Hanoi, Vietnam, is one of the most beautiful capital cities in Asia. French colonial architecture meets traditional two-story Asian shop-houses; tree-lined streets are filled with scores of students in school uniforms on bicycles; people are dressed simply, yet elegantly—from young girls in traditional white ao dais, to older women in wide black pants, silk or velvet earth-toned boxer jackets, and black velvet head pieces.
Much of Hanoi’s appeal comes from its history: It has been a capital city almost continuously for over a thousand years. It was home to various Chinese dynasties until the French took over in 1887 and made it the capital of all Indochina. It fell into the hands of Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh in 1954, became the capital of North Vietnam, and was the obvious choice for capital upon Vietnam's reunification in 1975.
With over 600 pagodas and temples in the city, several stunning examples of French colonial architecture and the charming Old Quarter, Hanoi is ripe with tourist attractions and activities. (Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, featuring the amazingly well-preserved body of Uncle Ho, is a must-visit.) Hanoi also has several beautiful lakes and public parks should one need to escape the fast-paced urban areas.