Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Hanoi

For 800 years before Vietnam’s capital was moved to Hue in the early 19th Century, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi was the main home and governmental centre for ruling dynasties of Vietnam.

  • Opening hours: 08:00 to 17:00
  • Entrance fee: Adults = 30,000 VND, Children (under 15) = Free.

About the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long


The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is located about 2 km to the north west of the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and 2 km to the south of the picturesque Tran Quoc Pagoda. Ba Dinh Square is also close, so you can combine a visit to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long with stops at the Presidential Palace and the One Pillar Pagoda.

History of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The first phase of construction of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long began in 1010 under Emperor Lý Thái Tổ. Emperor Lý Thái Tổ decided to move his capital from Ninh Binh Province to the site of palace in Hanoi which had been used as the capital during a period when Vietnam was ruled remotely as a Chinese protectorate.

Courtyard at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Courtyard at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long continued functioning as the centre of power in Vietnam until 1810 until the capital was moved to the much grander and larger Imperial Citadel in Hue. The complex then fell into decline. Large parts of the citadel where removed by the French colonialists to make way for their own military installations. In 1945, the Japanese Army used the citadel as a prisoner of war camp, and the North Vietnamese Army sited a command centre in the compound during the Vietnam War.

Older Buildings at Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

There are 5 main structures at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long which formed part of the citadel, one of which was removed during the era of French colonial rule.

Đoan Môn Gate at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Đoan Môn Gate at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

In modern times the most impressive building at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is the Đoan Môn Gate. The Đoan Môn Gate guarded the entrance to the Forbidden City, which was the inner most part of the complex reserved for the imperial family.

Visitors can climb the stairs to the top of the Đoan Môn Gate, which provides great view over the site. The large field in front of the Đoan Môn Gate is still used for festivals and events as it would have been during the period the citadel was an imperial residence.

North Gate at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
North Gate at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

The second intact structure at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is the North Gate. The North Gate is a later additional to the citadel added after the Nguyen Dynasty had transferred the capital to Hue. The North Gate is a solid brick and stone structure with little architectural embellishment.

The other three structures are the Rear Palace, the Hanoi Flag Tower and the Kinh Thiên Palace. The Rear Palace is tucked away right at the back of the citadel near the North Gate. This palace was used by the Emperor to house his concubines. The Flag Tower, which is located in the grounds of what is now the Vietnam Military History Museum, was constructed in 1812 after the capital had already been moved to Hue. The design of the tower is based on contemporary French military engineering principles.

The Kinh Thiên Palace was the central feature of the original citadel. The French Army demolished the building almost entirely to construct a headquarters for their artillery forces. All that remains of the palace are the ‘Dragon Steps’. The Dragon Steps are exterior steps leading up to the palace with ornately carved handrails resembling dragons.

Bunker at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Another later addition to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is Building D67, constructed in 1967 as a military command centre.

Entrance to the bunker at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Entrance to the bunker at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Building D67 is unimpressive from the exterior, and this is deliberate, to conceal the importance of what’s under the building.

Meeting room of the Politburo and the Central Military Commission
Meeting room of the Politburo and the Central Military Commission

Building D67 contains a bunker with a series of protected rooms which housed the political and military leadership of North Vietnam. Much of the war effort against the American and South Vietnamese armed forces in the late 1960s and early 1970s was directed from this building.

Museum Displays at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Over the last 30 years a number of restoration and renovation have taken place at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and a substantial number of historical artefacts have been discovered during the process.

Museum Buildings at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Museum Buildings at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

New buildings have been constructed at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long to display these finds. The new buildings are behind the Đoan Môn Gate, in the space between the rear of the gate and bottom of the Dragon Steps, which mark where the Kinh Thiên Palace once stood.

Pottery displays at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Pottery displays at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Lot of different types of artefacts have been unearthed at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and they fill several buildings. Display boards in several languages explain the objects and give their approximate date of manufacture. There are also several interesting diorama showing how different objects would have been used in the imperial court.

Location of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long


The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is located 1.9 km by road from Hanoi Railway Station.

Google Map of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

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