VietnamHanoiWhat is the Capital of Vietnam

What is the Capital of Vietnam

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, has maintained an ageless charm through the centuries. It is famous not only for the Old Quarter but also for its nostalgic feeling. While Saigon is a young and modern city, ancient Hanoi is still a true beholder of history.

Location of Hanoi and How to Get There

Located on the banks and at the center of the Red River’s flow, Hanoi is the second-largest city in Vietnam, with a population of over 7 million in 2016. Hanoi is in the North of Vietnam, about 1,600 km north of Saigon. Instead of going by bus or train, you can take a direct flight (about 2 hours) from Tan Son Nhat Aiport to Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi.

A Brief History of the Capital of Vietnam

The capital of Vietnam hasn’t always been Hanoi. There have been times when the country’s capital was placed in Hue—hence the ancient citadels remaining in the city. However, due to its favorable geographical features, Hanoi was often the chosen capital throughout different dynasties. The name Hanoi also went through many changes (such as Dai La and Thang Long) before the title, as we widely know it today, became official.

During the early stages of the country’s establishment, the capital of Vietnam was the most prosperous and well-being place. However, for several consecutive centuries, Vietnam suffered many wars that damaged property and people, especially in the capital. These historical events changed people’s way of life and mindset.

Read more on Vietnam Ancient Cities

The area around Hanoi has been chosen as the country’s cultural, economic, and social center several times throughout history. It used to be a citadel of previous dynasties and has recently been chosen as the country’s capital since 1945. Minh Mang gave the name Hanoi (which means “inside the river,” implying the location of the capital).

Before Thang Long Establishment (prehistory – 1010)

ngoc son temple capital of vietnam
Ngoc Son Temple at Hoan Kiem Lake

Many archaeological evidence show that humans appeared around Hanoi thousands of years ago. The country’s establishment is believed to be from the Hung King Period. People visit Hung King Temple in Ninh Binh every year to commemorate his death date on March 10th of the Lunar Calendar.

From 179 B.C., northern colonists started with invasion attacks to occupy Vietnam, dominating it for the next thousand years. It was not until the Ly Dynasty (in Vietnam history) that Hanoi became a critical government area.

From the Ly Dynasty to the Tay Son Dynasty (1010 – 1787)

thang long citadel capital of vietnam
Thang Long Citadel

After the continuous struggles of the Vietnamese to gain sovereignty from the Northern colonists, Emperor Ly Cong Uan decided that Thang Long (Hanoi) was the country’s most significant cultural, political, economic, and social center. From then, this land went by many names, such as Dong Do, Dong Quan, and Dong Kinh.

It is also considered the most prosperous period of Thang Long (Hanoi) in history. The first university of Vietnam was built, many Buddhist temples were inaugurated, and trade flourished. The famous Old Quarter, which has 36 streets, was also built during this burgeoning period of the nation.

Hanoi and the surrounding area continued to be the government area until the sixteenth century when Tay Son troops led by Quang Trung overthrew the Trinh lordship and imprisoned them in Thang Long. Then Quang Trung took the throne and established a new government in Phu Xuan, Hue. Dai Viet (Vietnam) officially relocated its capital to Phu Xuan, Hue, and Thang Long (Hanoi) became a city in the north.

Nguyen Dynasty and French Colonization (1787 – 1945)

long bien bridge capital of vietnam
Long Bien Bridge is one the iconic remnants from the French colonial period

Tay Son Dynasty soon ended, and Gia Long, the first king of the Nguyen Dynasty, also chose Phu Xuan as his capital and built the country from there. At that time, Thang Long was part of Hanoi Province. The position of Thang Long no longer stayed the same as economic development was no longer a priority like before. Most of the activities to earn a living here were mainly related to agriculture, handicrafts, and retail trade.

In 1858, the French established colonization in Indochina for the first time, and by 1873, the French advanced to Thang Long (Hanoi), and the residents fought fiercely despite the Hue government’s policy of peace. However, Hanoi, as well as other provinces of Vietnam, were officially under the “protection” of the French after the Nguyen signed a Treaty in 1884.

