Thang Long Imperial Citadel – The Witness to Hanoi’s Eventful History

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is not only a favorite destination of history lovers but also an impressive highlight in Hanoi Vietnam history.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long (Source: Google)

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a historical relic of the ancient Thang Long Citadel, dated back from the pre – Thang Long period (7th century) through the Dinh – Le Dynasty and developed under the Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen Dynasty. This is a massive and complex architectural work, built by many dynasties in many historical periods and become the most impressive and important monument in Hanoi Vietnam history. Moreover, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long was honored to be recognized as the world’s cultural heritage by UNESCO.

A return ticket to Hanoi Vietnam history

  • Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 08:00 – 17:00
  • Location: Number 9 Hoang Dieu Street, Dien Bien Phu, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
  • Price: VND 30,000

Situated at the heart of Hanoi, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long covers a total area of 18.395 ha and consists of the archaeological sites at 18 Hoang Dieu Street and other remaining relics of ancient Hanoi Citadel such as the South Gate (Đoan Môn), Flag Tower, Kinh Thien Palace Foundation (Điện Kính Thiên), North Gate (Bắc Môn), Princess’s Pagoda (Hậu Lâu), the walls and the eight gates under Nguyen Dynasty.

For history lovers, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a must-see place to gain an in-depth knowledge inside the fascinating and heroic Hanoi Vietnam history.

In 1009, Ly Cong Uan came to the throne and founded Ly Dynasty. In the spring of 1010, the King promulgated the Edict on the transfer of the Capital from Hoa Lu to Dai La. Shortly after moving the capital, King Ly Cong Uan ordered urgently to build the Thang Long Citadel, which was finished at the beginning of 1011. The smallest area in this historical complex is “the Forbidden City”, where only the kings, queens and a few imperial maids had the rights to occupy. From the Tran Dynasty onwards, Thang Long Imperial Citadel underwent numerous renovations, repairing and construction.

There is no exaggeration to claim that one of the first values of the Imperial Citadel is expressed in the fact that it is regarded as a “living story” flowing through the entire Hanoi Vietnam history for over 10 centuries.

A priceless archaeological value

All of the historical relics of Thang Long Imperial Citadel are closely interconnected and combined, forming a complex uninterrupted structure but rich and attractive and clearly reflecting the relationship of urban planning and architectural space. Furthermore, these relics are also considered a continuation of the dynasties in the construction history of Thang Long Citadel.

In addition, UNESCO recognized the central relic of Thang Long – Hanoi as a world cultural heritage based on three criteria highlights: the length of history and culture, the continuity of the property as a center of power and the diversity of artefacts.

A wide range of typical sightseeing sites

1. Hanoi Flag Tower

Hanoi Flag Tower (Source: Google)

This historical monument was built in 1812 under the reign of Gia Long. The flag tower is 60 m high, consisting of a base, a trunk and a watchtower. The square footage occupies an area of 2007 m² and consists of 3 levels gradually rising. Each level is covered with various delicate patterns. From the ground up to the second level, you have to climb 18 steps on the east and west sides and repeat the same process to reach the third level.

The third level is famous for the four gates with very distinctive and meaningful names, except for the North one: East Gate – Nghênh Húc ( to welcome dawn’s sunlight), South Gate – Hướng Minh (towards the light), West Gate – Hồi Quang ( to reflect the light).

2. The South Gate (Đoan Môn)

Đoan Môn, which consists of five gates built of stone, is a dome door that leads into the Kinh Thien Palace. The outer gate is called “Tam Môn” gate, which was demolished and replaced by the construction of Hanoi Flag Tower under Nguyen Dynasty. In 2002, Vietnamese archaeologists were allowed to excavate inside Doan Mon and found the “ancient horse carriage” of the Tran dynasty, reusing many of the Ly’s bricks. If continues to unearth, it is possible to find the whole road from Doan Mon Gate to Kinh Thien Palace.

3. Kinh Thien Palace (Điện Kính Thiên)

The delicate sculpture of stone dragon at Kinh Thien Palace (Source: Google)

This is the central vestige and the main nucleus of the historical relics of the ancient Hanoi Citadel. Kinh Thien Palace used to be a palace of great importance where the court held the most significant rituals, welcomed foreign ambassadors and discussed the critical affairs of the country.

The most outstanding remaining of Kinh Thien Palace is the elaborate and delicate sculpture of four dragons. The four stone dragons were created in the 15th century under Le Dynasty with the typical features of sculpture art at this time: engraved with green stone, large head, round eyes protruding, long horns with branches, open-wide mouth with pearls inside. The sculpture is regarded as an architectural heritage of masterpieces which partly succeeded in reflecting the grand and magnificent scale of Kinh Thien Palace at its golden age.

4. Princess’s Pagoda (Hậu Lâu)

The resting place of queens and princesses in feudal period (Source: Google)

Hậu Lâu, which was a building behind the Kinh Thien Palace, is the home to the queens and princesses during the feudal period.

5. D67 House  – underground tunnel and basement of the communist opposition

D67, built in 1967, is a one-level building with an area of 605 squares metres and 68 meters in length. The building was made of solid concrete and steel. It was the headquarters of the Vietnam  Army in 1957-1975. This is where the Ministry of Defense, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission made historic decisions marking the milestones of the Vietnamese revolution. These were the Tet Offensive in 1968, in 1972 and the culmination is the Ho Chi Minh Campaign to liberate the South and unite the country.

Apart from these historical sightseeing destinations of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long mentioned above, there are numerous interesting places closely relating to Hanoi Vietnam history are waiting to be discovered by history lovers.

Tuong Vi


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