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Hanoi is a city steeped in history and many “must-see” attractions for every traveller. The city has numerous attractions that are a walking distance from each other making it easier to see as many as possible during your trip. Even so, some sights have proven to be popular over the years and are worth including in your itinerary.
Top attractions in Hanoi
Hanoi opera house
Arguably one of the largest theatres in Vietnam, the Hanoi Opera House carries a lot of significance for the people in the country. The theatre brings out the history and culture of the French when they ruled the Vietnamese people. It is an aesthetically intriguing building with many comparing it to the opera house in Paris. Also, its interior is beautiful to look at and welcoming to those visiting to watch a performance. When in Hanoi, plan to visit the opera house to enjoy Vietnamese folk music, opera, ballet, and several international concerts. Tickets to view the interior of the opera house and performances are sold on the official website.
The perfume Pagoda is situated in one of the most sacred sites in Vietnam filled with Buddhist temples. It is a 15th Century building and comprises of temples put up inside a range of mountains. Its surroundings include rich forests and streams which flow all around resulting in a tranquil environment. Visitors to the temple enter different pagodas or shrines to seek good luck from stalactites and stalagmites. Each of them has information about the blessings they can grant. Getting to the temple includes a two-hour car ride from Hanoi and a ride in a boat to arrive at the complex.
The Old Quarter
The Old Quarter in Hanoi is a beautiful area with several colonial buildings alongside narrow streets. The streets are filled eateries, shopping areas, and stores that offer essential services to those visiting Hanoi. It is a popular spot for shoppers who come from different parts of the city to buy affordable goods. Some of the items sold in the street include Chinese knockoffs, lacquerware, and silk shirts that can be purchased at reasonable costs. Thankfully, the streets in the quarter have names that point out the types of items traded in them. To have a better experience shopping at the Old Quarter consider visiting the area in the morning hours.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh is a celebrated leader in Vietnam and even after his death, he is still honored among the local people. To keep his memory alive, his embalmed body lies in a glass case inside a mausoleum. The body is protected by an honor guard from the Vietnamese military who also helps with keeping order as visitors walk by. Visitors to the mausoleum can view the body plus some of his memorabilia that are on display. Since its opening, the mausoleum has received thousands of visitors who are encouraged to dress respectfully. When in the mausoleum, visitors cannot take photos and must remain silent at all times.
Dong Xuan Market
Among indoor markets in Hanoi, Dong Xuan takes the title as the largest because of the size of the building and the variety of products available from vendors. The market is a great place to shop and interact with locals plus practice your bargaining skills. Popular goods in the market include fresh produce, accessories, clothing, electronics, household appliances, and souvenirs. The market also has a wet market that allows shoppers to buy meat and seafood from all parts of Vietnam. When shopping, tourists can grab a bite at the dining area within the market filled with vendors selling local dishes and Vietnamese coffee at reasonable rates.
Vietnam Military Museum
Fans of wartime military will have a good time at the museum filled with displays of several artifacts. The displays are in the museum and its compound which gives visitors a chance to learn a lot about Vietnam during different eras. Inside the museum, are weaponry exhibits and information on the US and France wars which would interest many history lovers. In the courtyard, the majority of displays include weaponry and military machines. Some of the machines that stand out at the museum are tanks, a MiG fighter plane from the Soviet Union, and planes from the US and French brought down during the war.
Hoan Kiem lake
The search for tranquillity in the busy city of Hanoi is the reason most people find themselves at Hoan Kiem Lake. The popular landmark which is a walking distance from the Old Quarter is an excellent place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. A red bridge stands above the lake and connects visitors to an island that plays host to the Ngoc Son Temple. The temple is the main attraction on the lake and is a dedication to La To, Van Xuong, and General Tran Hung Dao. These three figures played an important role in the areas of physicians, academics, and military respectively.
Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is a picturesque attraction established in the 11th century to honor scholars in Vietnam. It was a university that focused on teaching Confucianism philosophy plus literature to hundreds of students. Successful students had their names etched several pillars and can be seen to this day. Inside, the temple are immaculate gardens filled with ancient trees that make the space perfect for relaxation. Stone statues and writings are seen all over the temple which has largely maintained its original features. Additionally, it has five courtyards with different interesting features with the most popular ones being Sage, Thai Hoc, and the one that hosts the Well of Heavenly Clarity.
Hoa Lo Prison Museum
The French government ruled Vietnam in the 19th century and built Hoa Lo Prison to detain revolutionaries. Dissidents of French rule were captured and placed in cells and sometimes executed depending on the crime. Later on, American POWs were also jailed in the same prison during the war in Vietnam. The prison has several buildings that include solitary and jail cells plus a courtyard that has a display of a guillotine. Information on the French colonial rule and their cruel treatment of prisoners is available at the prison grounds. Videos documenting the time spent by American POWs at the prison and their mementos are also on display.
Water puppet theatre
Traditional entertainment and artistry are a great way to learn about the people of Vietnam. The water puppet theatre is one of the best places to get entertained in Hanoi through the ancient form of puppeteering. Performances that are supported by live bands playing traditional instruments are quite engaging for adults and children. The puppet shows take place in customised water pools that resemble flooded paddy fields in Vietnam. Some of the stories seen on the stage are based on farming activities and legends like the emperor and the golden turtle. The theatre is open daily and runs five shows making it possible to attend one when spending a weekend in Hanoi.
In general, it can be quite fulfilling with proper mapping of attractions in Hanoi you would like to visit when in the city for a stay.