Vietnam is an underrated destination capable of captivating all of your senses with its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and intriguing history. From the bustling cities that hum with energy to the tranquil countryside that whispers tales of a bygone era, every corner of Vietnam paints a different picture. Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, adventurer, or peace-seeker, Vietnam offers a myriad of experiences that cater to every kind of traveler. The goal of this guide is to help you discover the best cities to visit in Vietnam based on your preference and expectations and that’s exactly what we’ll do.
But before we get to our top 23 favorite destinations in Vietnam, let’s cover some basics…
Helpful Resources For Finding The Best Cities To Visit In Vietnam
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Now that we covered some basics, let’s get to the most important part of this article- the best cities to visit in Vietnam.
Hanoi: The Heart Of Vietnam
Situated in the northern part of Vietnam, Hanoi serves as the beating heart of the country, seamlessly intertwining a rich history with a dynamic modernity. One of the main attractions is the Old Quarter, a district dating back a thousand years, where narrow, bustling streets are named after the specific goods that were traditionally sold there.
Hanoi is also home to serene spots such as Hoan Kiem Lake, known as ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’, a perfect place to escape the city’s hustle and bustle. Adjacent to the lake is the enchanting Ngoc Son Temple, standing on a small island and offering fantastic views. The city is also a foodie paradise with a thriving cafe culture, fuelled by the love for locally produced coffee.
Ho Chi Minh: A City That Never Sleeps
Ho Chi Minh City, once known as Saigon, is a city that truly never sleeps. As Vietnam’s largest city, it thrums with ceaseless energy, epitomizing the fast-paced development and youthful vitality of the country.
The city is characterized by an arresting blend of cultural influences. Majestic French colonial structures stand alongside sleek skyscrapers, while traditional markets buzz next to modern shopping malls. The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office are splendid examples of the city’s colonial past.
History enthusiasts will appreciate the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels – both powerful reminders of the country’s turbulent past. The city also serves as the gateway to the Mekong Delta, offering a glimpse into the rural life and natural beauty of Vietnam.
Hue: City of Historic Splendors
Situated along the banks of the Perfume River, Hue, often referred to as the ‘City of Historic Splendors’, is a showcase of the country’s regal past and one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam. As the former imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue is a historical treasure trove dotted with ancient tombs, pagodas, and the remains of a grand fortress.
The most important attraction of Hue is the Imperial City- a vast, walled complex within the Citadel in the heart of the city, filled with palaces, temples, and gardens dating back to Vietnam’s royal era. The most famous attractions of Hue are probably the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, a seven-story historic temple that offers panoramic views of the river and the city, and the Royal Tombs, the eternal resting place of former Vietnamese emperors.
Da Nang: Vietnam’s Coastal Gem
Located on the eastern seafront of Vietnam, Da Nang is a vibrant city that combines urban energy and coastal tranquility. The city is one of the best beach resort destinations in Vietnam but it also has beautiful surrounding nature and it’s home to a handful of fascinating historic landmarks.
The most famous beach in Da Nang is My Khe Beach, often hailed as one of the most attractive beaches in the world while the picturesque Son Tra Peninsula, also known as Monkey Mountain, is Da Nang’s very own nature paradise offering panoramic views of the city and the sea, along with a chance to spot rare red-faced monkeys. A short distance from the city lie two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the ancient Hoi An Town and the Hindu sanctuary, My Son, adding a historical dimension to Da Nang’s appeal.
Hoi An: A Timeless Town
Speaking of the best cities to visit in Vietnam, we just can’t miss Hoi An; hands down the most beautiful historic town in the country. Once an important trading port, this beautiful town captivates its visitors with its fascinating blend of cultural influences (Japanese, Vietnamese, and Colonial) reflected in its architecture, traditions, and even local cuisine.
The city’s most prominent feature is the Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dotted with winding tiny streets that lead visitors through enchanting old Chinese merchant neighborhoods, ornate Vietnamese tube houses, and Japanese-style bridges. When dusk falls, street vendors turn on their colorful lanterns, casting beautiful reflections on the Thu Bon River.
A gentle boat ride down the river offers you a different perspective of the town and a peaceful retreat from Hoi An’s bustling streets. Last but not least, the local cuisine is a delightful experience, with signature dishes like Cao Lau, a noodle dish that originates from and is exclusive to Hoi An.
Nha Trang: Beach Lover’s Paradise
With miles of white sandy beaches bordering the crystal-clear waters of the South China Sea, Nha Trang is one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam. The city’s main beach, Tran Phu Beach is one of the most beautiful and busiest beaches in Vietnam. It’s a bustling hub of activity with a beautifully landscaped promenade, numerous beach resorts, and fine seafood restaurants. However, Nha Trang also has a handful of other beaches like Bai Dai Beach that offer a more secluded setting.
