From New World Encyclopedia
Thành phố Hà Nội
Modern Hanoi
Modern Hanoi
Provincial location in Vietnam
Provincial location in Vietnam
Coordinates: {{#invoke:Coordinates|coord}}{{#coordinates:21|2|0|N|105|51|00|E|type:city
name= }}
Country Flag of Vietnam Vietnam
Central city Hanoi
Founded, Capital of the Đại Việt 1010
Capital of Vietnam September 2, 1945
Demonym Hanoians
 - City 3,344.7 km² (1,291.4 sq mi)
 - Urban 186.22 km² (71.9 sq mi)
Population (2009)
 - City 6,500,000
 - Density 1,943.4/km² (5,033.3/sq mi)
Time zone ICT (UTC+7)
Website: hanoi.gov.vn

Hanoi (Vietnamese: Hà Nội, Hán Tự: 河内), estimated population 3,145,300 (2005), is the capital of Vietnam. From 1010 until 1802, it was the political center of an independent Vietnam with a few brief interruptions. It was eclipsed by Huế during the Nguyen Dynasty as the capital of Vietnam, but served as the capital of French Indochina from 1887 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, after the victory of Viet Minh over France in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, it became the capital of North Vietnam. Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976.

The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is located at 21°2' North, 105°51' East, 1760 km (1094 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). The city boasts more than 1,000 years of history, and that of the past few hundred years has been well preserved. Hanoi hosts more cultural sites than any city in Vietnam, including over six hundred pagodas and temples, and a number of grand public buildings constructed in the late nineteenth century during the French colonization. In 2004, a massive part of the 900-year-old citadel was discovered in central Hanoi, near the site of Ba Dinh square. Industrial production in the city has experienced a rapid boom since the 1990s, with average annual growth reaching 20.9 percent from 2001 until 2003. Hanoi's population is constantly growing, putting a great deal of pressure on the infrastructure, some of which is antiquated and dates from the early twentieth century


Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the centre of Hanoi, with the streets of the old town in the background (1999)

The area around modern Hanoi has been inhabited since at least 3000 B.C.E. One of the first known permanent settlements was the Co Loa citadel founded around 200 B.C.E.. In the late seventh century, the Annam protectorate, the local capital of the Imperial Chinese Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), was built on the site. During the Annam protectorate, earthen ramparts called dai la thanh were erected around the city. Inside the walls, the political area was formed around a central citadel, surrounded by an economic zone where merchants and craftspeople lived.

Hanoi served as the capital of successive dynasties from the eleventh century to the eighteenth century. The first imperial palace was built in the Chinese style. The most prosperous economic area was on the east of the citadel, along the To Lich River. Hanoi was called Ke Cho (place of the markets) because it had so many markets. A Chinese immigrant town first appeared within Hanoi in the fifteenth century.

Hanoi has had many names throughout history, all of them of Sino-Vietnamese origin. During the Chinese domination of Vietnam, it was known as Tống Bình (宋平) and later Long Đỗ. In 866, it was turned into a citadel and was named Đại La (大羅).

In 1010, Lý Thái Tổ, the first ruler of the Lý Dynasty (1009 – 1225), moved the capital of Đại Việt (大越, the Great Viet, then the name of Vietnam) to the site of the Đại La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed it Thăng Long (昇龍, Ascending dragon), a name still used poetically to this day. It remained the capital of Vietnam until 1397, when the capital was moved to Thanh Hóa, also known as Tây Đô (西都, Western Capital). Thăng Long then became Đông Đô (東都, Eastern Capital).

In 1408, Vietnam was invaded by Chinese troops from the Ming Dynasty and Đông Đô was renamed Đông Quan (東關, Eastern Gateway) by the Chinese. In 1428, Vietnam was liberated from Chinese rule by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Le Dynasty and Đông Quan was renamed Đông Kinh (東京, Eastern Capital, known to Europeans as Tonkin; and evidently, the same Chinese characters used for Tokyo). During the Tây Sơn Dynasty, it was named Bắc Thành (北城, Northern Citadel).

