Hanoi City Capital of Vietnam 

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Hanoi City Capital of Vietnam

Hanoi - the capital of Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the Political - Economic - Cultural - Scientific and Technological center of the whole country. Hanoi is located in the center of the Northern Delta with a population (can be) 10 million people now (update in 2019), and an area 920.97 km2. Hanoi is an ancient city which had been established and developed for almost 1,000 years since 1010. Hanoi means "the hinterland between the rivers" (Ha: river, Noi: interior). Hanoi's territory is washed by the Red River (the portion of the Red River embracing Hanoi is approximately 40km long) and its tributaries, but there are some other rivers flowing through the capital, including Duong, Cau, Ca Lo, Day, Nhue, Tich, To Lich and Kim Nguu.

Hanoi flag tower
Hanoi Flag Tower

Before being named “Hanoi” as present, the capital had had several names throughout history. In 1010, Ly Thai To, the first ruler of the Ly Dynasty, moved the capital of Đại Việt (the Great Viet) to the site of the Đại La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thăng Long (Ascending Dragon) - a name still used poetically to this day with the belief that this was good omen of the country’s future. It remained the capital of Vietnam until 1397, when the capital was moved to Thanh Hoa, also known as Tây Đô (Western Capital). Thăng Long then became Đông Đô (Eastern Capital). King Minh Mang, under the Nguyen Dynasty, has laid the name “Hanoi” on the capital since 1831. This means “a city lying Between Rivers or River Interior”, which are Red and Day rivers. Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976.

Many historians reckon that the city was established more than 1,500 years ago. Therefore, with the length of living, Hanoi is very rich of cultural, historical and traditional values.

Old quarter Hanoi
Old Quarter Hanoi

Hanoi old church
Hanoi old church (Pho Nha Tho)

Old gate of Hanoi old quarter
Old gate of Hanoi old quarter (o Quan Truong )

There are many relics of the past, including well-known landscapes in Hanoi such as the Temple of Literature (Quoc Tu Giam), the One - Pillar Pagoda, Sword Lake, West Lake, History Museum, Flag Pole and Ancient city. There are 9 urban districts and 5 rural districts in Hanoi. Ba Dinh District is the national Political - Administration Center, Dong Da - Gia Lam - Dong Anh District are the Industrial Centers. Hanoi' geographical location is very convenient. It is the traffic clue of the road way, water way, rail way and air way from Hanoi to other provinces of Vietnam as well as to other countries in region and over the world. Hanoi is becoming the important economic and international transaction center of the whole country. Hanoi city is keeping the high pace of economic growth, stable political-social security. The average GDP growth was 11.6% annually during 1991-2002, which reached to 10.2% yearly in 2001 and 2002 and to 10.5% in 2003.

The living standard of the people increases 3.5 times in comparision with 1990. There are 18,000 enterprises in non - state sectors.

Upon the promulgation, the Law on Foreign investment in Vietnam on Dec 1987, and together with the realization of a series the Open-door Economy Policies, 42 nations and territories and hundreds of foreign groups and companies have entered Hanoi to look for investment and business opportunities. This market is estimated to be of great potential by foreign experts. As to the end of 2003, in Hanoi, there are 601 projects which have been granted investment licenses with the total investment capital of USD 9.1 billion. In there includes: 345 JV projects, 227 one - hundred percent foreign investment projects, 29 business co-operation projects. Five Industrial Zone have been established (Noi Bai - Soc Son Industrial Zone, Sai Dong B Industrial Zone, Thang Long Industrial Zone, Taiwan Industrial Zone) with the total area of 784 ha and the investment capital of USD 250 million for technical infrastructure. The foreign direct investment capital makes an important contribution to the economic restructuring, industrialization, modernization of Hanoi city and fast contribute economy structure: Industry - Service - Agriculture. In the last 10 years, Hanoi had attracted USD 712 billion for developing technical and social infrastructure system, environmental protection and social welfare. The total social investment increases 15 % - 17% annually.

To undertake and use the foreign direct investment capital effectively, Hanoi has created an attractive investment environment with the potentials and convenient conditions as follows:

-  Hanoi is the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam - the political  center, where the offices of Vietnam leader are located such as: party Central Committee, Government, Ministries… Hanoi has a stable political basis, the economic policy is open, flexible, political basis, the political security and social order are guaranteed. Hanoi is located in a good place, the Economic and International transaction center of the whole country.

-  Hanoi is gathered with the intellectual human resources which is accounted for  62 % of the whole country science and management cadres who gained university certificate, professors, masters and are living and working in Hanoi.

-  Hanoi citizens’ standards of culture and working skills are rather high. They are able the modern technology and management in very short time. The labor cost in Hanoi is reasonable.

-  The Hanoi market potential is big. The Hanoi market also influences to other northern provinces all country, south of China, Laos…

-  The electricity and water supply to enterprises are good and stable.

- The administration procedures to grant the Investment License for projects (especially the industrial project) are executed easily, conveniently and fast

- The expenses such as social services, property and land rental, water and electricity are lower than other trade centers in Vietnam (especially the land rental is 25% off as compared with the price in the past).

- Taxes are in favor, especially the Industrial projects and specially encouraging investment projects.

To become an industrial city, a modern capital which can be compared with other capitals and large cities in region up to the year 2010, Hanoi authority has issued the General Master Plan to develop the Capital Economy and Society to the year 2010, use to maximum the local potential and make good use of foreign capital resources such as FDI, ODA… to develop the City basic economic standards from 2 to 2.5 times until 2010. It is hoped that the Hanoi future achievements and results are helped importantly from the foreign investors.


