Best museums in Hanoi Vietnam: Top attractions when you visit Hanoi

Ah, Hanoi. It’s busy, chaotic, loud, traffic-clogged, and polluted. But it’s also one of Vietnam’s most fascinating destinations, with an Old Quarter that still feels like a slice out of ancient Asia. The best way to experience the city is simply by wandering around. But between hawkers trying to lure you into their shops and motorbikes nearly running you over around every turn, the streets can get overwhelming fast. So when you need a break, pop into one of the best museums in Hanoi.


Hanoi has a museum for just about everyone. Whether you’re into the arts, history, or culture, you’ll find an air-conditioned building that piques your interest. In this post I’ll cover the ones that you can’t miss when you visit Hanoi, Vietnam.


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Best museums in Hanoi for culture vultures


One of the top Hanoi points of interest is the Ethnology Museum -- a great place to learn about cultures like the Red Dzao.
The Ethnology Museum is one of the highlights of Hanoi sightseeing, where you can learn about groups such as the Red Dzao.


Vietnam’s culture dates back thousands of years, and is a unique blend of Indigenous and foreign influence. While Hoi An may have the amazing architecture, Hanoi is the best place in Vietnam to learn about local traditions.


Vietnam Museum of Ethnology


Easily Hanoi’s best museum, and one of the best Hanoi attractions overall, is the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The massive collection displays artifacts from nearly every one of Vietnam’s 50+ ethnic groups.


Highlights include extensive textile collections, displays on traditional wood carving, and a complete replica of a traditional stilt house. Everything is well-labeled, including detailed explanations of each ethnic group in English.


You’ll find this museum especially rewarding before or after a visit to the hill tribe areas, such as Dalat and Sapa. But even if your Vietnam itinerary isn’t straying from the coast, it’s still worth a visit.


Since it’s one of the best museums in Hanoi, you’ll need at least two hours to do justice to the Museum of Ethnology. Admission is 40,000 dong. It’s open 8:30 am – 5:30 pm daily except Mondays.


To reach the Ethnology Museum, take Local Bus 14 (4,000 dong) from Hoan Kiem Lake to the Nghia Tan bus stop (tell the driver you’re going to the museum and they’ll tell you when to get off). The bus ride takes about an hour. You can hire a taxi instead, but it costs a whopping 200,000 dong. The trip is 100% worth it either way.


Vietnamese Women’s Museum


It’s unusual when you travel to find an entire museum dedicated to the contribution of women to a society. So don’t miss the chance to visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi — which does exactly that!

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Many of the displays focus on traditional dress and different ethnic groups. However, for a different perspective, and what makes this one of the best museums in Hanoi, check out the testimonials from female soldiers during the Vietnam War. They may not be the most balanced (some women openly brag about the number of Americans they killed), but you’ll gain insight into how important women were to the war effort.


You can breeze through the Women’s Museum in under an hour. Its central location makes it an easy stop on any Hanoi sightseeing itinerary. Admission is 30,000 dong, and it’s open from 8 am to 5 pm daily.


Best museums in Hanoi for history


Are you more of a history buff? Don’t worry, Hanoi has you covered with several great museums for learning more about the city’s recent past.


Hanoi’s history museums tend to come with a healthy dose of propaganda. So take all the explanations with a grain of salt. If you’re at all interested in war history, do some balanced reading on the subject before you visit Vietnam. Particularly good options from the Vietnamese perspective are Why Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Fire in the Lake. Once you’re well-versed in the history, the Vietnamese government’s take on it is fascinating.


The “Hanoi Hilton”: Hoa Lo Prison Museum


During the Vietnam War, the Hoa Lo Prison was infamous. It was where POW’s were held captive, often for years. John McCain was perhaps its most famous prisoner. But more than 2,000 people were regularly held there, including Vietnamese detractors and American soldiers, who nicknamed it the “Hanoi Hilton.”


Today, a museum occupies the grounds of the former prison and tells the stories of its prisoners. It’s easily one of the best museums in Hanoi and if you have even a passing interest in Vietnamese history or American politics, you can’t miss it.


Haunting displays include the wall markings POW’s used to communicate while in solitary confinement, guillotines the French used to execute Vietnamese detractors during the fight for independence, and John McCain’s flight suit.


You’ll need two hours to see everything. Admission is 30,000 dong and the museum is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily. The museum is right near the lake, so it’s easy to fit in around other places to visit in Hanoi.


