From the old quarter to historical hotels and buildings, we explore our bucket list of Hanoi’s heritage attractions
Hanoi is graceful, exotic and evokes an old-world charm quite unlike any city in South East Asia. Offering visitors a myriad of attractions ranging from grand buildings, centuries-old pagodas and pristine lakes, a visit to Hanoi is like a walk back through time. And despite being a growing metropolis, the city has managed to keep its heritage and history intact for its visitors to appreciate.
WALK THE OLD QUARTER
The pulse of the city beats prominently in the network of narrow streets that make up the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Commerce thrives here with numerous shops and stalls selling all measure of local products, snacks and knick-knacks, allowing visitors to pick-up a memento or two. The area is also home to a number of historical attractions such as Hõ Chí Minh’s Mausoleum, a resting place and memorial for the former leader and the Temple of Literature, where visitors can admire well-preserved traditional architecture in its full glory.
TOUR THE CITADEL
Located about 20km north of the city lies the Co Loa Citadel. The old spiral-shaped fortress, which is composed of outer walls surrounded by Hanoi’s lush countryside, offers a perspective of ancient Vietnam. Due to its sheer size, exploring the Citadel can take up to a few hours but if you had your fill, rest assured there are other attractions nearby that should pique your interest. A short drive away, the Soc Son Temple, for example, boasts a Pagoda at the top of the mountain, where an eight-metre bronze Buddha statue can be found. Similarly, the Thanh Chuong Palace, which sits on over three hectares in the Hien Ninh Commune, is worthy of a short excursion. The vast estate houses a number of buildings that reflect the diversity of Vietnam’s architectural history.
WATCH WATER PUPPETS
A signature attraction in Hanoi, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre has been entertaining locals and visitors alike for decades with its unique performances. The theatre located on Dinh Tien Hoang Street retains the 1000-year-old history of stories and puppet mastery that was invented by farmers during the Red River delta’s rainy season. Every day, skilled puppeteers enthral audiences with their skills of manipulating the lacquered wooden marionettes over a pool of water whilst musicians playing traditional instruments provide the soundtrack to a bygone era.
STROLL THE WEST LAKE
The peaceful and tranquil West Lake, or also known as Ho Tay, offers an idyllic setting for a late afternoon stroll. The lakeside, which has seen a number of modern homes and hotels being built in the last few years, is also home to Tran Quoc, one of the oldest pagodas in the city. The 11th century Quan Thanh Temple, where a 17th century bronze statue of Tran Vo – the Guardian of the North is also located here. The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, located in the vicinity, is also worth a visit as it chronicles the history of the various ethnic groups that reside in the country.
DINE AT THE OPERA HOUSE
The Hanoi Opera House is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and also home to the one of Hanoi’s most famous restaurants. The upscale Nineteen 11 Restaurant & Bar , located in the basement of the Opera House, first opened its doors in 1911 and has continuously been one of the city’s top fine dining restaurants. Today, the outlet serves up an appetising array of Western and Vietnamese fusion-style dishes, and remains as a vital component of Hanoi’s eclectic and ever growing dining scene.