Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - highlight your Hanoi city tour

Last updated - May 22, 2023
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - highlight your Hanoi city tour

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, also called Hoang Thanh Thang Long in Vietnamese, holds great significance in Vietnam's history. Located in central Hanoi, this relic showcases remarkable Universal Values, representing its enduring history, continuous seat of power, and diverse cultural influences. In 2010, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Location and How to get to Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Located not far from Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum  and next to the Military Museum. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a huge area with 4 sites in 4 streets: In the north is Phan Dinh Phung str, In the east is Nguyen Tri Phuong, in the south is Dien Bien Phu str and in the west is Hoang Dieu str. The entrance gate is at 19 C Hoang Dieu str.

Maps to Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

It is only 2.5 km from the Hanoi Old Quarter so visitors could gently walk in 30 minutes or easily take a grab, taxi or motorbike taxi to get to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

Recommended to take a private tour with tour guide and driver to combine with other highlight destinations such as Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.

History of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The Citadel's history traces back to the 7th century, when its initial foundations were laid. During Vietnam's period of Chinese invasion, a fortress of Chinese origin was reportedly constructed in the vicinity. In 1010, King Ly Thai To relocated the capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to Dai La (formerly known as Hanoi) and renamed it Thang Long.

The Citadel was subsequently erected atop the remnants of the earlier fortress. Since then, for an unbroken span of 13 centuries, the Citadel has served as the enduring hub of regional political authority.

During the reigns of the Tran, Le, and Nguyen Dynasties, the Imperial Citadel experienced expansions despite being subject to significant destruction due to conflicts. Serving as the seat of the Vietnamese Court, it held this position until 1810. At that time, Emperor Quang Trung transferred the capital from Thang Long to Phu Xuan, which is presently recognized as the Imperial City of Hue. Then, Thang Long was no longer the country's capital.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

In the period of French colonial rule, the royal palaces and numerous other structures within the Citadel suffered significant damage. As the 20th century progressed, several remaining buildings were demolished. In March 1945, the Citadel served as a prison for more than 4,000 French colonial soldiers captured by the Imperial Japanese Army. Following the Vietnamese Army's takeover of Hanoi in 1954, the Citadel was repurposed as the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense.

In the 21st century, extensive archaeological excavations were conducted to uncover the foundations of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. This systematic effort, initiated in 2004, unearthed a wealth of artifacts and objects spanning from the 6th to the 20th centuries. Notable discoveries included the remnants of ancient palaces, historic roads, as well as ponds and wells, shedding light on the rich history and infrastructure of the site.

The beautiful architecture of the Imperial Citadel

The designated World Heritage Site encompasses two distinct sections: the archaeological site located at 18 Hoang Dieu Street, and the remaining central axis of the Citadel of Hanoi. The latter section includes prominent landmarks such as the Flag Tower, the foundation of Kinh Thien Palace, the Princess's Pagoda (Hau Lau), the South Gate, and the North Gate. Together, these components contribute to the historical and cultural significance of the site.

Flag Tower

The Flag Tower stands as a highly recognized symbol of Hanoi, representing its rich heritage. Towering at a height of 33.4 meters, this iconic structure comprises four distinct sections: the base, second floor, third floor, and top.

The flag tower in Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Notably, the third floor is distinguished by four doorways facing each cardinal direction. Crowning the tower is a cylindrical pillar proudly displaying the national flag of Vietnam. Constructed in 1812 during the Nguyen Dynasty, the Flag Tower remarkably endured the tumultuous period of French colonial rule, during which it served as a military outpost.

Kinh Thien Palace

It was constructed during the reign of King Le Thai To in 1428 and completed under the reign of King Le Thanh Tong, stands as the central jewel of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. It served as the venue for imperial ceremonies and momentous national events, embodying the significance of the citadel in Vietnam's history.

