Top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi

by Phượng Nguyễn
Bưu điện Hà Nội

Ha Noi is capital of Vietnam with more than 1.000 years of civilization. There are many attractive places to explore in this city. Thus, you may not know where to go, what to do in Ha Noi for the first time. Today, iTravel88 will introduce you top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi!

1. Hoan Kiem lake – heart of Ha Noi city

1.1 Legend of the name Hoan Kiem

The first place that every foreigner must visit is Hoan Kiem lake (Sword lake) – the heart of Ha Noi city. It locates in centre of Hoan Kiem district. There is an interseting legend referring the name of the lake.

In early 15th Century, Ming army from China invaded and established sovereignty over Vietnam. Thus, Vietnamese had to fight against China in order to gain liberation. One of talented leader was Le Loi from Thanh Hoa province. However, his army was very weak compared to Ming’s.

Turtle tower in Hoan Kiem lake - top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi
Turtle tower in Hoan Kiem lake – top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi

The legend told that Dragon King living underwater palace decided to help him by sending him a magic sword. With the help of Dragon King, Le Loi led Vietnamese defeated Ming to gain freedom for Vietnamese.

Later on Le Loi became the the first King of Le dynasty. One day, when he was boating on Luc Thuy lake, a giant turtle suddenly appeared according to Dragon King’s orders to take the sword from him. After this event, Le Thai To renamed the lake to “Sword lake” or Hoan Kiem lake as we often call.

1.2 What to see, what to do here?

Besides enjoying the beauty and fresh of Hoan Kiem lake, there are many thing to see around here. It can be listed here such as:

  • Turtle tower: also call Tortoise tower is a small tower in the middle of Hoan Kiem lake. It’s also a symbol of Ha Noi city
  • Hoa Phong tower: locates in Dinh Tien Hoang Street. It’s the last remaining tower of Bao An pagoda before being demolished to make room for Ha Noi post office.
  • Ly Thai To square: this is a large statue of King Ly Thai To who moved capital from Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh to Thang Long (old name of Ha Noi)
  • Ngoc Son Temple: temple sites on a small island in Hoan Kiem lake. There is a huge turtle model that lived under the lake. People believe that it may relate to legend above.
  • Walking street: From 18:00 Friday to 23:59 Sunday every week, the area around Hoan Kiem lake become walking street. There many exciting activities here namely: dancing, music show, sport games,… So DON’T MISS this event when you go to Ha Noi
Music show in walking street before covid time
Music show in walking street before covid time

2. Old quarter – Top 10 places to visit in Ha Noi

You may surprise that inside such a modern and dynamic city as Ha Noi, there is an antique quarter name Ha Noi’s old quarter. The quarter started since King Ly Thai To moved capital from Hoa Lu to Thang Long in 1010. Therefore, the streets also had more than 1000 years old until now.

In the past, people often came to Thang Long for their business from surrounding areas. Then they made their own street near to citadel for conveniences. When the streets were developed, they used guild name to apply for the streets.

Flower seller with colorful flowers in a corner of Old street
Flower seller with colorful flowers in a corner of Old street

Today, athough many of 36 old streets no longer sell the products as their name, some still do such as Hang Bac street still sells gold, silver; Hang Dao street still sells fabric and so on

When visit old quarter, you’ll have chance to enjoy special local food namely pho, bun cha, mixed fruits,… And don’t forget to visit Ta Hien street or pub street. This is the most favourite street of foreigners in Old quarter!

3. St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the oldest church in Ha Noi. It locates in Nha Tho Street, where is 500m from Hoan Kiem lake. The church was started to build in 1886 with the architectural style of Notre Dame de Paris. This is one of the first construction under French colonial government in Indochina.

These days, it is one of top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi, especially for christians. As you come here, don’t forget to enjoy famous lemon tea in tea shops near to the Cathedral.

St. Joseph's Cathedral - Top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi
St. Joseph’s Cathedral – Top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi

4. Ha Noi Opera house

Ha Noi opera house is the most famous opera house in Ha Noi. It was an other construction under French colonists when Viet Nam was still a part of French indochina. The opera was modeled on the Palais Garnier – a opera house in Paris. It has typical yellow color that makes it outstanding under the sun light.