In 1802, when the newly-established Nguyễn Dynasty (1802 – 1945) moved the capital down to present-day Huế, it was renamed Thăng Long ("ascending dragon"). However, the second syllable of the toponym is actually a homonym of the word long, and actually suggests “to flourish” instead of “dragon.” Therefore, the name would then have appeared as 昇隆, roughly to ascend and flourish. In 1831 the Nguyen Dynasty renamed it Hà Nội (河内, can be translated as Between Rivers or River Interior).

Hanoi was occupied by the French in 1873 and colonized by them ten years later. The governor general of French Indochina was established in Hanoi after 1887, and it again became a center of political importance. The French colonial government destroyed the citadel and outer ramparts and began the construction of infrastructure, including straight roads in the city center, a bridge over the Red River, and streetcars and railroads. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, light industries such as match, liquor, and cigarette manufacturing were established.

The city was occupied by the Japanese in 1940, and liberated in 1945, when it became the seat of Vietnam's government. From 1946 to 1954, it was the scene of heavy fighting between the French and Viet Minh forces. From 1954 to 1976, the city became the capital of an independent North Vietnam.

During the Vietnam War, Hanoi's transportation facilities were disrupted by the bombing of bridges and railways, which were, however, promptly repaired. Following the end of the war, Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976.

In 2004, a massive part of the 900-year-old citadel was discovered in central Hanoi, near the site of Ba Dinh square.


Hanoi is located on the right bank of the Red River, 1760 km (1094 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) at 21°2' North, 105°51' East.[1] It is built on the natural levees of the Red River, scattered with lakes and marshes. When the First Indochina War ended in 1954, Hanoi had an area of about 130 square kilometers. In 1961, the area of the city was expanded to more than 900 square kilometers. In 1978, the annexation of peripheral provinces increased the area to about 2,000 square kilometers, but in 1991 the city was reduced to its present size. [2]

Hanoi comprises nine inner districts (noi thanh) of Ba Đình, Cầu Giấy, Đống Đa, Hoàn Kiếm, Hai Bà Trưng, Hoàng Mai, Long Biên, Tây Hồ and Thanh Xuân, and five outer Districts (ngoai thanh) of Đông Anh, Gia Lâm, Từ Liêm, Thanh Trì and Sóc Sơn.


Hanoi experiences the typical climate of northern Vietnam, where summers are hot and humid, and winters are relatively cool and dry. The summer months from May to September receive the majority of rainfall in the year (1,682 mm rainfall/ year). The winter months from November to March are relatively dry, although spring then often brings light rains. The minimum winter temperature in Hanoi can dip as low as 6–7°C (43°F), not accounting for the wind chill factor, while summer can get as hot as 38–40 (100-104°F).[3]


Hanoian girls wearing traditional custome Ao dai during APEC Summit 2006

The population of Hanoi is about 3,145,300 (2005), with an overall population density of 3,495 people per square kilometer. In the urban area, an area of 84 square kilometers, the population density is considerably higher, approaching 20,100 per square kilometer. [4].

Hanoi's population is constantly growing, a reflection of the fact that the city is both a major metropolitan area of northern Vietnam, and also the country's political center. This population growth puts a great deal of pressure on the infrastructure, some of which is antiquated and dates from the early twentieth century.

Most of the current residents of Hanoi are from different provinces all over the country; the proportion of families who have lived there for more than three generations is small. Even in the Old Quarter, where commerce started hundreds years ago with mostly family businesses, many of the storefronts are now operated by merchants and retailers from other provinces. The original owners often rent out the storefronts and live further inside the house, or simply move out of the neighborhood altogether. The pace of change escalated rapidly after the government abandoned centralized economic policies, and loosened the district-based household registrar system.

The considerate and genteel nature of Hanoians is occasionally referred to in idioms and literature. In reality, these are a reflection of a past when Hanoi was a center for talented artists and educated intellectuals, heavily entrenched in Confucian values which placed modesty and consideration for others above personal desires. As the opening up of the economy has brought other pressures on people's daily life, advocates for traditional social and family values are in many ways helping to counter an "everyone for himself" mentality.


Hanoi has the highest Human Development Index among the cities in Vietnam. Though representing only 3.6 percent of the country's population and 0.3 percent of the national territory, Hanoi contributes 8 percent to the national GDP and 45 percent of the Red River Delta's economy.

