St. Joseph's Cathedral - Hanoi's Most Popular Areas

St. Joseph's Cathedral (Vietnamese: Nhà thờ Lớn Hà Nội, Nhà thờ Chính tòa Thánh Giuse; French: Cathédrale Saint-Joseph) is a church on Nha Chung (Church) Street in the Hoàn Kiếm District of Hanoi, Vietnam. It is a late 19th-century Gothic Revival (Neo-Gothic style) church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi to nearly 4 million Catholics in the country. The cathedral was named after Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam and Indochina.

  Saturday, 8/02/2020, 23:20


At first, the site belonged to Bao Thien pagoda serving as an “administrative center” of Tonkin during the pre-French colonial era.

For the purpose of building the church, the pagoda was demolished and the cathedral was constructed in 1882.

Completed on December 24th, 1886, the church became a place for Christians living in Hanoi

The Cathedral in the past

The cathedral was named “Saint Joseph” because, in 1678, pope innocent XI sanctified St. Joseph (foster father of Jesus) as a patron saint of Vietnam and neighboring countries.

As the oldest church in Hanoi, it was one of the first structure built by the French colonial government in Indochina.

The unique structure of St. Joseph’s Cathedral

After North Vietnam was taken control by the Viet Minh following the Geneva Accords in 1954, St. Joseph’s Cathedral was closed down until Christmas Eve of 1990, when Mass was permitted to be celebrated there again.

The Construction

The construction of Hanoi began in 1886, with the architectural style described as resembling the famous cathedral Notre Dame de Paris.

As an oldest church in Hanoi, St. Joseph was one of the first structure built by the French colonist during the expansion in its colonial empire Indochina.

St. Joseph was built on the site of Bao Thien Pagoda – a well-respected temple as the center of Buddhist practice in Lý-Trần dynasty demolished for the construction of the Church.

After the retreat of French from North Vietnam in 1954, St. Joseph Cathedral is under the control the Vietnamese Nationalists and suffered decade of persecution, when priests were arrested, church property were seized and expropriated.

It was not until the Christmas Eve of 1990 that the mass was allowed to be celebrated there.

The Architecture of St. Jospeh Cathedral

- 64,5 meters in length, 20,5 meters in width, 31,5 meters in height.
- The façade consists of two towers, square in shape with five bells.
- The twin bell towers with the resemblance to Notre Dame de Paris.
- The exterior walls made of granite stone slabs, yet is stained with pollution with the pass of time.
- Gothic style, tall windows with pointed arches.
- Stained glass windows were produced in France then imported to Vietnam.
- Rib vaulted ceiling.
- Weathered nave with shiny sanctuary made of trimmed wood
- The statue of Virgin Mary kept in palanquin, to the left of the nave.

Tourist Information

For Outside visit: all time
For Inside visit: visitors can only enter the Cathedral in Hanoi in the opening time of ceremonial practice as the following schedule:
- Weekday: 5:30 am and 6:15 pm
- Saturday: 6:00 pm
- Sunday: 5:00 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm
- Special ceremony is on 19th March every year.
Ticket Price: Public space and free
Transportation by bus:
- take 01 to Trieu Quoc Dat street stop
- 02 to Hai Ba Trung Street stop;
- 09, 14, 36 to Hoan Kiem Lake stop and
- Then walk to the Cathedral
Transportation by Motorcycle/ Bicycle: park vehicles near Hoan Kiem lake (the parking line is parallel to Cau Go Street) and walk to the Cathedral
Parking fee: 10.000 VND (0.4 USD)

What to See and Do in St Joseph’s Cathedral

Participating in a Ceremony

If you are not Catholics and curious to know how a Catholics ceremony happens? Come to St Joseph’s Cathedral on the weekend and you will have an exciting experience. All ceremonies in this church on the weekend are big and formal, the priest will read and explain the bible, organize baptisms, ablutions for Catholics.

Christmas at St Joseph’s Cathedral

At Christmas, the church is decorated sparklingly and becomes a place attracting many not-being Catholics and young people in Hanoi. There are also a lot of entertainment activities held at the church and they are suitable for family, friends or dating couples to take part in.

Checking in St Joseph’s Cathedral

St Joseph’s Cathedral with its European beauty becomes a wonderful place of taking photos in Hanoi. Nowadays, there are couples choosing the church to take wedding photos and students choosing it to take yearbook photos.

Lemon Tea – a Specialty in St Joseph’s Cathedral

It is a pity to miss lemon tea when you have an opportunity to visit St Joseph’s Cathedral. Just a cup of tea, sitting on the pavement, under the cool green tree canopy, you can gather and chat with friends, enjoy some street foods and see the beauty of the church. 

Tips on Visiting St. Joseph’s Cathedral

- A camera or smartphone is necessary if you want to take some pictures there.
- If you visit in summer, remember sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat or umbrella (because in summer in Hanoi, there are often sudden rains in the afternoon or at night), and anti-bugs spray.
- Around the cathedral, there are many Western-style restaurants, Vietnamese traditional restaurant, and street food so you needn’t bring food.
- It is better to visit the cathedral on special occasions such as at Christmas, at the weekend or at some special ceremonies of Catholicism.
- For visiting inside: No food and drink is allowed.
- Don’t make noise while visiting inside.

Where to go next?

As a benefit of location in the center of Hanoi, visitors are provided of a variety of choice for the next destinations. Visitors can consider these following:

Hoan Kiem Lake, the lake of Returned Swords, as the most representative site pertaining the value of Hanoi with famous historical legend.
Ngoc Son Temple as the symbol of educational tradition of the Vietnamese

2. Hoa Lo Prison: also known as Maison Centrale, a representative testimony of the period of Vietnamese revolutionary struggle against the French colonists
Address: 1 Hoa Lo Street

3. Vietnam Museum of Woman: preserve and display various tangible and intangible historical and cultural heritage of Vietnamese women through the long-standing pathway of the history
Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street
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