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Vietnamese houses: Things to know about tradition and architecture

17/09/2023 551 views

Traditional Vietnamese houses stand as a testament to the country’s cultural diversity, reflecting the rich tapestry of architectural styles and local customs throughout history.

The architecture of Vietnamese houses is impressively diverse

The architecture of Vietnamese houses is impressively diverse (Source: Collected)

The typical features of Vietnamese houses vary from North to South, from past to present. These dwellings offer a fascinating glimpse into the historical and cultural heritage of Vietnam. We will introduce you to the top 10 Vietnamese houses with ancient architecture to explore and admire in your upcoming Vietnam travel.

1. A glance at Vietnamese houses and their features

1.1. Features of Vietnamese houses over the three regions

When traveling to a new place, exploring houses is one of the perfect ways to learn about the local lifestyle. So, what are houses like in Vietnam? Vietnamese houses are generally shaped by various factors such as geography, climate, and local customs, creating differences in architectural identity among the three regions.

Northern Vietnamese houses are quite similar. They are typically single-story structures with rustic appearances, constructed using natural materials like bamboo, thatch, straw, wood, and bricks. These houses typically consist of three to five compartments, in which the middle one is the largest.

The roofs often have steep slopes for easy drainage of rainwater and prevent waterlogging during heavy rain. The living spaces of this Vietnamese house type are relatively small compared to the overall area. According to traditional customs, Northern people often host gatherings and feasts on special occasions right in their front yard.

A single-story house with a large yard is a typical Vietnamese house design in the North

A single-story house with a large yard is a typical Vietnamese house design in the North (Source: Collected)

Traditional houses in Central Vietnam are known for their unique layout, featuring interconnected sections with adjoining roofs. The upper part of the house, called “nhà trên”, is dedicated to ancestral altars, while the lower part, called “nhà dưới”, serves as the living space. They are arranged perpendicularly, facing the front yard. 

“Nhà kèo” is one of the most popular Vietnamese houses in the Central region, which are often constructed using a system of truss beams as supporting pillars. Additionally, “nhà nọc nứa” and “nhà rọi” are also popular in this region, featuring a central column directly supporting the roof.

A typical traditional house in Central Vietnam

A typical traditional house in Central Vietnam (Source: Collected)

“Nhà ba gian Nam Bộ” (three-compartment house) is one of the ancient house styles in the South. These Vietnamese houses are primarily built with ironwood as a main material. A house often has interconnected compartments, with “nhà trên” used for ancestral worship and “nhà dưới” serving as the living space.

Besides, “nhà bè” (Vietnamese houseboat) is a common sight in the Mekong Delta region. You can come across numerous houseboats along major rivers. These floating houses are designed as mobile houses that can move along the canals for daily activities such as fishing, aquaculture, shopping, etc.

The three-compartment house is one of the ancient South Vietnamese house styles

The three-compartment house is one of the ancient South Vietnamese house styles (Source: Collected)

1.2. Types of traditional Vietnamese houses

  • Houses with bamboo walls and thatched roofs

Commonly found in rural areas, this traditional type of house in Vietnam is constructed using bamboo for walls and support structures. Bamboo poles are tightly woven together to create durable walls. The thatched roofs are often made with palm leaves or grass, which has excellent insulation against both heat and rain. These Vietnamese houses showcase the close connection between people and their natural surroundings.

  • Earthen-wall houses

This type of house stands as a testament to the unique architectural identity of Vietnam, mostly found in mountainous provinces like Lao Cai and Ha Giang. They are constructed using clay, mud, and straw that are compacted and layered to form thick earthen walls. A benefit of these Vietnamese houses is that they have natural insulation, keeping the indoor space warm in winter and cool on summer days.

The earthen-wall house is an iconic Vietnamese house style

The earthen-wall house is an iconic Vietnamese house style (Source: Collected)

  • Communal houses

Communal houses are significant cultural structures in Vietnam, often found in villages. This house type features a big house with many compartments. The roof is often covered with yin-yang tiles and the corners are bent. As an indispensable part of Vietnamese beliefs, these traditional Vietnamese houses serve as the center for many cultural activities, from ceremonies to festivals.

  • Ruong Vietnamese houses

Originating from Central Vietnam, especially in Hue, Ruong houses are renowned for their exquisite wooden structures and tiled roofs. The structure is meticulously designed and constructed to connect wooden beams without using iron nails. The roofing, adorned with layered tiles, imparts an elegant and symmetrical charm. These houses of Vietnam are said to be a key part of the historical and cultural heritage of the ancient city of Hue.

  • Stilt houses

Stilt houses are a prevalent architectural style in all regions of Vietnam, especially in the Central Highlands and Northern mountainous provinces. These Vietnamese houses are made of wood and raised on sturdy wooden pillars a few meters above the ground. They are made this way to withstand flooding and offer a cooler living space during hot summers.

The unique architecture of stilt houses in Vietnam

The unique architecture of stilt houses in Vietnam (Source: Collected)

>>> Read more: Vietnam where to go 2024: Top places for a perfect trip

2. Top 10+ Vietnamese houses with ancient architecture to explore

Traditional Vietnamese houses are vivid relics of the country’s history and culture. When planning your Vietnam itinerary, don’t miss the chance to visit these ancient houses, where you can step back in time and delve into the local lifestyle.

2.1. The ancient house of Mr. Pham Ngoc Tung’s family

Located in Tay Giai hamlet, Vinh Tien commune, Vinh Loc district, Thanh Hoa province, this house is said to have been built in 1810. This Vietnamese house design features 7 compartments, of which 3 middle compartments are places for worshiping ancestors. Decorated with exquisite carvings, parallel sentences, traditional Vietnamese patterns, etc., the house exudes an ancient and majestic beauty. Stepping inside, you will be transported to a bygone era where the rich cultural heritage of the region comes to life.

