Hanoi Itineraries: Tracing Uncle Ho's Footsteps (Western Circuit)

If you are planning to walk around the Hanoi district just like I did, you may wish to note that the Western Circuit will involve the longest walking distance out of the Old Quarter (approximately 25 minutes). You may wish to take this journey early in the morning as you will be able to avoid the massive crowds that will be visiting the tourist attractions you will be exploring in this circuit. Trust me, you will want these places to yourselves to capture the best photographs. Let’s start tracing Uncle Ho’s footsteps!



Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ba Dinh Square
Opening Hours: 0730h – 1030h (Tue – Thu), 0730h – 1100h (Sat – Sun)
Entrance Fee: Free


Nuoc Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam Muon Nam
(Long Live the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam)

Possibly the most symbolic icon in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum contains the embalmed body of the esteemed Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh who died in 1969. Early in the morning, large crowds of Vietnamese form up in front of the mausoleum to pay their respects to Uncle Ho whom they very much respect, as he is recognised as the most significant leader who helped the country earn independence. I was really impressed with how strong the nationalistic sentiments are around here and the way they worship the man is pretty astounding.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Uncle Ho's final resting place

You may wish to note that you are not allowed to bring cameras or mobile phones into the mausoleum, as this location is treated by the Vietnamese with great respect. If you would like to visit the mausoleum, you will have to form up in a queue and enter the building where you will be able to catch a glimpse of Uncle Ho. From September to November, the mausoleum will be closed though, as the body will be sent to Moscow for repair, so you may wish to make alternative arrangements but you can still admire the exterior of the building from Ba Dinh Square nevertheless. Just be wary to stand behind the yellow line when taking photographs – don’t get too excited, lest the guards in white come chasing after you!

Presidential Palace
Opening Hours: 0800h – 1130h (Tue – Thu), 1400h – 1600h (Sat – Sun)
Entrance Fee: VND 40,000


Taking a peek into the Presidential Palace

This mustard yellow building was originally supposed to be Ho Chi Minh’s official residence, but the humble man had chosen to live in a traditional stilt house instead. Nevertheless, the French architectural style adds a new flavour to the Soviet-styled building. Tourists, however, are only permitted to visit the gardens and the man’s old stilt house which will definitely offer you a glimpse into how Uncle Ho lived back in the day. 

House No. 54 where Uncle Ho lived and worked since 1954

The entire location will draw both the nature lovers (with the well-kept botanical gardens) and the history buffs (with the artefacts left behind by Ho Chi Minh like his antique cars). The carp pond certainly offers a sense of tranquillity which you may yearn after days of hustle and bustle in the Old Quarter, while Uncle Ho’s simplistic style in terms of his furniture and design of his rooms sheds light on how humble a man he truly was. 


One Pillar Pagoda
Opening Hours: 0800h – 1700h (Daily)
Entrance Fee: Free

Another symbolic icon of Hanoi, the One Pillar Pagoda is a little temple which sits on a single wooden column right down the centre of the building. It is believed to bless its devotees with fertility and health. Resembling a lotus flower which represents enlightenment in Buddhism, this temple was believed to be built by Emperor Ly Thai Tong to thank the deities for blessing him with a baby son resting on a lotus. You may either wish to take a look inside or make a simple stopover to get some photographs taken and grab some refreshments at the stands surrounding the temple.

One Pillar Pagoda decorated with flags of blue, yellow, red, white and orange representing the 5 elements

I believe that the pagoda had a significant historical and religious purpose which explains why the locals visit the temple to do their prayers. However, honestly speaking, I found the pagoda quite underwhelming as there was really not much you could do here, given its small stature. Nevertheless, its architectural uniqueness does make it worth snapping a few shots here and there, since it is in the vicinity of all the other attractions recommended in this itinerary.

Ho Chi Minh Museum
Opening Hours: 0800h – 1200h (Daily), 1400h – 1630h (Tue – Thu, Sat – Sun)
Entrance Fee: VND 40,000
Ho Chi Minh Museum is just a few steps away from the One Pillar Pagoda.

Hanoi has no shortage of museums, but many have said that the Ho Chi Minh Museum is the best of them all. The museum was purportedly constructed by the same Soviet engineers who erected the mausoleum. In my opinion, these two architectural buildings also serve the same purpose – the mausoleum preserves Uncle Ho’s physical being and the museum reinforces this by preserving Uncle Ho’s history and spirit and sharing his doctrines and beliefs with the world.

Uncle Ho welcomes you to the Ho Chi Minh Museum!

The museum expounds in great detail about Uncle Ho’s life from his early upbringing and education to his extensive travels across the world to salvage Vietnam from colonial rule, and subsequently to how he interprets the various branches of socialism like Marxism and Leninism to found the Vietnamese Communist Party. His political life and gifts received from various diplomats are also elaborated on and well represented in this museum.

