- Who is Ho Chi Minh?
- The Embalmed Body in Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- History of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Architecture of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Destinations in the Ho Chi Minh Complex
- Guidelines for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Vietnamese spelling: Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh) in central Hanoi is the solemn resting place of former President Ho Chi Minh— Vietnam’s most iconic revolutionary and first independent president of a modern state. Entry is free but there are certain regulations to follow.
The mausoleum is on the same ground as the Ho Chi Minh Historical Complex (Khu di tích lịch sử Hồ Chí Minh). There are a number of buildings that explore his work and personal life. Separate entry fees apply to these buildings.
Who is Ho Chi Minh?
Hồ Chí Minh was born under the name Nguyễn Sinh Cung on May 19th, 1890 and passed away on September 2nd, 1969. He is also known as Nguyễn Tất Thành meaning ‘to definitely succeed’, Nguyễn Ái Quốc which means ‘to be patriotic’, Uncle Ho (Bác Hồ), or simply Uncle.
Ho Chi Minh’s Work Life
To the Vietnamese people, Ho Chi Minh is like a father figure. He’s mostly known as the Prime Minister of North Vietnam from 1945 to 1955 and President from 1945 to 1969, as well as Chairman and First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam. Technically, he was the first independent president of a modern Vietnamese state.
Ho Chi Minh led the Việt Minh Independence Movement against the French and Japanese from 1941 onward. In 1945, he established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Việt Nam Dân Chủ Cộng Hòa). He also played a key role in ending the First Indochina War with the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (chiến thắng Điện Biên Phủ) in 1954.
In the Vietnam War against the US from 1955 to 1975, he was a crucial figure in the People’s Army of Vietnam (Quân đội nhân dân Việt Nam) and the Viet Cong (Việt Cộng). Ho officially stepped down from power in 1965 due to health issues and passed away in 1969.
In 1976, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa Xã hội Chủ nghĩa Việt Nam) renamed Saigon, the former capital of South Vietnam, into Ho Chi Minh City in his honor. He was also a writer, a poet, and a journalist. He wrote several books, articles, and poems in French, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
Ho Chi Minh’s Embalming
The preparation for Ho Chi Minh’s embalming began shortly before his actual death in 1969. However, his wish was to be cremated and have his ash scattered across all three regions of Vietnam. Central Vietnam was his homeland, Southern Vietnam was where his reunification journey began, and the Northern was where he worked until the end of his days.
At the time of Ho Chi Minh’s passing, the country wasn’t united but divided into the North and the South. The Vietnam Communist Party decided to embalm his body so that people could come and pay tribute later in the time of peace.
The Embalmed Body in Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The embalming process started soon after his death and continues to this day. The former Soviet Union, and later on Russia, assisted with the technology and know-how. Between 1969 to 2014, experts came to Vietnam and Vietnamese personnel also traveled to Russia.
After finishing the first embalming, Ho Chi Minh’s body was kept in secret waiting for the mausoleum to be completed. Presently, the embalmed body is preserved, displayed, and protected by military guards at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
The body rests on a bronze bed with lotus patterns. The mausoleum deploys state of the art temperature and humidity controls. The tempered glass case has dim lights, and the rock pedestal is an automatic elevator system that lowers the bed into a secret bunker in case of emergency.
History of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The former Soviet Union also helped Vietnam with building the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It took inspiration from the Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow and combined it with architectural patterns from Vietnamese traditions.
From 1970 to 1972, designs were submitted, selected, then put on display from all over the country. In 1973, construction started in the middle of the Ba Dinh Square and the mausoleum officially opened in 1975.
Architecture of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is cube-shaped and designed to withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake. The facade resembles a five-chamber house typical of the style in the Vietnamese countryside.
The materials, as well as plants in the gardens, were brought in from locations all over Vietnam. The exterior is made of grey granite, while the interior is grey, black, and red polished stone. There are two platforms with seven steps for parade viewing on the flanks.
The portico inscribes ‘Chủ tịch Hồ-Chí-Minh’ meaning President Ho Chi Minh. On the banner is ‘Nước Cộng Hòa Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam Muôn Năm’ which translates to ‘Long live the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam’.
Destinations in the Ho Chi Minh Complex
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Ba Dinh Square
Ba Dinh Square (Quảng trường Ba Đình) is the largest square in Vietnam spanning 320 m in length and 100 m in width. It’s free to enter and a popular pedestrian area in Hanoi. This area used to belong inside the Thang Long Capital City, the predecessor of Hanoi.
