Vietnam attractions | Hanoi
One Thousand Years of Culture
Hanoi has an elegance, a grace, unlike any other city in Asia . It is a stately capital, an old grande dame whose worn beauty hints at untold stories - a secret past. It is a city that invites nostalgia, just as it invites questions: Who else has stopped beneath this spreading banyan tree? Who once lived in that proud colonial villa? Who lives there now?
In the wide, tree-lined boulevards of the French Quarter, the past is palpable. History clings to the sun-drenched walls like moss.
But the fine colonial mansions are but one layer of history. Strolling around the little lake in the heart of Hanoi , where legends grow thicker than water lilies, you will get a sense of the city's true cultural depth. One myth tells of a golden turtle, which rose from the lake's green depths to present Vietnam 's king with a magical sword, used to repel northern invaders in the 15th century.
Hanoi's position as Vietnam's capital dates back to 1010, when Emperor Ly Thai To established the court of Thang Long (Ascending Dragon) on this site. Over the centuries the city's name changed several times, until Emperor Tu Duc christened it Hanoi (City in a Bend of the River) in 1831. Then, from 1902 to 1953 Hanoi was the capital of French Indochina. Vietnam's long struggle for independence and its birth as a socialist state are commemorated in many of the city's museums and monuments, the most famous of which is President Ho Chi Minh's imposing stone mausoleum.
In the Old Quarter Hanoi's rich past comes to life. Stroll down the ancient guild streets, where the wares on offer have remained unchanged for centuries: traditional medicines and herbs, brightly colored votive paper, bolts of finely spun silk, silver an1 jade jewellery. Ten centuries of culture and commerce are layered like paint, creating a vibrant mural of past and present. Here you will see the life of Hanoi: the women who pad past with baskets of bread perched on their heads; the flower vendors wheeling bicycles festooned with fresh-cut roses, mums and lilies; the brown-robed monks on their way to the pagoda.
As well as being Vietnam's political centre, Hanoi has long been the country's artistic and cultural heart. Visitors can explore the peaceful grounds and pavilions of the Temple of Literature, an ancient university where the first scholars enrolled in 1070. Today, the city's aura