Nowadays, it’s place to hold some concert or big music event. Although it’s more than 100 years old, the structure’s still well-preserved. The opera house also a must check-in point in Ha Noi.

An open-air concert in front of Ha Noi opera house
An open-air concert in front of Ha Noi opera house

5. Long Bien bridge

Long Bien was the first bridge across the Red river. It was constructed by French contractor from 1899-1902. At that time, it took pride in being the longest bridge in Asia. Before 1954, it was called Paul Doumer – General of French Indochina who had the bridge bulit to connect City center and suburban areas.

During the war, it was heavily bombarded by US army due to its important position. This was reason why the bridge were partly damaged. Luckily, some parts of the original structure remain intact. Nowaday it’s a preference place of youth people. Besides taking railway photos, the bridge is the best place to see sunset in Ha Noi

6. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

Opening time: 8:30 – 17:30 (except Mondays)

Vietnam museum of Ethnology is the most visited museum in Ha Noi. It locates in Nguyen Van Huyen Street, Cau Giay district. If you want to have an overview of 54 ethnics in Vietnam, this place can not be ignored.

There are 3 main parts include: the bronze-drum building where displays things related to some ethnic’s life namely Viet, Muong, Thai,…. The second building is to show life in some Southeast Asia countries.

Vietnam museum of Ethnology - Top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi
Vietnam museum of Ethnology – Top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi

The most amazing part is open-air exhibition where has houses of diverse ethnic groups in Viet Nam such as Viet, Hmong, Yao, and so on. All the houses were designed and built by craftsmen from these ethnics. So it can say that the museum is a small scale of Viet Nam.

Notice: Special water puppet show will be held every weekend (10:00-11:30 and 14:30-16:00). So remember to come here at the weekend.

Water puppet show in Vietnam museum of Ethnology
Water puppet show in Vietnam museum of Ethnology

7. Ho Chi Minh Complex

Ho Chi Minh president is our national hero. He’s not only admirable in Vietnam but also worldwide. As you go to Ha Noi, don’t forget to visit Ho Chi Minh complex.

7.1 Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum

Opening time: 7:30-10:30(summer)/8:00-11:00 (winter) (except Mondays, Fridays, Tet holiday and maintenance time)

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is place to keep Ho Chi Minh president’s body. It was started to build from 1973 to 1975 with the help of So Viet Union. The mausoleum was made off marble and granite. Ho Chi Minh’s body is being stored in the second floor. His body is lying as if he’s just sleeping.

To enter the mausoleum, you have to queue and pass security check. Another notice is that it’s quite crowded, so you should come here early if don’t want to wait.

In front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum - Top 10 attractions in Ha Noi
In front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum – Top 10 attractions in Ha Noi

7.2 Ho Chi Minh’s museum

Opening time: 08:00-11:30 (except Mondays, Fridays)

Ho Chi Minh museum is located near to the mausoleum. It was built in shape of lotus flower – Vietnamese national flower and also the name of Ho Chi Minh hometown (Kim Lien village). There is a huge bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh with a friendly wave in entry hall. Thus, you’ll find cosy when you arrive here.

It can say that the museum is a summary of Ho Chi Minh’s life and his revolutionary career. By visiting here, you will understand more about his contribution to our country. Moreover, you may know reasons why he’s famous all over the world. Please come and find out your own answer!

Ho Chi Minh  museum - - top 10 places to visit in Ha Noi
Ho Chi Minh bronze statue inside the museum

7.3 One pillar pagoda (places to visit in Ha Noi)

Opening time: 08:00-17:00 daily

One pillar pagoda was built in 1049 under Ly dysnasty when buddhism was our national religion. There was an exciting legend related to construction of the pagoda.

The myth told that King Ly Thanh Tong hadn’t have a son to succeed his throne. Once night he dreamt about Goddness. Thank to this fairy dream, he was given a boy later. In order to memorize Goddness, he had this pagoda built in shape of a lotus growing in a pond.

Today, the pogoda is one of Ha Noi’s symbols. Let’s come here to explore this uniqe pagoda yourself!

