Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, has always been at the heart of Vietnamese culture, situated on the Red River Delta, which, at the county's dawn, comprised most of the country’s then fledgling land mass, before the progressive southward push of later generations gave rise to the Vietnam of today.

Iconic bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi's inner city is centred around Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautifully pleasant park area popular with early morning Tai Chi practitioners and home to the ‘Tortoise tower’ and ‘Temple of the Jade Mound', each resting picturesquely on small islets within the lake, the latter reachable via the iconic and oft photographed Huc Bridge. Leafy and lovely by day, the lake is also a delight to circumnavigate at night, being artfully lit and imbued with a magical atmosphere.

Turtle Tower on Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam 

North of Hoan Kiem Lake is the ‘old quarter’ a pre-colonial maze dating back to the fifteenth century and the only surviving example of an original medieval city structure now remaining in Vietnam, still retaining its busy ancient mercantile ambience and much of its original and fascinating architecture, though the shop fronts are nowadays increasingly coated with the commercial veneer of the modern age. 

Hang Bac, Hang Buom and Ma May are the streets most admired by visitors. Other noted places of interest within the old quarter are the silk shops of Hang Gai, Bach Ma temple, Dong Xuan Market and the Museum of Independence, situated upon the site where Ho Chi Minh drafted his declaration of independence. 

street scene in Hanoi, Vietnam 

To the east and south of Hoan Kiem Lake is the French quarter, a legacy of the period of colonial rule which would colour so much of the later history of Vietnam, and ultimately lead to the bitter American war for which the country is so unfairly most remembered.

Nevertheless, the architectural inheritance of the French period is a spacious echo of Parisian charm, with wide tree-lined boulevards and grand buildings, providing some calm contrast to the fascinating but hectic oriental bustle of the old quarter, and is highly suited to being appreciated with a good stroll or bicycle ride. 

The principal sights of the French quarter are the Opera House, History Museum, the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution, the Museum of Vietnamese Women and the shopping opportunities provided by Trang Tien plaza.

One Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi Vietnam

To the west of the old quarter, and beneath Ho Tay ‘West’ lake, Hanoi’s largest, the historical district, housing the famous temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda are among the few precious surviving remnants of Hanoi’s foundation in the eleventh century.

Nearby are Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his house, and the museum dedicated to his memory, the Botanical Gardens, Presidential Palace, Martyr Monument and Fine Arts Museum. 

Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi

Ho Tay Lake itself is home to the serene eleventh century Quan Thanh Temple and the beautiful Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi’s oldest structure, dating back to the sixth century, built upon a causeway over the lake. 

Beyond the city limits, the modern thrum of the Capital soon gives way to the to the multitude of rural villages peppering the Red River Delta, many of which operate as specialist craft villages, and provide for great excursions by bicycle into the rural soul of Vietnam and an authentic vision of the country’s living history.

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