Best Museums to Visit in Hanoi
You find yourself in Hanoi, in between your trips or perhaps on a short term break from your project… exciting isn’t it? And here you are sitting in a hotel room surrounded by dozens of various flyers, browsing through Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet trying to decide where to go first, what is worth seeing and what is not. Completely confused by the abundance of possibilities you find yourself totally flabbergasted and soon tired.
If that is the case, see below a 24 itinerary option for museums to consider visiting. All constructed from experience and detailed research they will give you an exciting and full on day of culture learning about Hanoi.
Vietnam Military History Museum
- Address: Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam
- Entrance Fee: Around 40,000 VND, camera fee around 20,000 VND
- Opening hours: 8-11.30am & 1-4.30pm, closed on Monday and Friday
- Explanation in English: Very Good
For those interested in discovering the depths of Vietnamese history going to the Vietnam Military History Museum is an interesting option, only a half an hour walk from the Old Quarter. There you will be able to see ‘the other side of the coin’ of well-known histories such as the USA-Vietnam war. From the amazing artefacts, pictures and stories presented in galleries, to displays of planes shot down during the war and right through to the hexagonal Flag Tower you will be able to immerse in their story, their struggles and their victories.
Walking through a guarded entrance gate you start your journey to the truth” seen through the eyes of this brave nation... Among those thoroughly described are wars with French colonials and Japanese imperials. But the most prominent is a history of war with America seen from Vietnamese perspective. Indeed, full of propaganda and presented in a certain light, showing amazing courage, persistency and commitment of many individuals will leave you rethinking yet again of what you know about this nation and about the history of the world. Their version of the war and their way of dealing with what happened is mesmerising.
The museum can take up a lot of time, especially if you decide to really indulge yourself in all these fantastic exhibits, photos and detailed facts about citizens who sacrificed themselves for the freedom of their country. Strolling along these quiet corridors you can easily connect with all these stories of ‘common’ people who carried rice for soldiers, who worked on communication, who dug tunnels and many more, all of whom were indirectly involved in the war. They present personal stories of many men, women and children acknowledging the fact that they all played a significant role in the nation’s victories.
All this takes you this one step closer to understand the Vietnamese mentality and culture. And if after walking for some time you feel like you need to rest, walk across the street to a park where you will be able to slowly draw yourself back to the present moment admiring one of a few monumental statues of Lenin.
Vietnamese Fine Arts Museum
- Address: 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hanoi
- Entrance fee: Around 30,000 VND
- Opening hours: 8:30-5:00pm, closed on Monday
- Explanation in English: Very Good
From there you have a short 500 metres walk to another Museum called the Vietnamese Fine Arts Museum. Going there is really refreshing after the heavy war museum, and if your aim is to really discover the depths of this country you will find yourself immersed yet again, in detailed stories of Vietnamese citizens and their everyday life presented through various arts and crafts. Many artefacts are replicas, and some rooms look somewhat bare, perhaps indicating the effects of imperial plundering of this country’s national treasures during past invasions. But aside from that the museum provides a inciteful representation of the culture heritage.
The Temple of Literature
- Address: Van Mieu, Dong Da, Ha Noi, Vietnam
- Entrance fee: Around 20,000 VND
- Opening hours: 8:30 to 11:30 and 1:30 to 4:30pm, closed on Monday and national holidays
- Explanation in English: Very Little
Upon leaving the Fine Arts Museum, you feel like this is a good time to stop for a light meal and a coffee to give your mind a short break. Lucky enough on your way to The Temple of Literature, which is just 500 metres away, there are many street vendors selling food and drinks. All the way along the Temple’s fence you can pick and choose between a variety of dishes and drinks. Enjoy the midday sun, the city energy and the food you are eating…
When you are ready, walk to The Temple of Literature. This establishment was initially created to honor Confucius, now it also celebrates educational achievements. The temple has more of a park feel to it rather than a museum, it is divided into five court yards, and each one of them is describing a certain part of a scholarly history...walk through each part to understand yet another angle of this exciting country.
There are beautiful buildings, impressive old trees and delightful flower formations, and as you walk along you pass many mysterious monuments and a total of 82 tombstones. Unfortunately though, nothing here is translated into English. With that in mind you have two options, or do your homework before you get here or pay for an English tourist guide to walk you through the Temple.
When you reach the final courtyard, make sure you spend more time in here. Primarily, because this courtyard which is called Thai Hoc House, has an impressive collection of various old scholar costumes. Secondly, on the very back you can find the low-slung pagoda, where you will see a mystical-looking statue of Confucius. This last part has a real Temple feel with majestically looking statues, whiffs of incense and ritual offerings everywhere.
And thirdly, if you are lucky to come across an outdoor photo exhibition displayed on the grounds of the last courtyard, make sure you give it a great deal of your attention- it is really worth it. You will be able to experience a truly invigorating snapshot of folk and street life, moments caught by camera with light playing fantastic mirages and adding depth to presented snap shots of Vietnamese people going about with their lives.
At this moment in your journey having visited 3 museums, you can easily say to yourself that you had and intense day of sightseeing. You are hungry and a little bit tired right now. Being around 2 km away from the Old Quarter and romantic Hoan Kiem Lake you choose to take a walk back there and use this time to give your mind a rest. Upon arriving you have a fresh and filing meal in one of the restaurants at the lake.
A last suggestion before you go back to your hotel room is to cross the street and go to the Lake Park. There you will instantly find yourself in a peaceful and nostalgic world of Hoan Kiem Lake. A place where love, passion and romance are being played, where stories are being told and where precious moments are being shared.
In this park, while sitting on the bench, let the days stress slowly drift out of your head and let the mind reflect on what it has learned today. All that to the sounds of birds playing their last songs, water splashing against the shore and a gentle, cool breeze… you sit and you slowly find your peace. Minutes are passing and given what you experienced during the day, new emotions are unfolding… you now feel connected with this place, you feel Hanoi is breathing its story out after a long day…and you are being a part of it.
By Agatha McDonagh