Hanoi is very busy and full of life with a fascinating mix of old and new Vietnam with Chinese and French influences and the oldest existing city in Southeast Asia. Hanoi is changing quickly but still retains a strong sense of identity with a lot of things to see. From the architecture of the Old Quarter and the French Quarter to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature or the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, the Vietnamese capital lends itself to exploration. Anyone who has ever visited Hanoi will probably tell you that it may be the most beautiful city in Southeast Asia. People have settled down here along the Red River for a thousand of years and you will find architectural remains left by all who conquered this great valley.
One of the reasons that Hanoi has attracted so many tourists over the years is its Old Quarter (36 old streets and guilds). It is an area well-known for the history, the architecture, the enormous amount and diversity of products and even the everyday life of its local residents. Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the “36 Old Streets,” there are more than 36 actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number 36 came from the 15th century when there might have been 36 guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. In fact, there are now more than 70 streets in the area. Although many of the streets no longer sell the products after which they were named, some still do. Today, the Old Quarter has become the unique classical feature of Hanoi, and the inspiration of numerous writers, poets, and painters, and one of the desired tourist destinations in Hanoi. To fully explore the Old Quarter in Hanoi, prepare your feet for a day of walking street to street and taking in the locals’ daily life, the old-style narrow streets and houses, the colorful souvenir shops, and of course trying some of the most tasty traditional foods of Hanoians.
The French Quarter remains true to its name, a French cultural outpost in Indochina. Lying to the south and east of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi’s French Quarter has grand boulevards and elegant French colonial buildings like the Opera House based on the neo-Baroque Paris Opera, complete with gray slate tiles imported from Francemand the Metropole hotel recall the French conquering power’s influence. One block east of the Opera House is Hanoi’s Museum of History, an elaborate blend of Vietnamese palace and French villa, a style that came to be called Neo-Vietnamese. Trang Tien, the main artery of the French Quarter, is still a busy shopping street where you’ll find bookshops and art galleries as well as cafés and hotels.
Modeled after the Mausoleum of Lenin in Russia, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one-of-its kind in the world. The building is dedicated to house Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body and a place where visitors can express their admiration and gratitude towards the national hero while. It is popularly known among Vietnamese as Uncles’ Mausoleum, for the intimate and familiar atmosphere Ho Chi Minh always created when he was alive.
Visiting the Mausoleum is free of charge but involves a set of strictly enforced regulations. No short skirts or tank tops are allowed and there is high level of security check upon arrival. Day packs can be put in a safe deposit before you enter but make sure you do not carry many valuable items with you. Taking photos, talking or finger-pointing are strictly prohibited inside the mausoleums.
Checking and claiming bags at the entrance can be slow, so pack lightly if possible. Lines can wind up to 2 km long, as this site attracts 14.000 visitors per day. Hours are limited to 8 am–11 am daily except for Mondays and Fridays, it’s also closed September through November when Ho’s remains receive maintenance work.
The temple of literature is dated back to 1070 and is the oldest university in Hanoi and was for centuries the place where the emperor recruited his mandarins for his goverment.
These days it’s a national monument and open to the public and very interesting to see.
It’s pretty much in the center of Hanoi and quite easy to get to.
It consists of four courtyards with the last one having a temple dedicated to Confucius and there is a statue of him in there.
Hoan Kiem Lake is centrally located and minutes walking from Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The water color of Hoan Kiem Lake is not commonly found in other lakes elsewhere in the country: greenish, with dark or light shade depending on the reflection of the sky. The lake is full of tortoise. If you are lucky enough you will see one of these giant animals rising out of the water. And because tortoise is considered a sacred animal in Vietnam’s culture (along with dragon, phoenix and unicorn), Hoan Kiem Lake then become a holy place that domiciled tortoise.