Hanoi (Hà Nội) is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 2.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam. It was eclipsed by Huế, the imperial capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945), but Hanoi served as the capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, it was the capital of North Vietnam, and it became the capital of a reunified Vietnam in 1976, after the North’s victory in the Vietnam war.
The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is located at 1,760 km (1,090 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City and at 120 km (75 mi) west of Hai Phong city.
October 2010 officially marked 1000 years since the establishment of the city.
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.
According to TripIndex by TripAdvisor, for period June 1 to August 31, 2012 Hanoi will be the cheapest city in the world for two of a one-night stay in a four-star hotel, cocktails, a two-course dinner with a bottle of wine, and a taxi transport (two return journeys of about 3.2 kilometres each). It will cost of $141.12 or about 27 percent of the most expensive city, London with cost of $518.01.
A variety of options for entertainment in Hanoi can be found throughout the city. Modern and traditional theaters, cinemas, karaoke bars, dance clubs, bowling alleys, and an abundance of opportunities for shopping provide leisure activity for both locals and tourists. Hanoi has been named as one of the top 10 cities for shopping in Asia by Smart Travel Asia. The number of art galleries exhibiting Vietnamese art has dramatically increased in recent years, including galleries such as “Nhat Huy” of Huynh Thong Nhat.
A popular traditional form of entertainment is water puppetry, which is shown for example at the Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre.
With its rapid growth and extremely high population density, several modern shopping centers have been built in Hanoi. Major centers include:
- Trang Tien Plaza, Hoan Kiem District (under renovation now)
- Vincom City Towers, Ba Trieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District
- Parkson Department Store, Tây Sơn Street, Viet Tower, Dong Da District; The new Parkson Department Store at Vietnam’s tallest building, Hanoi Landmark Tower (Pham Hung Road)
- The Garden Shopping Center, Me Tri – My Dinh, Tu Liem District
Hanoi has rich food traditions and many of Vietnam’s most famous dishes, such as phở, chả cá, bánh cuốn and cốm are thought to come from Hanoi. Perhaps most widely known is Phở, a simple rice noodle soup often eaten as a breakfast dish in the home or at streetside cafes, but also served in restaurants as a meal. Two varieties dominate the Hanoi scene: Phở Bò, containing beef, and Phở Gà, containing chicken.
Hanoi has been selected as one of the top 10 cities for food in the world by Shermans Travel. Vietnam’s national dish Phở has been also named as one of the Top5 streetfood in the world by globalpost.
Hanoi has a restaurant about the insect food, in Khuong Thuong village, Hanoi. The most special cuisines at his restaurant are those processed from ant-eggs, in the styles of Thai people or Muong and Tay ethnic people in Vietnam.
Hanoi is served by Noi Bai International Airport, located in the Soc Son District, approximately 40 km (25 mi) north of Hanoi. Noi Bai is the only international airport for the northern regions of Vietnam.
Hanoi will have additionally another international airport, which will cost $8 billion, being the highest foreign investment so far in the history of Vietnam. The construction will be carried out in three stages,the first phase will start in 2011 until 2015.
There are two main highways linking the airport and city. The route to the city via Thăng Long Bridge is more direct than Highway 1, which runs along the outskirts of the city. The main highways are shared by cars, motor scooters, with separate lanes by the side for bicycles. Taxis are plentiful and usually have trip meters, although it is also common to agree on the trip price before taking a taxi from airport to the city centre. Tourists also sometimes tour the city on cyclos especially in the Old Quarter.
Hanoi is also the origin departure point for many Vietnam Railways train routes in the country. The Reunification Express (tàu Thống Nhất) runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi station (formerly Hang Co station), with stops at cities and provinces along the line. Trains also depart Hanoi frequently for Hai Phong and other northern cities.
The main means of transport within the city are motorbikes, buses, taxis, and bicycles. Motorbikes remain the most common way to move around the city. Public buses run on many routes and fare can be purchased on the bus, with very cheap prices (20 cents for a journey where a taxi might cost $10.)
Persons on their own or only as a pair, and wishing a fast trip (especially due to irregular time or route), often use “xe ôm” (literally, “hug vehicle”) motorbikes, which are unofficial, unregulated taxi motorcycles are available where the passenger sits at the rear of a motorbike. Idle xe ôm riders often yell “xe ôm” at paedestrians that pass by, and signs saying “xe ôm” adorn many a tree, pole or post around the city (as with all Vietnamese cities, towns and villages,etc.) to advertise that a xe ôm vehicle and rider is often parked there.
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 ofBa 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.
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)
Hanoi features a warm humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa) with plentiful precipitation. The city experiences the typical climate of northern Vietnam, where summers are hot and humid, and winters are, by national standards, relatively cold and dry. Summers, lasting from May to September, are hot and humid, receiving the majority of the annual 1,680 millimetres (66.1 in) of rainfall. The winters, lasting from November to March, are relatively mild, dry (in the first half) or humid (in the second half), while spring (April) can bring light rains. Autumn (October) is the best time of year in term of weather. The city is usually cloudy and foggy in the winter time with average monthly sunshine hours for February are only 1.8 h/day.
Hanoi has the highest Human Development Index among the cities in Vietnam. According to a recent ranking by Price water house Coopers, Hanoi will be the fastest growing city in the world in term of GDP growth from 2008 to 2025.
Industrial production in the city has experienced a rapid boom since the 1990s, with average annual growth of 19.1 percent from 1991–95, 15.9 percent from 1996–2000, and 20.9 percent during 2001–2003. In addition to eight existing industrial parks, Hanoi is building five new large-scale industrial parks and 16 small- and medium-sized industrial clusters. The non-state economic sector is expanding fast, with more than 48,000 businesses currently operating under the Enterprise Law (as of 3/2007).
Trade is another strong sector of the city. In 2003, Hanoi had 2,000 businesses engaged in foreign trade, having established ties with 161 countries and territories. The city’s export value grew by an average 11.6 percent each year from 1996–2000 and 9.1 percent during 2001–2003. The economic structure also underwent important shifts, with tourism, finance, and banking now playing an increasingly important role. Hanoi’s business districts are traditionally Hoan Kiem and the neighborhood; and a newly developing Trung Hoa Nhan Chinh in the southwestern part.
Similar to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi enjoys a rapidly developing real estate market. The metropolis’s economy growth does not seem correlative to its infrastructure. Overloading population requires a much larger supply of accommodations, while the constructing celerities of both transport system and new urban areas are too low. Not surprisingly, as an effect of this problem, the apartment and real estate fever occur severely during the time. More widespread, the fever even influences Ha Tay, the neighboring province, considered the future development space of the capital. The current most notable new urban areas are central Trung Hoa Nhan Chinh, My Dinh, the luxurious zones of The Manor and Ciputra.
Agriculture, previously a pillar in Hanoi’s economy, has striven to reform itself, introducing new high-yield plant varieties and livestock, and applying modern farming techniques.
Together with economic growth, Hanoi’s appearance has also changed significantly, especially in recent years. Infrastructure is constantly being upgraded, with new roads and an improved public transportation system.