French Colonial Architecture Tour in Vietnam

Study Architecture in Asia

French colonists were unable to break the independent Vietnamese spirit, but they did leave a mark behind which has become an important reminder and symbol to natives and visitors alike - the French Colonial architecture of several notable buildings. Study architecture relating to the colonial era on this tour through Hanoi.

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Sojourn – Gain a better understanding of the community you’re visiting. Learn about different religions or spiritual practices. How do these impact the communities? How does religion or spirituality influence local traditions?

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Savor – Will you choose sweet or savory? Take the time to visit local markets and discover unique local ingredients. Learn how to prepare traditional meals & local favorites.

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Tip of the Tongue – Each morning, take the time to learn a few basic greetings and phrases in the local language. Learn how to write greetings & your name in the local script.

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A Wrinkle in Time – History influences our present. Discover the history of the country you visit. Hear the stories of your guides & their family history. Where do they come from?

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Journal Journeys – Take some time to reflect on the day’s events and document your journey. Spend a moment journaling about the day had & day ahead. These are memories for a lifetime!

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Culture – From local dances, festivals, or simple gestures to communicate – all of these make up a country’s culture. Learn and practice cultural norms & how to show respect in the culture you visit.

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Upon arrival in Hanoi, you will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel to freshen up before going out for a dinner of local cuisine. 

Your guide will be with you for the duration of your trip and will share insights, cultural information, and safety tips to help you enjoy your trip.

You will start your exploration of the French Colonial architecture of this beautiful city at the Hanoi Opera House, located in the heart of the downtown area. This building is listed as one of the most outstanding architectural structures in Hanoi with Italian marble floors, French murals and copper chandeliers. The building style was based on the Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier. To see the marble staircase you will need to attend an event, but don’t worry, as the Opera House has become a cultural centerpiece of the city with regular orchestral and ballet performances.

Next, you will visit Hoan Kiem Lake near the Hanoi Old Quarter where you will have lunch. After lunch, visit the National Museum of Vietnamese History. Notice the many different colors representing different cultures in this building. Here you will find Hindu statuary, bronzes from the Dong Son culture, and various collections from the French colonial era and the Communist Party to dominated Vietnam for many years. 

Today you will visit the Presidential Palace, a three-story building near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The president at the time of the end of the French colonial adventure in Vietnam refused to stay in the palace after the French left and utilized it instead for important guests. The president chose a stilt house as his residence instead. 

Next you will visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The front of this building is notable for the twin bell towers which match those of the famous Notre Dame de Paris. The church is the oldest church in Hanoi and one of the first with the French colonial architecture. Mass is held several times every day.

Today you will see the Long Bien Bridge, which was built at the turn of the 19th century. The bridge appears to be an example of French colonial architecture but was actually built by the Vietnamese using local materials including Yen Bai wood and Hue lime. It was reportedly built to display the courageous spirit of the people of Hanoi at the time. It was the first bridge across the Red River.

Nearby is the Hotel Metropole, easily one of the most luxurious hotels in Vietnam and maybe all of Asia. The hotel has hosted many well-known people over the years including Charlie Chaplin, Joan Baez, and Stanley Karnow. It underwent an extensive remodel in 1990 including elegant entryways, intimate sitting areas, and ceiling fans of precious woods. 

This afternoon you will have the opportunity to visit the Dong Xuan Marketplace. Here you can get almost anything for a low price if you know how to bargain! Located in the old quarter of town, the market is considered the center of Hanoi. Originally built by the French government, it has continued to thrive and be an important part of the city’s history. 

Today you will visit the Hang Dau Booth, one of two water towers built by the French in the late 1800s to provide water for the citizens of Hanoi and the soldiers in the Old Quarter. The towers were 25 meters high and 19 meters in diameter, looking like an ancient fortress of some kind. Wander through the three floors, exploring behind stone walls and thick wooden doors.

Next, you will go to the “haunted” Hoa Lo Prison. The prison housed Vietnamese patriots and politicians during the war. Vietnamese history claims the French were savage in their treatment of prisoners, frequently beating them, locking them to iron cages, or sentencing them to death. 

After a morning of French Colonial architecture, you will have the opportunity to take a cooking course this afternoon to learn how to prepare some of the delicious food you have encountered on your trip. Take home recipes to impress your family – pho bo (beef noodle soup), spring rolls, spicy hot pots, and more. You get to eat what you make too!

Today you have the option of free time to explore on your own, or one of two short trips to nearby attractions in Vietnam.

Your first option is Castaways Island through Halong Bay. Board the Jolly Roger for a ride to Castaway Island. During your trip, you will see limestone karsts jutting from the emerald waters of the bay, hidden caves used as hideouts during the war, and tiny fishing villages along the rocks. Your destination is a private golden beach where you can indulge in local cuisine, swim, kayak, wakeboard, or rock climb. Spend the night in a thatched hut or return the same day.

Your second option is a bus ride to Tam Coc and Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh Province. Here you can navigate the river past caves, karsts, and amazing landscapes. You can even explore hidden temples and greet friendly mountain goats. The scenery in the area is incredible and unforgettable. 

Hopefully you have gained a deeper appreciation for the French colonial architecture in Hanoi, and enjoyed your time here. Today you will be escorted to the airport to begin your return trip home. 

Travel back in time to a turbulent and frequently violent Hanoi as you explore the French colonial architecture that continues to inform Vietnamese culture. Trip highlights include St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Long Bien Bridge, and the legendary Hotel Metropole. You’ll also learn how to prepare some delectable Vietnamese food to impress your friends back home following your incredible trip to study architecture in this unique city. Sign up today!


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