Beautiful French architecture in Hanoi

While the continuous development of Hanoi arises, the French architecture hallmark stands still as a witness for a long history which contributes to Hanoi today.

With numerous layers of history, Hanoi city’s face enjoys the combination of varied architecture styles, including French's.

Let’s hunt with us for stamps of French architecture in Hanoi !

The Hanoi Opera House

The Hanoi Opera House is the biggest theatre in Vietnam wich stands as a witness to historical and cultural evidence of Vietnam under French rule. Inside is even more magnificent than the outside, competing with the Paris Opera Garnier. 

It’s a phenomenal piece of neo-classical French architecture featuring Gothic themes on the doors and domes with pillars, shuttered windows, balconies and a glass room.

The construction took place from 1901 to 1911. 

Following the end of the August Revolution in 1945, The Hanoi Opera House reverted from entertaining the French elite to becoming the centre of major historical events including the first session of the National Assembly of the Republic. The Hanoi building went into a state of decline prior to being renovated and brought up to date in 1997.

Visitors today will be entertained at this architectural landmark which features a range of events including local Vietnamese opera, traditional folk music, ballets and many international concerts.

Located on the famous August Revolution Square, Hanoi Opera House is just a few steps from Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old Quarter and Vietnam History Museum.

Hang Dau water Tower

This water tower was the first work marking the transformation of Hanoi into an urban center. Previously, Hanoians used well water or water from lakes and ponds. 

This water tower has become a special landmark in Hanoi, just like Hoan Kiem Lake or the Old Quarter. Over long time exist, the Hang Dau water tower cannot avoid the sometimes to rise and fall… During the wars, the tower was not hit, but in the 1960s, it stopped working. And for years, the tower was surrounded by many stalls, but in 2003, these were closed. Refurbished in April 2010, it stands now to exist as a witness, an evidence of a slave and independence, oppression and liberation.

This water tower was built by stones taken from the Citadel in 1894, before Long Bien Bridge, and is located at the crossroads of Hang Than, Hang Luoc, Hang Giay, Hang Dau, Quan Thanh and Phan Dinh Phung streets. 

Vietnam National Museum of History

The oldest of its kind in Vietnam, Vietnam History Museum was renovated from the French Ecole Française d’Extreme Orient Louis Finot (French School of the Far East, so called Louis Finot) which was built in 1926 and completed in 1932. 

In 1958, the Vietnam Government officially took over this cultural building and started to research, collect and supplement materials and objects, converting the contents from eastern arts into national history. On 3 September 1958, the National Museum of Vietnam History was officially opened for visitors.

Although the museum is only 2,000m2 in total, it provides a great overview of the history of Vietnam thanks to chronological sequence.

The museum is situated at the back of the Hanoi Opera House. It is in 1 Trang Tien Street, 216 Tran Quang Khai Street.

Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace stands as a memento of French contribution to the architectural splendor in Indochina. This mustard-yellow palace was built from 1900 to 1906 to function as the living and operational bases of the governors-general of Indo-China.

Auguste Henri Vildieu, the French architect officially appointed for Vietnam, designed it. In 1945, the building was renamed Presidential Palace.

The architecture is a mirror of the French Renaissance style. The only tropical character of the villa is the surrounding mangoes. The all site has a neverending beauty beyond time and space.

The Palace is still the Palace for the President. It is used mostly in national ceremonies or national receptions for diplomats and foreign leaders.

Located on Hung Vuong Street and Hoang Van Thu Street, you will find Presidential Palace on the north of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Foreign Ministry’s building

Designed by French architect Ernest Hebrard in 1924, its construction work began in 1925 and was completed in 1928.

The building is well known for its hundred clay-tiled pitched roofs ; it is a prominent architectural work representing the distinct Indochina Style. It used to be the headquarters of the Indochina Ministry of Finance and has become the headquarters of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs from October 3, 1945.

The building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ headquarters in Hanoi was recognized as a national relic site on August 2016, therefore it is protected by the Law on Cultural Heritage and related regulations

If you are nearby Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, you will find it Ton That Dam Street at Chu Van An - Dien Bien Phu crossroads.

Hanoi Big Church

One of the first structures built by the French colonial government in Indochina, this Neo-Gothic Cathedral is the representative evidence of the French colonial architecture.

Familiarly called by the local as “The Big Church”, Saint Joseph Cathedral ‘s began in December 1886, with the architectural style described as resembling the famous cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. It was built on the site of Bao Thien Pagoda – a well-respected temple as the center of Buddhist practice in Lý-Trần dynasty demolished for the construction of the Church.

Oldest church in Hanoi, St. Joseph is now the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi for more than 4 million Catholics in the country

You can easily find Big Church, located at 40 Nhà Chung street, as it lies in the connecting corner of Nhà Chung and Nhà Thờ street.


Long Bien bridge (Known as Paul Doumer Bridge)

If Hanoi - meaning “surrounded by river” is the city of ponds, lakes, rivers and bridges, Red river and Long Bien bridge may be seen as the symbol of this courageous capital in wars. 

Long Bien bridge is a historic cantilever bridge across the Red River that connects two districts of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem and Long Bien. It was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French’s occupation of the country and though the bridge was designed by French, it was built directly by Vietnamese workers with indigenous construction materials. Note that it is not the Eiffel company which took away and realized this work, but another French company specialized in the construction of bridges: Daydé and Pillé.

More than 100 years with decades of war, Long Bien Bridge was bombed many times by air attacks by American army in 1967, 1972; and many spans of the bridge were destroyed. The left spans remind us of an unforgettable past. Under the bridge, poor families live in boats on the Red River, coming from many rural areas of Vietnam.  

The bridge, hence, is not only a traffic construction, a nice architecture, but also a living historical relic.

You can rent a motorbike and remember go on the left hand side of the bridge, or walk from the centre of Hanoi to here (just more then 1km from the Old Quarter to Long Bien bridge).

Sofitel Metropole Hanoi

This hotel was built in 1901 by André Ducamp and Gustave-Émile Dumoutier who ran the hotel for almost three decades. Here the first “moving pictures” were shown, long before Charlie Chaplin and his wife Paulette Goddard arrived in person. It is also the first 5-star hotel of Hanoi to honoured welcome politicians, celebrities, etc.

Divided into two wings, the historic Metropole side blends classic French and Vietnamese styles while the contemporary Opera wing displays neoclassical influences. Dine on French fare at Le Beaulieu, sip a cocktail at the poolside Bamboo Bar, or head to Le Club for a chocolate buffet and jazz performances. "Everyone goes above and beyond to make you feel special."

 Just enter, and… Meet authors like Pierre Loti and Marguerite Duras, British dramatists Somerset Maugham and Noël Coward and of course the “war correspondent” Graham Greene. Remember Jane Fonda and Joan Baez in the bunker of the hotel during air raids in the horrifying days of the Vietnam war. Learn about Doi moi, meaning renovation, the new slogan that brought the country irreversibly to a new path…

You can’t miss it, it is located in the heart of the old quarter, 15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem

Other government offices

In the urban area of Hanoi, there is a range of magnificent French structures such as Tonkin’s Palace (now the government Guest House), Bank of Indochina (now the State Bank of Vietnam), the Court (now the Supreme people’s court), Hỏa Lò Prison (also known as Maison Centrale)…

Each works has its own special appearance, consistent with the surrounding landscape.

Tell us which one is your favs !


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