Located in Hoan Kiem district, the neo-Gothic St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Hanoi and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi. Modeled after Notre Dame in Paris, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is one of the most famous and striking landmarks in Hanoi from the colonial era.
Constructed between 1882 and 1886, St. Joseph’s Cathedral was consecrated on Christmas Eve, 1886. It was built on the site of the ancient Bao Thien Pagoda, which was demolished to make way for the church. It’s known for its soaring façade, twin bell towers, and a majestic interior with rib-vaulted ceiling, original stained glass windows, and elaborate altars. Although mostly European in design and look, there are some traditional Vietnamese decorations on the aisles, walls, and altars of the church. Mass is held several times a day, and is often crowded to overcapacity; those that wish to attend should consult the schedule that is sometimes posted outside the church.
A number of sightseeing tours will feature a stop at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, along with other attractions like the Temple of Literature and Hoan Kiem Lake, and may include additional activities like a cyclo ride, a food tour, or a water puppet show.
Things to Know Before You Go
- It’s free to enter the church, though donations are accepted.
- Enter through the side door, rather than the main entrance, except for mass.
- Mass is performed in Vietnamese and French.
- This is an active place of worship, so please be respectful of worshippers.
How to Get There
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is located west of Hoan Kiem Lake, and can be easily reached on foot from most of central Hanoi. It’s easiest to take a taxi from elsewhere in Hanoi. Local buses, including buses 1 and 2, also stop nearby.
When to Get There
The church’s opening hours tend to fluctuate, though it’s often closed for lunch. Services are performed throughout the week and weekend. The Feast of St. Joseph is celebrated on March 19. Christmas is a festive time to visit the church, and will have the biggest crowds.
There are a number of boutiques, restaurants, and bars near the church. Hoan Kiem Lake is also nearby. This scenic lake is pleasant to walk around, and is home to Ngoc Son Temple, located on Jade Island, at the northern part of the lake.