French Colonial Architecture has changed the face of many Vietnamese cities
By 1880 France had colonised much of Southeast Asia. The colonisation of Vietnam began officially in 1874, though by this time they had already been in the country for almost 60 years. Saigon had fallen under French rule as early as 1859 and almost immediately the architectural landscape of Vietnam was to change forever. By the time Ho Chi Minh had led his country back to home rule, the French had built magnificent structures throughout the land.
Da Nang which was where French rule began they built many villas and the town became famous as a place for the European rich and famous. The 200 feet tall Cathedral here was constructed from 1923 and was commissioned by the then priest Louis Vallet. Its bright pink facade dominates the view up Tran Phu. The cockerel on the weather vein has led to it being known by locals as The Rooster Cathedral.
Capital Buildings in Hanoi
In Hanoithey built the wonderful St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the Presidential Palace and the truly magnificent Hanoi Opera House. These buildings have become the most famous in the city and are genuinely loved by the locals now. The Opera House was modelled on the Palais Garnier in Paris and is the home of the National Ballet. The Presidential Palace has an interesting history also. Seen as too decadent by Ho Chi Minh, he refused to live in the main part of the building, choosing instead to reside in the servants quarters to the rear. He did however, recognise the significance of such a building and would receive visitors in the main state rooms.
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Saigon’s Skyline was Changed Forever
It is perhaps inSaigon where the rear contribution of French architecture can be seen. French colonial buildings here make up some of the finest in Saigon. The Ancient Asian style of buildings and the modern glass towers sit side by side with incredibly beautiful colonial buildings. Not many cities can claim to have a post office designed and built by the lauded French master Gustave Eiffel. The Old Post Office here can lay such a claim. It stands in a beautiful square in the centre of town, that is dominated by another French masterpiece the Notre Dame Basilica. This cathedral was built from materials wholly brought over from France. It is a superb building.
The People’s Committee Head office was formerly Hotel de Ville de Saïgon and stands at the top of Nguyen Hue, with a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the gardens to the front. The Majestic Hotel on the riverfront is a magnificent building with a fascinating history. It was here that Graham Greene resided while writing his book “The Quiet American” The roof top bar is one of the most famous bars in the city.
The Saigon Opera House certainly rivals its cousin in Hanoi for architectural splendour. These buildings are simply magnificent and driving round Saigon at night, they seem to dominate every important corner. They are illuminated beautifully in the evenings and have become synonymous with what makes this thriving city so amazing.