Hanoi is home to some of the best museums in the whole of Vietnam. One of the most important historical and cultural places in the country, Hanoi is equally a modern city with a thriving creative arts scene. Some of the most important national and religious monuments in Vietnam are located in Hanoi and the 1000 year old centre of commerce, the Old Quarter, is a huge draw. There are so many things to see and do in Hanoi you need to manage your time carefully. To help you to decide which museums you really need to see and which you can probably do without we have put together our list of top 5 museums in Hanoi tours.
Hanoi Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature made it into our recent Hanoi top 10 list but we love it so much it had to make an appearance here too. You really can’t visit Hanoi without stopping by the Temple of Literature and paying your respects to the teachers and scholars who dedicated their lives to the quest for knowledge as far back as 1070. Established as Vietnam’s first university, the Temple of Literature or ‘Quoc Tu Giam’ is located on Quoc Tu Giam Street, just south of the Mausoleum. Dedicated to Confucius, the temple is a rare example of traditional Vietnamese architecture in a city dominated by French colonialism. Take a wander around the temple to find the formal gardens, the ‘Well of Heavenly Clarity’, an imposing statue of Confucius and numerous stone tablets etched with the names of former students.
Museum of Ethnology
So thoroughly modern are the city-dwelling Vietnamese people it’s easy to forget about the many ethnic groups that once existed in Vietnam, each with their own distinct ritual and cultural practices. The Museum of Ethnology is a large, popular museum located on Nguyen Van Huyen Street. Located in a pleasingly modern building, the museum houses large collections of artefacts from various tribal groups and even has examples of traditional village homes in its large courtyard. The fair trade museum shop is a big hit amongst tourists and sells books, souvenirs and craft items from ethnic communities. The Chocolate and Baguettes Cafe is also a great place to take a break from the sight-seeing.
National Museum of Vietnamese History
The National Museum of Vietnamese History focuses on Vietnamese History from around the 12th century to 1945. For foreigners, any understanding of Vietnamese history may begin and end with the Vietnam-American War of 1955 to 1975, but this does a disservice to Vietnam’s long and fascinating history of conflict and triumph. This museum houses a fine collection of statuary from ancient Khmer and Champa kingdoms and a few decent exhibitions on the Vietnamese struggle against the occupying French. The building itself is a good example of Indochine architecture, blending the French colonial style with the traditional Vietnamese.
National Museum of Vietnamese History
Vietnamese Women’s Museum
Another museum that made it onto our top 10 things to do in Hanoi list, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum is a brilliant modern museum that puts storytelling and interpretation at the forefront of its exhibitions. A monument to the power of the Women’s Union of Vietnam, this museum looks at all of the ways the role of women has changed in modern day Vietnam and some of the ways in which it hasn’t. The museum’s collection is spread over five floors and is a wonderful introduction to what it meant to be a woman in Vietnam throughout the ages. Focus is given to working women, women’s fashion, family life and women’s role in the revolutionary struggle.
Military History Museum (Army Museum)
While Saigon is home to various bits of wartime hardware, collected in triumph by the Vietnamese or simply left to rust by the Americans, it is in Hanoi, at the Military History Museum, that the most impressive display of military weapons can be found. Tank 843, the tank that famously smashed through the gates of Saigon’s Presidential Palace in 1975 and effectively ending the war resides here, as does the wreckage of an American B-52 bomber. The museum also houses collections of propaganda, improvised weapons used by the Vietnamese and battle plans.
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