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As the capital of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, Hanoi is considered one of the main cultural centres of Vietnam, where most Vietnamese dynasties have left their imprint. Even though some relics have not survived through wars and time, the city still has many interesting cultural and historic monuments for visitors and residents alike. Even when the nation's capital moved to Huế under the Nguyễn Dynasty in 1802, the city of Hanoi continued to flourish, especially after the French took control in 1888 and modeled the city's architecture to their tastes, lending an important aesthetic to the city's rich stylistic heritage. The city hosts more cultural sites than any city in Vietnam, and boasts more than 1,000 years of history, and that of the past few hundred years has been well preserved.
Main gate to the Temple of Literature
Hoan Kiem lake by night
The Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem lake, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original commerce. The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops. Local cuisine specialties as well as several clubs and bars can be found here also. A night market (near Đồng Xuân market) in the heart of the district opens for business every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening with a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.
Some others prominent places are: The Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu), site of the oldest university in Vietnam 1010; One Pillar Pagoda (Chùa Một Cột); Flag Tower of Hanoi (Cột cờ Hà Nội). In 2004, a massive part of the 900 year old Hanoi Citadel was discovered in central Hanoi, near the site of Ba Dinh Square.
A city between the rivers, built from lowland, Hanoi has many scenic lakes and it is sometimes called "city of lakes". Among its lakes, the most famous are Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, Halais Lake (Hồ Thiền Quang in Vietnamese), and Bay Mau Lake. Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Sword Lake, is the historical and cultural center of Hanoi, and is linked to the legend of the magic sword. West Lake (Hồ Tây) is a popular place for people to spend time. It is the largest lake in Hanoi and there are many temples in the area. There are small boats for hire and a floating restaurant.
Hotel Metropole in colonial Hanoi
National Museum of Vietnamese History
Under French rule, as an administrative centre for the French colony of Indochina, the French colonial architecture style became dominant, many examples remain today: the tree-lined boulevards (e.g. Phan Dinh Phung street) and its many villas and mansions, Grand Opera House, State Bank of Vietnam (formerly The Bank of Indochina), Presidential Palace (formerly Palace of the Governor-General of French Indochina), Saint Joseph Cathedral, and the historic Hotel Metropole. Many of the colonial structures are an eclectic mixture of French and traditional Vietnamese architectural styles, such as the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts and the old Indochina Medical College.
Hanoi is also home to a number of museums:
National Museum of Vietnamese History
Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
Vietnam Museum of Revolution
Hanoi Hilton (Hoa Lo Prison)
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Contemporary Arts Centre
Vietnam Military History Museum
The Hanoi Museum (currently under construction until 2010)
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