The city of Hanoi was formed in 1888 and became the official capital of Indochina in 1902. With the support of the French, Hanoi gradually changed. More and more universities, hospitals, and markets emerged. Roads were improved, and trade developed constantly. The harmonious combination of Eastern and Western cultures influences the culture.

Indochina War and Vietnam War (1945 – 1975)

This period was a time of complicated political change in Hanoi. Hanoi people suffered many losses of war, constant relocation, stagnation, and even no food at this stage. Before 1945, Japan and France participated in the war and gained the right to occupy Hanoi. After the Allies won World War II in 1945, Japan withdrew from Vietnam.

hoa lo prison capital of vietnam
Hoa Lo Prison stores many of the haunting memories from the war-torn years

President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence and gave birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, choosing Hanoi as the capital on September 2nd, 1945. It was such a momentous event for Hanoi and the Vietnamese after years of fighting consistently for their independence.

In late 1945, France returned to Hanoi, and the Indochina war broke out. It was not until the Dien Bien Phu victory in 1954 that the Vietnamese regained their national sovereignty. As the Vietnam War escalated, Hanoi suffered severe consequences because it was the headquarters of the campaign to reunify and liberate the South of Vietnam.

Hanoi in Modern Time

After the liberation of the country on April 30th, 1975, in Saigon, the Vietnam War ended, and two regions, North-South, were reunited. All roads, schools, hospitals, and markets were rebuilt to serve the lives of residents. Vietnam officially entered the subsidy period. This period was a significant milestone for everyone living in Hanoi. And since 1986, the country adopted a new approach called the socialist market economy.

In 1999, Ha Noi was recognized as the “City for Peace” by UNESCO. In 2010, Hanoi celebrated 1000 years of establishment and became one of the oldest cities in Southeast Asia. Through many planning stages, Hanoi expanded its urban area by merging with neighboring areas such as Ha Tay Province.

street side souvenirs capital of vietnam

Like other big cities, the number of immigrants from other provinces to find better jobs or study for a better education increases yearly. The speed of urbanization and population increase so fast that Hanoi now faces problems such as pollution, traffic congestion, and narrow houses and roads.

Fruit basket lady capital of vietnam

However, Hanoi still receives many international tourists every year thanks to the historic attractions. The old atmosphere of Hanoi still gives visitors a feeling of traveling back in time. In one way or another, Hanoi always steals the hearts of those who have come to visit.

hn old quarter capital of vietnam

One of the things that makes Hanoi so special is its people. If you have the opportunity to visit the capital once, you will quickly notice the lifestyle of the Hanoi people is very traditional. They have lived in this city long and have always maintained their cultural customs, values, and beliefs despite changes and urbanization.

Where to Go in Hanoi – the Capital of Vietnam

hn old quarter street capital of vietnam
Hanoi Old Quarter’s streets

Hanoi is famous for historical sites, such as Thang Long Imperial Citadel and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. And cultural sites that help you understand the religions and social characteristics of the capital from ancient times, which are still preserved until now. A few to name are One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, Sword Lake, and Bat Trang Pottery Village. Read more on What to do in Hanoi in 3 Days Guide.

hoan kiem lake capital of vietnam
Hoan Kiem Lake

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What to Eat in Hanoi

capital of vietnam local eat

The cuisine of Hanoi is extremely rich in colors. Each dish is made with the chef’s enthusiasm and is attached to history. The famous words you should try when coming here are Pho, Bun dau mam tom (Vermicelli with shrimp paste and tofu), and Com(Green sticky rice). Check out more delicious dishes in the North of Vietnam in our guide.

bun cha capital of vietnam
Bun Cha in Hanoi

Check out more fun things to do in Hanoi:

Conclusion on What is the capital of Vietnam

Although Hanoi is getting increasingly modern, more and more tourists are coming. Hanoi always keeps for itself something special that you can hardly find anywhere else in Vietnam. Because of that, Hanoi has been and will always be a historical witness, which holds many of the nation’s most precious memories since its inception, growing up and breaking down and starting everything back.

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