A Hanoi visit is not worth the bucks if you don’t visit its top tourist destinations. Hanoi attractions keep the city enchanting for travelers and expats who decided to settle in Hanoi for good. Vietnam’s culture is the oldest among Southeast Asian countries and there’s no other way to experience it but to visit their historical landmarks in the capital.If you’re torn which to visit first, here are the top 10 spots you shouldn’t miss.
1. Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is the image of tranquility in Hanoi. The lush foliage surrounding the place is a hook on early morning joggers and tai chi sessions of both locals and tourists. All day long, the lakeside is flocked with lovers or anyone who just want to see the mystic of the place.
The lake is also known as The Lake of the Returned Sword. According to legends, a magical turtle gave a future emperor a sword on the side of the lake. The sword was then said to be used in driving the oppressors from China out of Vietnam.
As much as its tale is intriguing, Hoan Kiem has an undeniable charm to tourists. The red-painted bridge here is the typical location for wedding shoots and meeting place of lovers. The bridge leads to the Ngoc Son Temple where a religious devotion stays alive even after a thousand years.
Aside from this, the shrine in the middle of the lake is a source of intrigue among tourists. It’s actually called the Tortoise Tower, a shrine built as a tribute to the magical turtle who gave the sword to the Emperor. It can’t be visited, still, visitors are having a nice photo session with the tower as their background.
Ho Chi Minh is one of the reasons why Vietnam is enjoying its freedom today. After his death, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was erected in Ba Dinh Square in his memory. Inside it rests his preserved body on a glass encasement where national guards are posted to watch visitors paying respect to the late revolutionary leader.
The locals are actually thinking that Ho might be disappointed in heaven because he wished to be cremated and not celebrated the way he is now. In any way, the Vietnamese people recognized his sacrifices by building one of these Hanoi attractions that everyone can visit.
From the outside, the mausoleum is already a statement of resilience. It’s made of marble and stands proudly on its solid pillars. At night, it’s illuminating with light that adds up to its regal look.
If you’re planning to visit, you should follow their rules including dressing well because miniskirts, sleeveless top, and shorts are prohibited. Also, cameras are not allowed inside so you have to deposit your belongings on the counter before you’re allowed to enter. You aren’t allowed to stop in the queue because they observe the continuous flow of people.Another reminder: Ho’s remains are being sent to Russia every October so the mausoleum is closed during that time.
3. Old Quarter
If you’re a certified shopaholic slash hoarder, the Old Quarter is your perfect place. It’s the ultimate shopping destination in the entirety of Hanoi. It’s bustling with motorbikes and cars plus the stretch of side walk vendors and establishments. Strolling the streets alone will give you a glimpse of the Vietnam’s ancient past.
Old Quarter has a maze-like structure that roots from a thousand years ago. On these narrow alleyways lie cafés, shops, and galleries where you can buy anything to your heart’s content. It’s sort of dilapidated, but it can get squeezy on weekends or during the night with junctions and night markets buzzing to life.
The best finds here are silk products as well embroideries, lacquer ware, art, shoes, accessories, and clothes. Each street has a designated product so you’ll have an organized shopping spree. Don’t forget to haggle so you can buy more with your money.
4. Temple of Literature
If you want a deeper historical immersion on Hanoi attractions, you can head to the Temple of Literature at Dong Da. The temple is a picture-perfect sight with thousand-year-old pavilions, courtyards, passageways, and more which the royalties used in the ancient times.
This place was built as a school in memory of Confucius. At first, they only accepted students from the higher ranks of the society. But years after, they started to admit bright commoners on the school. Those who had finished their studies here had their names engraved on a stele on top of the stone turtles.
Its magnificent layout – all filled with the well-kept landscape – is based on Confucius birthplace. It has a regal path that was reserved only for the king in the old times. Now, you can stroll on it and feel how it’s like to walk like a royalty.
The place is open from Tuesday to Sunday with a two-hour break between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. It opens at 8:30 in the morning and closes at 4:30 in the afternoon. Entrance fee costs around 50 US cents only.
5. The Imperial Citadel
During the colonial era of Vietnam, the Imperial Citadel in Hoang Dieu is the center of the country’s military force. UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site in 2010 for its role in Vietnam’s fight for independence.
A lot of history hails from this place with archeologists unearthing artifacts that can be traced from the 6th to 20th centuries. It looks like a war fortress from the inside with a very wide yard, probably used to gather soldiers for a mission.If you plan to visit, the place is open the whole week from 8 am to 5 pm except Mondays. Admission fee here costs around US$1.3.
6. One Pillar Pagoda
Located at the Ho Chi Minh complex, One Pillar Pagoda is another colorful shrine of Hanoi’s folklore. According to the legend, the pagoda was built by a fatherless emperor who dreamed that the enlightened Avalokiteshvara will give him a son resting on a lotus flower.With that, the emperor commissioned workers to build the pagoda with one pillar and standing in a lotus-shaped pond. Years after, the emperor was indeed blessed with a son.
Today, One Pillar Pagoda is the symbol of Hanoi and it’s believed that praying on the pagoda will bring blessings of health and fertility. Aside from that, one of the Hanoi attractions here is the Bo tree beside the pagoda which is said to be an offshoot from the tree where Buddha got enlightened.
Visiting the pagoda is free but you should observe proper attire when you enter the temple.
7. West Lake
West Lake or commonly known as the Tay Ho District to locals is the home to the largest lake in the capital. Tourists and expats love going here to take a break from the buzz of the city and to indulge in the upscale lifestyle.
West Lake is the home of botanical gardens and pagodas that reflects the fusion of Vietnam’s love of nature and appreciation of their culture. Here rests the Tran Quoc Pagoda which is the oldest in the whole Vietnam. You can also find here the Quan Thanh Temple that is one of the country’s Four Sacred Temples which bear sacred carvings of sacred flora and fauna all over its structure.
Although surrounded by centuries-old structures, West Lake is also the powerhouse of restaurants and luxury hotels. But nightlife here isn’t as alive as Hanoi’s but their numerous lounges and bars can give you a wide range of cocktails.
From what I can see, Tay Ho District is your right mix of culture, luxury, nature, and relaxation.
Many Hanoi attractions send tourists into the capital. Though there are a lot to choose from, these seven places stood out among the must-see for tourists like you. After all, a Hanoi visit will not be complete without setting foot on these internationally acclaimed destinations.
Have you visited any of these already? Let us know your Hanoi experience!
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