Covering an area of more than 918 square kilometers, Hanoi comprises two different topographical features: the delta and the Middle Region of the North. Most of the deltaic land lies on both sides of the Red River and its tributaries (Đuống, Đáy, rivers, etc.). The Middle Region comprises Sóc Sơn district and a portion of Đông Anh district, a prolongation of the Tam Đảo mountainous mass stretching towards the Delta which is 7-10 meters or sometimes even hundreds of meters above the sea level.

This is why Hanoi topography has an inclination in the direction North - South (from Sóc Sơn - Đông Anh to Thanh Trì). Hanoi lies at the center of the triangular basin of the Red River. 50 km from Hanoi to the North lies the tourist site of Tam Đảo, and the same distance to the South West is Ba Vì.

In Hanoi region, the chain of Sóc Sơn (Sóc Mount) is a prolongation of the mountainous mass of Tam Đảo, which culminates at a height of 308 meters. This chain has different appellations: Mã Mount, or Temple (Đền) Mount (because there is a temple on the summit of the mountain, called Sóc Temple, at the place of which Gióng Genius was deified, rising to the sky on his iron horse), or Ve Linh Mount. Sóc Mount is situated in the commune of Phu Linh, Sóc Sơn district. Besides these Hanoi has other hills and mountains rising above the flat ground: Sái Mount (Thuy Lam commune, Đông Anh district), Phuc Tuong Mount (Co Bi commune, Gia Lam district) and at the center of Hanoi, above the area of the old Botanical Garden stands the Nung Mount, also called Long Đo or Khan Mount, giving more picturesqueness to the configuration of Thăng Long.

Many rivers flow through Hanoi. The first, is the 1,183km long Red River flowing from its source in Vân Nam (China). The section flowing through Hanoi from Đông Anh district to Thanh Trì district is 40km long. The Đuống, the second largest river in Hanoi, separates from the Red River at Xuân Canh (Xuân Canh commune, Đông Anh) then flows through Ngọc Thụy and Yan Thuong communes then cuts the National Highway 1A at the Đuống bridge before passing through the territory of Hà Bắc province to empty itself into the Thái Bình River. Besides these two rivers, Hanoi has many other waterways, which, although smaller and shorter, are connected with the long-standing history of Hanoi. For instance, the Tô Lịch River has been linked to the development of Hanoi for 1,500 years, its junction with the Red River (at the beginning of Chợ Gạo Street) being filled in at the end of the last century. There now only exits the section flowing between the two streets, Thụy Khuê - Hoàng Hoa Thám and Bưởi market, running through Ngã Tư Sở towards the Bươu Bridge before joining the Nhuệ River. There are also the Thien Đuc, Nghia Tru, Cheo Reo, Ngu Huyen Giang and Kim Ngưu Rivers...Ponds and lakes are also numerous in Hanoi region. There are large ones like West Lake, small ones such as Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Thủ Lệ Lake, Kim Liên Lake, Linh Đàm Lake and Van Tri Pond ...

Hanoi region, lying in a plain, far form sea, belongs to the hot climatic zone under the influence of the South and Northeast monsoons. Winter is cold and dry and from February to March, drizzles and the Northeast monsoon are frequent. It is hot from April to June, but from July to September, there are heavy rains and floods followed by Autumn which is the most beautiful season in Hanoi. Annual average rainfall in Hanoi is 1,678 mm. Temperature in January is 160C, in June 280C (sometimes reaching 360 - 380C). This gives an annual temperature variation from 80C to 400C.

From Hanoi, we can reach every part of the country thanks to a convenient communication system. You can fly from Nội Bài International Airport (Sóc Sơn district, 40km from the center of Hanoi) or Gia Lâm airport (8km from Hanoi), which was the principal airport of Hanoi before 1970, now being used for tourist helicopter flights to place of scenic beauty. Hanoi is also a railway junction for both domestic and international lines with routes to Beijing (China) and Europe... It is also a point where land and shipping routes converge. It is said, "all roads lead to Hanoi".

Hanoi has enjoyed many favorable conditions since long ago, since the day when King Lý Thái Tổ decided to transfer his capital from Hoa Lư (Ninh Bình) to Đại La which became the capital Thăng Long in the month of July of the Year Canh Tuất (1010), by Royal Edict on the transfer of the capital. So, Ly Thai To was both the founder of the Lý Dynasty (1010 -1225) and that of Thăng Long - Hanoi.

In 1999, Hanoi had 2,711,600 inhabitants including the central area and the suburbs. In the suburban districts and also a portion of Tây Hồ district, most of inhabitants are natives of Hanoi, whereas in the districts of the central area, the inhabitants came from different parts of the country to earn their living or to work in government offices and have settled there. Hanoi inhabitants are essentially the Viet but we can also notice the presence of other ethnic groups.
Thanks to its geographical vantage point, Hanoi enjoys a favorable position as a domestic and external trading center. It is the hands and the minds of the laborious and creative Hanoians of the past and present that have made this city worthy of being the political, economic and cultural centre of the country, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and one of the most attractive capitals in the world.

One pillar pagoda Hanoi
One pillar pagoda Hanoi

The templeof literature Hanoi
The templeof literature Hanoi (was built in 1010)

Historical Places to visit

Within the “River Interior City”, there are a number of historical and beautiful places to get by. Mentioning about Hanoi, what comes first to tourists’ mind is the ever first historical University of the capital and also the nation - Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam (Translated as “The Literature Temple”). Besides its foremost meaning, Van Mieu is also the place to worship Confucius, setting doctor steles. Youngsters and youth always come here to pray for success by touching the rock tortoises’ head before any examinations, cause it is believed to be very sacred.

