5 Must-visit Cultural and Historical attractions to visit in Hanoi, Vietnam

It is my second time here in Hanoi but I haven’t really got to visit the main attractions within Hanoi during my first visit. This time, I get to visit some of the popular tourist attractions like Ho Chi Minh Museum and Imperial Citadel of Thanh Long where I get to learn more about the history and culture of Vietnam. If you are into Vietnamese culture and its history, you must include these 5 attractions into your itinerary. Besides visiting Ha Long Bay, the following five of the attractions are worth a visit.

1. Temple of Literature

5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Temple of literature

This temple, constructed in 1070, was once a national university dedicated to Confucius and scholars. At that time, their education system is largely Chinese-influenced. The students there would study classical Chinese literature, Chinese history as well as poetry. Needless to say, it was an honour for anyone to be able to study at this prestigious institute during that period. And if you passed the royal exams, your name would be carved out on the turtle statues.

The Temple of Literature can be split into five courtyards. As you enter the various compounds, you will get to see their 4 national holy creatures – tortoise, unicorn, phoenix and dragon, which appeared multiple times in their architectural designs.

5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Temple of Literature

During our trip there, we had an experienced English guide who told us several interesting stories about this place.

5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Temple of literature
5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature

Address: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Entrance fees: 30,000 VND (for adults), 15,000 VND (for students)

Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM

Getting to the temple: 10 to 15 minutes walk from Hoan Kiem Lake

2. Water Puppet Show

5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Water Puppet Show

Water puppetry is a Vietnamese tradition which dates back to the 11th century. It originated from a period of time where the rice paddy fields were heavily flooded with rainwater. To make entertainment, the villagers would stand in the flooded fields and performed puppet show over the water. How innovative!

The water puppet show depicts the day-to-day stories of the traditional Vietnamese folklores passed down from generations to generations. And the show is usually accompanied by an orchestra playing traditional Vietnamese instruments.

I watch the water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Show Theatre. Sadly, the stories are told in Vietnamese. There are no English translations or subtitles so I do not quite understand what’s happening in the story. Nonetheless, it is still quite an experience to watch how the puppeteers manoeuvre the wooden puppets in a waist-deep pool.

You can also watch this unique water puppet show elsewhere in Hanoi. You can also watch it at Museum of Ethnology.

Vietnam Hanoi 2019 Thang Long Water puppet show theatre

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Address: 57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Getting there: 5 minute walk from Hoan Kiem Lake

3. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Hanoi thus is one of the places of attractions you have to visit. If you are interested in the history of Vietnam, do allocate some time to check out the museum. The museum showcases numerous artefacts dug out from their archaeological sites.

Vietnam Hanoi 2019 Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The central sector of the Citadel comprises of Hanoi Ancient Citadel and the archaeological site at 18 Hoang Dieu.

Over at the small museum gallery there, you will be able to find out more about the different dynasties that ruled over Vietnam.

Vietnam Hanoi 2019 Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Address: 19C Hoàng Diệu, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Ticket price: VND 30,000 per entry (per adult), VND 15,000 (for students and local elderly people of age 60 and above)

Opening hours: Open everyday except Monday from 8 am to 5 pm

4. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum

5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Ho Chi Minh Museum

You haven’t been to Hanoi if you have not visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum or Ho Chi Minh Museum. This is the resting place for President Ho Chi Minh where visitors can view his embalmed body guarded by the military honour guard. You might have to queue for an hour or even longer just to get in.

For us, we visited the museum within the compound. It is located next to the Mausoleum, within the Ho Chi Minh complex. Because we visited the museum on a weekend, it was packed with both locals and tourists. We had a guide with us who brought us around the museum but it was difficult to give all ears to her when the museum itself was pack with people.

5. Museum of Ethnology

5 must-visit attractions in Hanoi Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

Last but not least, we have included the Museum of Ethnology in this list of must-visit places as well. In my opinion, this is more like a National museum of Vietnam where you really get to understand Vietnamese culture and way of living across the various time zones and locations.

Vietnam Hanoi 2019  Museum of Ethnology Traditional Vietnamese hat

The museum itself is huge and I like viewing the artefacts and models which were on display. All these artefacts depict the life of various ethnic groups living within Vietnam. There are a total of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam itself!

Vietnam Hanoi 2019 Museum of Ethnology

Open-Air Exhibition

Vietnam Hanoi 2019 Museum of Ethnology Bahnar Communal house

There is also an open-air exhibition where visitors can check out these life-size traditional tribal houses such as the Bahnar communal house (shown above) and Hmong house.

You can even climb up and enter the Bahnar communal house which features an exceptional high roof. It is 19 metres tall! It is an important communal place for the villagers to gather in Bahnar village.

Vietnam Hanoi 2019 Museum of Ethnology Tribal dance

In addition, you can also watch live traditional art performances by artisans at the museum. These performances showcase the artistic traditions of the various ethnic groups in Vietnam.

Museum of Ethnology

Address: Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Quan Hoa, Cầu Giấy, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Opening hours: 8.30 am to 5.30 pm. Closed on Mondays and during the Tea holiday.

Read more about my recent Hanoi adventures below:

4-Day Hanoi Itinerary: A Cultural Trip

The Pottery and Ceramic Village, Bat Trang in Hanoi

How Traditional Vietnamese Conical Hats are Made

Experience Rural Life at Duong Lam Ancient Village

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