Surprisingly though, many have described the exhibits as rather abstract and creative (most iconic of them all being the exhibit with life-size fruits), which is contrary to what we believe museums will present – cold, hard facts. During my trip to Hanoi, I passed on the museum given the limitations and time constraints, so after reading all the online reviews on this museum, I will certainly visit it when I return to Hanoi again!

Hope this little tour will allow you to have a better understanding about Ho Chi Minh, his influence on modern-day Vietnam and how well respected he is by the locals here. Let's take our first day trip out of the bustling city of Hanoi to neighbouring Ninh Binh Province - check it out here!

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Comments

  1. Vietnam is in my bucket list for 2018. Thanks for sharing a great itinerary for me. Inspired me more to visit it sooner. :)

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    1. Thanks Ridima! I hope the itinerary has helped you plan your trip to Hanoi - on a more cultural/political note.

      More on food and other themed itineraries coming your way. Please keep a lookout on this page! :)

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  2. I love long walks especially when in a new destination. The architecture of the one pillar pagoda is so unique. Good to hear that Ho Chi Minh Museum is nearby. Would love to visit both. The Mausoleum is also interesting. Uncle Ho seems to be omnipresent.

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    1. Yes, definitely walking allows you to peer into the life of a typical local. It's the reason why I prefer free and easy tours as well, as the experience is much more authentic.

      That's right - Uncle Ho is anywhere and everywhere in this city! :)

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  3. This article is informative! Although this place is not on my top bucket list when it comes to traveling to Vietnam - it's like going to Mao's place in China - not really of my interest, I still think it's somewhat a symbol of a socialist country. So it's okay for me:). Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hey there! Yes, these attractions are certainly unique to socialist countries - which are quite interesting to those who come from other parts of the world :) It was definitely an eye opener for me!

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  4. Hi
    You've sold the beauty of Vietnam really well. It has always been a country that I thought about visiting but wasn't sure where I would start. This is a really good starting point. Thanks alot!

    Good luck with future posts!

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    1. Hi Sivanjaa! Thank you for your compliments :) Hope that this itinerary was able to inspire you to visit this lovely country - I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)

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  5. This seems to be a very nicely laid out itinerary. Often you know which places to see but don't really know in what order you should go about them. This post is the exact help with that kind of situation. And a special thanks for the map, that is really helpful!

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    1. Hey Neha! Thanks for your comments :) It sure helps to cluster attractions together and explore them altogether in one day as a themed excursion (like Uncle Ho in this itinerary). Safe travels! :)

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  6. Hanoi is my favourite city in Vietnam. I love the way how you have articulated the post curating the key attractions in the city. Spending an evening in Hoàn Kiếm Lake is something I miss.

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    1. Hi there! Great to hear that you enjoyed Hanoi as much as myself :) Hoan Kiem Lake is lovely at night and is an awesome place to enjoy the breeze and chill out with friends! Will be covering that real soon - stay tuned! :)

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  7. There is a lot to see and experience in Ho Chi Minh city but usually we do not find much information about the city as most articles focus on places like Halong Bay. This is a fresh perspective on Vietnam.I find the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and museum really fascinating. The one pillar pagoda too looks so enchanting.

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    1. Hi Sandy! Thanks for your comment. I certainly hope that my post has helped you get a better understanding of Vietnam as a whole :) Yes, not just Halong Bay!

      It's Hanoi though, Ho Chi Minh City is in the southern part of Vietnam :)

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  8. I’ve read plenty of good things about Uncle Ho and it’s so cool that you were able to take us on a tour on such significant places (via this post). I’d love to visit Hanoi too someday. Will be bookmarking your itinerary for future reference! :)

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    1. Hey Marvi, thanks for your comment :) It helps us tourists go on this day trip easily since the attractions are located really close to one another.

      Hope you will be able to visit Hanoi real soon and see the attractions indicated here for yourself! You'll be amazed :)

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  9. I always wanted to visit Vietnam. Hanoi seems the kind of city where you could wander on the streets for hours, soaking the culture and the architecture. I hope I will get to visit Vietnam one day.

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    1. Hey Unta, Hanoi is a walkable city, which makes it easy for us tourists to sightsee and shop at the same time. Hope you'll visit Hanoi soon and see the attractions here for yourself! :)

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  10. Nice info!! I'll definitely put this on my list. I've wanted to go here for a while now :)

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    1. Thank you! Hope this itinerary helps you map out a preliminary day trip for your visit to Hanoi - more coming your way (both sightseeing and food!)

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  11. This looks like a very doable itinerary. Easy to walk to the different sites. I like that you combined lots of history with the beauty of the area. Saving this for later!

