Vietnam’s history dates back to the mid-to-late 3rd century BC. Today, it continues to be a source of inspiration for many people. Let’s dive into the rich tapestry of Vietnamese history and discover the top historical landmarks of Vietnam.
Ancient Vietnamese History
The Ancient Period (2879 to 111 BC) includes the Hong Bang Dynasty, the Thuc Dynasty, and the Trieu dynasty. Stories of this period come from oral tales and legends, one of which is the tale of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, which states that Vietnamese are descendants of dragons and fairies. The Ancient Period saw the rapid development of culture, with highly sophisticated metal tools, weapons, and crafts.
Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex (Ninh Binh)
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a mix of natural landscapes and cultural property.
Located in Ninh Binh, Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex is an area consisted of three main sites: Hoa Lu, Tam Coc – Bich Dong, and Bai Dinh Temple. Here lay many archeological sites from ancient times like the 10-11th century. This location is among the top historical landmarks of Vietnam, as it is famous for being the filming location of the movie “Kong: Skull Island.” In 2014, this complex was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Vietnam.
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Co Loa Citadel (Hanoi)
Co Loa Citadel has a unique spiral architecture.
Located just outside Hanoi, Co Loa Citadel was the capital of the ancient Au Lac kingdom. It is now an important archaeological site where many artifacts from the Bronze Ages Phung Nguyen and Dong Son culture were found. Legend has it that An Duong Vuong, the ruler of Au Lac, had the help of a godly golden turtle in building the impenetrable Co Loa fortress. Today, the site attracts many visitors due to its unique architecture and historical values.
Feudal Vietnamese History
The Feudal Period comprises of the Chinese domination (111 BC to 938 AD) and the Monarchical period (938 to 1858). This time sees the most changes in Vietnamese culture, in particular, the influence of China in arts, literature, architecture, religion, and language. Though, during the Independent Era, other changes were put forth, leading to a more distinctive identity.
Imperial City of Hue (Hue)
The Meridian Gate (“Cong Ngo Mon”), is the main entrance.
The Imperial City of Hue was once the former capital of Vietnam and the home of Vietnam’s last dynasty – the Nguyen Dynasty. The citadel is situated right across the picturesque Huong River and is surrounded by thick stone walls and ramparts. Many buildings inside were destroyed during wars, but most of the remains are still in good condition, acting as live artifacts.
Learn more about Vietnam’s feudal dynasties in Hue
Temple of Literature (Hanoi)
The main gate to the Temple of Literature.
Situated in the center of Hanoi, the Temple of Literature is a Confucius temple that was once the Imperial Academy (“Quoc Tu Giam”) – the first national university of Vietnam. The Temple was built in 1070 under Emperor Ly Thanh Tong’s reign. This temple is even featured on the back of the VND 100,000 note.
French Colonial Era
The French Colonial Era (1858 to 1945) saw many changes in Vietnamese culture, such as the invention and the fast development of the Vietnamese romanized alphabet (“Chu Quoc Ngu”), the emergence of French colonial architecture, as shown through many top historical landmarks of Vietnam, as well as the shift towards Christianity.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
The Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the largest and oldest churches in Vietnam.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon was built in 1863, at the center of Ho Chi Minh City. While the Notre-Dame Cathedral attracts many visitors to come marvel at its magnificent architecture, the church is still open for masses every week.
Note: As of 2019, the cathedral is still under renovation and is only open for people attending masses.
Saigon Central Post Office (Ho Chi Minh City)
The elegant French colonial architecture of Saigon Central Post Office.
Constructed between 1886 to 1891, Saigon Central Post Office is among the top historical landmarks of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City. While it is one of the top tourist attractions in the city, it also serves as a functioning post office.
To best explore these landmarks, a local guide is highly recommended; see our list of local-guided city tours for the most authentic experience.
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The Vietnam War
This period is perhaps the most known in Vietnam history. After Northern Vietnam declared independence, the country fell into a tough situation, where the North of Vietnam is liberated while the South is still under the control of the United States. Many historic landmarks during this time reflected the hardship of war and the political climate of this era.
Independence Palace (Ho Chi Minh City)
The Independence Palace is where the Liberation of Saigon took place.
The Independence Palace (Reunification Palace/Norodom Palace) is a major historical landmark of Vietnam. It was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War; many of the furniture and architecture is still intact, and the building is sometimes used for formal events even until today. The palace is most famous for being the site of the Liberation of Saigon on April 30th, 1975, which marked the end of the Vietnam War.
Cu Chi Tunnels (Cu Chi)
Cu Chi Tunnel is a famous historical landmark where many remnants of war are still left unimpaired.
The Cu Chi Tunnels played a crucial part in the Vietnamese success in the Vietnam War. It is an immense network of interconnecting tunnels between Ho Chi Minh City and Cu Chi, providing the Vietnamese soldiers tactical advantages. The site was also the location for several critical military campaigns, such as the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Thinking about traveling to Cu Chi Tunnels? Check out these local tours for more information.
Thich Quang Duc Monument (Ho Chi Minh)
The historic spot where monk Thich Quang Duc took his own life as an act of protest against the system.
Located in the busy junction of Cach Mang Thang 8 Street and Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, the Thich Quang Duc Monument is a reminder of the tragic event of the monk Thich Quang Duc. Disheartened by the prosecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese Government under President Ngo Dinh Diem, Thich Quang Duc set himself on fire as an act of protest. Today, the monument sits in the middle of the busy city street, as a significant landmark and a powerful reminder of history.
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Summary of Top Historical Landmarks of Vietnam to Trace The Country’s Past
While many may know about Vietnam as a country heavily affected by war, Vietnam’s history is more than just that. If you are a history buff looking to learn more about Vietnam, don’t miss trips to the top historical landmarks of Vietnam.
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