As the capital of French Indochina, Hanoi was the pinnacle of European glamour in Asia. Today Hanoi’s atmosphere of the exotic is stronger than ever as cosmopolitan meets crumbling colonial. Strolling Hanoi’s buzzing streets is the best way to really get under the city’s skin – the most interesting districts can be found just off Hoan Kiem Lake.
A visit to the Old Quarter, north of Hoan Kiem Lake, isn’t so much about seeing the sights, it’s more about diving into the heart of the commotion and exploring. Keep an eye out for buildings that have stood since the city’s conception, lovely old merchant’s houses and old temples hidden amongst the commotion.
Dedicated to Confucius and honouring scholars and men of literature, the Temple of Literature is Hanoi’s most important temple. Built in 1070 and subsequently embellished and restored over the years, this is one of Vietnam’s prime examples of traditional architecture and was home to the country’s first national university. Passing through Van Mieu Gate, you can wander amongst the peaceful courtyards, formal gardens and pavilions, a welcome respite from the bustle of the city.
Originally built in the 11th century the One Pillar Pagoda is exactly as it sounds, a wooden pagoda balanced on a single stone pillar. Set in the middle of a pond the pagoda was designed to resemble a lotus blossom. One of Vietnam’s most iconic temples, the original was actually destroyed in the 1950s by the French withdrawing from the city, but was rebuilt soon afterwards.
Although the mausoleum goes against Ho Chi Minh’s wishes, it is one of the most popular sights in Hanoi, with locals and visitors alike queuing every morning to see the communist leader’s embalmed body. The austere building was inspired by Lenin’s mausoleum, built in the centre of Ba Dinh Square, the place that ‘Uncle Ho’ read the Declaration of Independence in 1945. Open hours are limited and the building is closed in the autumn as Ho undergoes maintenance; the mausoleum is just part of a complex of sights associated with Ho Chi Minh. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum to find out more about his life and the revolutionary struggle, the Stilt House and Presidential Palace.
Stroll the elegant, leafy boulevards of the old French concession, south of Hoan Kiem Lake, stopping to view many a grand Parisian-style mansions as you go – the grandiose Opera House particularly is a must see. The main street Trang Tien a delightful place to while away an hour or two, is lined with bookshops, art galleries and cafes.
The art of water puppetry has existed in Vietnam since the 11th century, created by the farmers of the Red River Delta as entertainment amongst their flooded fields. We can arrange for you to see a water puppet show at a theatre in central Hanoi, or, for an extra special experience, to visit the home of a water puppeteer where you can discuss this traditional art, participate in the puppet making process and enjoy a private puppet show.
Excellently located in Hanoi's old quarter, a three minute walk from Hoan Kiem Lake, the Lan Vien Hotel offers modern, spacious accommodation that exudes peace and harmony in the heart of the city. Expect a warm welcome as you settle in and impeccably service throughout - the 11th floor restaurant has excellent lake views.
The Metropole is an award-winning French colonial-style property located in the heart of Hanoi with elegant rooms providing classic luxury. The hotel offers a choice of three restaurants, three bars, a heated swimming pool, health club and the refined Le Spa du Metropole.
Centrally located close to the Old Quarter, the l’Opera is an iconic Hanoi hotel, offering a taste of 19th century France in its stylish interiors. Contemporary rooms offer luxurious comfort mixed with modern technology whilst the public spaces are perfectly elegant with a touch of theatrics.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.