French flair in Hanoi

Published on 

French flair in Hanoi

Good morning, Vietnam! We take you on a stroll through the various architectural signs of French presence over centuries in Hanoi.

Close to the large Art Deco building housing the National Bank, on the eastern shore of Lake Hoan Kiem, a lovely square extends between Le Lai and Le Thach streets. At dawn, those who have come to practice tai-chi, aerobics or stretching all gather on the square and move to the sound of classical music, techno and Vietnamese pop. Hearing a loudspeaker broadcast a local version of L'Aventurra by Stone and Charden (French song co-written in 1971 by Eric Charden, who was born in Tonkin) at 5am, you'll better understand which cultural trends nurtured the Vietnamese capital. More than 63 years after severing ties with the “city between rivers", France has left an astonishing urban and landscape heritage: in the district of Ba Dinh, which houses the Presidential Palace and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the Hoan Kiem borough, the Haussmann-style city centre, or in the Tây Ho district, a favourite place for Westerners, where the magnificent Schneider villa awaits your visit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Presidential Palace (1906)

The Ba Dinh district, or "French Quarter", is Vietnams' political centre, home to many embassies and official residences. Among them, the former Governor of Indochina's palace now serves as presidential residence. The airy ochre neo-Renaissance building was built in 1906 by Auguste Henri Vildieu, inspired by French aristocratic mansions. You may not enter the building, but you can nevertheless walk freely around the courtyard and take pictures of the magnificent façade.

Presidential Palace
2 Hung Vuong
Ngọc Hà
Ba Dhin
Hanoi
www.vpctn.gov.vn

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1928)

Just as emblematic of the Ba Dinh district, the former General Revenue building, now Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was built based on Ernest Hebrard's plans, who's remembered as the "inventor" of the Indochinese style. Four years prior in 1924, Hebrard, a visionary urban planner, had drawn up the Hanoi master plan, which laid down local urban guidelines for decades to come.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1 Tôn Thất Dàm
Ba Dhin
Hanoi

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Cua Bac Church (1932)

Like Baron Haussmann – the Seine prefect who transformed Paris under Napoleon III – Ernest Hebrard transformed Hanoi. He also designed the famous Cua Bac Catholic Church, built opposite the northern gate of the citadel. This eclectic art deco building makes great use of tiles, whether on the roof of the bell tower or along the arches, in the style of traditional temples and pagodas.

Cua Bac Church
Phan Dình Phùng, Quán Thánh
Ba Dhin
Hanoi

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Fine Arts Museum of Vietnam (1937)

In this magnificent example of Indochinese architecture, originally intended to house a Catholic school for girls, the Fine Arts Museum displays its lacquer collection – such as those of Nguyen Gia Tri (1908-1993) – as well as oil and silk paintings, by Bui Xuân Phai (1921-1988), To Ngoc Van (1906-1954) and Tran Van Can (1910-1994) to name a few.

Fine arts Museum of Vietnam
66 Nguyen Thai Hoc
Ba Dhin
Hanoi
www.vnfineartsmuseum.org.vn

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Long Biên Bridge (1903)

The southern district of Hoan Kiem ("the Restored Sword") – named after the nearby Hoan Kiem lake – has a very Haussmann-like feel. Created between the early 20th century and 1945, it combines western and eastern influences, erected in perfect harmony with nature. The Long Biên Bridge – formerly the Paul-Doumer bridge – stretches across the Red River. It was built between 1892 and 1902 by the Daydé & Pillé company (later bought by Gustave Eiffel), and was such a technical achievement that it earned its place as one of the four longest bridges in the world and the most outstanding in the Far East. Its 19 spans, resting on 20 enormous pillars connect Hanoi to the northern part of the province over 1,680 metres.

Long Biên Bridge
Phúc Tân
Hoàn Kiêm
Hanoi

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Hotel Metropole (1901)

The classic and monumental Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has the most typically French looking façade in town and has kept its original splendour. The Metropole Hotel is like a history book which open pages share shadows and memories of Charlie Chaplin and his wife Paulette Goddard, who spent their honeymoon here, of writers Graham Green and William Somerset Maugham, or of American singer Joan Baez.

Hotel Metropole
15 Ngô Quyen
Hoàn Kiêm
Hanoi
www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-1555-sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

The Hanoi Opera House (1910)

Inspired by the Palais Garnier in Paris, the architects Broyer and Harlay took ten years to bring the Hanoi Opera House to life, one of the most emblematic buildings of those days. Even today, the Opera House hosts great singers and dancers, both Vietnamese and foreign. Come and admire the impressive exterior façade while strolling through the beautiful gardens. To visit inside, there's only one solution: treat yourself to a show.

Hanoi Opera House
01 Tràng Tiên
Hoàn Kiêm
Hanoi
hanoioperahouse.org.vn/en

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Vietnam National Museum of History (1932)

Famous architect, Ernest Hébrard designed the eclectic Indochinese style Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient. It was founded in 1900, for humanities and social studies professors and researchers. The school was quickly named after its first director, thus becoming the Louis-Finot Museum. As early as 1958, the North Vietnamese regime transformed it into a national museum of Vietnamese history. Nearly 10,000 historical pieces are on display, retracing the history of the country from prehistoric times to present day.

Vietnam National Museum of History
1 Tràng Tiên
Hoàn Kiêm
Hanoi
baotanglichsu.vn/en

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Tran Phu-Hoàn Kiêm High School (1934)

Designed in 1934 by Adolphe Bussy, the Albert-Sarraut high school was an elite institution that surpassed the education provided by the great Catholic colleges and trained many eminent members of the future Vietnamese communist party. In 1965, the Petit Lycée building (primary and middle school) became the Tran Phu-Hoàn Kiêm district high school. As for the Grand Lycée, it currently houses the Communist Party headquarters. The building is not open to the public, but you will have plenty of time to contemplate its French roof, breaks and overhangs reminiscent of the Louvre from the Ba Dinh square.

Tran Phu-Hoàn Kiêm High School
8 Hai Bà Trung
Tràng Tiên
Hoan Kiem
Hanoi

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

French flair in Hanoi

Villa Schneider, in the expats' district

Northeast of the city near the western lake, the district of Tây Ho remains "connected” to its glorious past, a past best represented by villa Schneider. In France, this type of villa is called a "folie” (“craziness"). It was the home of businessman and future Indochinese press tycoon Henri Schneider (Journal officiel de l'Indochine, Revue indochinoise, L'Avenir du Tonkin…). Its porch is as monumental as its imposing façades displaying multiple pediments adorned with angel heads. Dragons fly across its stucco walls. Restored by the Ile-de-France region in 1999, it is now part of Chu Van An high school for francophone activities (library and evening classes). You can admire the villa from the south shore of the West Lake, beneath the tall trees.

Villa Schneider
Chu Van An High School
10 Thụy Khuê
Tây Hô
Hanoi