7.4 Ba Dinh square

Flag raising ceremony: 6:00 (summer), 6:30 (winter); Flag lowering ceremony: 21:00

Ba Dinh Square is in front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. In this place, Ho Chi Minh president announced the Independent Declaration of Viet Nam on Sep 2nd 1945. Therefore, the square plays an important role in Vietnamese history.

Nowaday, it’s an ideal place for resident to do exercise. Other fascinating activities are flag raising and lowering ceremonies occurring everyday. The time I mentioned above, pls NOTICE!

ba Dinh Square
People’re watching flag lowering ceremony at 9pm in front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

7.5 Ho Chi Minh’s residence

Opening time: 08:00-11:30 (except Mondays, Fridays)

The last point in the complex is Ho Chi Minh’s house. We all know that he was a simple people. Therefore he choose a normal house to live instead of large building. Its architecture simulate the house ethnic minority. It shown that he always thought about Vietnamese people. This residence was constructed for him to live and work until he passed away.

An interesting thing here is fishes living in the pond in front of his house. When you clap your hand, the fishes will appear. Please come and experience this amazing activity yourself!

Mango road in Ho Chi Minh's residence Top 10 Ha Noi attractions
Mango road in Ho Chi Minh’s residenceTop 10 Ha Noi attractions

8. Tran Quoc pagoda

Opening time: 08:00-16:00 daily

Tran Quoc pagoda is sited on a small island in West Lake. It takes only 1 km to go there from Ho Chi Minh complex. In the beginning under the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De (544-548), its name was Khai Quoc which meant National Founding.

That is reason why it’s one of the most important temple in Ha Noi. If you want to pray for health, safety or just want to find peaceful in mind, Tran Quoc pagoda is place for you!

Tran Quoc pagoda in West lake - Top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi
Tran Quoc pagoda in West lakeTop 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi

9. Temple of Literature

Opening time: 08:00-17:00 daily

The temple of literature was built in 1070 under Ly dynasty in order to honor Confucius. 6 years later, King Ly Nhan Tong constructed it Quoc Tu Giam as the first university of Viet Nam. The temple has 5 parts corresponding to its own historical importance:

Khue Van Cac pavilion - top 10 places to visit in Ha Noi
Khue Van Cac pavilion – a symbol of Ha Noi, – top 10 places to visit in Ha Noi
  • In which the first part is entry courtyard.
  • The second is outstanding with Khue Van Các pavilion (another symbol of Ha Noi ). The symbol is easy to meet on street lights of Ha Noi.
  • The third is place where famous Doctors’ stone steles are located. They were used to name the highest examiner of national exam from 1442 to 1779. This is reason why students believe that they’ll be lucky by rubbing the tortoise head before their exam.
  • The fourth court yard is dedicated for Confucius as well as Chu Van An – a famous teacher under Tran dynasty.
  • The last one is Thai Hoc house which used to be Quoc Tu Giam – the first university of Viet Nam.

Nowaday, Temple of literature is used to hold honor ceremony for entry and graduation valedictorians. It’s also a place where students take yearbook photos before graduation. In case you haven’t had a yearbook yet, let’s come here to make your own in Vietnamese style!

Doctors' stone steles in Temple of literature
Doctors’ stone steles in Temple of literature

10. Hoa Lo Prison (places to visit in Ha Noi)

Opening time: 08:00-17:00 daily

Maison Centrale was built by French in 1896 when Vietnam was a part of French indochina. Before constructing the prison, this area belonged to Hoa Lo village. Thus, Vietnamese people often call it Hoa Lo prison.

It was used for Vietnamese political prisoners. Then it’s place to prison American soliders arrested by North Vietnam during Vietnam war. In early 1990s, almost the jail was demolished to make room for Ha Noi towers. Fortunately, the entry gate was kept as a museum until now. Hence, you want to have a look back on the past, please come here to explore.

Overview of Hoa Lo prison before being demolished
Overview of Hoa Lo prison before being demolished

This is Top 10 best places to visit in Ha Noi collected by iTravel88. Please let us know your impresion about these places in the comment box or via fanpage. If you feel the post useful, please like and share this post to spread this useful information. And don’t forget to come back my blog to see amazing Vietnam destinations.

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