The Imperial Citadel of Than Long in Hanoi is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its cultural, political, and architectural significance. Unlike other UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve been to, the citadel was kind of a disappointment to me. I thought I was gonna see much more than just one edifice of a bygone era.
Standing or sitting at the facade gave me an impression of its well-maintained domain.
But, of course, I was wrong! Go up and you will find its outgrown sods.
I believe that there is more to this sole structure but they’re not showing it -yet? The brochure I had said about objects (coins, ceramics) that were excavated in 2004 but I didn’t see one.
So, I decided to explore a few small buildings behind the main building but I was stopped by a gardener. He said, there’s nothing to see there.
In other words, there is nothing much to see in the whole premises.
All you have to do is go up there, read some of the inscriptions, go around the tiny area, and leave.
Though the 1,300-year-old structure is not anymore the seat of power, political celebrations are held here from time to time.
On the day I visited it, the place still had some decorations left from celebrating Vietnamese New Year.
As you can see, the outdoor “art installations” didn’t really match the ancient buildings.
It was kind of cheesy to have Mickey and Minnie Mouse in there. It’s like having Starbucks or McDonalds in the middle of the Great Wall of China. 😀
The Citadel was the seat of government for 13 centuries! With that in mind, you would think there’s a lot to see! But, duh, I was really disappointed. I didn’t stay long.
It was in the site where I learned that Hanoi’s former name was Dai La and then renamed it Than Long. Thus the name of the Citadel.
At one point in history, the area was a huge prison camp for the French soldiers captured by the Japanese Army.
Other Sites in the Area
Since you are already here, walk to Vietnam Military History Museum or to Ho Chi Minh Memorial Mausoleum. Check out this blog post.
Where to Stay in Hanoi
I stayed at Little Hanoi Hostel in the Old Quarter. They have bunk beds and rooms for those who want privacy complete with a bathtub. Take note that you are in the Old Quarter so you don’t expect 5-star quality accommodation. Most buildings are old and the pipes are rusty. This hostel, however, looks fine to me – though it would have been better if I were assigned in a room with a window. The staff members are nice and they helped me book an airline ticket and taxi to the airport. You can find everything around the hostel and it is walking distance to everything you want to see in Hanoi. You can also book it via Booking, , Expedia, and HostelWorld.