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Vietnam: 5 best cities to visit

By Faye Bradley 29 August 2020

Header image courtesy of Toomas Tartes (via Unsplash)

Vietnam is home to an abundance of cultural diversity, historical significance, and natural beauties. When one travels to the country, it’s difficult to narrow it down to one mere city to visit, when there are so many places worth exploring. We recommend that if you’re making a long trip to get to Vietnam, take the time and really see the country by stopping by each region.

Of course, not all of us have the luxury of spending weeks or months away from home, but either way, it’ll have you wanting to come back to see the full picture. Without further ado, here are five of the best cities to visit in Vietnam for a taste of the country’s most well-kept secrets.

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For the naturists: Halong Bay

Dotted with thousands of jagged limestone islands, Halong Bay is situated within the Gulf of Tonkin, offering iconic scenic views of the UNESCO World Heritage site. The region is famed for its boat trips, where visitors explore the caves, beaches, and marine life with groups of tourists. Marvel at the sparkling emerald waters reflecting the rainforest-clad islands, all whilst taking a dip in the cool waters. After a trip through the glorious bay, head to Halong City, a quiet respite from the busyness.

Best things to do:

  • Take a day or night cruise
  • Go diving or snorkelling
  • Cave-spelunking
  • Island-hopping
  • Cycling
  • Hiking at the National Park

For the foodies: Ho Chi Minh

Gourmands, listen up—Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh offers a cosmopolitan range of dining and drinking options to cater to all palates. Some find it a bit too hectic (perhaps it’s the constant traffic and crazy motorbikes), but city folk know to expect nothing less. Look past the bustling craze, and you’ll find the city’s best sights—one to feast your eyes on (yes, we’re talking about the food).

From street food to gourmet restaurants, Ho Chi Minh will wine and dine you for a glamorous time. Besides the plethora of cuisine, the town also holds a lot of history to it, including the grand Notre Dame Cathedral, which was built in the late nineteenth century. Additionally, there are several cultural artefacts throughout, like the French colonial architecture, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, and the Buddhist and Taoist monuments.

Best things to do:

  • Eat and explore the food destination
  • Visit the Giac Lam Pagoda
  • Take a river cruise
  • Go shopping
  • Take a cooking class
  • Tour the history museum
  • Get lost in the markets

For the history hunters: Hanoi

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, takes you head-first into the country’s roots, which is full of historical charm and cultural monuments. Being in the north, the weather is cooler, and brings easy access to its nearby provinces including Halong Bay, Sapa, and Ninh Binh, to name a few.

There’s plenty of history to see here, from the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology to the Vietnam Fine Art Museum, where you’ll find a mix of Southeast Asian, Chinese, and French influences. Venture beyond the museums to explore the shopping and dining hubs, the parks, nightlife, and day trips to the spectacular towns—all just a bus ride away.

Best things to do:

  • Watch a water puppet show
  • Visit the history museums
  • See the Perfume Pagoda
  • Go to Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Visit the Hanoi Opera House

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For architecture enthusiasts: Hoi An

Known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, stunning Hoi An holds a realm of historic architecture throughout the city. Meander through the Old Town, which dates back to the fifteenth century and was once a trading port for Japanese and Chinese merchants looking for silk. The buildings and streets remain untouched and reflect the foreign and local unique influences on heritage sites. 

One of the main monuments is the Japanese Bridge near the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation. Pay a visit to the infamous Tra Que Vegetable Village, the first organic vegetable village in the country, where all the restaurants in Hoi An source their herbs and vegetables from.

Best things to do:

  • Explore the old town
  • Visit the Japanese Bridge
  • Learn how silk is made at Hoi An Silk village
  • Tour the lantern market
  • Admire the fantastical architecture

For beach bums: Da Nang

With a population of over 1.3 million, Da Nang is Vietnam’s third-largest city and features a combination of nature trails, beach, and urban haunts, all in one destination. Its west-facing location makes it the perfect backdrop to sparkling sunsets on the beach. Get your daily dose of sun by beach-hopping during your stay here.

Best things to do:

  • Visit the beaches
  • Visit the Marble Mountains
  • Hiking
  • Explore the pagodas
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Faye Bradley


Faye Bradley is a freelance writer based in Hong Kong, covering topics in travel, wellness, F&B, and the arts. As the editor and business development executive for Cha Siu Papers Times and Compare Retreats, Faye has experience in writing predominantly about luxury travel and well-being. With a keen eye for finding hidden gems, exploring new destinations, and tasting best-of-the-best cuisines, she continues to pursue her love for writing about travel and visiting remote lands. You can find her by the pool with a good book and a mojito in hand.