Kinh Thien Palace in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The foundation of Kinh Thien Palace spans an impressive 57 meters in length, 41.5 meters in width, and stands at a height of 2.3 meters. While the palace holds immense cultural significance, only the steps of the palace have endured to the present day. These steps showcase intricate dragon statues meticulously carved on green stones, adding a touch of sophistication to the site.

Dragon statues in front of Kinh Thien Palace

The South Gate ( Doan Mon Gate )

Doan Mon, one of the primary entrances, granted exclusive access to the royal family within the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. Constructed during the Le Dynasty and subsequently restored in the Nguyen Dynasty, this monument exemplifies the architectural style of the ancient city walls, featuring five gates and rolling arches.

The construction materials predominantly consisted of a popular brick type during the Le Dynasty, while rock was employed for the construction of the arch. The dimensions of Doan Mon spanned 47.5 meters from east to west and 13 meters from south to north. The wings of the monument stood at an impressive height of 6 meters and a width of 26.5 meters.

South Gate - Doan Mon Gate

The central doorway, dedicated to the King, served as the main entrance with dimensions of 4 meters in height and 2.7 meters in width. Flanking this central door on both sides were four smaller doors, each measuring 3.8 meters in height and 2.5 meters in width. These smaller doors were reserved for mandarins and other members of the royal family to partake in grand ceremonies held at Kinh Thien Palace.

North Gate ( Bac Mon )

Situated to the north of the Citadel, Bac Mon is one of the surviving gates that remain today, alongside Doan Mon. Constructed using brick and adorned with stone arches, this gate now serves as a place of worship for two revered figures in Hanoi's history: Nguyen Tri Phuong and Hoang Dieu.

These remarkable individuals led the resistance against the French colonialists during the invasions of Hanoi in 1873 and 1882.

The North Gate of Imperial Citadel in the Phan Dinh Phung Str

At the North Gate, two distinct bullet holes, remnants of the French cannon fire, serve as enduring reminders of the intense confrontation that occurred in 1882. These visible marks bear witness to the gunboat attacks launched by the French from the Red River, leaving a lasting testament to the historical events that unfolded at this location.

Princess Palace ( Hau Lau )

Constructed during the Later Le dynasty, Hau Lau covers an area of approximately 2,392 square meters. This architectural marvel served as the residence for queens and princesses of the imperial court. The palace encompasses a basement and three floors above it. Its tiled roof was crafted using a combination of brick and concrete, providing a sturdy structure.

Hau Lau or Princess Palace in Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Towards the close of the 19th century, Hau Lau underwent severe damage, leading to its subsequent restoration by the French. The monument stands today as a testament to their reconstruction efforts, preserving its historical significance and architectural grandeur.

House 67D and the tunnel

Designed and constructed in 1967, House D67 served as the headquarters of the Defense Ministry during the conflict against US forces. It housed essential facilities such as the meeting room for the Politburo and Central Military Commission, as well as the working spaces of General Vo Nguyen Giap and General Van Tien Dung. For emergency purposes, a connecting tunnel was incorporated, enabling swift evacuation in the event of an attack.

House 67D in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Located to the north of Kinh Thien Hall, House D67 showcases a modern architectural style, featuring walls that are 60 centimeters thick and a soundproofing system of high quality. Within its premises, a variety of rooms serve different functions, including meeting rooms, break areas, and individual workspaces.

On display are objects and items utilized during the Vietnam War, such as soundproof doors, maps, telegraphs, and an aircraft's notice board, providing a glimpse into the historical context of the period.

Notices when visiting the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

  • The Flag tower is a part of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. However, it is located in the Military Museum. It means, to visit the Flag tower, visitors need to visit the Military Museum.
  • To maintain appropriate decorum, visitors are kindly requested to refrain from wearing shorts, miniskirts, tank tops, and transparent clothing during their visit.
  • Free to use Camera in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
  • The entrance ticket is 30 000 VND ( $ 1.3)

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