Vietnam’s past is preserved and showcased at a myriad of museums around the country. From fine art to history and war museums, as well as an array of cultural niches, there’s an exhibit for everyone. Vietnam’s largest cities boast the most museums, although you’ll find some off the beaten trail too.
Those who are interested in the history of Vietnam should visit its prison museums. From the shackles of French colonist rule to the modern-day horrors of the American War, there’s a lot to learn (and reflect on) in the confines of the narrow walls of these prisons. These museums will provide you with a jarring …
List + Map of Art, Culture, History and War Museums
Most Vietnamese museums are open year-round, though might be closed during national holidays like Tet. A small entry fee is usually charged to access these historic displays and is always worth the price of admission. Most exhibits show both Vietnamese and English captions.
Guide to Visiting Museums in Vietnam
Visiting a museum is an intriguing way to revisit the past, and tourists with a passion for history and the arts can get a fulfilling dose of them during a trip to Vietnam. The museums in Vietnam are educational and entertaining, covering many subject matters across a large spectrum.
Some of the most visited museums are in Hanoi, the nation’s capital, and Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s most populous city, but there are great museums throughout. Here’s a look at some of the favorites around the country:
Artinus 3D Art Museum, Ho Chi Minh City
For some fun with 3D art and optical illusions, visit the Artinus 3D Art Museum and spend a couple of hours participating in the artwork. There are over 100 different paintings to interact with and take photos of in nine uniquely themed rooms. Even though it’s a bit out of the city, it’s a great activity to bring the whole family to.
Museum of Cham Sculpture, Da Nang
Located right by the Han River, the Museum of Cham Sculpture has been open since 1919, with two expansions in the 1920s and 1930s. The exhibits feature pieces of art and sculptures from around the country, including a large collection of 300 terracotta and stone pieces that are definitely worth checking out.
Vietnam National Fine Art Museum, Hanoi
This is the largest fine arts museum in the region and hosts an extensive collection of artifacts collected over several decades. There is also a great display of folk arts from the 20th century, along with narratives and focused themes in military strategy and patriotism. Another section of the museum is dedicated to abstract artworks and impressionism pieces.
Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts, Hue
Set in the An Dinh Palace, the Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts is the former home of Emperor Bao Dai, who lived there until the mid-1940s. Inside the building are several displays that house artifacts such as ceramics, paintings, weapons, silverware, clothing worn by the royals, and more, totaling over 10,000 items.
Some of the other exhibits include historical pieces from the Nguyen Dynasty from the early 1800s.
War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City
Operated by the Vietnamese government, the War Remnants Museum is one of the country’s most popular and frequented museums. Several themed rooms have extremely graphic displays of photographs, torture devices, military equipment, and military aircraft to view. Other exhibits include the infamous “tiger cages” that were used to house political prisoners who were kept for interrogation.
Vietnam People’s Air Force Museum, Hanoi
This museum is for all the military and plane junkies, as the outstanding display of aircraft and plane parts is exciting and fun to walk through. Tourists can get a feel for the history of the Vietnam People’s Air Force (VPAF) from its inception to the present day and learn about the force’s roles in various wars.
Aside from planes on display, there are also weapons, uniforms, and flight suits from American pilots that were downed during battle.
Hoa Lo Prison Museum, Hanoi
Originally used to house political prisoners during the French colonial rule, it was later repurposed to keep American POWs during the Vietnam-American War. The prison is now a famous museum in Hanoi and has exhibits that show what life was like for inmates throughout the years. Some of the exhibits include the original equipment to carry out executions and original interrogation rooms.
The property was nicknamed “Hanoi Hotel” by U.S. prisoners and was where American Senator John McCain was helped captive after being shot down in battle. The Hoa Lo Prison is open year-round, and even more chilling if you visit during the winter.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi
This museum is a tribute to the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam, as they are celebrated with over 30,000 items on display over an area of almost 44,000 square feet. Annual exhibits for individual groups are highlighted on a rotating basis to allow each one to be showcased.
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology took 18 years to build, as construction started in 1987 and ended in 1995.
Vietnamese Women’s Museum, Hanoi
The Vietnamese Women’s Museum was first opened in 1995 and focuses on the achievements of the women who contributed to the arts and development of the country. With over 28,000 items on display and four major sections to the building, there’s a lot to learn about and look at throughout all the exhibits.
Some of the showcased products are made of wood, paper, leather, pottery, glass, and more.
Museum of Sa Huynh Culture, Hoi An
Located in central Vietnam, the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture showcases the life and rituals of the first people to settle in the port town of Hoi An. The museum has exhibits and displays that explain how these people managed to thrive and grow over the years with the help of neighboring cultures and displays some fantastic terracotta work.
Hanoi Museum, Hanoi
Step back into time as far as 1,000 years at the Hanoi Museum, where over 50,000 artifacts tell the story of the region’s history and how the culture developed. This museum is ideal for anyone looking to learn more about the country’s heritage and history, as well as the unique architecture.
Museum of Ba Ria, Vung Tau
The Museum of Ba Ria is an exciting attraction that displays many historical exhibits of the area from the prehistoric age to the current times. Many of the items showcased on the first floor were found in archeological digs, and on the second floor, the timeline advances to the war eras.
The museum is situated on the water by the ferry terminal, making it an accessible attraction to access after coming across the water.
National Museum of Vietnam History, Hanoi
Situated in the Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi, the National Museum of Vietnam History has exhibits and artifacts that date back all the way to 400,000 years ago. The museum also houses over 200,000 exhibits of Vietnam’s prehistory and is divided into five larger sections as the building is designed to be in the shape of a pagoda.
Some of the items that visitors to this museum enjoy are sculptures, clothing items from the Dynasty eras, and shipwreck material.
Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City
The Museum of Vietnamese History is ideal for anyone who loves various cultural and historical subjects over several displays. Some exhibits educate visitors about the country’s Prehistoric period, Dynasty eras, and cultural events over the last few centuries. Other collections include sculptures and metalworks from different regions throughout the country.
These museums are among the favorites in the country. They each preserve and display a unique part of Vietnam’s extensive history.