Hanoi is a cultural city that is home to some of the most interesting museums in the country. These museums will give you an insight into the rich history of Vietnam. They will educate you about local life but also the wars and colonization that this country has endured. Our guide to the most interesting museums in Hanoi will help you decide which museums you want to visit.
1. Hoa Lo Prison
The Hoa Lo Prison featured prominently throughout Vietnam’s French colonization and the American War. It was nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by the American’s imprisoned there. It was built in 1896 and used to house Vietnamese revolutionaries and later, American prisoners of war. Famously, it is where John McCain (US politician) was imprisoned, where you can still see his parachute suit.
The museum shows the gruesome side to the French colonization in the form of the guillotine that was used to execute a number of Vietnamese revolutionaries. Although there is a very interesting section focusing on the American war and its prisoners, the museum’s main focus is the war with the French. Hoa Lo Prison is definitely one of the most interesting museums in Hanoi.
2. Vietnam Women’s Museum
People often rave about the Vietnam Women’s Museum and we can see why. This museum focuses on the role of women throughout history and culture. It showcases traditional clothing from the general Vietnamese public but also from ethnic minority groups. The dialogue is presented in both English and French and focuses on an array of different era’s and occupations of women, from rice paddy workers to prominent business women. There are three different sections: Women in history, women in family and women’s fashion throughout the ages. Besides the beautiful clothing, you can also see propaganda posters and stunning artifacts used by Vietnamese women. Better yet, be guided through the museum by one of our local lady bikers on our City Tour.
3. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
In an effort to preserve the various cultures that make up Vietnam, the museum showcases 54 different ethnic groups. The museum is home to important artifacts relating to various religious and cultural practices throughout Vietnam. In a country where there are so many minority ethnic groups, a museum such as this is important in preserving their differences. In addition to the various artifacts, the museum also has a research center, library and an auditorium. Furthermore, the museum also showcases the different architectural styles of the ethnic minorities in a real life scale. If you are interested in seeing Vietnam in a broader light, this is definitely one of the most interesting museums in Hanoi.
4. Vietnam Fine Arts Museum
The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is housed in a building that was once used by the French Ministry of Information. The museum showcases modern and ancient art such as Champa stone carvings and sculptures of the Quan Am, the Goddess of Compassion. The numerous pieces on display are ordered from bottom to top in chronological order and give you a glimpse into the modern day and historical Vietnam. Although the exhibits often have English translations, it is often useful to hire a guide to get the full experience.
5. Vietnam Military History Museum
If you are a history buff or want to learn more about Vietnam’s rich history, especially with regards to the various wars, the the Vietnam Military History Museum will be one of the most interesting museums in Hanoi for you. It is home to a number of military aircraft’s and machinery used during the wars. Additionally, you can read first-hand accounts from former soldiers who put their lives on the line for their country. Some of the most noteworthy artifacts are an American B-52 Bomber aircraft remains and a M107 self-propelled gun.
6. Ho Chi Minh Museum
Ho Chi Minh, affectionately known as Uncle Ho, is possibly the most prominent and loved political figure in Vietnam’s recent political history. The museum is located in the same complex as the Ho Chi Mausoleum, where you can see his embalmed body. The museum is dedicated to his life and showcases this in chronological order from his upbringing to his death. The descriptions are in French and English but if you are really interested, hire a guide to learn more.
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Vietnam has a rich history and a beautiful culture. If you plan to travel to mostly only cities, we recommend visiting these museums to get a glimpse into Vietnamese life outside the cities. Furthermore, by supporting these museums, you support the preservation of ethnic minorities and the cultures.
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