The Old Quarter
Also know as the ’36 Streets. The Old Quarter has been a commercial district for more than 1000 years. This maze of streets, each dedicated to selling a specific trade or product, is the most fascinating sight in the city. From early morning to late at night, this area is a hive of activity and a great introduction to life in Hanoi.
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple
The Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the center of the city, close to the Old Quarter. The Ngoc Son Temple is located on an island in the lake and is a place to take a break from the hussle and bustle of the city. The temple is dedicated to the national hero Tran Hung Dao who defeated Mogul invaders in the 13th century.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The final resting place of Ho Chi Minh and still a place of pilgrimage for many Vietnamese. The Mausoleum, a monolith of granite and marble from across the Vietnam, is based on a traditional Vietnamese communal house. Next to the Mausoleum is the stilt house where Ho Chi Minh lived from 1958 – 1969. The house and gardens (and garage) is open to the public.
One Pillar Pagoda – Chua Mot Cot
Just a short distance from Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is Chua Mot Cot. The Pagoda was built in 1049 by the Emperor Ly Thai Tong who ruled from 1028 -1054. The lotus-shaped Pagoda reset on a single stone pillar and was erected to celebrate the Emperors marriage to a peasant girl and subsequent birth of his heir.
Temple of Literature – Van Mieu
Van Mieu was built in 1070 and dedicated to the worship of Confucius and several famous Vietnamese scholars. It became the first National University of Vietnam in 1706 to educate the son of Mandarins – the names of whom are inscribed on stone tablets inside the temple complex. This is one of the most historically important Temples in Hanoi.
Maison Centrale – The Hanoi Hilton – Hoa Lo Prison
This French built prison was constructed in 1901 to hold 450 prisoners. By the 1930′s, more than 2000 Vietnamese prisoners were being held inside. After the French withdrew, the prison housed US POW, earning it the name ‘Hanoi Hilton’. The building is now a museum.
Hanoi Opera House
The 700-seat Hanoi Opera House is just a short walk from Hoan Kiem Lake. It was built in 1911 by the French and was modeled on the Paris Palais Garnier. It was from the balcony of the building that the Viet Minh announced they had taken over the city in 1945.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Hourly performances of puppets dancing in a water-filled stage to traditional Vietnamese music.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a mystical archipelago of 1969 islands, some of which are inhabited, many of which are not. It is probably Vietnam’s most famous tourist destinations and is often included in lists of the natural wonders of the world. In 1994, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ha Long Bay is a long way from Hanoi (170km!) and is at least a 4 hour drive each way. Day trips are possible but can be very exhausting. Plan your trip in advance and consider booking a cruise with a least one night on a boat.