Industrial production in the city has experienced a rapid boom since the 1990s, with average annual growth of 19.1 percent from 1991–1995, 15.9 percent from 1996–2000, and 20.9 percent during 2001–2003. In addition to eight existing industrial parks, Hanoi is building five new large-scale industrial parks and 16 small- and medium-sized industrial clusters. The non-state economic sector is expanding fast, with more than 25,000 businesses currently operating under the Enterprise Law.

Trade is another strong sector of the city. In 2003, Hanoi had 2,000 businesses engaged in foreign trade, having established ties with 161 countries and territories. The value of the city's export grew by an average of 11.6 percent each year from 1996–2000 and 9.1 percent during 2001–2003. The economic structure also underwent important shifts, with tourism, finance, and banking playing an increasingly important role.

Agriculture, previously a pillar of Hanoi's economy, has been reformed through the introduction of new high-yield plant varieties and livestock, and the application of modern farming techniques.

Along with its economic growth, Hanoi's appearance has also changed significantly, especially in recent years. Infrastructure is constantly being upgraded, with new roads and an improved public transportation system. The rate of telephone users was 30 per 100 people in 2003. New urban areas are growing rapidly, with 1.5 million square meters of housing constructed during 1996–2000 and 1.3 million square meters built in 2003 alone.

Social services have been developed in both scale and quality. The public health care network has been strengthened, ensuring at least one doctor for each commune and ward.

Places of Interest

Hanoi opera house

As the capital of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, Hanoi is considered to be the cultural centre of Vietnam, where every dynasty has left behind their imprint. Even though some relics have not survived through wars and time, the city still has many interesting cultural and historic monuments. Hanoi hosts more cultural sites than any city in Vietnam, including over six hundred pagodas and temples.[5] Historians liken the life-giving Red River, with its banks crowded with green rice paddies and farms, to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as a cradle of civilization. Even when the nation's capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen dynasty in 1802, the city of Hanoi continued to flourish, especially after the French took control in 1888 and modeled the city's architecture to their tastes, lending an important aesthetic to the city's rich stylistic heritage. The city boasts more than 1,000 years of history, and that of the past few hundred years has been well preserved.[6]

Under French rule, as an administrative center for the French colony of Indochina, French colonial architecture became dominant, and many examples remain today: the tree-lined boulevards (such as Phan Dinh Phung street), the Grand Opera House, the State Bank of Vietnam (formerly the Bank of Indochina), the Presidential Palace (formerly Palace of the Governor-General of French Indochina), the Cathédrale St-Joseph, Hanoi University (formerly University of Indochina), and the historic hotel Sofitel Metropole. Others prominent places are: the Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu), site of the oldest university in Vietnam; One Pillar Pagoda (Chùa Một Cột); Flag Tower of Hanoi (Cột cờ Hà Nội); The Old Quarter and Hoàn Kiếm lake.

Hanoi is also home to a number of museums, including the Vietnamese National History Museum, the National Museum of Ethnology, the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Revolution Museum.

The Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem lake, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each block then housed merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk trade, woodworking, paper manfacture, textile dyeing, gold and silver work, hide processing, and xylography. The residents of each lock came from the same native village and worshiped the deity of that village. [7] The street names still reflect these specializations, although few streets remain exclusively dedicated to their original commerce. The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops. Specialties of local cuisine, as well as several clubs and bars, can also be found here. A night market (near Đồng Xuân market) in the heart of the district opens for business every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening with a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.

West Lake (Hồ Tây), the largest lake in Hanoi, is a popular recreational site, and there are many temples in the area. There are small boats for hire and a floating restaurant.

The spectacular Ban Gioc Waterfall, 272 km north of Hanoi, is a popular destination for tourists.[8]


Indochina Medical College, taken in early twentieth century (now: Hanoi Medical University)

Hanoi, as the capital of French Indochina, was home to the first western-style universities in Indochina, including Indochina Medical College (1902), now Hanoi Medical University; Indochina University (1904), now Hanoi National University; and École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de L'Indochine (1925), now Hanoi University of Fine Art.

After the communists took control of Hanoi in 1954, with support from Soviet Union, some new universities were built, among them, Hanoi University of Technology, which is still the largest technical university in Vietnam.

Hanoi is the largest centre of education in Vietnam. It is estimated that 62 percent of all scientists in Vietam are living and working in Hanoi.[9] Admissions to undergraduate study are through entrance examinations, which are conducted annually and open to everyone in the country. The majority of universities in Hanoi are public, although in recent years a few private universities have started operation.