Since Vietnam is a Buddhism-oriented nation, its capital has been the Buddhism center for centuries. As a result, it is not surprising that there are as many as about 600 temples and pagodas in Hanoi. For Buddhist tourists, among many great pagodas, Tran Quoc Pagoda should be the first to pay a visit. It is not only the oldest one among those 600, (6 century years old), but also one of the most gorgeous and sacred. The second that is worth visiting is Mot Cot Pagoda (One-Pillar pagoda), another symbol of the capital. Its special architecture is similar to a lotus on the top of water.

Located near the two symbolic pagodas and right in the middle of the capital it is the historical Lake – Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of Returned Sword), and Ngoc Son Temple with 100% natural beauty. Related to the Lake, Vietnam has a classic story telling about King Le Loi after winning over Minh invader, returned the magic Sword to the Tortoise down in the Lake. Since then, the Lake was named “Hoan Kiem”. It is more surprising that up to now, the historical Tortoise still sometimes appear up the Lake surface for a moment.

As for Catholics coming to Hanoi, there are also great Churches to come for praying and/or visiting. From 19th century, many Catholic churches were built in here. The biggest one is Cathedral. And Cua Bac church is a beautiful original typical French architect.

As you may have found out, Hanoi is more an antique and peaceful city than a modern one. This might be seen quite clearly when you take a walk around the 36 Old Quarter. This is a typical characteristic of Hanoi with small old streets, tube houses which still remain their shape from 19th century. Additionally, the beauty of Hanoi in the past is also found in the ancient citadel, right nearby.

Historical places that worth to pay a visit cannot be without Ba Dinh Square, the political area where President Ho Chi Minh read the Independent Declaration on the September 2nd, 1945. As famous as this is the House of Parliament, Presidential Palace, President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, etc.

To know more about Vietnam in general and Hanoi in particular, both in terms of history, tourists should spend one or two days on visiting the nation’s Ethnology, Military, History, Ho Chi Minh,... museums. These will open a huge detailed picture of this antique and beautiful historical city.

Hanoi opera house
Hanoi opera house

Hanoi catholic Church

Hanoi catholic church



Archeological discoveries suggest that the presence of the graves in Cổ Loa date back to the same years as those found in Lào Cai and Nghệ Tĩnh. They have found the cutting tools of primitive people living in the Stone Age, about 10,000-20,000 years ago. At the end of the Ice Age as natural changes occurred ancient Hanoi became a flooded area and the inhabitants left for the mountains. About 10,000-7,000 years ago ancient Hanoi was turned into a hilly tree-covered area and the population moved back to settle down. Archeological excavations have revealed the existence of different cultures a discernible lineage ranging from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age (about 20 centuries BC).

The Hanoi people at that time were engaged in agriculture, livestock breeding, hunting and fishing. In the excavated areas people have found a lot of axes, bronze plough-heads, burnt-rice, husks, etc. and especially bronze arrows. This evidence of the prehistoric age suggests the existence of the legendary Hùng Kings. Next to the Hùng dynasties came the Thục King who really seems to have existed. About 218 B.C. Qin Shi Huangdi sent a 50,000 strong army to invade Bách Việt where they fought against the eminent leader, Thục Hán. In this period the two groups, Tây Âu belonging to Thục Hán and Lạc Việt belonging to Hùng King, were merged by a reunion. After defeating Tần, Thục Hán was enthroned as An Dương Vương to rule the Âu Lạc Kingdom, with Cổ Loa as its capital, where a spiral citadel was built.
Cổ Loa citadel, strategically located in Chạ Chủ, the intersections of the land and river routes was claimed to be an undefeated fortified palace. The citadel was constructed with a sophisticated compound of walls, moats (connected to the surrounding rivers) and ramparts, which were shaped like the spirals of a snail. This served as a military base for attack and defense, for fights on the water and on the land. Cổ Loa was built into three enclosures: the outer city, the middle city and the inner city. One entrance to a city is hidden from the others constructing a maze. Cổ Loa, an amazingly creative fruit of hard labour, has many times witnessed the tragic defeat of Triệu Đà, the invaders. A famous legend relates that Triệu Đà, a Hán origin, has many times invaded the Âu Lạc Kingdom but been defeated. He changed his strategic scheme by offering peace to An Dương Vương and proposed a marriage between Mỵ Châu, An Dương Vương’s daughter and his son, Trọng Thủy who was masquerading as a defector in An Dương Vương’s army. Mỵ Châu betraying her father showed her husband An Dương’s magic crossbow trigger made with a claw from a Golden Turtle, which never missed a shot. Her husband stole the bow and gave it to his father, who was then able to defeat An Dương. Cổ Loa hides in itself a tragedy of a family, a marriage and more than that of a nation. The Âu Lạc Kingdom fell into the hands of the Triệu, opening an era of the first Chinese domination in Vietnam history.
The conquered Âu Lạc Kingdom was divided into three provinces: Chiao Chih, Cửu Chân and Nhật Nam. Hanoi used to be a department which belonged to Chiao Chih, later on it was called Tống Bình agic crossbow trigger made with a claw from a Golden Turtle, which never missed a shot. Her husband stole the bow and gave it to his father, who was then able to defeat An Dương. Cổ Loa hides in itself a tragedy of a family, a marriage and more than that of a nation. The Âu Lạc King(about 454 - 456). Tống Bình department saw development and later it became a province consisting of three prefectures: Nghĩa Hoài, Từ Ninh (now Từ Liêm, Hoài Đức) and Xương Quốc (now Đông Anh, Gia Lâm). The centre of the town is the current inner city.
From the Emperor Thục An Dương to the Lý dynasty, the Vietnamese people experienced more than a thousand years of wars against the invaders from the north. Numerous sporadic uprisings such as those led by the Trưng Sisters, Lý Nam Đế and Ngô Quyền had achieved independence and sovereign integrity for the nation. During this time, the ancient Hanoi became the capital of the central government. In 544 Lý Bí built a fortress at Tô river to successfully wipe out the Lương invaders. He made himself King of the new dynasty, renamed the country Vạn Xuân, with Long Biên as its capital (present-day Bắc Ninh). Then his grandson, Lý Phật Tử, chose Cổ Loa as its capital and reigned his dynasty until 602 when he was defeated by the Tùy (Chinese) dynasty. Later the Đường dynasty conquered Vietnam and renamed the country An Nam with 12 provinces among which Tống Bình was the capital, later (about the midterm of Đường dynasty) it was called Đại La.
In 938 after defeating the Tangs (Chinese), Ngô Quyền proclaimed himself Emperor and Cổ Loa (after a thousand years) was again chosen to be the capital which later on was shifted to Hoa Lư, a mountainous area. This became a stable foundation for the Đinh Bộ Lĩnh in the early days of his dynasty when he won victories over the twelve feudal warlords to reunify the nation, which was then renamed Đại Cồ Việt. This ushered in a new era, an era with Đại Việt as an independent state.

