The French occupation of Indochina had an obvious impact on the whole area. Colonial architecture is perhaps the most outward sign though the wide boulevards in cities ensure that there is an impression of space. Hanoi is an excellent example of a city that offers tourists on Vietnam tour packages the chance to see and experience history and culture whilst enjoying the charm of the people. Any Hanoi travel guide will describe the city and its many attractions. While Vietnam as a whole has much to offer good Vietnam tour operators based in Hanoi will ensure that you will leave the country at the end of a Vietnam holiday with a real appreciation of Hanoi, a city that is regularly ranked amongst the very top of world cities.
The metropolitan population exceeds 7 million but there is no sense of overcrowding even though traffic can be hectic. Hanoi’s city population is below 3 million and as a Vietnam’s capital it is the likely place of entry for overseas’ visitors. There has been a settlement here for 1,000 years and theHanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural marked the occasion in 2010.
Hue was capital for a period in the 19th Century before Hanoi was restored as capital in 1887 by the French who held it until 1954 when Ho Chi Minh assumed power. At the end of the Vietnam War in 1976 it became capital of unified Vietnam even though the larger city in the South, Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after Vietnam’s national hero.
The Old City is quite a contrast to the skyscrapers that mark most 21st Century cities, especially capital cities. Hanoi which sits on the Red River is divided into a number of districts:
Hoàn Kiếm Districtis the one where many Hanoi tour packages will start. It is the centre and includes - Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake) which legend says is where King Le Loi received a sword from the gods to repel the Chinese. When they were defeated in 1428 he returned the sword to the Lake. Many locals spend leisure time around the Lake. The Old Quarter is the northern part of this District while the southern is an area of French architecture and villas. Many of the highlights of Hanoi tours are in this District:
• Ngoc Son Temple
• The Huc Bridge
• Hanoi Grand Cathedral (St. Joseph's Cathedral)
• Hoa Lo Prison
• Long Bien Bridge
• Hanoi Opera House
• Ba Đình District is the political heart of Vietnam:
• The National Assembly Building
• President's Palace
• Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
• The One-Pillar Pagoda
• Thang Long Citadel
• The French Quarter and Truc Bach Lake where ex US Presidential candidate John McCain's plane was shot down.
• Hai Bà Trưng District, south of Hoan Kiem also has French-style streets with plenty of large trees adding to its attraction.
• Đống Đa District is now largely residential but the Temple of Literature is something you must see on a Hanoi City tour.
• Tây Hồ Districtis named after one of the largest natural lakes of Vietnam, Tay Ho (West Lake).
• Cầu Giấy District houses the Museum of Ethnology and includes Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower, Vietnam's tallest building. This is modern Hanoi.
• Long Biên District is east of the Red River. The Bat Trang Ceramic Village and Le Mat Snake Village are the highlights.
The months of May through to the end of October is monsoon season but there is little reason not to visit on Hanoi City tours any month of the year. After all, if it is raining there are plenty of interesting museums to visit as well as temples. The main ones will be included in Hanoi travel packages and a Hanoi travel agency will design an itinerary to suit the particular interests of its clients:
• Vietnamese Women's Museum has information in Vietnamese, English and French. It concentrates onheroines in Vietnamese history. Rituals and traditions about women in the family and hand-made ethnic costumes are well represented.
• Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum has the body of this national hero. It is important to show due respect when visiting on Hanoi city tours.
• Ho Chi Minh Museum may be a propaganda building but it is nevertheless worth a visit.Ho Chi Minh's Vestige in The Presidential Palace Area nearbyincludes two of Ho Chi Minh's houses, a garage with two of his "used cars" and a pond with carp.
• Fine Arts Museum has pictures of soldiers on boats on prehistoric bronze drums, Buddhist art, silk paintings and art of 20th century wars.
• Army Museum has some really old exhibits as well as a MiG-21, T-54 tank and other exhibits taken during the Indochina and Vietnam wars.
• National Museum of Vietnamese History covers the period from 1,000 years ago to 1945.
• Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution includes the initial struggles against the French in the 19th Century, independence and the Vietnam War.
• Museum of Ethnology covers the many ethnic groups in Vietnam which tourists will see on Vietnam tour packages after the leave Hanoi to travel around the country.
There are several other activities within Hanoi that are worth some of your time. You should ask for them to be included within Hanoi tour packages if they interest you.
• Culinary Tours
• Thang Long Water Puppet Theatrenear Hoan Kiem Lake offers shows about Vietnam history.
• The Night Market in the Old Quarter
At night time visitors will delight at the cuisine options. Street food is cheap and healthy while the restaurants offer a relaxed evening with great food; typical soups and main courses with meat and seafood.
Hanoi is a delight. It is often the first introduction a tourist has to Vietnam. Few are disappointed by not only the physical attractions but also the friendly people. There is no hint that they have ever been at war with foreign countries in the way they welcome tourists. Whatever your schedule on Vietnam holidays, the Paris of the East is certain to leave a lasting impression.
Read more: Things to know when traveling Hanoi