Stroy: Prof. Trinh Sinh
Photos: Phu Duc, Hoang Hai, Ba Ngoc, Jet Huynh

There’s no better way to get an overview of Vietnam’s culture than by visiting its many museums. First stop is the Vietnam National Museum of History, which deserves its reputation as the best museum in Vietnam. Having received the most investment, it houses over 200,000 valuable artifacts from different periods in history. Here, you can see items from the Paleolithic era, when prehistoric man began to stand upright, carved stone axes, and built fires inside caves; treasures from the period when humans learned to fashion bronze drums and iron tools; and artifacts made during the mighty Dinh, Ly, Tran, Le, and Nguyen dynasties; as well as contemporary pieces.

Opened in 2013, the Quang Ninh Museum was designed by Spanish architect Salvador Perez Arroyo

This museum displays the most beautiful and representative collections of artifacts from each era, many of which have been recognized as National Treasures, including a collection of Dong Son bronze drums; a collection of brown-glazed, celadon-glazed, and blue-glazed ceramics; and the king’s daily items and treasures from the Hue Imperial Palace.

Champa sculptures in the Vietnam National Museum of History

The Vietnam National Museum of History is also a beautiful work of architecture, blending French influences with Asian style. Built in 1926 and originally named the Louis Finot Museum, it was also known as the Museum of the École Française d’Extrême-Orient. Since its founding, this museum has collected and displayed many antiques from across Vietnam and South East Asia. Due to this long-standing history, the museum has acquired many valuable and unique collections. Visitors can get lost in thousands of years of history arranged and displayed in chronological order. In addition, the museum has an exhibition hall dedicated to a unique collection of Champa stone sculptures and a beautiful outdoor exhibition space for stone steles and statues.

The Vietnam National Museum of History

Besides the Vietnam National Museum of History, Vietnam has almost 200 more public and private museums. These spaces are trying to adapt to this changing era, overcoming difficulties to transform and attract more tourists. The three museums with the highest ratings on US-based TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website, are the Vietnam National Museum of History, the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi, and the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

On average, the Museum of Ethnology welcomes 500,000 visitors per year and has made the list of Asia’s most popular museums many times. This museum houses 15,000 artifacts, 42,000 photos and videos, and other materials. Foreign visitors can learn about the diverse 54 ethnic groups who live in Vietnam. This museum also features an outdoor exhibition area displaying traditional houses of the Ba Na, Ede, and H’mong ethnic groups; tomb houses of the Gia Rai and Co Tu; and hydropower rice mills of the Dao. There are performances of water puppetry, tru singing, and gong playing, etc. The Museum of Ethnology satisfies visitors’ curiosity about the rich spiritual lives of the 54 ethnic groups that live close to each other yet retain their own culture and identity to form the modern population of Vietnam.

The Hue museum of Royal Antiquities

The War Remnants Museum draws throngs of Western visitors, including many war veterans. They come to remember, reflect upon tormenting questions about the war, and feel surprised about a nation that refused to submit to brutal powers. Vietnam has become a peaceful and hospitable country. The war is long over, yet many generations still want to learn about it. The museum’s appeal is revealed through the number of visitors it attracts. According to rankings, it has been one of Asia’s most-visited museums for several years.

The War Remnants Museum

The Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities attracts flocks of tourists who visit the Hue Imperial Palace. Over a century ago, during the reign of King Thieu Tri, the Nguyen Dynasty dedicated Long An Palace to preserving the dynasty’s treasures. Through many ups and downs, much of the Palace was destroyed by warfare, yet this place remains intact and houses many rare antiques like the costumes of kings, queens, mandarins, soldiers, unique Vitreous enamel ceramics commissioned by the Nguyen dynasty from famous porcelain kilns in China and Europe, and collections of old currencies and cannonballs.

A visitor in the Hue museum of Royal Antiquities

The provincial museum of Quang Ninh attracts large numbers of visitors thanks to its architecture and modern displays, and its convenient location near famous Ha Long Bay. The museum is like a black pearl against the deep blue background of the sky and sea. The Spanish architect Salvador Perez Arroyo designed the museum based on the idea that nature had placed a giant lump of coal – a key product of this province, near the world-famous bay, helping to attract visitors to come and see this wonderland. Thanks to this design, the Quang Ninh Museum attracts the most visitors of Vietnam’s provincial museums.

A traditional boat in the Quang Ninh Museum

The mentioned museums have successfully kept pace with the trend of global integration, applying innovations in science, technology, and contemporary art to enhance their exhibitions and attract large numbers of visitors.