Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – a must-see for Hanoi day tours


Next to the modern skyscrapers of Hanoi stand the historical relics which are significantly important to the city in particular and Vietnam in general. The thousand-year-old Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, with its historical and cultural significance, is definitely a must-see for any Hanoi day tours.

History of the Citadel

Before 1009, the Capital of Vietnam had been situated in Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh Province today). In 1009, King Ly Thai To was made to the throne, marking the start of the Ly Dynasty. He soon found Hoa Lu too narrow and craggy to be the capital of the country; hence, he decided to move the capital to Dai La (Hanoi). Since 1010, Dai La has become the political center of the country. It was then named “Thang Long” (flying-up dragon) as when the Emperor arrived in Dai La, he saw a golden dragon flying up into the sky. It was believed to bring peace and prosperity to the nation.

Since then, Thang Long was the capital of Vietnam under the Ly, Le, and Tran Dynasties. Within the reign of Nguyen Dynasty, the capital was moved to Hue – a peaceful city in the Central of Vietnam. Under the French colonial period, the Citadel of Thang Long was the home and workplace of French governors. Later on, it was the headquarters of Vietcong army during the Vietnam War. Nowadays, it was an integral part of Hanoi – the peaceful capital of Vietnam.


A French-style building inside the citadel

With its crucial historical value, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The relic has been open again for tourists since 2012 and has become a must-stop place for any Hanoi group tours.

Must-visit sites in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Flag Tower

Appeared frequently in media, the Flag Tower is considered the landmark of Hanoi. It was built in the south of the forbidden city in 1812 under the reign of Emperor Gia Long. The Flag Tower consists of a three-tier basement, a pyramid-shaped column, and a tower. There is an octagonal observatory on the top of the tower.


Hanoi Flag Tower

Hanoi Flag Tower reminisces about the victorious past of Hanoi in particular and Vietnam in general during the war against French and American troops. On 10th October 1954, the red flag with a yellow star – the National flag of Vietnam flew on the tower, marking the liberation of Hanoi. The Flag Tower, hence, represents the victory and pride of a liberated and independent Vietnam.

Doan Mon


Doan Mon – the main gate to the Forbidden City

Doan Mon – the main gate leading to the Forbidden City is a cannot-miss site for Hanoi day tours. The gate was made from rock and wooden-hammer bricks – a typical type of bricks under the Le Dynasty. There are totally 5 doors in this monument: the biggest door in the middle was for the King and the rest were for mandarins and royal members. Also, there are two small steps on the two sides leading to the second tier, where locates a communal house.

Kinh Thien Palace

Kinh Thien Palace is the core site of the whole citadel. It was constructed during the 15th century under the Le Dynasty on the former foundation of Can Nguyen (Ly Dynasty) and Thien An Palace (Le Dynasty). In 1886, the French colonizers destroyed the palace. Only the foundation and some steps remain nowadays. The stone dragons which divided the steps into separate alleys are the sculptural masterpiece of the Le Dynasty.

Hau Lau (Princess Palace)

Also known as Tinh Bac Lau, which means “keeping the North peace”, Hau Lau was the residence of the queen and the princesses under the Le Dynasty. During the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty, it was where the concubines and the followers stayed when the King came to Bac Ha (Hanoi). It was seriously damaged and then rebuilt by the French.

18 Hoang Dieu Archaeological Site


Archaeological site at 18 Hoang Dieu

Another should-see place in a Hanoi tour is the archaeological site at 18 Hoang Dieu. In 2002, a large-scale excavation was conducted in the center of the Citadel, revealing the important vestiges of the old capital dating back to more than 10 centuries ago. Paying a visit to 18 Hoang Dieu is a great way to get closer to the history and culture of the old Vietnam.

House D67


Gate to House D67

For those wanting to take Hanoi day tours to understand more about the glorious past of Vietnam, don’t forget to visit House D67. During the war against the United States, D67 was used as the Headquarters of Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense. It was named after the year of construction – 1967. The house includes the rooms for the General, the meeting room of the Politburo and Central Military Commission, and the Central Military Commission basement. It played an important role in being a safe working place for the leaders of the Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War.

In short, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is undoubtedly among the top tourist attractions in Hanoi. The interesting historical and cultural lessons that it offers will never dissatisfy you.

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