11 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Hanoi

Jul 22, 2021

Vietnam is the nation that seceded from the French colonial empire in 1954, after which the country suffered a string of tragic defeats at the hands of the French.

From the German invasion of the 1940s and the associated famine in 1944, to the Vietnam War in the 1960s, to the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, the country's history has been marked by hardship.

Today, the Vietnamese are finally enjoying the luxury of peace and prosperity. Hundreds of resorts have sprouted along the shores of its most famous bay, and beautiful island retreats line the coast and tropical islands. If you like, you can plan an entire vacation around a visit to Hanoi, Vietnam's fascinating capital city.

With its formidable French architecture, friendly inhabitants, and intriguing history, Hanoi has much to offer the first-time visitor. Discover the top attractions with our list of the top tourist attractions in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Museum of Vietnamese History

Located in the heart of the historical center of Hanoi, the Museum of Vietnamese History is a large, clear museum and a must for anyone visiting the city. The focus is on Vietnamese history from the Stone Age to the modern era, while also providing visitors a unique opportunity to explore the local culture through music, dance, handicrafts, and many other things. Archaeological remains, one of the best known being the Citadel of Ha Long Bay, are also highlighted. Other attractions include the photos of everyday life in Vietnam during the socialist period, a unique exhibit on the former French Indochina colony, and an unusual exhibition on Vietnamese people's behavior in different cultures.

Halong Bay

Photo of Hạ Long Bay
Hạ Long Bay: en.wikipedia.org

Halong Bay is one of Vietnam's most beautiful natural sights, located just off the country's southeast coast. The bay, once a famous naval base, is now a world-famous diving and snorkeling destination thanks to its magnificent coral reefs and a number of attractive islands, as well as some magnificent limestone islets. Due to its popularity as a tourist destination, Halong Bay can be crowded with tourists, but there are plenty of opportunities for those who just want to relax and unwind on the beach. Those who want to see more of Vietnam should take a trip to the village of Hon Gai, once used as a French military base, where there are very atmospheric colonial-era buildings.

Temple of Literature

Photo of Temple of Literature, Hanoi
Temple of Literature, Hanoi: en.wikipedia.org

A wonderfully serene complex, Hanoi's Temple of Literature, one of the oldest surviving Buddhist monasteries in the world, was built in 1070, and is considered one of the holiest places in Vietnam. This verdant site was the heart of the former Vietnamese capital in the 18th century and contains a collection of 18th-century wood carvings, paintings, murals, Buddha statues, and wood-block prints. The surrounding park is an excellent spot for a leisurely walk.

Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum

Photo of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: en.wikipedia.org

The highlight of Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum (also known as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, or the Mausoleum of the Heroes) is a small painting of Ho Chi Minh's life. Though it appears quite small, the painting is actually quite large – approximately 1,000 square feet. The painting includes Ho Chi Minh's profile as well as scenes of his life. In the background is a map of Ho Chi Minh's life, as well as Ho Chi Minh's personal belongings and articles of his time. A simple and solemn atmosphere prevails at the Mausoleum. The Mausoleum is open every day except on a few national holidays.

Hoi An Ancient Town

Photo of Hội An
Hội An: en.wikipedia.org

Hoi An is a beautiful seaside town of rice-paddy-covered hills, stilt-houses and charming old French colonial buildings. The old town and the old quarter, on the south side of the Song Hong river, has very narrow and steep alleyways with traditional architecture and bright, vivid tropical colors. The city is named after Ho Chi Minh, and was for a time the headquarters of the nationalist leader after whom the modern country is named. Hoi An was once the political and commercial capital of a powerful trading empire stretching from Burma to Indonesia. This legacy lives on in the city's many old colonial buildings and stylish traditional, wooden shops, and today is a wonderful place to sample the specialities of Vietnam and the Mekong Delta.

