The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) is a pleasant retreat from the streets of Hanoi. Founded in 1070 for the worship of sages of Confucianism, it constitutes a rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture and is well worth a visit. Vietnam’s first university was established here in 1076 to educate the sons of mandarins. In 1482, King Le Thanh Tong ordered the erection of stelae with inscriptions of the names, places of birth and achievemnets of the graduates who had taken examinations since 1442. The stelae are erected on the tortoise shells which surely give visitors many impressions. Presently, 82 stelae stand at the Temple of Literature.
President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the final resting place of President Ho Chi Minh, was constructed between 1973 and 1975 of native materials gathered from all over Vietnam. It now becomes a site of pilgrimage for Vietnamese as well as for foreign visitors. Just some steps from the mausoleum, visitors can visit One-Pillar pagoda resembling a lotus blossom and also the Ho Chi Minh Museum depicting a view of President Ho’s life.
Emperor Ly Thai To built one of Hanoi's most famous landmarks, the One Pillar Pagoda in 1049 in honor of the Goddess of Mercy. The French destroyed the wooden shrine when they retreated from Hanoi in 1954, but the pagoda was quickly rebuilt. The design of the pagoda reflects the Buddhist belief that the world was created much as a lotus flower emerges from the water. The temple is built above a small pond covered in lotus blossoms.
The museum contains numerous artifacts from Vietnam's history, with some relics dating back as far as the Neolithic period. Exhibits include sculptures and paintings, collections of religious artifacts, and a collection of items from the ancient kingdom of Champa.
Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart of Hanoi. In the morning, residents migrate to the lake to jog around its tree-lined shores or to perform mesmerising tai chi. In the evening, the lakeside cafes fill up with residents sharing gossip from the day's events. Hoan Kiem Lake has a colourful history. Legend has it that in the 15th century, Emperor Le Thai To was sailing on the lake when a golden turtle appeared to snatch away the golden sword the emperor used to vanquish Vietnam's foes. The sword assures Vietnamese of divine intervention in times of national crisis.
The Hanoi Opera House is one of Hanoi's most memorable landmarks. Designed by French architects, the Opera House is one of Vietnam's grandest buildings. The building's exterior is a delightful mix of shuttered windows, wrought iron balconies, and tiles friezes. The construction of Hanoi Opera House started in 1901 and was completed in 1911. The Opera House was completely restored in 2000.
The French built the notorious Hoa Lo Prison in the early 20th century, and used it to jail many of Vietnam's Viet Minh revolutionaries. During the U.S.-Vietnam war, American POW's were jailed there, including former Ambassador Douglas "Pete" Peterson and U.S. Senator John McCain. In 1996, a modern, 26-storey office and apartment building was built on the site. However, large sections of Hoa Lo were preserved and converted into a museum.
Just open at the end of 1997, the museum has attracted the attention of visitors, ethnographers and researchers from all over the world. With its astounding collection of 1,000 objects, 15,000 photos and hundreds of tapes about the 60 ethnic groups of Vietnam, it has successfully recreated the daily life together with the religious rituals and the symbolic festivals of each ethnic group.
With numerous exhibitions of specific fine arts collections including ancient stone sculptures, antique pottery, ethnic minority paintings, lacquerware, etc. the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is a lively historical treasure depicting the origins and evolution of Vietnamese fine arts. The entrance is at No. 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc St. and the opening hours are 8:00am-12:00 am & 1:30pm to 4:30pm, from Tues. to Sun.
Lake West, the largest lake in Hanoi, and Lake Truc Bach are an attractive part of the city. The two lakes are separated by Thanh Nien St. with rows of willow trees offering a picturesque site in the heart of the country. In the past, West Lake was once a resort for mandarins and kings. Now it is a very popular recreational place for Hanoians to enjoy fresh air, peaceful atsmosphere and typical dishes. We wouldn’t forget to mention Tran Quoc Pagoda right on the shore of Lake West which is one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam.
Lake Hoan Kiem, considered the most beautiful lake in Hanoi, is an enchanting body of water right in the heart of the city. Lying on a small island in this lake is Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain), founded in the 18th century and dedicated to the Scholar Van Xuong, General Tran Hung Dao (who defeated the Mongols in the 13 th century) and La To (patron saint of physicians). Ngoc Son Temple is reached via the red-painted, wooden bridge - The Huc (Rising Sun) constructed in 1885.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter of over a-thousand-year history, or 36 streets with each taking a different name after its product, remains one of Vietnam’s most lively and unusual places, where visitors can buy anything from precious stones to silk kimonos. Some of the specialized streets here include Hang Bac with a trip of snazzy jewellery shops or Hang Ngang with a row of clothing shops and tailors’. Moreover, a stroll through this historic Old Quarter with a stop at Dong Xuan Market is highly recommended for visitors can get a good dose of Vietnamese culture and some insight into the country’s long history.
Half an hour’s drive from Hanoi, across the bridge Chuong Duong and down the northern bank of the Red River, brings you to one of the best-known villages in Vietnam. The residents of Bat Trang have been making ceramic objects for centuries. In their heyday, - some 600 years ago - the artisans were responsible for providing dinnerware for the royal families of the capital city and China, while trader took Bat Trang plates, jars and ornamental items as far afield as Japan, Holland and France. Nowadays, by the help of techniques, Bat Trang village can produce its product in high volumes at low cost. Mold are used to make votive and ornamental objects in its thousands, which are fired in brick kilns then painted by hand. There is very few artisans still use a wheel to create pottery items.