This Vietnamese house is still intact after 200 years

This Vietnamese house is still intact after 200 years (Source: Collected)

2.2. The wooden Vietnamese house of the Governor of Son Tay

Built from ironwood and yellow heartwood, the house of the Governor of Son Tay Dao Trong Ky stands as a relic of antiquity. Located in the historical commune of Co Am, Vinh Bao district, Hai Phong city, this five-compartment wooden Vietnamese house was built in the 1890s. Its walls were constructed with thin baked bricks. The three-step stairs were made of natural green stones. Notably, the construction was entirely done without the use of cement or steel, enhancing its unique historical value.

2.3. The ancient houses in Loc Yen Village, Quang Nam

Loc Yen is one of the beautiful Vietnamese villages located in Tien Canh commune, Tien Phuoc district, Quang Nam province. There are eight old houses left in Loc Yen, the oldest of which is more than 200 years old. These houses are classic examples of the traditional Vietnamese house architecture – Ruong house. The interiors are made of solid jackfruit wood which has been skillfully carved into sturdy pillars, decorative panels, and doors. These Vietnamese houses are staggered into the hillside, backing against thick forests and facing rice fields.

The villagers of Loc Yen designed their houses to be in harmony with nature

The villagers of Loc Yen designed their houses to be in harmony with nature (Source: Collected)

2.4. Phung Hung Ancient House, Hoi An

Nestled in the charming town of Hoi An, Phung Hung Ancient House is the perfect fusion of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese architecture. Standing out with high wooden logs and broad corridors, it was a typical commercial house when Hoi An was a prosperous trading port. This Vietnamese house is made entirely from precious wood, so it still retains its original color and shape to this day. Here, you will get a glimpse into the lifestyle of the merchants in the old days.

2.5. The house of Cong Tu Bac Lieu

Located at 13 Dien Bien Phu Street, Ward 3, Bac Lieu City, Cong Tu Bac Lieu’s house is a must-see attraction in the Mekong Delta. Cong Tu Bac Lieu was the most luxurious playboy in Southern Vietnam in the early 1900s. His house was considered the most impressive private residence in the region at that time. This Vietnamese house was designed by French architects and all of the materials are said to have been transported from France. Here, you will get to admire artifacts such as beds, sofas, dishes, gramophones, TVs, cars, etc.

The magnificent architecture of Cong Tu Bac Lieu’s house

The magnificent architecture of Cong Tu Bac Lieu’s house (Source: Collected)

2.6. Binh Thuy Ancient House, Can Tho

Situated at 144 Bui Huu Nghia Street, Binh Thuy Ward, Can Tho City, Binh Thuy Ancient House was built in 1870 by the Duong family. It is one of the rare French-style houses remaining in Can Tho, featuring Gothic-style four-step stairs and a spacious front yard. This traditional Vietnamese house is also home to valuable antiques, including marble tables, sofas, chandeliers, etc. Thanks to its unique architecture, the house was the setting for many successful cinematic works, including the famous French film “The Lover”.

2.7. The ancient Vietnamese houses in Dong Ngac Village, Hanoi

Only 12 kilometers away from the city center of Hanoi, Dong Ngac is a 1,000-year-old village that has around 100 old houses of 100 years old. Most of these Vietnamese houses consist of 3 compartments and 2 lean-tos, with the middle one used for ancestral worshiping. They are typically constructed from dark-colored ironwood with intricately carved eaves. Here, you will feel the peaceful Vietnam village life with an ancient beauty and quiet atmosphere. 

The ancient houses in Dong Ngac Village often have 3 or 5 compartments

The ancient houses in Dong Ngac Village often have 3 or 5 compartments (Source: Collected)

2.8. Tan Ky Old House, Hoi An

Built in 1741, Tan Ky Old House has retained its architectural features for over 2 centuries. This Vietnamese house has been home to seven generations of a family. A special thing about it is that it is made of ironwood and all wooden bars are connected by joints without the use of nails. This Vietnamese house design is representative of Eastern philosophy: two overlapping columns stand for the connection between heaven and people; 5 vertical columns represent the five elements of nature.

2.9. The ancient houses in Cu Da Village, Hanoi

Cu Da Village, located in the suburban district of Thanh Oai, Hanoi, has a reputation for its many ancient Vietnamese houses. Here, you will step into a living museum with a variety of traditional tiled houses featuring 3 – 5 compartments and several two-story French colonial-style houses. The village is also famous for centuries-old temples and pagodas recognized as national relics.

There are about 50 Vietnamese houses with ancient architecture preserved in Cu Da Village

There are about 50 Vietnamese houses with ancient architecture preserved in Cu Da Village (Source: Collected)

2.10. Cai Cuong Ancient House, Vinh Long

Cai Cuong Ancient House in Binh Hoa Phuoc Commune, Long Ho District, Vinh Long Province belongs to the family of Pham Van Bon, a great landowner in the past. This Vietnamese house was built in 1885 in the shape of the letter “đinh”, including two detached houses constructed in a perpendicular line. The unique feature of the house lies in the blend of French and Vietnamese architectural styles. The interiors are made of precious wood and decorated in the Oriental style, while the exteriors are imbued with Occidental architecture.

>>> Discover the best things to do in Vietnam for an unforgettable journey!

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Traditional Vietnamese houses are a treasure trove of the country’s cultural heritage, reflecting the diverse architectural styles over three regions. Each type of house offers a unique glimpse into the region’s history, lifestyle, and craftsmanship, making them invaluable symbols of Vietnam’s cultural identity. On your trip to Vietnam, don’t miss a chance to admire these ancient living spaces.

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