It is probably well known to an average would-be traveler or basically well informed tourist that Hanoi, much like Vietnam itself, prides in having very rich and diverse history and surroundings. This enables it to have much to offer to visitors in sense of historical and unusual places to visit, whether as museums, tours, or just parks to walk through.
As a city of great history and capital of Vietnam, Hanoi has a lot of museums to visit. The most important, or most historically and socially significant ones are:
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - the remains of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, rest in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Construction work began in 1973 and ended in 1975, where he was officially inaugurated on 29 August 1975. The materials chosen are mostly stone, granite being outside and inside polished stone in white, black and red. The massive structure is 20 meters high and 42 meters wide. The building area has more than 12.000m2 and the total area of enclosure exceeds 20.000m2. There are certain rules of conduct and dressing in accessing the interior of the mausoleum. Visitors are not allowed inside wearing shorts or miniskirts, nor is it permitted to take photographs or filming videos inside. Although the mausoleum is located in an open area, access to the area is restricted and can be reached from 8:00 to 17:00 every day of the week (except during official events). To visit the mummified remains of Ho Chi Minh, the hours are from 9:00 to 12:00. The mausoleum can also be visited as a part of a guided tour.
Hanoi Citadel- a.k.a. Hoang Thanh Trung Long. Today it is considered World Heritage by Unesco, although at first glance the City Imperial Thang Long is nothing more than structures, palaces and ruins of a former civilization, specifically the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties. Once inside the Citadel complex, one should visit the Museum of the history military of Vietnam and a palace that is quite similar to the Forbidden city of Beijing (China). The tower which stands in the interior of the Citadel was built in the 19th century, in the year 1812, and flag that flies atop the Tower, so in honor of the release of the capital from the year 1954 and also to welcome visitors to the city. This tower is a symbol of the city of Hanoi.
Vietnam Museum of Revolution- Built in 1917 by the French colony, the place is now dedicated to displaying artifacts, documentaries and sporadic exhibitions about Vietnamese’s struggle in modern history. The content is divided into three parts: 1858-1945; 1945- 1975 and 1975-present, which correspond with the French colonialism period, the Vietnam War period and the Post-war period. The Museum is located about 10-15 minute walk from the Old Quarter Hanoi area. It is open every day, except Monday, and Entrance fee is 15,000 VND ($ 0.75).
Vietnam Military History Museum- one of the oldest museums in Hanoi. It hosts both indoor and outdoor exhibitions. Its exhibition date back to as early as Hung Vuong Era, which is considered the start of Vietnam as a country. The first thousand years of being colonized by Chinese is elaborately depicted, as well as the century long struggle with the French colony. Of course, the most important period in the recent hisotry of Vietnam, which is from 1954 to 1975, is also well covered by its exhibitions. This period is entirely determined by the Vietnamese War, a civil war which divided the country into North and South Vietnam. The museum is open every day except for Monday and Friday, 8:00-16:30h, and entrance fee is 20,000 VND ($1).
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology- Hanoi’s youngest museum. This museum actually serves to remind that Vietnam is a multi-ethnical country, so all differences ought to be recognized and respected. Bearing in mind the violent history of the country during the period of its division, the significance of the museum is easy to understand. Both indoor and outdoor exhibits reflect the wide diversity of Vietnamese culture, architecture, history and ethnicity. It can be visited any day, except Monday, from 8:30 to 17:30, and entrance fee is 25,000VND (or $ 1.20), while camera fee is 50,000 VND ($ 2).
Vietnam History Museum- built in 1926 under the name Louis Finot Museum by the Ecole Française d’Extreme-Orient and finished in 1932. After being taken over by the Vietnamese Government, the museum changed its official name to Museum of Vietnam History and was opened to the public on 3 September 1958. The site has two floors, among which Vietnam’s history is divided into 10 different sections, from the prehistoric era to the day when President Ho Chi Minh read out the Declaration of Independence giving birth to Vietnam. In here are preserved more than 7,000 objects, some aged a thousand years which represent the cultural diversity of the country. Historic objects exhibited here are not only of Vietnamese origin but also contain other cultures like Chinese, Japanese, Thailand’s and especially Champ cultures, with more than 50 stone engravings back to 7th-13th centuries. Vietnam History Museum opens from 8:00am – 16:30pm with a ticket price of VND 20,000 ($ 1) and a bonus of VND 15,000 ($ 0.75) if you want to use camera inside the museum.
Other museums in Hanoi include One-Pillar Pagoda, Fine Arts Museum, Temple of Literature, Army Museum, and many more.
Tour around the city- Tourists get to see the Ho Chi Minh Complex which consists of a mausoleum and the president's stilt house. Then the tour will visit the One Pillar Pagoda which is a group of structures that consist of a pagoda and a tower located in the middle of a square lake. After that, they will visit the Ethnology museum where they can learn something more about the culture and the customs of the ethnic groups that are part of Vietnam. Lastly, visitors will visit the Ngoc Son Temple.
Tour of the surroundings of Hanoi- such tour is the one that takes tourists to Duong Lam ancient village. On this tour, they get the chance to visit the Mong Phu temple, see some great ancient houses and taste some of the local products such as rice wine or rice cakes. After that, the tour gets on a bike and cycle to visit Giang Van Minh worship house and the Temples of King Ngo Quyen and Phung.
Other tours can be arranged with local agencies and guides, but these are the places that are also visited on those tours, so we separated them as the basic ones. It is recommended to book a tour at an official agency, rather than with local freelance guides, as they tend to overcharge and their English is really doubtful.
There are many green spaces where tourists can go and just rest in the shadows. Most famous of them are:
Hoan Kiem Lake Park in the center of the town. It is pretty popular with the locals. In the mornings, you can see people practicing tai chi. In the afternoons, it provides great shades under which visitors can relax or read a good book.
Lenin Statue and Park- in the mornings, there are aerobic classes for people of all ages. During the day, the park is pretty quiet since everybody is at work or school. It is the perfect place to rest or read a good book. In the afternoon, it is filled with children running around and people practicing different sports.
Ly Thai To Statue and Park. This park is also located next to the Hoan Kiem Lake and provides a great view of the Hang Bai Street. This park is not so big, but it is pretty popular with the locals. People of all ages visit this park either to practice a sport or just for a stroll.