Museums and Galleries (Self Guided), Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, offers a vast collection of fantastic museums. Here you can learn about the importance and development of the Vietnamese society. The extraordinary venues are like mirrors of history, prepared to take you through a walk of this amazing civilization.
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Museums and Galleries Map

Guide Name: Museums and Galleries
Guide Location: Vietnam » Hanoi (See other walking tours in Hanoi)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: HelenF
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museum of Revolution
  • National Museum of Vietnamese History
  • Geology Museum
  • Dong Phong Gallery
  • Museum of Vietnamese Women
  • Hanoi Hilton
  • Apricot Gallery
  • Military History Museum
  • National Museum of Fine Arts
  • Ho Chi Minh Museum
Museum of Revolution

1) Museum of Revolution (must see)

One of the best museums in Vietnam, this repository of photographs and other exhibits showcases the long struggle by the Vietnamese people for independence and unity. It was established in 1959 in a French colonial building that previously belonged to the Trade Department of Vietnam.

The museum is dedicated to the struggle against the French colonial rulers and other foreign powers by the Vietnamese people under the leadership of the Communist party. The national liberation movements against the French before the establishment of the Communist party are also showcased at the museum. The struggle against the Americans in the Vietnam War is the topic of the exhibits presented on the first floor; the 2nd floor is devoted to struggle against the French colonial rulers. Photographs and memorabilia tell the story of Ho Chi Minh and there are oil paintings that show the struggles and torture suffered by the Vietnamese people in colonial prisons of Phu Coq Island in South Vietnam. Visitors can view the evolution of modern Vietnam, from the August revolution of 1945, that resulted in victory against the French in Dien Bien Phu, to the present.

The Museum of Revolution in Hanoi has 30 galleries and over 40.000 historical exhibits including a 1920s jar that stored revolutionary documents, a Japanese Buddhist drum that was played at communist rallies, and the first sewing machine in Vietnam.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday: 8 am - 12 pm; 1:30 pm - 5 pm.
National Museum of Vietnamese History

2) National Museum of Vietnamese History (must see)

The National Museum of Vietnamese History, located in the Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi is an exhaustive repository of objects from the different civilizations that flourished in Vietnam.

The National Museum of Vietnamese History was established by the French colonial rulers as the Far East Research Institute. The museum formed part of the institute at the time. The building was designed by French architect, Ernest Hebrard, and is considered one of the finest examples of Indochinese architecture. It combines French colonial and traditional Vietnamese styles. The structure, completed in 1932, is so designed that the interiors are protected from the sun yet plenty of fresh air is let in conforming to modern day eco friendly architectural norms.

Historical treasures among exhibits featured at the museum include drums from the Bronze Age Dong Son civilization. The Dong Son civilization flourished near present day Hanoi and was known for its advanced metal casting expertise. The Champa civilization extended from Central to South Vietnam and their religious stone carvings are preserved in the building and as outdoor sculptures. Exhibits, including costumes and objects from the many subsequent royal dynasties that ruled Vietnam, are showcased at the museum.

By hiring a guide, visitors can get a better insight into the glorious history of Vietnam reflected in the exhibits displayed at the museum.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday: 8 am - 12 pm/ 1:30 pm- 5 pm; except first Monday of the month
Geology Museum

3) Geology Museum

The Geological Museum located near the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi, is a unique storehouse of information regarding the rocks, fossils and gemstones found in Vietnam. Collections are arranged in sections that provide detailed information about the geological evolution and mineral wealth of the country.

In 1898, the Geological Survey of Indochina was established by the French colonial rulers. Two geologists, H. Lantenois and H. Mansuy, were given the task of building a museum to house many of the objects found during the survey. A stately French style structure was built in 1914 where the wealth of objects, rocks fossils and gemstones from around the country were stored. When the museum opened its doors, it had only one storey. Two more floors were added in 1915 to effectively showcase all the specimens collected during and after the first geological survey.