THE LY DYNASTY (1010-1225)

Royal Proclamation of Shifting the Capital

The Đinh and the Lê dynasties had completed their glorious mission of consolidating national independence and bringing the country to reunion. The role as temporary capital played by Hoa Lư also came to an end. The Ngô, Đinh, Lê dynasties had given rise to the development of an economy and culture. In 1009 Lý Công Uẩn came to power, starting a new period in the history of the nation.

Thanks to his excellent political forethought he discovered that Đại La (ancient Hanoi) had a strategic position. After a boating excursion on Cái River, he wrote a proclamation for shifting the capital.

In July 1010, he decided to shift his capital. One day, the King escorted by his mandarins started his journey from Hoa Lư to Đai La. On arrival, he changed the old name of the city into Thăng Long (Soaring Dragon).

Thăng Long was bordered by 3 rivers: the Red River to the east, the Tô river to the north and west, and the Kim Ngưu river to the south. The Imperial (Royal) City - Hoàng Thành near West Lake was the seat of the Court and contained many offices, houses and palaces of the imperial officials. Surrounding the area was a wall of bricks. The rest of the capital consisted of the common people's residential areas (called civil areas: Dân sự) which were divided into two sections: agricultural and handicraft communes. Both, the Hoàng Thành and the Dân sự, were protected by dykes and canals connected to the above mentioned rivers. It was during the hundred years of being a capital that Thăng Long was built into the largest political, economic and cultural centre of the whole nation. Ramparts and dykes, the feudal, cultural and religious architecture created a specific beauty for the capital.
In Thăng Long, the Lý's rule heralded a period of considerable national development and large scale defense, opening the era of civilized Đại Việt in Vietnam history. Four masterpieces, Chuông Quy Điền (Quy Điền Bell), Tháp Báo Thiên (Báo Thiên Tower), Chùa Quỳnh Lâm (Quỳnh Lâm Pagoda with a thousand Buddhas statues), Vạc Phổ Minh (Phổ Minh Cauldron), were designed and built at this time. The Lý dynasty had reigned for 215 years (with nine emperors) in Thăng Long.

THE TRAN DYNASTY (1226-1400)

The Lý dynasty collapsed on 1 December in the Year of the Cock, (1-12-1226) after Trần Thủ Độ got the Queen Lý Chiêu Hoàng to issue an edict conceding the throne to her husband, Trần Cảnh. The Trần dynasty opened an era of more dynamic, stable and solid development which lasted until the middle of the 15th century. Under the Trần Dynasty, Thăng Long was the greatest political, economic and cultural centre of the nation. The transfer of power was carried out peacefully causing no great changes to Thăng Long.

The Lý 's architecture which contained the La Thành, Hoàng Thành (Royal City) and Cấm Thành (Forbidden Purple City) remained as they were before. There were also some new structures added such as Viện Quốc Học (Institute of National Learning) and Giảng Võ Đường (Giảng Võ Military Hall). The Kinh Thành (Capital City) comprised 61 communes which were trading, handicraft and agricultural communes. At the end of the Trần dynasty, Thăng Long was noted down as being "Kẻ Chợ", which means an international, friendship city characterized by its focus on culture, economy and great people such as the high-ranking mandarin Hoàng Binh (from the Tống dynasty), Tham Chính Tăng Uyên Tử, Tống Triệu Trung and the Đinh Bàng Đức family, who were a family performing acrobatics. It was in this city that Vietnamese small traders and Hoa kiều (Chinese overseas), Hồi Hột and Chà Và's big traders operated; where the Tống, Nguyên, Lào, Chiêm, Gia-va envoys, monks and nuns from Mid-Asia and India were received; where Chèo (Vietnamese folk arts), Tuồng (Chinese drama) and Hồ's dance were also held.
The development of industry and trading gave birth to a new generation of citizens, urban dwellers and to the urban way of life. It was said that Trần Anh Tông (1293-1314) escorted by his bodyguards used to stealthily leave his palace at night to stroll around and enjoy the city until early morning.
Thăng Long under the Trần dynasty was also the land of talented and cultural people: for example Hàn Thuyên, who built a foundation of Vietnamese culture; Lê Văn Hưu, a famous historian; Trần Thánh Tông and Trần Nhân Tông, the heroic kings and talented poets; Trần Quốc Tuấn and Trần Quang Khải, the commanders, poets, and writers of the same time and Chu Văn An, a bright example and a model of an honourable and upright intellectual.


