Hanoi Citadel

For over a thousand years, from Chinese and French colonialism to the war with America, this citadel has been key to the country's political and military history.

The monuments and buildings in the Hanoi Citadel have testified to Vietnam's fight for independence for over 10 centuries. Steeped in history, the iconic buildings, bunkers and military structures portray years of political power and military resistance. Relax in the tranquil gardens and explore the nearby Vietnam Military History Museum.

Early Chinese culture, the southern Kingdom of Champa and religious traditions influenced the architectural style of the citadel. It was built in the 11th century on remnants of a 7th-century Chinese fortress; some of the original Chinese wells and structures still stand. Enter under the Doan Mon Gate, which is one of eight Nguyen Dynasty gates. See the stone dragons and relics of the Kinh Thien Palace, admire the Hau Lau (Princess Tower) and climb the Flag Tower at the military museum for panoramic views of the city.

In the 1880s Thang Long was the center of French Indochina. Notice the impressions on the Cua Bac Northern Gate. These were created by cannonballs fired by French warships. In 1954, after the First War of Independence, North Vietnam’s military headquarters were based in the Forbidden City. Explore the underground D67 command bunker, where General Giap was sheltered during the Vietnam War.

Until 2010, when it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the citadel was used as a military base.

The informative Vietnam Military History Museum across the gardens is well worth a visit. Learn about the country’s fight for independence from Chinese, French and American interventions.

Despite its cultural significance, the Hanoi Citadel is a relatively unknown attraction. It is located by Ba Dinh Square, opposite the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Nearby are a number of other significant attractions, including the One Pillar Pagoda and the 18 Hoang Dieu Archeological Site, which has an excavation of Vietnam’s old capital with monuments that date back to the 7th century.

Walk to the Hanoi Citadel easily from the center of the city. Adults are charged an admission; children under 15 years enter free. The citadel is open daily with the exception of Mondays.