Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, has always been at the heart of Vietnamese culture, situated on the Red River Delta, which, at the county's dawn in the late third century BC, comprised most of the country’s then fledgling land mass, before the progressive southward push of later generations gave rise to the Vietnam of today.


Hanoi's inner city is centred around Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautifully pleasant park area popular with early morning Tai Chi practitioners and home to the ‘Tortoise tower’ named after the famous aquatic inhabitants.

Another feature is the ‘Temple of the Jade Mound', resting picturesquely on a small islet within the lake, reachable via the iconic and oft photographed The Huc Bridge.

Leafy and lovely by day, the lake is also a delight to circumnavigate at night, being artfully lit and imbued with a magical atmosphere.

North of Hoan Kiem Lake is the ‘old quarter’ a pre-colonial maze dating back to the fifteenth century and the only surviving example of an original medieval city structure now remaining in Vietnam, still retaining its busy ancient mercantile ambience and much of its original and fascinating architecture, though the shop fronts are nowadays increasingly coated with the commercial veneer of the modern age.

Hang Bac, Hang Buom and Ma May are the streets most admired by visitors. Other noted places of interest within the old quarter are the silk shops of Hang Gai, Bach Ma Temple, Dong Xuan Market and the Museum of Independence, situated upon the site where Ho Chi Minh drafted his declaration of independence.

To the east and south of Hoan Kiem Lake is the French quarter, a legacy of the period of colonial rule which would colour so much of the later history of Vietnam and ultimately lead to the bitter American war for which the country is so unfairly most remembered.

Nevertheless, the architectural inheritance of the French period is a spacious echo of Parisian charm, with wide tree-lined boulevards and grand buildings, providing some calm contrast to the fascinating but hectic oriental bustle of the old quarter, and is highly suited to being appreciated with a good stroll or bicycle ride.

The principal sights of the French quarter are the Opera House, History Museum, the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution, the Museum of Vietnamese Women and the designer shopping opportunities provided by Trang Tien Plaza.

To the west of the old quarter, and beneath Ho Tay (West Lake), Hanoi’s largest, the historical district, houses the famous Temple of Literature, Vietnam's oldest seat of learning, dating back to 1070 AD and centred around teaching Confucian values of good governance.

The complex is comprised of five courtyards dedicated to various aspects of study, with the fifth courtyard dominated by the presence of a cast bronze bell and the Drum Tower.

Nearby are Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his house, and the museum dedicated to his memory.

Also in this area, can be found the eleventh century AD Thang Long Imperial Citadel, the Botanical Gardens, the Presidential Palace, Martyr Monument, Fine Arts Museum and the charming One Pillar Pagoda, dating back to 1049 AD, one of Hanoi’s most iconic historical features.

West Lake itself is home to the serene eleventh century Quan Thanh Temple and the beautiful Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi’s oldest surviving structure, dating back to the sixth century AD and accessible via a causeway over the lake.

Beyond the city limits, the modern thrum of the capital soon gives way to the to the multitude of rural villages peppering the Red River Delta, many of which operate as specialist craft villages, and provide for great excursions by bicycle into the rural soul of Vietnam and an authentic vision of the country’s living history.

Thay Pagoda is among the ancient places found close to Hanoi, dating back to the 11th century, but rebuilt in the fifteenth century, comprising a series of buildings and grottoes, and featuring some fine architectural detailing.

The pagoda's lake pavillion is used during festivals as a backdrop for the iconic Vietnamese puppet shows, and provides for a very authentic comprehension of how these performances were historically conducted.

The site is also graced with the charming ancient Nhat Tien Bridge, one of two sited here dating back to 1602.