Amid the congested streets of Hanoi, the neo-Gothic facade of St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Nha Tho Lon) seems somewhat out of place. Located in the French Quarter of the Vietnamese capital fronting a small plaza near Hoan Kiem Lake, the Roman Catholic cathedral was built between 1882 and 1886, shortly after the French conquered the city.
The most striking characteristics of the building are its twin bell towers reminiscent of Notre Dame in Paris. The interior of the cathedral features stunning stained glass windows and an intricate alter where mass is held several times each day.
Visitors to Hanoi around Christmastime will find the cathedral a bustle of activity, and the small plaza in the front takes on a street fair-like atmosphere.
For visitors wanting to attend mass, there’s sometimes a schedule posted on the gates to the left of the building, and there’s usually at least one English-language mass on Sundays.