National Museum of Vietnamese History


This top-notch museum will satisfy both history lovers and architecture lovers. It’s one of the earliest examples of French-Chinese design in the former Indochinese territories. The building is reason enough to visit on its own.

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Exhibits range from the very early history of Vietnam up through the imperial era and the rise of Communism. The earliest statues date back to 300 BC. You’ll also learn more about how Vietnamese culture was influenced by its neighbors in the south — including the Khmer.


Admission will run you 40,000 dong. The museum is closed on Mondays and closes between 12 and 1:30 pm for lunch, so visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon to maximize your time. You need about an hour to see it all.


Weirdest museum in Hanoi: The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex


It may be weird, but one of the top Hanoi Vietnam attractions is the Ho Chi Minh Complex.
The weirdest Hanoi museum is definitely the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum.


Ho Chi Minh is still revered throughout Vietnam. And in the tradition of other famous Communist leaders, after his death, the Vietnamese government constructed an entire complex to memorialize him.


On the grounds are the Mausoleum itself (where you can see Uncle Ho’s embalmed body), a small pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house, and a massive museum. Leafy gardens and smaller temples dot the surrounding area. And of course, there are thousands of Vietnamese tourists and locals — everyone comes to pay their respects.


It may not be one of the best Hanoi museums, but a visit to the complex is a must-do during your visit just for the pure weirdness of it all. First, you’ll line up for a few hundred meters outside. While you wait, you’ll be treated to propaganda videos and people all around you singing the national anthem.


When you finally get in, you’ll walk through some dark hallways until you reach the room displaying Ho himself (silence please!). Photos are not permitted and you’re expected to keep moving as you pass through. The whole thing takes about an hour, including wait time.


After you visit the Mausoleum, continue on to the museum. The huge concrete slab of a building contains mementos from Ho’s life. But the real treat here is the bizarre, otherworldly propaganda about the future of communism. It further contributes to the entire complex being one of the weirdest things to see in Hanoi. Admission is 40,000 dong.


Be sure to cover your knees and shoulders on the day you visit the complex — you must dress modestly or you’ll be turned away. You may have to check your camera at the entrance, but enforcement of the photography rules was rather loose when I visited. The complex is a long walk (~45 minutes) or short taxi ride from the Old Quarter, and you can stop at the Temple of Literature on your way back.

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Best museum in Hanoi for art lovers: The Fine Arts Museum


Art enthusiasts won’t feel left out when visiting Hanoi. The pick of the city’s art museums is the Fine Arts Museum.


The museum focuses on religious art, mostly dating back to ancient times and the dynastic period. You’ll see a mix of Champa, Hindu and Buddhist pieces. There is a small collection of modern art and some folk art as well. Most signs are in English.


Admission to the Fine Arts Museum is 40,000 dong. It’s open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm.


What to do in Hanoi after visiting the museums: Fanny Ice Cream!


No Hanoi travel guide would be complete without raving about Fanny Ice Cream.
The best way to unwind from Hanoi tours is with ice cream from Fanny.


No post about Hanoi activities would be complete without mentioning my absolute favorite part of the city. In a classy storefront right along the lake is Fanny Ice Cream, the legendary Hanoi ice cream parlor.


Now, I’ve been traveling for a long time and I know my ice cream well. I ate gelato for lunch nearly every day for five weeks in Italy. I sampled epic concoctions of frozen deliciousness in Ubud. And coming off of a two-week trek, I once wandered around Besi Sehar, Nepal for over two hours looking for an acceptable ice cream bar. But I can honestly say Fanny is my favorite ice cream place in the entire world.


First, you don’t order from a counter — you order off a menu while sitting in comfortable wicker chairs. (Backpackers in south east Asia never get to sit anywhere but plastic stools, so this is worth being excited about.) Second, your choices of ice cream are all sorts of inventive presentations. Choose one that looks like a bird, a boat, or my favorite — a cyclo-rickshaw!


Sure, the whole thing is indulgent as hell. Prices start at 50,000 dong — more expensive than any of the best museums in Hanoi. But trust me, it’s so worth it after a long day of exploring.


Overall, Hanoi can get on travelers’ nerves a bit. It’s an exhausting and thrilling city. But the moment you feel like you might snap at the next lady who puts a conical hat on your head and demands money for a photo, step into one of the amazing museums and recharge for a couple hours. You’ll learn something new and get some peace and quiet while you’re at it!


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Discover the best museums in Hanoi Vietnam. The museums are one of the top things to do in Hanoi. Whether you like culture, history, art, or just weird things, there's a museum for you when you visit Hanoi #vietnam #travel


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