At the end of the Lê dynasty, the Court itself had become weakened and unstable, it was presided over by a powerless Emperor Lê Uy Mục. The socio-political crisis was severe and it reached its peak in the 18th century because the ambitious mandarins ultimately governed only in their own interests.

The most notable rivalry was led by Mạc Đăng Dung. He had experienced being an imperial guard under Lê Uy Mục, then Deputy Commander-in-Chief and an Earl under Tương Dực, then a marquisate and a Duke under Chiêu Tông. By that time he commanded 13 marine and ground regiments, this was until Cung Hoàng Mạc Đăng Dung became an influential person. It has been noted that he "had defeated many enemies, gaining greater and greater power, whereas the Emperor's army was weak. "The people's hearts were with Mạc Đăng Dung" - from Đại Việt thông sử by Lê Quý Đôn. Mạc Đăng Dung had proved himself to be a talented man of great privilege, and so Thăng Long once more witnessed an important event: the take-over of the Lê by Mạc dynasty (1527).

The Mạc, however, came to power during a complicated situation where the decentralisation of power became acute, preventing the unification of the country.
In 1592 Trịnh Tùng, Trịnh Kiểm's son conquered Đông Đô. Mạc Mậu Hợp was killed. Lê Thế Tông was helped by Trịnhs' noble family to become the Emperor. This is a unique event in the history of Vietnam that a country was ruled by both an Emperor and a Noble Lord, it was called the Dynasty of the Lê Restoration.

The Mạc dynasty opened a period of disagreements, the conflict between the North Court, controlled by the Mạc and South Court, controlled by the Lê dynasty, then the rivalry between Đàng Ngoài (in the North) and Đàng Trong (in the South).

Although the political situation under the Mạc was rather complex, the economy and culture actually saw a rapid development. Markets were set up in many places, especially in Kiến An. The urban population grew fast, some people became the owners of shops and workshops, but the majority were small producers and traders. This is why Thăng Long did not surpass the model of a middle-age urban structure to define itself as a "free city" as it would have done in the West. It was in this period that Thăng Long witnessed the development of culture and of the examination system. Many intellectuals were awarded doctorate degrees, among whom Trần Thị Duệ was a woman. Some of them became great intellectuals, such as Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm and Phùng Khắc Khoan. Among those who established the glorious chapter of Thăng Long, some were of Hanoi origin, such as Đặng Trần Côn and Bùi Huy Bích, and some were from elsewhere, such as Lê Quý Đôn, Nguyễn Gia Thiều and Đoàn Thị Điểm. This period made a step towards the cultural restoration of the centuries to follow.

Under the Restoration of the Lê, Thăng Long underwent a lot of changes. Separate from the royal palace stood Lord Trịnh's Palace, the real headquarters of the nation, with many luxurious structures, such as Lầu Ngũ Long (Five-Dragon House) on the east of Hoàn Kiếm Lake (the Lake of the Restored Sword), Đình Tả Vọng (Ta Vong Local Temple - Turtle's Island now) and Thuy Khánh Palace (on Jade Mountain). Also notably a lot of commercial firms were established by Dutch and English merchants and especially by Chinese boat people. The rivalry between the Trịnh clan in the north, and the Nguyễn clan in the south, ended in 1786 in an uprising led by Nguyễn Huệ, a great commander and strategist.

Handicrafts flourished in Thăng Long thanks to the talented artisans and craftmen who had brought the crafts from other parts of the country to the city. They grouped together according to their occupations, such as cotton, silk and dyes in Trúc Bạch, Yên Thái, Trích Sài, Nghĩa Đô, copper in Ngũ Xã, red silk in Hàng Đào and soon. The street names indicate the business or trade of the residents and they were a good guide to the Thăng Long society, such as inlay in Hàng Khay, jewelers in Hàng Bạc and drums in Hàng Trống. In spite of the many changes, Thăng Long was the largest political, economic and cultural centre in the country.


In the summer of 1786, the Tây Sơn armies led by Nguyễn Huệ overpowered the Trịnh Lord, the position which had existed for 241 years (from 1545 to 1786). During this period 194 years had been spent in Thăng Long. On July 21st, 1786 Tây Sơn troops gained control of Thăng Long, and ended the division of Đàng Trong and Đàng Ngoài, and reunified the country after 2 centuries. The Lê dynasty came back to control the country. Nguyễn Huệ married Princess Lê Ngọc Hân in Thăng Long and then returned to the South.

The Emperor Lê Chiêu Thống could not manage to rule the country, rival forces had risen up many times to seize power. Nguyễn Huệ came back to Thăng Long twice to suppress the rebels. At the end of the year 1788, Lê Chiêu Thống left for China to enlist the help of the Chinese feudal empire. On December 16th, 1788 a 290,000 strong Thanh (Qing) army pressed their expansion to Đại Việt to the rescue of the feudal lords. Immediately Nguyễn Huệ left Phú Xuân (now Hue City) for Bắc Hà (the northern region). On the way, he installed himself as Emperor Quang Trung.

