The Most Beautiful Temples in Hanoi, Vietnam

Perfume Pagoda
Perfume Pagoda | © Guerretto/Flickr
Piumi Rajapaksha

Visiting places of religious importance while traveling offers great insight into the culture and traditions of the locals. Here are our favorite temples in Hanoi.

1. The Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature was built in 1070 under Emperor Ly Thanh Tong’s reign, in honor of Confucius, his followers and Chu Van An, a prominent figure in Vietnamese education. In 1076, it became Vietnam’s first university, initially serving noble family members and later becoming more egalitarian with admissions, opening to talented students, irrespective of background.

The Temple of Literature is a rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture—made almost entirely of wood and tiles. It is one of Hanoi’s most picturesque tourist attractions, and is depicted on the 100,000 Vietnamese Dong note.

Enter here. | © Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr

2. Tran Quoc Pagoda

Museum, Shrine

Tran Quoc Pagoda, set on an islet within West Lake is one of the oldest pagodas in the whole of Vietnam—built during the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De (541–547AD). Surrounded by lush greenery, this pagoda was a favorite among the kings and royal families for festivals, full moons and Tet festivals.

The main stupa of the pagoda is made up of 11 levels and stands at about 50 feet tall (15 meters). On the top is a nine-story lotus and a gemstone. Surrounding the stupa are incense burning houses, a Buddhist shrine and a museum, housing many priceless antiques that are hundreds and some even a thousand or so years old.

As a place of worship, you are advised to dress conservatively out of respect for the monks and locals.

Tran Quoc Pagoda, Thanh Niên, Yên Phụ, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam, +84 24 3829 3869

Tran Quoc Pagoda | © Edgardo W. Olivera/Flickr

3. One Pillar Pagoda

Shrine

One Pillar Pagoda was once known as Dien Huu Pagoda, which literally translates to “long lasting happiness and good luck.” This iconic temple was built by Emperor Ly Thai Tong in 1049 as a tribute Buddha. Legend goes that childless Emperor Ly Thai Tong had a dream one night in which the enlightened being Avalokiteshvara gave him a baby son resting on a lotus flower. As a tribute, he built the pagoda to resemble this lotus flower, and also placed a shrine to Goddess Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, following the birth of his son.

One Pillar Pagoda | © thalling55/Flickr

4. Ngoc Son Temple

Bridge

Ngoc Son Temple is probably Hanoi’s most visited temple due to its central location and easy accessibility. It is built on Ngoc Son Islet, located in the most beautiful lake of the city: Hoan Kiem Lake. The islet is connected by a gorgeous scarlet painted bridge of classical Vietnamese style. The lake, and the bridge connecting to the temple, make an extremely photogenic sight.

Hoan Kiem Lake | © lightwrite/Flickr

5. Perfume Pagoda

Buddhist Temple

Vietnam Perfume Pagoda river highlights Hanoi
© Inaki Olavarrieta Moro / Alamy Stock Photo
It is believed that the Perfume Pagoda was built in the 15th century, although legend says that parts may have been around for about 2000 years. It is a series of Buddhist temples built into a mountain range in a maze of alleyways carved into the limestone rock, with rich forests, caves and flowing streams with tropical plants scattered everywhere.

There are many pagodas around, each with a different shrine. Those of interest are Vong Temple, Thuyet Kinh Cave and Thien Son Pagoda. Getting to the complex is a journey in itself. The Perfume Pagoda is located 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of Hanoi, in the Son Mountains. First is a two-hour journey on road, and then you must take a boat ride through a narrow flowing stream fringed by rice fields, temples and grass, to the foot of the mountains. To get to the Perfume Pagoda, it is an uphill walk of about an hour, and things can get slippery, so make sure you wear proper footwear!

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