St. Joseph's Cathedral

Photo of St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi: en.wikipedia.org

St. Joseph's Cathedral is located on Nguyen Trai Street in Hanoi's Old Quarter. The present structure was built from 1839 to 1841 by the Jesuits. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became the Notre Dame cathedral of the French colony in Vietnam. After France fell out of Vietnam, however, it was turned over to the Vietnamese Catholics. It was damaged by the earthquake of 1976, and was rebuilt in 1991. The cathedral has had a great influence on Vietnamese architecture and its style is an artistic synthesis of the Catholic and the traditional Vietnamese culture.

Hanoi Opera House

Photo of Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Opera House: en.wikipedia.org

Hanoi's modern Opera House is a building that is part of the city's central skyline. Situated in a 100-acre site overlooking the Ho Chi Minh complex of ponds, gardens, and landscaping, the Hanoi Opera House was designed by prominent Vietnamese architect Nguyen Ngoc Lien. Completed in 1996, it's a beautiful building with its concrete beams, giant slabs of green glass, and clean lines. Inside the building is the Opera House Art Gallery, with its many galleries containing the work of internationally known Vietnamese and international artists, which is worth visiting for its permanent collection of paintings and modern sculpture. There's also a gallery of Vietnamese photography featuring, among others, stunning portraits by Vu Phuc Nguyen.

Museums

Photo of Hanoi Museum
Hanoi Museum: en.wikipedia.org

Hanoi is an unmissable stopover on any Asian trip. Its distinct atmosphere and captivating way of life are just as enticing as its venerable cuisine and colourful temples. The capital of northern Vietnam, the city is a busy metropolis home to several world-class museums and one of the oldest and most dynamic Buddhist temples. Visitors will be overwhelmed by the magnitude of its history and heritage. Be sure to visit the city's finest religious structures, including the atmospheric Temple of Literature, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and the Temple of Heaven. For lovers of Vietnamese architecture and design, visit the mausoleums, pagodas, and temples that make Hanoi one of the most charming and unique cities in the world.

Bach Ma Temple

Photo of Trúc Bạch Lake
Trúc Bạch Lake: en.wikipedia.org

One of the city's most elegant sights, Bach Ma Temple is replete with fascinating history, serenity, and enchanting architecture. The temple takes its name from the mythical Goddess of Mercy, revered as the protector of children, and was founded by Chinese monk Huyen Thong (AD 867-947), who acquired the land on which it stands from the Vietnamese king. Highlights include the golden statue of the Vairocana Buddha, which was brought to Hanoi from China in 939. The actual temple, the oldest in the city and the second largest Buddhist shrine in Vietnam, houses four wonderful Buddhas in its many altars and temples, and is surrounded by incense trees and flowers, which bloom profusely in the spring.

Hoa Lo Prison

Photo of Hỏa Lò Prison
Hỏa Lò Prison: en.wikipedia.org

Built between 1862 and 1902, Hoa Lo Prison is one of the largest and best-known prisons in Vietnam. Located in Hanoi, this prison was the main prison for Vietnamese and political prisoners. The main complex was later expanded and now consists of five facilities and 14 buildings. On the grounds are various monuments, including a sculpture by Vietnamese sculptor Duong Van Anh. The prison was one of several executed by the North Vietnamese for their part in the war. Other famous prisoners include Hien, a South Vietnamese general killed in April 1975, and Vo Nhan, a South Vietnamese general. After this date the prisons in Vietnam were closed down.

Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Photo of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City: en.wikipedia.org

As Vietnam moves into the era of socialism, museums and galleries continue to play an important role in preserving the country's history and culture. The Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts (Hung Vuong) in Hanoi, for example, has a remarkable collection of over 50,000 pieces spanning the history of the country. It was in Ho Chi Minh City that the Museum of Vietnamese History opened its doors in July 2002 to display a collection of artifacts from ancient times to the present. The main highlight is the display of traditional houses used by the Mekong Delta rice-paddy dwellers of northern Vietnam. They lived in wattle-and-daub houses constructed from materials such as bamboo and rice straw thatched with palm leaves, while dikes were used to keep out the invading ocean. At the beginning of the 20th century, the most prosperous rice-growing area in Asia became Vietnam's capital, a metropolis of 2.3 million people.