With excellent military talent and a daring strategy, on January 5th, 1789, Tây Sơn troops led directly by Quang Trung, drove out 290,000 Thanh (Qing) invaders at Ngoc Hồi - Đống Đa, and they seized control of Thăng Long. However only a part of Quang Trung's army stayed in Thăng Long, the rest returned to Phú Xuân. At that time Thăng Long was only a city of the north, called Bắc Thành. Phú Xuân became the capital of the country with the Emperor Quang Trung. The Tây Sơn dynasty existed for 24 years from the Emperor Thái Đức to the Emperor Cảnh Thịnh.


In 1802, with French assistance, Nguyễn Ánh pushed back the Tây Sơn armies, proclaimed himself Emperor of the Kingdom of Vietnam (taking the reigning name of Gia Long). The country received its current name, and the new capital was set up in Phú Xuân.

To dominate the North, in 1805 the Nguyễn dynasty rebuilt Thăng Long according to western styles. The city was bordered by a moat of 5,142m, being 4.40m deep and 16 metres wide. On each side of the moat there was a gate, but the southern side had two gates. Outside each gate, there was a small building, called Dương Mã for guarding the gate. Within the city there were Kính Thiên Palace, Cột Cờ (the Flag Tower), Hồ Voi (Elephant Lake), Võ Miếu (Temple of the military), Xã Tắc Tower to pray to Heaven and Earth, an Earth Level to carry out động thổ (the ground breaking) ceremony, a prison and a trường hình (execution ground). There were guards at each gate. Đình Ngang (Ngang local Temple) and Cấm Chỉ were stationed near the south gate. Surrounding the city were military offices and streets in the old quarter (now Hoàn Kiếm district). The names of the streets indicate the business or trade of the residents. For example silk in Hàng Đào, jewels in Hàng Bạc, for food products onions in Hàng Hành, rice in Hàng Gạo, fish in Hàng Cá, potatoes in Hàng Khoai.

The area of the city was 28.77 miles long (about 16 km), and it comprised 16 gates, namely Kim Liên, An Tự, Thanh Lãng (in Thành Nhàn), Nhân Hoà, Tây Long (near the Opera House), Đông An, Mỹ Lộc, Trung Thành, Đông Hà, Phúc Lâm (Hàng Đậu), Thạch Khối, An Tĩnh (Yên Thành), An Hòa (Yên Phụ), Tây Hồ (Bưởi street), Vạn Bảo (Kim Mã), Thịnh Quang (Ô Chợ Dừa). A lot of merchants or artisans from different villages were attracted there, so Thăng Long was still a developed economic centre. Many villages such as Phát Lộc, Gia Ngư and Nam Ngư were set up.
To respond to the independent spirit of the villagers, the village Đình (local temple) was erected. Some Đình are well known even today such as Phù ủng and Lương Ngọc. Handicrafts, as Thêu (embroidery) and Khảm (sculpture) reached their highest peak in this period. In 1831 the name Thăng Long (Soaring Dragon) was replaced by Thịnh Vượng (Prosperity), which indicated a town - Hanoi town.

Many cultural structures were changed, these included the Quốc Tử Giám (the University of Literature and Ethics) which was moved to Huế and renamed the National Academy. Some Ô (City Gates) were rebuilt in 1817 (including Ô Quan Chưởng). After 143 years from the Nguyễn dynasty, Thăng Long was again the capital of the Democratic Republic of North Viet Nam.


In 1854, on hearing that the French had occupied the three eastern provinces of the South (Gia Định, Biên Hòa and Định Tường), candidates left their examinations in Hanoi for a demonstration in Văn Miếu and around Hồ Gươm (Restored Sword Lake) to show their willingness to fight the enemy in the South.

In early November 1873, F. Garnier advanced to Hanoi and opened fire on 20 September 1873. Hanoi was defeated because the Court had long been weak. But the people of Hanoi were not easily subdued. They rose up under Nguyễn Tri Phương’s banner against the French, and on 21 December 1873 F. Garnier's troops were suppressed in Cầu Giấy.

In spite of the Hanoi people’s bravery, the Court did not change their mind. They pursued a policy of peace and negotiation. This resulted in the Court being forced to place Đồn Thủy under the French occupation. Henri Riviere was sent to Hanoi to replace F. Garnier. Immediately on his arrival he delivered an ultimatum to Hoàng Diệu (then the Governor of Hanoi) forcing the people to surrender. Hoàng Diệu led the people of Hanoi to fight for the defense of the city but finally he commited suicide.
Later Henri, the commander-in chief of the invaders was killed at the Cầu Giấy battle on 19 May 1883. If King Tự Đức had then sent reinforcements, the French would have been destroyed and Hanoi would have been liberated. But he clung to his hope of winning back Hanoi by a compromise and he signed a shameful treaty in 1884 placing Vietnam under the French "protectorate".

A patriotic organisation called Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục (the Tonkin Study Institute) was established in February 1907 by a group of scholars (Lương Văn Can, Nguyễn Quyền and Lê Đại) under the name of a school, at No.10 Hàng Đào street. The organisation introduced new ideology, enhanced patriotism and encouraged the struggle against the French colonialists. It exerted a great influence over Hanoi and many other provinces, which so frightened the French that they ordered the school to close in December 1907.