During the French colonial period in 1894, it became the Puginier Park or Le parc Puginier (Vườn hoa Puginier). In early 1945, the Empire of Vietnam, a short-lived puppet state of Imperial Japan, renamed it Ba Dinh Park to commemorate a battle against the French. This is also the origin of Ba Dinh District where it stands right now.
On September 2nd, 1945, in Ba Dinh Park, President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence (Tuyên ngôn độc lập) for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa), or the North Vietnam in later records. From then on, the people of Hanoi called it the Ba Dinh Square or Independence Square and kept it until today.
National Flag Ceremony
The daily National Flag Ceremony at the Ba Dinh Square is performed by the military parade. The Raising is held at 6 AM during the Summer and 6:30 AM during the Winter marking the opening hours of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
The parade marches for one lap around the mausoleum. The Lowering is done the same at 9 PM every evening.
Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House (nhà sàn Hồ Chí Minh) is directly behind the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The design was based on his stilt house in the mountainous Viet Bac Base (căn cứ Việt Bắc) during the war against the French. This stilt house in Hanoi was where he lived and worked from 1958 until his passing in 1969.
The design of the house has been kept the same with two floors, the lower one being for meetings. The upper floor is his living space with a bedroom and a working room separated by a bookshelf. The garden outside has fruit trees and a pond filled with koi fish.
From 1954 to 1958, Ho Chi Minh lived and worked in House No.54 (Nhà 54) which you can find nearby. Interestingly, the kitchen had a thermometer, and when it got under 10oC, he would ask the Prime Minister of Education to let primary students have a day off. This is now an official regulation.
This house displays gifts from international friends of Ho Chi Minh including his car collection and a roundtable from Fidel Castro. Even after moving to live and work at the stilt house, Ho Chi Minh still came back to this house for lunch, dinner, and to attend to personal hygiene.
Just up from the stilt house is a short walk to the Presidential Palace (Văn phòng Chủ tịch nước). Originally, it was the Indochina Governor Palace or Palais du Gouvernement général de l’Indochine (Phủ Toàn quyền Đông Dương).
It took from 1901 to 1906 to finish this most luxurious construction in the country. Ho Chi Minh subsequently refused to stay here while the rest of the country was still poor. He lived in House No.54 instead, as mentioned above.
After Independence Day in 1945, it became the Presidential Palace. Nowadays, it mostly serves to welcome international officials and not open to the public.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Ho Chi Minh Museum (Bảo tàng Hồ Chí Minh) is in the shape of a huge white flower on the other end of the complex. It was built to celebrate the centenary of Ho Chi Minh’s birth, and construction lasted 5 years from 1985 to 1990.
The ground floor is used for the government meetings which is why the museum is sometimes unexpectedly closed. On the second floor is the complete exhibition of his life, times, and achievements which took 20 years, from 1970 to 1990, to finalize.
The third floor exhibits major historical events that impacted Vietnam. Something fun you can do at the museum is to follow a free volunteer English-speaking guide. Most of them are university students eager to polish their English and share their love for history with visitors.
You can book tickets and tours in advance by using the contact information on their official website. Exhibits have explanations in Vietnamese and English. Unfortunately, audio guides are still under development as of 2020.
Guidelines for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
When visiting the mausoleum you should be aware that it is an official government site under strict control and of high national importance.
1. There’s parking not too far at the side of the complex, but you still have to walk to the Mausoleum.
2. You must wear clothes covering knees and shoulders while visiting the complex.
3. You cannot pull over to the road curb running in front of the mausoleum. Guards will tell you off.
4. You may have to wait to enter the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
5. At the check-in, you have to temporarily surrender your bags and especially cameras. If you follow a tour, your guide will take care of this.
6. The mausoleum doesn’t allow taking photos, including with your phones.
7. The mausoleum guards will single out loud noises and hurried movements.
Visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Opening hours for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the complex: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday.
- April 1st – October 31st: 7:30 AM – 10:30 AM.
- November 1st – March 31st of next year: 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM.
- Saturday, Sunday, and national holidays: extended by 30 minutes.
- Ho Chi Minh Complex: 25 000 VND per person.
- Stilt House entrance fee: 25 000 VND per person.
- Ho Chi Minh Museum entrance fee: 40 000 VND per person.
There are two entrances for the complex: one for normal visits and another for guided tours. Come to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum about an hour before opening if you want to be ahead of the queue.Tours to the Hanoi Old Quarter usually include the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum as well as the complex. Check out our article on ‘25 Best Things To Do in Hanoi’ to know how to get to other destinations.