A Day at the Most Beautiful Church in Vietnam

A little history about Phat Diem, one of the most beautiful churches in Vietnam. Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is one of the most famous and beautiful churches in Vietnam with special architecture: an elegant combination between Western church architecture style and Vietnamese religious buildings.

It took 24 years to build this church from 1875 to 1898. And as its name suggests, it was completely built of stone and wood that are readily available in the mountain area of Ninh Binh. The preparation phase, mainly extracting materials from limestone mountains, took the local as much as 10 years to finish.

Phat Diem Cathedral is a complex comprising of a lake, a cathedral, a stone church, Phuong Dinh (bell house) and three artificial grottoes. At first sight, visitors are easily attracted to the square lake on the main road to the cathedral. In the middle of the lake, there is a small island with a statue of Jesus Christ. Phuong Dinh easily becomes the next eye-catching monument, with stone carvings on both sides of the walls. It is 25 m high, 17m wide and 24m long with three stories. The first floor is covered with large green flagstones.

Now what would you do if you only have 24 hours to visit this magnificent place? Here are some tips if you ever in that situation.

6h: Departing Hanoi, going to Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is 90 km south from Hanoi, where there is Highway 1A, which is the national interstate. You can take a tour bus to travel to Ninh Binh.

Traveling by motorcycle is also an interesting experience, convenient for travel. From Hanoi, you can continue on Giai Phong Street, go through the South Bus Station about 3 km, turn left on the highway Phap Van – Cau Gie and continue from Cau Gie to Dong Van, Phu Ly, Ninh Binh. You will reach the destination after 2 hours. If you are new to the route, make sure asking the locals for some direction.

Beautiful Church in Vietnam
(The Stone Cathedral from afar. Photo: Thanh Tuyết)

8h: Having breakfast in the center of the city
Not only famous for goat meat, fried rice, Ninh Binh, you can also enjoy the special dish eel vermicelli in the heart of the city. Made from paddy field fattest eels, the shops near the city post office are always crowded.

Choosing for yourself a comfortable seat, you can at the same time taste the delicious eel with the very interesting broth, and view the life in this city.

8h30: On the way to Phat Diem Cathedral
30 km from the city of Ninh Binh is Phat Diem Town (Kim Son district), where the famous stone cathedral located. You can catch a private or public bus, and the price is about 15,000 VND (75 cents). On the way to the town, you can sightseeing the endless paddy fields along the road.

9h30: Viewing the Cathedral
This is a unique architecture that combines harmoniously the art of Europe and East Asia architecture. The cathedral was built mainly of stone from 1875 to 1899 and is recognized as one of the most beautiful destinations in Vietnam.
The entire area of the Stone Cathedral is 30.000m2. In the main area, there are 11 constructions, all were reasonably layout, create a beautiful landscape. Situated on the south, behind the lake is a spacious, great courtyard. From here, you can observe the overall appearance of the 3-storey stone gate, built of large stones.

Beautiful Church in Vietnam - phat diem
(Charming antique roof bridge crosses over the river in the town center. Photo: Huyền Vũ)
Through the stone gate, you now can enter the massive, yet elegant and meticulously sculpted Stone Cathedral. Located along both sides of the cathedral are four chapels. Each chapel is considered as a unique architectural work.
The core of this sophisticated structure is the Heart of Our Lady Church (The Stone Cathedral) which was built entirely out of stone. Because of the main cathedral’s massive size, the locals call the entire complex the Stone Church, even though the formal name is Phat Diem Parish Church.

12h: Time for lunch in town
Gỏi nhệch is a Vietnamese salad made with the small fry of the local paddy-field eel. This is considered the delicacy of this area with the ingredients including fried glutinous rice, vinegar, ginger, chili, pepper, and lemon grass. Also, ell vermicelli is a very famous dish of this region.

Beautiful Church in Vietnam 2
(Ell vermicelli is a very famous dish of this region. Photo: Lê Thương)

14h: Visiting the mattress merchant village
The sedge making industry has been built long ago in this region, and it is the livelihood of many local people. With the extensive resources, hardworking, and creativity, the people here have many sedge-making shops, making many impressive decorations and beautiful mattress.

15h30: Visiting the famous bridge
The roof bridge across An River is a very unique one. The bridge has a rare form of architecture. You can feel the history by touching every column, every baluster. The bridge, having a very beautiful structure, also serves as a route between the two banks, as resting place.

Across the river, there is a marketplace. Here is where you can find the gifts that remind you about Ninh Binh such as mattress, rice, local food.

17h: Back to Hanoi

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