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Welcome to Hanoi

Between maze-like streets, a never-ending sea of traffic, and crowded marketplaces, Vietnam's ancient capital can be overwhelming at first. But just beneath the surface, you'll find Hanoi's rich heritage and proud cultural traditions are waiting to be discovered. Start your city tour in the atmospheric Old Quarter, where countless craft shops and food stalls line dozens of narrow "trade streets." Around Hoan Kiem Lake, beautifully restored, French Colonial buildings, including the Grand Opera House and the Presidential Palace, flank wide, stately boulevards, and a painted footbridge leads to the antique Ngoc Son Confucian temple on the lake. Learn more about Vietnam's most influential leader at the Ho Chi Minh complex, where you can see "Uncle Ho's" former house-on-stilts, as well as his earthly remains (housed in the mausoleum). Don't miss the Temple of Literature, built in the 11th century as the country's first university, or the excellent Museum of Ethnology. Take a tasting tour to sample some of Asia's best street food, which might include classic bun cha (slow-roasted pork served with rice vermicelli, herbs, and lettuce), followed by thick, sweet, and highly addictive Vietnamese coffee. Enjoy a traditional water-puppet show and a cyclo (three-wheeled taxi) ride, and you'll soon feel right at home in Hanoi. When you're ready to explore farther afield, Hanoi makes an easy transport hub: Junk boat cruises on UNESCO-listed Halong Bay are just a few hours away, while south of the capital, highlights include the Perfume Pagoda, Bai Dinh Pagoda, and the Trang An grottoes.

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Top 10 attractions in Hanoi

Hanoi Old Quarter
#1

Hanoi Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is the cultural heart of Hanoi where the pulse of life has constantly beat for nearly 2,000 years. Daily routine starts early and builds to a friendly bustle. Streets have distinct character and are named after the crafts once made there - silver, ladder, silk, paper. St. Joseph's cathedral rings for mass regularly throughout the day, follow the bells to check its Neo-Gothic style. Huyen Thien Pagoda is another of the many temples peppered around this part of town. The Old City Gate is one of four original entrances to the heart of the Royal City to survive over a thousand years. Take time to sample the spirit, atmosphere and shopping on offer here - nothing says Hanoi like its Old Quarter....
Hanoi Opera House (Nha Hat Lon)
#2

Hanoi Opera House (Nha Hat Lon)

The Hanoi Opera House (Nha Hat Lon) is a 100­-year-­old performance hall with architecture modeled on the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris. Nha Hat Lon was erected by the French colonial administration at the turn of the 20th century and is a landmark building in Hanoi. It was built in a typical French style with classic gothic features. In 1997, the modernization and repair of the building was undertaken by Vietnamese French architects, and the decorative designs on the ceilings, arches, walls, and doors were renewed. Home to the Vietnam Symphony Orchestra, the Opera House also hosts the Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Ballet, plus both traditional and modern local productions. No tours of the building are offered but the exterior makes for some good photo opportunities. In terms of atmosphere, the Opera House is best seen at night when it is illuminated by lights....
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
#4

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

At this mausoleum the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh, founder of unified Vietnam and the country's liberator from Western colonialism, lies in a glass case for public viewing. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex was built with assistance from the USSR and the austere and impressive architecture is recognizably Soviet/Communist in design. Around the building lie 240 ordered squares of manicured grass cut with concrete walkways. This dedication to 'Uncle Ho,' as he is affectionately known, is unsurprisingly one of the nation's most revered sites and as such this is a moving, and eerie, experience. Nearby is the popular Ho Chi Minh Museum dedicated to his life and work....
Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake)
#5

Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake)

The Lake of the Restored Sword holds as big a place in local folklore as it does in Hanoi’s city culture. According to local legend, an ancient emperor was once floating along the lake when the Golden Turtle God requested his magic sword. It’s an age-old story that locals still tell to curious tourists who wander the lake’s scenic shores. It marks the divide between Hanoi’s Old Quarter and French Quarter and is also home to an endangered species of massive soft-shell turtles that gave nearby Turtle Temple its name. Today, travelers flock to the lake to escape the hustle of the city. And while the morning hours prove a calming way to greet the day (locals like to gather at one of the many quiet cafes to sip cups of strong, sweet coffee as the sun rises), it’s worth sticking around after dark to capture pictures of Hanoi’s skyline aglow with glittering white lights....
Temple of Literature (Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam)
#6

Temple of Literature (Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam)

The Temple of Literature (or Quoc Tu Giam) was originally built as a Confucian Temple in 1070 AD. Six years later on the same grounds was founded Vietnam's first university to educate the administrative and military warrior Mandarin classes. Over the years buildings have been added and renovated but much of the architecture dates back to the Lý (1010 - 1225) and Trần dynasties (1225 - 1400). The university operated for more than 700 years but today you can experience the tranquility without its warrior students, with its beautiful gardens and pavilions in a series of courtyards....
Tran Quoc Pagoda (Chua Tran Quoc)
#7

Tran Quoc Pagoda (Chua Tran Quoc)

One of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam, and the oldest in Hanoi, Tran Quoc Pagoda (Chua Tran Quoc) was built in during the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De (AD 541–547) and moved to its present location in 1615. Located on an islet within West Lake, Tran Quoc Pagoda offers beautiful architecture, historic relics and artifacts, and a serene and scenic environment....
Long Bien Bridge (Cau Long Bien)
#8

Long Bien Bridge (Cau Long Bien)

Designed by Parisian architects and built between 1899 and 1902, Hanoi’s Long Bien Bridge was the first steel bridge spanning the Red River and has long been a point of pride for the Vietnamese. During the war against the French in 1954, the bridge served as a vital transportation link for moving food into Northern Central Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the bridge was bombed by American air attacks, and yet today, it still stands as a testament to the nation’s tumultuous history. Apart from its historical significance, the bridge has a pedestrian path where vendors often set up stalls selling some of the city’s tastiest street foods. It’s also one of the best spots in Hanoi for watching a sunrise or sunset, and it’s not unusual to see young couples having their wedding pictures taken on the historic structure....
One-Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot)
#9

One-Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot)

Legend has it that while Emperor Ly Thai Tong was troubled about being childless, he dreamt that he met the bodhisattva, Quan Am, who, sitting on a lotus flower, offered him a son. Soon after he married a peasant girl who bore him a son, and in gratitude he built the One Pillar Pagoda (or Chua Mot Cot) in the design of a lotus flower on its stem rising from a square pond. The original temple was destroyed by the French Union in 1954, it was rebuilt on a single concrete pillar of 1.25 meter (4 foot) diameter. The temple itself is made from wood and bears a statue of Quan Am, to whom it is dedicated, inside....
Dong Xuan Market
#10

Dong Xuan Market

Three stories of wholesale and traditional goods, local food and hand-tailored clothes, as well as cosmetics and crafts, make the massive Dong Xuan Market a true experience of southeast Asia. Both locals and tourists hustle through the jam-packed stalls of Dong Xuan during daylight hours, bartering for better deals on just about anything imaginable. But it’s after dark that the market truly comes alive, as travelers gather to sample traditional foods while watching cultural performances that include music, dance and plenty of energy, too....

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