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Hanoi History

For many years, Vietnam formed part of the French colony of Indochina, along with Cambodia and Laos. In 1941, the Japanese occupied Vietnam during their WWII sweep through South East Asia. The resistance to the Japanese was led by the Indochinese Communist Party.

Communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh established the Viet Minh during WWII to gain independence from France. Fighting continued until 1954 when the French surrendered to the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu and Hanoi became the capital of North Vietnam. But Ho Chi Minh was determined to reunite the whole country.

The USA came to the support of South Vietnam, and full-scale war broke out in 1965. The Americans withdrew in 1973, and fighting continued until 1975 when Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops. Vietnam was reunited under Hanoi and communist rule the following year.

For many years after the war, Hanoi had a reputation as an austere city, unwelcoming to visitors. Life was hard for the residents as the city and country rebuilt itself. Hanoi had been continuously bombed by the Americans throughout the Vietnam War, but with the lifting of the American trade embargo in 1994 and the reinstatement of diplomatic relations the following year, Hanoi cautiously embraced economic reform, helped by the instinctive entrepreneurism of its residents.

All damage has long since been repaired, and now the elegance of the old colonial buildings and the mish-mash of the narrow streets in the Old Quarter sit easily with more modern additions.

Celebrations took place in October 2010 to mark 1,000 years since the city was founded by King Ly Thai To. Hanoi was flooded with spectators to watch a huge parade including the military, marching bands and colourful dragon dancers. The confidence of the celebrations showed out Hanoi is once more resurgent as a powerful player in the Asian scene.

Did you know?
• Hanoi became home to the world’s largest ceramic mosaic in 2010 with a piece of artwork along the Red River Road stretching for 3,850m (12,631 ft).
• Vietnamese Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, wanted to be cremated. Instead his body is embalmed in Hanoi’s Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is modelled on Lenin’s Tomb.
• John McCain, who ran in the 2008 United States presidential election, was one of the prisoners of war held at Hỏa Lò Prison the Vietnam War.

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Featured Hotels


Maison d'Hanoi Hanova Hotel

The narrow entrance is barely noticeable, but this boutique hotel is well known for its stylish combination of colonial and art deco design. It’s within walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake and ideal for exploring the Old Quarter. With its own restaurant and spa, this is a real find in an excellent location.

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

An old colonial hotel steeped in history, the Sofitel isn’t called ‘legend’ for nothing. With three excellent restaurants (Vietnamese, French and Italian), as well as bars, swimming pool and gym, it’s the most prized luxury choice of the city. Rooms in the historical Metropole Wing have maintained the original features, while the Opera Wing has rooms designed in classic French style.

InterContinental Hanoi Westlake

This is one of the best 5-star business hotels in Hanoi, built entirely over the West Lake, featuring large rooms, restaurants and bars, swimming pool and spa facilities. The hotel's Vietnamese, Italian and French restaurants all have good reputations. Rooms overlook the lake or the Hanoi skyline and are stylishly Vietnamese.

Hoa Binh Hotel

A consistently popular choice on the Hanoi hotel scene, the Hoa Binh is a renovated colonial hotel dating from 1926. Located within walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake, it boasts more than 100 rooms, all large and comfortable with good facilities for a 3-star hotel. There are also French and Vietnamese restaurants.

Hilton Hanoi Opera

A stunning colonial-style hotel, the Hilton is built next to the Opera House (hence its name) in the French Quarter. The rooms are large and chic with a hint of Vietnamese style. A short walk from the Old Quarter, the open-air bar of the hotel's Ba Mien restaurant is a popular nightspot.

Essence d’Orient Hotel & Spa

As the newly extended wing of the Essence Hotel & Spa this stylish comfortable property in the heart of the Old Quarter offers excellent value. Despite being positioned a few steps from the popular Beer Corner its spacious rooms are quiet. The staff are professional and friendly while the restaurant is exceptional.