The Hanoi Flag Tower is an architectural and historical symbol for Vietnam’s capital as it still stands today, proudly bearing the Vietnamese flag at the very top. The tower's survival through the French invasion (1894 - 1897) has proven its resiliency through wartime. The tower itself has existed for over 200 years, deeming it an important historical site to visit in Hanoi.
Hanoi Flag Tower in the past
The story of the Hanoi Flag Tower can be traced back to the beginning of the Nguyen dynasty when Emperor Gia Long ascended the throne to unify what is now modern Vietnam in 1802. The tower was constructed between 1805 and 1812, situated within the southern part of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel.
During the French colonial occupation (1894-1897), the French forces had destroyed a majority of structures in the Thang Long Imperial Citadel but left the tower intact to use it as a military post. It proved to be an extremely strategic tool to observe the whole of Hanoi and its suburbs. This key observation vantage point was also taken advantage of by the Hanoi air defense force during the Vietnam War.
In 1945, the national flag of Vietnam flew on top of the tower for the first time. However, it wasn’t until 1954 when the battle of Dien Bien Phu resulted in a victory for Vietnam that the tower became a symbol of liberation for Vietnamese. In 1989, the Hanoi Flag Tower was officially recognized as a historical monument.
Front view of the Hanoi Flag Tower
The Hanoi Flag Tower is composed of three tiers of a pyramid-shaped platform, and it is accessible from the third level. The total height of the tower is 33 meters (about 108 feet) tall and 41 meters (about 134 feet), including the flag pole. At the top of the tower is a room with eight windows corresponding to the eight cardinal and intercardinal directions.
The line of cannons at the foot of the tower
At the base of the tower sits a line of cannons installed by the Nguyen dynasty in the 19th century. These were discovered in the Thang Long Imperial Citadel in 2003.
Stairs leading from the 1st level to the 2nd level of the Hanoi Flag Tower
The structure itself is made of a myriad of bricks from different periods. This fact indicates that multiple reinforcement efforts have been made throughout the existence of the tower.
Inside of the 2nd level of the Hanoi Flag Tower
According to researchers, the first and second levels were composed of mallet bricks, which were common in the Le dynasty (1428-1788). The third level was composed of hard burnt bricks and half-baked bricks. The tower has thirty-six flower-shaped and six fan-shaped windows that allow the natural light into its center.
One of the four doors on the second level leading inside the Hanoi Flag Tower
On the second level, there are four doors in each cardinal direction. Each has a name inscribed on its respective door except for the northern one. The eastern door is called “Nghenh Huc” (to welcome dawn’s sunlight); the western door is called “Hoi Quang” (to reflect light), and the southern door is called “Huong Minh” (directed to the sunlight). At the northern door, two stairs lead the left and right sides of the tower.
The Hanoi Flag Tower from the 3rd level
Vietnam Military History Museum outdoor display area viewed from the Hanoi Flag Tower
Location (about 15 minutes by walk from the Old Quarter Area)
Located within the Vietnam Military History Museum, visitors wishing to access the tower must go through the museum. Entrance to the tower is free, but visitors must pay an admission fee (VND 40,000) when entering the museum.
When done with the museum and the tower, visit the Thang Long Imperial Citadel - one of the top attractions in Hanoi. The tower was originally a part of the citadel, so the two historic sites have a shared history. With these three related locations within range of each other, it is easy to plan your trip around these three points of interest.
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As one of the rare historical monuments in Hanoi that has survived many conflicts since its construction, the Hanoi Flag Tower has evolved from a strategic structure to a historically symbolic beacon for the people of Vietnam.
Because of its significance of past importance, the tower will continue to represent the country’s liberation as long as the nation’s flag is flown high on its peak. Be sure to plan a trip to this must-see historical site when visiting Hanoi!
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© Written by Long Tran for itourvn.com