This once-forested area west of the citadel, which is still a military base, is an expansive and refreshingly tranquil district, where stalwart buildings and monuments seem to revel in the glories of Ho Chi Minh and the Communist cause. As you travel northwest on Dien Bien Phu Street, you'll leave the tightly woven fabric of the Old Quarter behind and find yourself surrounded by sweeping French-era villas and massive ocher-color government buildings, most of which are protected from the sun by a phalanx of tall tamarind trees. Many of these villas house the embassies of socialist (or once-socialist) nations that have stood fast by Vietnam during the last few decades. Scattered among these gems are occasional anomalies of Soviet-era architecture.
Several important sights, including the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh and his former home, are close to Ba Dinh Square, where the beloved leader read his Declaration of Independence in 1945. The One-Pillar Pagoda, the underrated Fine Arts Museum, the Army Museum, and the famed Temple of Literature are within easy walking distance of the square.
If you're coming here from the French Quarter, ask a cyclo or taxi driver to take you from Hoan Kiem Lake to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, in Ba Dinh District.