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! It's really convenient for us tourists, since the attractions related to Uncle Ho are in close proximity.

      The Ba Dinh district is really beautiful, outside the busy Old Quarter. Hope you'll be able to visit soon!

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  12. We've been to Vietnam a few weeks ago and this post brings back some good memories. Love how you put together the itinerary, adding historical facts to it plus the map showing the location of each destination. I have to admit, one pillar pagoda is my favourite. Thanks for putting this together.

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    1. Hope you enjoyed your trip to Vietnam as much as I did mine! :)

      One Pillar Pagoda is symbolic of Vietnam - its unique architecture must have caught your eye? :)

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  13. I love exploring cities by foot! I remember I was walking a lot when I was visiting Bangkok and like you're saying it would be probably better if I would walk in the morning! Vietnam is on my wish list, I hope ill get to visit this beautiful, full of history place very soon! Your post is very good! So many great informations! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Absolutely my favourite way of exploring foreign places through the eyes of a local, instead of the artificial experience of moving between tourist attractions being ushered onto private transport.

      I'm sure you'll enjoy Vietnam as much as I did - do make a trip down, yeah? :)

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  14. Fantastic post. Full of details and very informative.

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    1. Thanks Davindra! Glad you found it useful, hope you're inspired to visit Vietnam soon! :)

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  15. Excellent itenerary. Not sure if I will visit, but I feel like I was there through your eyes.

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    1. Thanks Julie! That's exactly the reason why I started this travel blog - to share my escapades and tips with other like-minded travellers. Great to hear that you had a virtual tour of Hanoi, and hope that you'll find the time to visit it someday! :)

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  16. One of my closest friends, also a blogger, is in Hanoi right now for a work assignment. He said it is a beautiful place, and your photos prove it. I like it that it's "walk friendly."

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    1. Great to hear that your friend is enjoying Hanoi as much as I did! Hope you'll be able to visit this lovely city real soon! :)

      I really enjoyed skipping around town visiting the different sights and sounds Hanoi has to offer - it gives me a more authentic and local experience.

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  17. Great timing and this will indeed be helpful. Have been planning a visit to Vietnam and 2018 it is definitely happening. So excited about exploring all the cities especially gorgeous pagodas.

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    1. Thank you! Great that you found this post useful to plan your trip to Vietnam this year - more itineraries and tips coming your way, so stay tuned to this page!

      The pagodas are indeed stunning and the natural landscape just accentuates their beauty - just lovely!

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  18. This seems like such a great walk, in Uncle Ho's footsteps. I'm sure it would be immensely useful for anyone visiting Hanoi.

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    1. Hi Denny! I like how Vietnam has put in so much effort to preserve these monuments and relics commemorating its national hero - from the Presidential Palace to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Each attraction allows us to learn more about this man behind the success of the country, and as we move along the trail, we are able to witness the respect the locals treat Ho Chi Minh with.

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  19. This is such an interesting post! There are so many fun sites along the way. :)

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  20. Nathan I have been wanting to go to Ho Chi Minh and its definitely on the bucket list. I hope you don't mind if I pinch a few ideas. I love the way your photos really give you a clear idea of what to expect.

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    1. Hey Niall! Glad that my post has given you some ideas and inspiration on where to visit when you are in the country. Feel free to mix and match the various attractions I have introduced in the different itineraties to customise your own ultimate Hanoi trip. I'm happy to hear that you've found my photos useful too.

      Just a clarification though - all these, while being dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, are in Hanoi in the northern region of the country. They are not in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south!

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  21. Thanks for such an interesting post Nathan! Plenty of great places to visit so I would say the perfect itinerary. Keep it up! Plus the photos are great.

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    1. Thanks for the support! I have introduced numerous other attractions in various other regions of Hanoi which you may be interested in as well. You will be able to pick and choose which places you will like to visit based on your personal interests and thereafter put them together to form your Hanoi itinerary.

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  22. It's probably me being a bit contrary, but I'm less interested in the Ho Chi Minh Memorial than other sites, I know it's a big part of the history but doesn't grab me the same way. The Presidential Palace is impressive, for the vivid colour and architecture. But I think I'm more drawn to the cultural sights such as the One Pillar Pagoda, not seen anything like that before.

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  23. All these places are quite fascinating! Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is something I would so love to visit. Catching a glimpse of the embalmed body of a great revolutionary leader of his times would be one of a kind experience. Love the yellow colour and architecture of the Presidential House. But I would be more interested in Uncle Ho's old tilted house that shows his simplicity and sacrifice for the country. One Pillar Pagoda is another place of my interest, especially its design and the cultural significance.

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  24. I can't remember any of these attractions when I was in Ho Chi Minh. The presidential palace looks amazing, and so colourful too. Such a vibrant city, and full of history too.

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