerous fascinating traits of everyday life in Vietnam.
This quaint capital is also blessed with tranquil lakes with colonial villas as Hanoi operates at a more sedate pace than other Asian cities and it offers something for everyone and will leave you wishing that you had longer to explore this enthralling capital.
Start the day with a visit to the Temple of Literature. Not too crowded and very open and easy to navigate, a trip to the Temple of Literature is well worth the effort to see the history, the statues, and the horticulture. In 1076, Vietnam’s first university Quoc Tu Giam was established within a temple to educate Vietnam’s royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
Then head over to see The One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049. This structure is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples and has become the unofficial symbol of Hanoi, it’s everywhere from fridge magnets to tourism advertisements. The original was built on a pillar in the middle of a swamp about 1000 years ago and it was destroyed in the war with the French in 1954. The one you see now is a replica of the original. Next head over to the mausoleum of the historic father figure of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and the former presidents house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary.
The continue to picturesque West Lake and the sixth century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda. From here take a gentle stroll along the lakeside to the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh dedicated to Tran Vu, one of the principal deities in Taoism.
In the afternoon, visit the fascinating Ethnology Museum. This is a research centre and public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam, combine this with a visit the highly acclaimed Vietnam Women’s Museum. The museum is located near Hoan Kiem Lake and offers wonderful insight into the lives of Vietnamese women. The displays inside highlight Vietnam’s vast cultural diversity and educate on the significant role Vietnamese women play in Vietnamese society. Learn historic and modern-day traditions centered around births, weddings, motherhood, spirituality and more.
As the day comes towards the end you must take a walking tour through Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as the ‘36 streets’. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It’s a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you.
If you still have energy and time left in your day then end the evening with a Water Puppet show. This is a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history.
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