6 Religious Sites in Hanoi You Need to Know About

 

Billowing plumes of incense smoke waft from the spiral sticks from Hanoi’s temples and pagodas. Walking past the tiered archway entrances, and ancient banyan trees you are circled with the delicate smoke. In Vietnam, there is little divide between life and spirituality. The mix of ancient ideologies shapes everyday life. 

 

Hanoi Pagodas

Unlike countries surrounding Vietnam, there is not one strict religion, but rather a fix of beliefs. Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism are combined with ancestor worship to create the blend of folk religions and beliefs which are uniquely Vietnamese. As a traveller in Hanoi, you will see the distinct differences of these ideologies reflected in the cities pagodas and temples. Here are six must-see religious sites in Hanoi.

Hanoi Pagodas

Temple of Literature

Home to some of the most iconic architecture in the country, the Temple of Literature is a must-see for travellers coming to Vietnam. It was once the nation’s first university, graduating over 300 of Vietnam’s most elite students. 

It is now a temple dedicated to the philosopher Confucious. Wander the five courtyards and take in the quiet details and impressive structures. Keep a lookout for the Khue Van Cac Pavillion, this four-pillared red and white structure is featured on the Vietnamese 100,000 Dong bill.

Hanoi Pagodas

 

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Sitting on the causeway between Tay Ho and Ba Dinh is Hanoi’s oldest religious site. Tran Quoc Pagoda dates back 1,450 years! It is a Buddhist pagoda but it was actually built before Buddha. During this time there were other gods and goddesses which the Vietnamese people worshipped. 

This temple was originally dedicated to the female Buddha called ‘Mothers’. These goddesses held domain over the earth’s natural elements. Currently, monks live on the grounds, and this is still the main site for Buddhist travellers and locals in the region.

TIP: Keep an eye out for the Bodhi Tree given by India’s President. This is said to be cut from the same tree which Buddha sat under. 

Hanoi Pagodas

 

Exploring Hanoi more? Click here to check out the full city guide. 

 

Quan Thanh Temple

Also residing near to the Tay Ho Lake is the Quan Thanh Temple, this Taoist temple is one of four in the city, each facing separate directions, thought to protect Hanoi from evil spirits. The traditional architecture is classically Vietnamese in style. Look for the abundance of animal symbolism and ancient trees in the courtyard. 

 

Vietnam Pagodas

 

Ngoc Son Pagoda

No trip to Hanoi is complete without a walk around Hoan Kiem lake. While you are there, stop by Ngoc Son Temple which sits on a small islet in the middle of the lake. Built to honour the military leader Tran Hung Dao, Ngoc Son is a mixture of different architectural styles and Buddhist elements. The legendary Soft Shell Turtle which lived in the lake also rests here, embalmed. 

 

Vietnam Pagodas

 

Chùa Bát Mẫu

Tucked away down a secluded alley in Ba Dinh, the Bat Mau pagoda is one of my favourites in the city. This Buddhist temple is overgrown with ferns, trees and flowers, giving it a secret garden feel. Located in a sleepy neighbourhood the architecture around the pagoda is also worth a visit. Distinct Vietnamese and French styles of architecture are prevalent in the surrounding buildings.

Hanoi Pagodas

Ba Da Pagoda

Down a little alley near St. Joseph’s cathedral is Ba Da Pagoda. Marked with a small white gate it’s easily missed. Known as one of the oldest pagodas in Hanoi, it’s thought to have been constructed in 1056! The spacious courtyard and traditional worshipping house gives a unique insight into religious local life, and a peaceful reprieve from the Old Quarter’s hustle and bustle. 

TIP: This area of the Old Quarter is full of interesting things to see and do! Check out artisan crafts at collective memory, grab a gin and tonic at the Mad Botanist or snack on delicious fried dumplings and cakes at Quan Goc Da. 

Hanoi Pagodas

 

It’s easy to explore these temples yourself, but for a deeper look into the history — book a walking tour with BonBon! Their film photography tour of religious sites is perfect for history-buffs.