VietnamHanoiA Day Trip to Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi

A Day Trip to Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi

Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi is considered to be the most ancient citadel in all of Vietnam. This historical site was the cultural epicenter of ancient Vietnam as the capital of the Au Lac Kingdom (3rd century BC), during the An Duong Vuong dynasty. Its structure is now appreciated as the oldest, largest-scale structure, and the most unique in ancient Vietnam’s history. Located just about 16 km north of Hanoi, escape from the city and into the tranquil countryside and mythical world of Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi.

Structures of Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi

a day trip to co loa citadel in hanoi map

Map of Co Loa Citadel

Situated at the apex of the Red River Delta, the Au Lac Kingdom declared Co Loa as their ancient capital because of its prosperous connections to the waterways and roads. Co Loa was accessible by three directions using the river waterway as well as many roads that lead through the city. This made Co Loa an exchange hub for both information as well as resources.

Not only that, but there is a warfare advantage of being able to control both the surrounding highland and lowland areas from this position. The lands here at the time were also highly acceptable for farming on a large scale, and it was the focus of development to strengthen the whole of Vietnam.

a day trip to co loa citadel in hanoi temple

Thuong Temple located in the Middle Wall area of Co Loa Citadel

Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi was built following a spiral-shaped pattern that includes multiple layers of structures, moats, and ditches. During its prime, the citadel boasted 9 walls and a surrounding deep moat large enough to allow boat transport. Nowadays, only 3 walls remain intact while the other has eroded with time.

The Outer Wall is the largest out of the 3, with a perimeter of 8 km. The Middle Wall has a perimeter of 6.5 km, and the Central Wall has a perimeter of 1.6 km. The Middle Wall used to be the residence of King An Duong Vuong and his court, but today it is known as the Thuong Temple, dedicated to the late kings. Surrounding the temple area are other historical relics such as stone statues representative of the period.

Cultural Value of Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi

a day trip to co loa citadel in hanoi statue

A statue depicting the magic crossbow in the legend tied to Co Loa Citadel

Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi has its ties with ancient legends that are accepted as a part of Vietnamese historical culture. One legend tells of how the construction of the Co Loa Citadel failed at first, but then the King made a sacrifice to the gods and was visited by a golden turtle in his dream. It instructed him to build the city in a different location. That location is where present-day Co Loa now sits.

The story continues with the golden turtle gifting the King a magic crossbow that could eliminate hundreds of invaders with one pull of the trigger. Later on, the King’s daughter, My Chau fell in love with the son of an enemy, Trong Thuy, and a political marriage followed soon after to unite the two kingdoms. However, this love story ended in betrayal with My Chau allowing Trong Thuy to steal the magic crossbow, and the Au Lac Kingdom was easily invaded shortly after.

The golden turtle then told the King of his daughter’s betrayal, and he killed her. The story has various endings from this point. Some say the King suicided by drowning in the ocean; others say the golden turtle took the King out to sea and never to be seen again.

Besides this interesting legend, the Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi has served to be a cultural stronghold in Vietnamese history. The citadel is a cultural heritage due to its age and significance in influencing the dynasties that came after it.

In the military aspect, Co Loa Citadel provided an exemplary defensive nature that was adapted by later dynasties. Meanwhile, the social aspects are shown in the divisions of the King’s quarter from his soldiers and subjects. It is an example of the differentiation of classes that were common in this era.

How to Get to Co Loa Citadel

a day trip to co loa citadel in hanoi pond

a day trip to co loa citadel in hanoi aerial

Aerial view of the Middle Wall area


Co Lao Citadel is only a short distance from the center of Hanoi (16 km north). Taking a motorbike taxis service or a regular taxi will take about 30 minutes to reach the foot of the citadel. Public transportation in the form of buses are also an option but will take roughly 45 minutes to an hour. Take bus number 43 northbound to reach the Co Loa Citadel from the center of Hanoi (the bus fare will be VND 8,000 or roughly US$ 0.35).

Conclusion on a Day Trip to Co Loa Citadel in Hanoi

Co Loa Citadel is a great destination to visit when you want to get away from the city atmosphere. Not only is it an important cultural and historic site in Vietnam’s history, but it is also the most ancient and largest-scale structure of its type in Vietnam. And the fact that it is a relatively short distance from the center of Hanoi makes it even more accessible as a day trip plan.

Check out other Attractions and Activities in Hanoi.

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