Co Loa Citadel, Hanoi

The Co Loa Citadel near Hanoi is generally considered to be Vietnam’s oldest archaeological site and of enormous significance to Vietnamese people as being the first capital of what would later develop into the modern Vietnamese state.

  • Opening hours: 08:00 to 17:00
  • Entrance fee: 10,000 VND

About the Co Loa Citadel

The Co Loa Citadel was built in stages over several thousand years by different groups of people, and the most prominent structures which have remained intact were the ones constructed most recently. Visitors require some imagination and the services of a knowledgeable guide to fully grasp what this ancient citadel may have looked like when it was inhabited.

History of the Co Loa Citadel

The known history of the Co Loa Citadel goes back as far as 257 BC and the founding of the Kingdom of Âu Lạc. Legend has it that the first king of the Âu Lạc, Thục Phán (also known as King An Duong Vuong), was directed to build his new capital in its current location by a turtle which appeared to him in a dream. Archaeological excavations, however, indicated that part of the ramparts of the settlement where built at least 100 to 150 years earlier suggesting that the Co Loa Citadel was established in an existing, possibly abandoned, settlement.

The Citadel was Soon Abandoned

The Kingdom of Âu Lạc lasted only 49 years. According to legend Thục Phán was betrayed by his own daughter and this part of North Vietnam came under the control of Chinese rulers. When Chinese rule finally ended in 938, the general who was responsible for militarily defeating the Chinese occupiers established the first capital of the new regime, the Dai Viet Kingdom, in the Co Loa Citadel. The Co Loa Citadel was again abandoned 5 year later when the conquering general’s reign over the newly independent kingdom ended.

The historical significance of the site, however, was never forgotten. A temple to Thục Phán, known as the Temple of An Duong Vuong, was built in the centre of the site in 1687, and this is temple is the most interesting part of the citadel as the older structures have all disappeared.

Co Loa Citadel near Hanoi
Co Loa Citadel near Hanoi
Dimensions of the Co Loa Citadel

The Co Loa Citadel covers an area of around 8 square kilometres. The ancient city had 3 defensive walls arranged in a spiral shape with a system of moats for both defensive purposes and to provide drinking water for the inhabitants. The walls are earth ramparts up to 30 metres wide at their base and 12 metres high in places. The outer wall was 8 km long, the middle wall 6.5 km long, and the inner wall protecting the area where the royal family and minsters lived is 1.6 km long.

Estimates of the number of inhabitants in the citadel during the reign of Thục Phán range from 5,000 to 10,000 people, although the greater likelihood is that the citadel provided refuge during times of war for people who lived outside the walls and worked on the land, and the population therefore would have fluctuated over time.

Location of the Co Loa Citadel

The Co Loa Citadel is located 15.9 km by road from Hanoi Railway Station.

Google Map of the Co Loa Citadel

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