A-Z of capital cities: Hanoi

To say Vietnam is an infamous country would be an understatement. America’s involvement in the war between the North and the South ended in the eventual failure of the South Vietnamese government, and the two halves being re-unified in 1975. As a result of this, many still consider Vietnam to be a war-torn nation. Situated in North Vietnam, Hanoi was bombed extensively by the US government, yet today, the city has so much more to offer, including a vibrant mix of historical French, Chinese and Vietnamese architecture juxtaposed with modern infrastructure. As the second largest city in Vietnam, Hanoi has a lively, busy atmosphere with plenty of culture to experience.

If you’re interested in history take a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the body of the leader of communist revolutionary forces in the Vietnam War, lies at rest. Alternatively, try another of Hanoi’s countless museums, such as the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, which gives an overview of Vietnamese culture or The Vietnamese Women’s Museum, which explains the role of females in the country over history. Both are perfect for those who know little about Vietnam.


A lesser known attraction in Hanoi is the theatre; The Thang Long Ca Tru, which holds water puppet shows that encompass live music and singing, providing a great (and cheap) way to see the traditional culture of the nation. Similarly, The Vietnam National Tuong Theatre holds vibrant comedy shows with dancing dragons and colourful dress, making for an unmissable spectacle.

If you fancy taking some time out, try The Hoan Kiem Lake, where, according to local legend, a giant turtle presented Emperor Le Loi with a magic sword with which to defeat Chinese invaders. In accordance with their pact, the Emperor returned the sword to the turtle after a glorious victory in battle, and this is why the lake is named Hoan Kiem – ‘restored sword’. The beautiful location is a perfect photography spot and a common tourist attraction.


So when is the best time to visit? Seeing Hanoi at the time of a festival is probably the best way to immerse yourself in its culture in a short amount of time – for example the Tet festival takes place from the end of January to the beginning of February and as it’s the Vietnamese New Year there are countless celebrations.

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If shopping is more appealing, then head to the Old Quarter. This bustling area consists of over 40 different streets full of shops, with each road being named after the type of goods that are sold. Also remember that trying out the street food there is a must!

However you spend your time in Hanoi, be sure to experience as much of its unique culture as possible, and whilst you’re in Vietnam, try to visit Hue and Ho Chi Minh City –  two more cities bursting with history, culture and beautiful architecture.

Priya Thakrar

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Images courtesy of Xiaojun DengShizhaoDavid Jones and Greg Willis via Flickr 


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