In 1908, another patriotic group planned to poison the French troops, who were stationed in the inner city in support of the resistant force, but they failed. Many of them were captured and executed.

It was during this time, in 1925, that an event shocked the country. It was the trial of Phan Bội Châu, a patriot. Under the people’s angry protests the French Governor General had to free him.

In 1926, a great meeting was held in Trưng Sisters Temple to observe a memorial service for Phan Chu Trinh. The French sent troops to break up the meeting, but they could not prevent the huge crowd continuing the ceremony. It is obvious that, from the very beginning of their domination, the French experienced protests which grew stronger and stronger, especially after the founding of the Communist Party of Indochina.

The years following the First World War were marked by the French increasing their exploitation of Indochina. Hanoi saw important changes with the working class coming into existence.

In 1919 several strikes broke out in the printing workshops in Hanoi. Between 1919 and 1929 strikes became more and more frequent. New revolutionary organisations began to emerge. The Thanh niên Cách mạng Đồng chí Hội (Revolutionary Youth Association) was founded in Hanoi. The first communist section was set up in March 1929 at No. 5D Hàm Long Street. They sent their representatives to attend the Youth Congress in Hong Kong. Due to disagreements at the Congress, three representatives left for Hanoi and announced the establishment of the Communist Party of Indochina in June 1929,at No.312 Khâm Thiên Street, Hanoi. From then, the revolutionary campaign in Hanoi, together with the Sô viết Nghệ Tĩnh (the Nghe Tinh Soviets), demonstrated their strong development. It was in this period that the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng (National Party of Vietnam), who recruited members mainly from the educational circle, had positive activities in Hanoi. But it failed to organise mass action after the Yên Bái upsurge was doomed (1930).

The French bloody repression and their acute exploitation brought about an economic crisis, which exacerbated the people’s plight, but it in no way hindered their revolutionary movements. The campaign grew larger when many of the bourgeoisie went bankcrupt and the industry and trade remained weak. When the French Popular Front came to power, the Communist Party of Indochina launched a movement to struggle for democratic freedom against the colonial traitors. This was during the period of 1936-1939. On 1 May 1938 a huge meeting, the biggest one since the French domination, was held in front of the Đấu Xảo to celebrate May Day. This, together with many other demonstrations, contributed to the growth of the emulation movement. A "rehearsal" and preparation for the general upsurge began.
President Palace
President Palace (Phu Chu Tich)

Hanoi hilton prison
Hanoi hilton prison


September 1940 witnessed the occupation of Hanoi by the Japanese fascists. The people of Hanoi started a new historical stage, life and struggle under the dual Franco-Japanese yoke. Despite all the efforts by the French to distract the current struggle, such as the setting up of the Duy Roi Youth and the opening of new colleges, they could not disguise the poverty of the people, the rise in the prices, the abolishment of rice crops for jute planting and the imposition of new taxes. Many pro-Japanese parties were formed in Hanoi, which had a bad impact on the situation. They tried to encourage political moves, but they could not mislead the Vietnamese people whose hearts were with the communist party.

Then the Việt Minh (short for Việt Nam Độc lập Đồng minh Hội - League for Vietnamese Independence) was founded. This involved various organisations (of workers, peasants, youth, women and guerilla units) operating in Hanoi, putting up stiff resistance to the French and the Japanese: for example workers’ strikes, seizure of rice stores and the establishment of tự vệ (small armed groups).

On 9 March 1945 the Japanese troops disarmed the French. The revolutionary movement was seething. After 15 August 1945 Japan surrendered to the Allies. In these circumstances it is quite a decision whether we stood up for an uprising or waited for the Liberation Army. If we hesitated, there was a danger that a late uprising would be defeated. Thus, the Hanoi Communist Party Section, based themselves on the Central Committee’s Guidelines and decided to set up a committee for uprising. On August 17-18 most of the pro-Japanese offices in Hanoi were made powerless. On August 18 a mass meeting was held in the Town Hall Square, which then turned into a huge demonstration in favour of the Việt Minh.

Hue and Saigon in turn stood up to establish their revolutionary power. The insurrection had won complete victory throughout the country. On 2 September 1945, in Ba Đình Square President Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed to the world the establishment of the Demsocratic Republic of Vietnam.

Old quarter Hanoi
old quarter Hanoi



The successful revolution brought Vietnam into a new era. But the mainstream of difficulties still confronted Hanoi. Between September 1945 and May 1946 Chiang Kai-sheck troops returned, under the false game of disarming the Japanese. They sought to cooperate with Quốc Dân Đảng to stem the revolutionary tide.

The people of Hanoi and the whole country united under the President Hồ Chí Minh banner to protect the revolution, to minimise the enemy’s destruction and the impact of the famine, illiteracy and the exhausted budget. It was at this time that the French indulged in numerous provocations against Saigon and opened fire to attack Hanoi. President Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed an appeal to the nation for a resistance. On 19 December 1946 the national resistance war broke out. Hanoi experienced 60 days and nights of brave and brilliant fighting against the enemy, which was worth being written down as a page of glory in our history.

Tram Station The successful revolution brought Vietnam into a new era. But the mainstream of difficulties still confronted Hanoi. Between September 1945 and May 1946 Chiang Kai-sheck troops returned, under the false game of disarming the Japanese. They sought to cooperate with Quốc Dân Đảng to stem the revolutionary tide.