Because many of Vietnam's major universities are located in Hanoi, students from other provinces wishing to enter university often travel to Hanoi for the annual entrance examination. Such events often take place in June and July, when a large number of students and their families converge on the city for a few weeks during the intense examination period. In recent years, these entrance exams have been centrally administered by the ministry of education, but entrance scores are decided independently by each university.

Pre-tertiary schools in Hanoi mainly serve their local districts. Education is equivalent to the K–12 system in the United States, with elementary school from grades 1 to 5, middle school (or junior high) from grades 6 to 9, and high school from grades 10 to 12. Some pre-tertiary schools have selective classes for students with higher entry scores, with a stronger emphasis on subjects such as mathematics or sciences. In addition, some schools, such as Hanoi - Amsterdam High School, are designated for students selected through entrance examination on specialized subjects and are often called “Schools for Gifted Students.” A few major universities in Hanoi also run a limited number of high-school and middle-school classes out of their Hanoi campuses for gifted students, in subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, physics, information technology, linguistics, biology, and the social sciences and humanities. These selective schools, including HNUE High school and VNUH Gifted school of foreign languages, have fostered many of Vietnam's International Olympiad medal winners.


Hanoi is served by Noi Bai International Airport, located in the Soc Son District, approximately 40 km (25 miles) north of Hanoi. Noi Bai is the only international airport for the northern regions of Vietnam. Direct daily flights are available to other cities in Vietnam, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Flights to and from the Americas usually involve a transit point. The airport has recently been rebuilt with modern facilities.

There are two main highways linking the airport and the city. The route to the city via Thang Long Bridge is more direct than Highway 1, which runs along the outskirts of the city. The main highways are shared by cars, motor scooters, with separate lanes by the side for bicycles. Taxis are plentiful and usually have trip meters, although it is also common to agree on the trip price before taking a taxi from airport to the city center. Tourists sometimes tour the city on Cyclos especially in the Old Quarter.

Hanoi is also the departure point for many train routes in the country. The Union Express (tàu Thống Nhất) leaves from Hanoi Station (formerly Hang Co station), to Ho Chi Minh City, with stops at cities and provinces along the line. Trains also depart Hanoi frequently for Hai Phong and other northern cities.

The main means of transport within the city are “motobikes,” buses, taxis, and bicycles. Motobikes remain the most common way to move around the city, due to their flexibility in navigating small streets, the lack of parking spaces for cars, and fuel efficiency. The number of private cars is rising every year, and traffic at peak hours can be very heavy at main intersections.

Public buses run on many routes and fare can be purchased on the bus. For short trips, "xe ôm" (literally, "hug vehicle") motorcycle taxis are available; the passenger sits on the seat behind the driver and is taken to his destination. A taxi is more convenient for longer trips, and those who do not wish to travel in open air.


  1. [1] National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Country files (GNS). Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  2. Keat Gin Ooi. 2004. Southeast Asia a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor. 562
  3. Historical Weather for Hanoi, Vietnam. [2] www.weatherbase.com. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  4. Ooi Keat Gin. 2004. Southeast Asia a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor. (Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO), 561.
  5. [3] Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. "The quick look at Hanoi." www.vietnamtourism.com. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  6. [4] The New York Times "Introduction to Hanoi." Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  7. Ooi, 562
  8. Vietnam Destinations: Ban Gioc (Cao Bang)
  9. [5] Hanoi City People's Committee. "Hanoi - The capital of Vietnam: Preface" www.hanoi.gov.vn. Retrieved November 21, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Boudarel, Georges, and Văn Ký Nguyẽ̂n. 2002. Hanoi city of the rising dragon. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0742516547
  • Ooi, Keat Gin. 2004. Southeast Asia a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576077705
  • Florence, Mason. 1999. Hanoi. Melbourne: Lonely Planet. ISBN 0864427999
  • Logan, William Stewart. 2000. Hanoi, biography of a city. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295980141
  • Ooi, Keat Gin. 2004. Southeast Asia a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576077705
  • Sheehan, Neil. 1992. After the war was over Hanoi and Saigon. New York: Random House. ISBN 067941391X

External links

All links retrieved June 25, 2024.


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