Today, the museum belongs to the Department of Geology and Minerals of Vietnam. Exhibits are arranged in three major sections and 12 subsections. The section showing the evolution of geology shows how many of the scenic natural wonders of Vietnam were created. There are also many geological publications that will interest visitors and students at the museum. Visitors can purchase rubies, the most commonly occurring gemstone in Vietnam at a nearby store.

Operation hours: Monday - Friday: 8 am - 5 pm.
Dong Phong Gallery

4) Dong Phong Gallery

The Dong Phong Art Gallery is considered one of the finest art galleries in Hanoi. A small but impressive collection of art is available by some of the best known artists in Vietnam. Works by new artists are also showcased from time to time.

The Dong Phong art gallery is located in a quiet charming French quarter in Hanoi. The gallery specializes in showing and selling Vietnamese fine art. Art lovers Pho Hong Long and Mai Thi Thanh started the Dong Phong art gallery. Their goal was to not only showcase the works of Vietnamese artists but to nurture new talents in Hanoi. An impressive collection of local and regional paintings is on display. Older beaux art French influenced paintings are also available.

The owners have 20 years experience in collecting and selling local paintings and a visit is both a visual delight and a learning experience. They have a long standing relationship with many of the country’s well known artists like the contemporary artist, Nguyen Tu Nghiem. They also help young and upcoming artists by introducing their work to visitors.

The Dong Phong gallery in Hanoi has a constant stream of visitors and art lovers from around the world looking for works by well known Vietnamese artists and for a good bargain on works by budding talents. Studio visits are also arranged with some of the artists.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday: 9:30 am - 6:30 pm
Museum of Vietnamese Women

5) Museum of Vietnamese Women (must see)

The Museum of Vietnamese Women, located in a leafy courtyard in Ly Thuong Kiet Street in Hanoi is one of the few museums in the world dedicated solely to the life and achievements of women. The museum is a tribute to the sacrifices and contributions made by women to society and to the country of Vietnam.

The idea of establishing a museum dedicated to women was that of Vietnam Women’s Union president Nguyen Thi Dinh and the collections are the result of ten years of patient research. The building was designed by a lady architect, Tran Xuan Diem.

Visitors are welcomed in the first section of the museum by 3.6 meter high statue dedicated to the Vietnamese mother. The sculpture by Phu Cuong is cast in pure gold. Another section shows the contribution of women in the construction of modern Vietnam and their services in defending the nation. The walls are covered with photographs of women taking active part in all professional fields like education, industry, transport and healthcare in Vietnam. There is also a section devoted to the achievements of the Women’s workers union, a 65 year old institution that has taken an active part in the building of the nation.

A popular section is the collection of costumes worn by women from 54 nationalities that make up Vietnam. There is also a gift shop and café for the convenience of visitors.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday: 8 am – 5 pm
Hanoi Hilton

6) Hanoi Hilton (must see)

The Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi, sarcastically referred to as the Hanoi Hilton by American POWs in the 2nd Indochina War, is a vast prison complex built by the French in the style of the Maison Centrales a euphemism used for prisons in France. At first it was used as a prison, detention and torture center for revolutionaries struggling for independence from France. During the Vietnam War, the prison was used to house several American pilots whose planes were shot down by Vietnamese forces.

The Hoa Lo prison was built by the French between 1886 and 1901. Hoa Lo means fiery furnace or stove in Vietnamese. The facility was built to house 450 inmates. During the freedom struggle, the prison had more than 2000 Vietnamese inmates living in sub human conditions. Several tools of torture used by the French are preserved including a Guillotine used to behead early Vietnamese freedom fighters. From 1964 to 1973, the prison was a major POW detention facility and earned its name, the Hanoi Hilton. Well known inmates included Senator John McCain, the 2008 Presidential nominee of the Republican Party and Pete Peterson, who later became ambassador to Vietnam.