The people of Hanoi and the whole country united under the President Hồ Chí Minh banner to protect the revolution, to minimise the enemy’s destruction and the impact of the famine, illiteracy and the exhausted budget. It was at this time that the French indulged in numerous provocations against Saigon and opened fire to attack Hanoi. President Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed an appeal to the nation for a resistance. On 19 December 1946 the national resistance war broke out. Hanoi experienced 60 days and nights of brave and brilliant fighting against the enemy, which was worth being written down as a page of glory in our history.

After two months fighting to tie down the enemy troops protecting the withdrawal of the government to the revolutionary base (Việt Bắc), the "capital regiment" retreated safely back to the liberated areas joining the national resistance war. A guerrilla war was launched in the suburbs of Hanoi, which grew during the year 1947-1948. In the enemy-held city guerrillas existed, the people sheltered partisans and dedicated activists. Bases constantly developed in factories, schools and even in markets. This was the context in which the Hanoi students organised a big school boycott (between 13-20 January 1950) to protest against the French and the puppet government who had killed Trần Văn Ôn in Saigon. An intensive patriotic movement grew, young people hid themselves from recruitment, sent off protests against recruitment and escaped to the liberated areas. The struggle in the enemy-held city led to remarkable feats such as the attack against Bạch Mai airport, destroying 25 aircraft and burning 600,000 litres of petrol, and against Gia Lâm airport, destroying 18 aircraft and a petrol store in 1954.

After the fall of Điện Biên Phủ, the Geneva Agreements stipulated that Hanoi was the base for the French 80-day deadline of regroupment. The people of Hanoi were successful in turning the city into a dead zone during this period, but into a lively ressurection when the revolutionary army arrived.
On 10 October 1954 Hồ Chí Minh's victorious army, including the sons and daughters of Hanoi, returned from the revolutionary base to take over the capital ushering a new era for Hanoi and the whole nation.
Local Market in Hanoi during year 90
Local Market in Hanoi during year 90


Soon after the take-over Hanoi began to build the foundation of socialism (with the first 5-year plan covering 1954-60, and the second covering 1960-65) which had to rapidly develop the capital into the political and economic centre of the whole country, and be a powerful rear base for the liberation of the south and the reunification. After just 10 years establishing work creatively Hanoi had become the political and cultural centre of the North, and set an important foundation for a new industry with about 200 enterprises, big and small, in operation.

In 1965, having foreseen their failure in the south the US imperialists began to wage a war of destruction against North Vietnam. They mobilised the marine and air forces at their disposal. In 1966 the war reached Hanoi, starting an important step towards escalation. The Pentagon led a bloody campaign against Hanoi, which they claimed to bring Hanoi back to the Stone Age: carpet bombing with thousands of bombs. Many streets, schools, hospitals and industrial centres were rased to the ground. The remarkable thing about the people of Hanoi was that despite the heavy destruction, they could still protect the fruits of the revolution, and the age-old cultural heritage. The elderly people, children, factories and offices were evacuated away from the city. The Hanoi people and army brought down 358 aircraft, of which 23 were B52 strategic bombers and 2 F111s. The glorious victory of Hanoi not only strengthened the will of the South Vietnamese people and but also proved the role of a strong rear foundation towards the final victory of our nation in the spring of 1975.

Hanoi city
Hanoi Old Quater

Sight-seeing Hanoi today

Besides plentiful cultural relics, Hanoi boasts many scenes of beauty. The most popular ones in Hanoi are peaceful lakes. Standing around all the city’s lakes are great and high green trees with large shadows on sunny days. Also, they are sources of inspiration for artists. The famous Hoan Kiem Lake (mentioned above), West Lake, Truc Bach, Bay Mau Lake, etc., are the undeniable green, fresh, and peaceful beauties of the capital. Lots of songs and poems have recommended their beauty from time to time, season to season. “West Lake in the Autumn afternoon, peaceful flat water surface from far far away is so much appealing…”, those beautiful popular song words are always ever bear in mind by Hanoians as time goes by.

Water Park near West Lake is another side of sight-seeing places with all colorful and playful water games to play. This is really suitable for children. But it is strongly suggested that they should always be accompanied by their parents when playing strong-feeling games there!

A green and peaceful Hanoi, a fast-growing hospitable city with great tourism potentials, is now open and warmly welcome friends from all over the world.

Vietnam Pathfinder travel is a private travel company and head office is based in Hanoi, the company provide full travel services such as package tour, boat rental, helicopter charter rental or Hanoi car rental services

National Fine Arts Museum (Hanoi)

National Fine Arts Museum (at Nguyen Thai Hoc street- Hanoi)

Hanoi streets

Hanoi Capital city with Vietnampathfinder trips (selling flower on the streets)

Hanoi art coffee

Hanoi art coffee, there is special coffee shop such as Ca Phe Lam at Nguyen Huu Huan Street.

Paintings from the indochina artists

There is many paintings from the indochina artists (or called " Tranh dong duong) , the artists such such Bui Xuan Phai, Nguyen Tu Nghiem.

Hanoi art coffee- Ca Phe Lam

Hanoi coffee with ice is very popular, great choice during summer season (must to try when travel and visit Hanoi)

Hanoi coffee

Enjoy coffee, enjoy the art works and seeing the busy streets that is the local culture Hanoi people (or Lazy time of weekend)

There is many bars with imported wines in city

There is many bars with imported wines in city
There is many bars with imported wines in city

Evening in a bar or on the street, there is many choice

A sightseeing city with Vietnampathfinder

Or to meet with local well known artist with Vietnampathfinder art tours

Please click to view  more Vietnam guided tours

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