In addition to beaches, Nha Trang is also known for its marine life and for being one of the best diving destinations in the region (The Nha Trang Bay is without a doubt one of the most beautiful bays in the world and is a fantastic spot for boat trips). And if that’s not enough, inland, you can visit attractions like the Po Nagar Cham Towers (a relic of the ancient Cham civilization), the modern Agarwood Tower, the Institute of Oceanography, and the picturesque Ba Ho Waterfalls.
Da Lat: The City of Eternal Spring
Perched in the highlands of Southern Vietnam, Da Lat is a unique city that offers a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, in contrast to the tropical climate found elsewhere in Vietnam. Da Lat is famous for its stunning natural beauty that features picturesque lakes, cascading waterfalls, and verdant forests. The city is also known for its wide variety of flowers (the cool climate sure helps them thrive) that are celebrated during the annual Flower Festival.
Another important characteristic of Da Lat is its French colonial architecture, with some of the most notable examples including the Da Lat Railway Station and the Dalat Palace Hotel. One of the city’s most popular attractions is the surreal Hang Nga Guesthouse, also known as the ‘Crazy House’ due to its unusual, whimsical architecture. Add to this a thriving coffee culture and you have a city that offers a little bit of something for everyone.
Phu Quoc: The Ultimate Island Escapade
Lying in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Cambodia but still a part of Vietnam, Phu Quoc is the country’s largest island. Known for its gorgeous beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical landscapes, Phu Quoc is probably the best destination in Vietnam for an island getaway. The island is home to many beautiful beaches like Long Beach, Sao Beach, and Ong Lang Beach, each offering a slice of paradise. Phu Quoc is also a great scuba diving destination, considering that its coast has a rich variety of marine life.
The island’s interior is just as impressive; it’s home to a national park that covers more than half the island, featuring dense jungle and diverse wildlife. Phu Quoc is also home to the world’s longest cable car ride, offering jaw-dropping views of the archipelago. The island’s local life can best be observed at the bustling Duong Dong Market, or at the local fish sauce factory, where you can see how this famous Vietnamese condiment is made.
Can Tho: The Rice Basket of Vietnam
Located in the heart of the Mekong Delta, Can Tho is the ‘Rice Basket of Vietnam’ and a city surrounded by a maze of rivers, swamps, and picturesque rice fields. If you’re looking to experience life in the Mekong Delta, Can Tho is one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam. The city’s star attraction is the Cai Rang Floating Market, one of the largest such markets in the whole country. Here, you can see first-hand the age-old trading practices of the locals and try a variety of delicious tropical fruits.
And speaking of unique experiences in Can Tho, we have to mention exploring the delta’s waterways by boat and catching a glimpse of the lush green rice paddies, sugar-cane groves, and fruit orchards. The city itself is also a very interesting place; some of its most prominent features are the vibrant waterfront lined with sculpted gardens, the array of eateries serving some of the delta’s tastiest specialties, and of course, some beautiful temples, like the Ong Temple.
Hai Phong: The Flamboyant City
Hai Phong is a major port city in the northern part of Vietnam. Named after the flame-red blossoms that line its streets, Hai Phong’s vibrant energy matches its moniker. The city is famous for its colonial architecture, ornate temples, wide boulevards, and of course, one of the liveliest ports in the country. The city has a charming old quarter dotted with French colonial buildings (similar to Hanoi) and is also home to the Du Hang Pagoda, a beautifully preserved piece of Vietnamese heritage, and the Opera House Square that’s home to one of the most beautiful fountains in Vietnam.
Hai Phong also serves as a gateway to the famous Halong Bay, and the beautiful Cat Ba Island, offering a variety of water activities and natural exploration. With its vibrant street life, beautiful coastal views, historical charm, and proximity to some of Vietnam’s most impressive natural attractions, the flamboyant city is surely one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam.
Sapa: Rice Terraces Extravaganza
Nestled in the highlands of northern Vietnam, Sapa is a beautiful getaway famed for its magnificent rice terraces. However, the beauty of Sapa is not limited to its landscapes. The town is home to several ethnic minority groups with distinct cultures and traditions that have been preserved for thousands of years and trekking through the lush terraced fields and minority villages allows you to experience first-hand the often-forgotten cultural diversity of Vietnam.
The town itself, with its French colonial charm, offers attractions like the Sapa Church and the bustling Sapa Market, where you can buy local produce and crafts. Sapa’s cooler climate also makes it the perfect refreshing retreat from the scorching summer heat of the plains.
Vinh: A Charming Port City
Located in north-central Vietnam, Vinh is a bustling port city teeming with a lively blend of culture, history, and contemporary life. The cityscape is one of the most unique ones in Vietnam with traditional Vietnamese pagodas standing alongside remnants of French colonial architecture. The city’s most popular attraction is Hong Son, a temple that has the status of a national treasure with all of its culturally significant shrines. Equally engaging is the Uncle Ho House, which offers insightful glimpses into the life of Ho Chi Minh (the Vietnamese leader, not the city that was later named after him).
