A short taxi or motorbike ride outside of Hanoi's center brings you to the Museum of Ethnology. The French-designed building and surrounding grounds, which simulate life in the provinces, warrant the trip even before you step inside. The museum displays a dizzying array of artifacts from all over Vietnam. Brief descriptions in French, English and Vietnamese of tools, clothing and recreated homes provide a sketch of several Vietnamese ethnic minorities. A craft shop sells books, bags and other items from various ethnic communities at reasonable prices.
This small lake between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter is central to Hanoian folklore. A ghostly shrine (the Turtle Pagoda) standing on an islet at its center pays homage to a golden turtle. In the 15th century, this heroic reptile is said to have returned a magic sword to its home in the lake after it had been taken. These days, the sculptured park along the banks plays host to postcard sellers, hawkers, elder men playing chess, llone photographers looking for a snap among others.
In 1070, King Ly Thanh Tong founded the Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) as a Temple of Confucius, to pay tribute to education and to those of high academic achievement. Centuries later, it became home to Hanoi's first university. Even now, more than 200 years after the last national examination, the site's five courtyards still enjoy an atmosphere of higher learning. Today, art students sit on the grass and try to reproduce the traditional Vietnamese architecture on paper. Stone stelae record the names of successful doctorates of the past at this quiet retreat, into Vietnamese educational history. Touted to be one of the most revered places in the country, this erstwhile university has a certain kind of a palatial aura attached to it. It is as if the ancient regal allure yet lingers over its present-day courtyards, the majestic main entrance, pavilions and verdant trees arching over winding walkways. Complete with beautifully-carved sculptures and traditional artifacts, this temple also bears attractions like the Văn lake and the Well of Heavenly Clarity.
There is nothing more striking in Hanoi than looking down Trang Tien Street and seeing the Hanoi Opera House standing strong at the end. Built by the French in 1911, and renovated in the late 1990s, this is an incredible building. The facade is colonial French with pillars and balconies overlooking the city center. The opera house plays host to visiting foreign performances as well as Vietnamese symphonies.
The resting place of the remarkable revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, this monumental mausoleum stands at the same place where the then-President read the Declaration of Independence. The glorious centerpiece of Ba Dinh Square, the mausoleum boasts an architecture which is a skillful melange of both modernist as well as traditional Vietnamese styles. Inside, the mortal remains of the great politician are placed in a glass case amidst much protection. One of the most precious landmarks of Hanoi, this mausoleum proffers a somber experience, lending deep insights into the legacy the man has left behind, setting a striking example, not just for the country, but for the entire world. Cradled in the spiritual center of Vietnamese Independence, the mausoleum features a quiet line that forms to view 'Uncle Ho's' body, which is a vision of sheer respect and dignity. Sitting in front of Ho's stilt house, this moving mausoleum is one of the priceless possessions of the city.
St. Joseph's Cathedral, which anchors one of Hanoi's most touristy streets, offers a glimpse into a bygone era. Speckles of light still dance through stained glass work, leaving a kaleidoscope of color on the towers, which stretch toward the sky. Its doors first swung open in 1886, during the earliest days of colonial rule, and the cathedral still holds mass twice daily. During other hours, visitors can enter through a door on the side of the cathedral.
In the ninth century, King Ly Thai To was trying to build the Hanoi Citadel, but the walls kept collapsing. Bach Ma (White Horse), who was the spirit of Thang Long (Ancient Hanoi), posed as a builder to help the King. This temple was then founded in honor of the spirit. A statue of the horse stands beside the altar. The current structure is typical of Hanoi pagodas and was built in the 18th century. It blends in well with the bustling streets and there is even a shop built into the walls to the left of the entrance.
Wide Eyed Tours are a tour company that specialize in South East Asia and try to offer their customers as much variety as they can. If you want to sample the different sights, sounds and smells of Asia, this is the tourism boutique to go to. Choose a special custom designed tour like the Adventurous Tour, the Special Interest Tour, the Deluxe Tour or the Corporate Tour, for one that suits your requirements and time frame. All the staff members at Hanoi are ex tour leaders so the tours are handled professionally. Head to Culi Café and let them give you all the free advice you need to find your way around, while you enjoy the cool comforts of the cafe of course!
How about a hotel, a restaurant, and a tour all in one? You can experience Hanoi as you never have before, on board one of Indochina Sails' sparkling ships. See for yourself why Vietnam's Ha Long was designated as a World Natural Heritage Area. If you're picturing "roughing it" in sparse, navy-style quarters, you've got it wrong: these luxury cabins offer all the comforts of a five-star terrestrial hotel, along with the convenience of a cruise ship. Each cabin makes use of large windows in order that guests may partake in the extraordinary views of Ha Long Bay and Hanoi.
If you want to experience the nightlife of Hanoi, Pho Nho Coffee is a must-visit spot. This cafe is one of the most happening places in town and is known for hosting a plethora of events. Enjoy some live music concerts by veteran artists as well as the raw talents which this cafe features regularly. In case you feel thirsty after a rocking concert by your favorite artist, you can enjoy some refreshing beverages offered at Pho Nho Coffee. Its cozy interiors are equipped for the different music performances that happen here. With an atmosphere full of zeal, this cafe attracts many youths and one of the favorite spots for hanging out amongst the locals.
Nestled between silk shops and handicraft peddlers, the Apricot Gallery highlights the works of both new- and old-generation Vietnamese artists. A stone waterfall trickles into a small pool on the ground floor of the serene three-story space. Items on display rotate and feature several mediums and styles, from the more traditional lacquer scenes to abstract oil paintings. The gallery has a reputation for attracting foreign dignitaries in search of a souvenir.
Aimed at providing budding artists a platform to showcase their talent, Manzi Art Space features a myriad of artistic creations by local and nationally renowned artists. Housed in an elegant French villa, this art gallery looks to promote contemporary art through various exhibitions and events that attract artists from all over the country. Awe-inspiring works of art, from vivid canvas paintings to various interactive installations and sculptures, on display at this gallery reveal the impact of culture on the art of the region. Besides exhibitions, this has also been the venue for various movie screenings, music and dance performances.