A small part of the original facility is preserved. The other part has now become a modern office and residential complex called the Hanoi Towers. Hanoi Hilton is located near the French quarter.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday: 8 am - 5 pm
Apricot Gallery

7) Apricot Gallery

Apricot Gallery, the first private gallery in the city of Hanoi, is another three-story high gallery with a lovely waterfall on the first floor. Apricot proudly presents art work from the best artists in Vietnam. The gallery also displays paintings from less-known young talents. The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, was once the customer of the gallery as he was very impressed with a landscape piece by Hoang Hai Anh.
Military History Museum

8) Military History Museum (must see)

One of the oldest museums in Hanoi, the Army Museum, also called the Military History Museum is a tribute to the Vietnamese army that fought to preserve the unity, integrity and independence of Vietnam against the French and during the U.S. offensive.

The Military History Museum is located at the center of Hanoi near the statue of V.I. Lenin. The Cot Co Hanoi Flag Tower, one of the city’s monuments stands on the grounds of the museum. The 31 meter high tower was built between 1805 and 1812 and offers a panoramic view of the surroundings. It is also the last remaining structure from the citadel built by the Vietnamese emperor Gia Long.

Visitors are greeted outside the museum by an artistic arrangement of wrecked American B-52s. The main exhibition hall in the Military History Museum has photographs, scale models and maps showing the struggle for independence against the French colonial rulers, from the 1930 uprising to the victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. In another exhibition hall, the victory in the Vietnam War by the Vietnamese Army is described. The unique weaponry used by the Vietnamese including bamboo spikes, crude firearms, buffalo horns and indigenous torpedoes to defeat enemies who fought with more sophisticated arsenal, make interesting exhibits at the museum.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Thursday; Saturday - Sunday: 8 am - 11:30 am; 1 pm - 4:30 pm
National Museum of Fine Arts

9) National Museum of Fine Arts (must see)

The Hanoi Fine Arts museum is a repository of the art and cultural heritage of Vietnam. It has exhibits from the Bronze Age to contemporary works by modern artists. Many of the exhibits are reproductions of artifacts lost during the Indochina Wars.

The Hanoi Museum of Fine Arts is housed in a beautiful colonial building. The architecture of the building is a combination of classical European style with native Vietnamese details. At first the building was a school for girls belonging to families of high ranking officers in the colonial government. Later the building was used by the French Ministry of Information.

The ground floor of the museum has ancient artifacts. There are many sandstone sculptures from the Champa and the Funan Kingdoms. The evolution of the art of lacquer in Vietnam is beautifully depicted at the museum. The second floor has twentieth century paintings by Vietnamese artists including unique lacquer based paintings. The new wing of the museum has Chinese watercolors on the first floor and the second floor has costumes and decorative arts of the different Vietnamese ethnic groups. The most fascinating exhibit is the, ‘One Thousand Eye, One Thousand Arm Guan Yin’, a sculpture of a Hindu Goddess backed by a disk into which one thousand arms are carved.

There are souvenir shops selling paintings and other gift articles in the elevated walkway from the old museum to the new wing.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday: 8:30 am – 5 pm
Ho Chi Minh Museum

10) Ho Chi Minh Museum (must see)

This museum is dedicated to the life and times of Vietnam’s founding father, Ho Chi Minh. The museum has five floors full of memorabilia belonging to or related to the great leader of North Vietnam. It was opened on the 2nd September 1990, a hundred years after the birth of Ho Chi Minh.

The building housing the Ho Chi Minh museum combines Vietnamese architectural elements with Russian architectural styles. The facade has a large relief of the hammer and the sickle. Exhibits in the museum include military orders, photographs, memorabilia of the October and August revolution, the struggle for independence and the many movements led by Ho Chi Minh. The top floor has a large metal sculpture of a lotus flower in gold and many objects relating to the revolutionary leader. A labyrinth of murals tells the story of Vietnam from past struggles to future hopes. National totems surround a bright red volcano that symbolizes the Vietnamese revolutionary movement. It has a library, a large hall, meeting rooms and research rooms.

The museum stays open from Tuesdays to Thursdays and on weekends. Bags and cameras are not allowed and visitors are required to follow a strict dignified dress code and maintain silence while viewing exhibits.

Walking Tours in Hanoi, Vietnam

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