Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. The city is located on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is located at 1,760km (1,090mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City. October 2010 officially marked 1000 years since the establishment of the city. In 1010, Ly Thai To, the first ruler of the Ly Dynasty, moved the capital of Dai Viet (Great Viet Kingdom) to the site of the Dai La Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he renamed the site Thang Long “Rising Dragon”- a name still used poetically to this day. Thang Long remained the capital of Dai Viet until 1802, when the Nguyen Dynasty was established and moved the capital to Hue. In 1831, the Nguyen emperor Minh Mang renamed it Ha Noi – “Between Rivers” or “River Interior”.Hanoi became the capital of an independent North Vietnam in 1954 and of the whole country from 1976.
In August 1, 2008, Hanoi absorbed a neighboring province Hatay and some districts from VinhPhuc and Hoabinh province, made it around 4 time bigger. As the capital of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, Hanoi is considered one of the main cultural centres of Vietnam, where most Vietnamese dynasties have left their imprint. Even though some relics have not survived through wars and time, the city still has many interesting cultural and historic monuments for visitors and residents alike. The city hosts more cultural sites than any city in Vietnam, and boasts more than 1,000 years of history, and that of the past few hundred years has been well preserved.
The Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem lake, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original commerce.
Some others prominent places are: The Temple of Literature, site of the oldest university in Vietnam 1010; One Pillar Pagoda; Flag Tower of Hanoi. In 2004, a massive part of the 900 year old Hanoi Citadel was discovered in central Hanoi, near the site of Ba Dinh Square. Hanoi sometime is called “city of lakes”. Among its lakes, the most famous are Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, Halais Lake, and Bay Mau Lake. Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Sword Lake, is the historical and cultural center of Hanoi, and is linked to the legend of the magic sword. West Lake is a popular place for people to spend time. It is the largest lake in Hanoi and there are many temples in the area.
Under French rule, as an administrative centre for the French colony of Indochina, the French colonial architecture style became dominant, many examples remain today: the tree-lined boulevards and its many villas and mansions, Grand Opera House, State Bank of Vietnam , Presidential Palace, Saint Joseph Cathedral, and the historic Hotel Metropole. Many of the colonial structures are an eclectic mixture of French and traditional Vietnamese architectural styles, such as the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts and the old Indochina Medical College.