7 Must-See Monuments and Buildings in Hanoi, Vietnam

7 Must-See Monuments And Buildings In Hanoi, Vietnam by Rosie Andre

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a city where ancient history seamlessly blends with modern vibrancy. Known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture that has evolved from its complex history, Hanoi offers travellers a myriad of significant monuments and buildings to explore.

Here are the seven must-see sites that encapsulate the spirit and history of this dynamic city.

If you plan to spend 5 days in Hanoi, read this detailed itinerary where I break down everything you should see!

1. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

In the heart of Hanoi lies the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a monumental marble edifice that houses the embalmed remains of Ho Chi Minh, the most iconic leader of Vietnam. Opened in 1975, the mausoleum is a place of deep reverence for Vietnamese people. Visitors should expect to dress respectfully and be prepared for a solemn experience. The changing of guards ceremony is a precise, highly choreographed event that is a must-watch.

This is my top spot because it is such an important building and an unusual experience. It was unlike anything I've done before and I think it is well worth the visit, just for the experience alone.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum by Rosie André
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum by Rosie André

2. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history. Dating back over a millennium, the site was the political center of the country for several consecutive royal dynasties. Walking through the citadel, visitors can see ancient palatial buildings, relics, and archaeological treasures. It’s a profound place to understand the depth of Vietnamese culture and history.

I really enjoyed our visit to the Citadel. You could easily spend a couple of hours here walking around, reading all the information, going into all the different rooms. It was well worth the visit, even just to admire the architecture.

The Imperial Citadel Of Thang Long by Rosie André
The Imperial Citadel Of Thang Long by Rosie André

3. St. Joseph's Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral, constructed in 1886, represents the French colonial influence in Vietnam. Known as the “Big Church,” its architecture is reminiscent of Notre Dame de Paris with its Gothic style and twin bell towers. The cathedral remains a functioning place of worship with masses conducted in both Vietnamese and English, offering a serene experience amidst the bustling city.

This church really stands out due to its dark facade. It's unexpected to see a large church in Vietnam and it was nice to visit and soak up the atmosphere of the square.

4. The Hanoi Opera House

Modeled after the Palais Garnier in Paris, the Hanoi Opera House is a stunning example of colonial architecture at its most lavish. Built in 1911, this cultural landmark hosts many Vietnamese performances, including opera, ballet, and symphonies. Attending a performance here is not only a cultural treat but also an opportunity to experience the beautifully restored interiors.

We didn't end up going inside but it is equally beautiful from the outside. We enjoyed looking at the architecture and also exploring the nearby streets which house gorgeous high end fashion stores such as Louis Vuitton.

The Hanoi Opera House by Rosie André
The Hanoi Opera House by Rosie André

5. Long Bien Bridge

Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same architect behind the famous Eiffel Tower, Long Bien Bridge was completed in 1902 and was one of the longest bridges in Asia at the time. Having witnessed the resilience of Hanoi during the Vietnam War, it stands as a symbol of strength and endurance. Today, it offers a unique pedestrian experience with panoramic views of the Red River and the city's landscape.

Walking along the Long Bien Bridge was one of my favourite things to do in Hanoi. A nice way to see a different part of the city and to take in such a huge feat of engineering.

Long Bien Bridge by Rosie André
Long Bien Bridge by Rosie André

6. Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple

Hoan Kiem Lake, situated at the heart of Hanoi, offers a peaceful escape from the city's energetic pace. In the center of the lake lies Ngoc Son Temple, accessible via the red-painted The Huc Bridge. The temple, dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, is a hub of cultural and spiritual activity. The lake and temple together provide a picturesque setting that is especially lively during dawn and dusk, when locals partake in tai chi and other exercises.

We really enjoyed walking around this lake and especially visiting the small temple. This is a must see when in Hanoi as it's such an integral part of the city. And a nice way to get outside and avoid the fumes from the cars and motorbikes!

Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple by Rosie André
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple by Rosie André

7. The East Gate (O Quan Chuong)

O Quan Chuong, the East Gate, is one of the last surviving gates of the ancient walls that once surrounded Hanoi. Built in the 1749, this historic gate has withstood numerous battles and is a testament to the resilience of Hanoi. Visiting the gate offers a tangible link to the city’s past, standing as a monument to its historic defenses and as a beacon of endurance.

There isn't a whole lot to do here, but I think it's worth visiting non the less. We had lunch just outside the gate and it was amazing to each lunch whilst looking at such an iconic and old structure. It always amazes me when such old buildings are still standing today.

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