The city is also the capital of the Nghe An Province, and as such it often serves as the gateway to the province’s rich history, including the Kim Lien village, the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh. Additionally, the city’s proximity to stunning natural landscapes, such as Cua Lo Beach and Pu Mat National Park, makes it an excellent base for exploring the broader region.
Ha Long: The Most Famous Bay In Vietnam
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay is one of the most famous natural wonders in Vietnam. The Bay is the most famous attraction of the homonymous city and home to thousands of limestone islands topped with lush rainforests. A cruise through the bay takes you on a journey along these natural marvels and allows you to discover hidden grottoes and caves within the fascinating limestone structures.
Moreover, the floating fishing villages, such as Cua Van and Ba Hang offer visitors a unique cultural experience where one can learn about the villagers’ lifestyle and customs. Not far from the bay, you can also visit the Sun World Ha Long Park a massive entertainment complex that’s home to exciting rides, a zoo, and a water park, offering fun for the whole family.
Buon Ma Thuot: The Coffee Capital Of Vietnam
Located in the Central Highlands, Buon Ma Thuot is known as the Coffee Capital of Vietnam. This city is at the heart of the country’s coffee industry, producing most of the robust beans that contribute to Vietnam’s reputation as a leading coffee exporter. Coffee lovers can visit some of the many plantations that surround the city, learn more about the coffee-making process from bean to cup, and of course, indulge in a cup of rich, freshly brewed local coffee.
However, the city is not just about coffee; it’s also famous for the stunning natural beauty that surrounds the city. The area is home to several waterfalls, including Dray Nur and Dray Sap Waterfalls, and is on the doorstep of Yok Don National Park, Vietnam’s largest national park and one of the best places for wildlife watching in the country.
Vung Tau: The Scenic Seaside Resort Town
The scenic seaside resort of Vung Tau is the perfect quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. The town is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, particularly Back Beach and Front Beach, each with its own distinct charm. The town is a haven for water sports enthusiasts, especially surfing, jet-skiing, and kite surfing.
Vung Tau’s cultural side should not be forgotten, with landmarks like the towering Christ of Vung Tau statue, which offers panoramic views of the city, and the beautiful Vung Tau Lighthouse which serves as a testament to the town’s colonial past. Vung Tau is also home to the iconic Niet Ban Tinh Xa Pagoda, a prime example of exquisite Buddhist art and architecture and last but not least, the city is also famous for its local seafood cuisine, with countless beachside restaurants serving fresh catches of the day, adding to the town’s coastal charm.
Quy Nhon: A Hidden Coastal Gem
This tranquil coastal paradise in the central part of the country is one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam for holidayers. Quy Nhon is renowned for its beautiful beaches like Ky Co and Bai Xep, and for offering a serene seaside retreat away from the typical tourist trails. The azure waters, white sandy beaches, and gentle waves form the perfect backdrop for relaxing beach days away from the typical hustle and bustle you’d usually come across in most other parts of the country.
The city is also home to a handful of important historical sites, including the ancient Banh It Towers and the Twin Cham Towers; relics of the once-flourishing Champa civilization. While still relatively unfrequented by international visitors, Quy Nhon offers a unique mix of natural beauty and cultural heritage, and should definitely be on your list.
Pleiku: The Nature Lover’s Paradise
Located in the central highlands of Vietnam, Pleiku is a city encircled by awe-inspiring natural beauty and the city’s most popular landmarks are its lakes – the serene Bien Ho Lake, often cloaked in morning mist, and the volcanic Sea Lake, offering panoramic views from its shores. Pleiku is also the gateway to the scenic Kon Tum Province which is home to diverse ethnic minority groups with unique culture and traditions that have been around for hundreds of years (especially the Jarai and Bahnar villages, with their unique communal rong houses).
Dong Hoi: Rustic Rural Charm
Located in the central part of Vietnam, Dong Hoi is a city that exudes rustic charm, offering a window into rural Vietnam. The city serves as a base for exploring the nearby UNESCO World Heritage-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, known for being home to the world’s largest cave, Son Doong, and its rich biodiversity. The city itself has a laid-back vibe, a rural charm, and a scenic riverfront and beautiful beaches like Nhat Le Beach, offering the perfect setting for a relaxing holiday. The local cuisine is also a must-try, with a variety of seafood dishes capturing the essence of Doing Hoi’s coastal location.
My Tho: The Mekong Delta City
Located in the Tien Giang Province, is a lively town lying in the heart of the Mekong Delta region and one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam if you’re looking for a different experience. My Tho is a realm of waterways, floating markets, fruit orchards, and rice fields, that present a unique glimpse into everyday life in the delta.
In addition to floating markets and natural beauty, the city is also known for its beautiful Buddhist pagodas, including the Vinh Trang Pagoda, a serene spiritual site adorned with Buddha statues and beautiful gardens. Last but not least, while you’re in My Tho, perhaps the best way to explore the city is taking a boat tour along the waterways which allows you to not only enjoy the lush landscapes but also gives you a chance to experience the local way of life on the delta.
Ninh Binh: The “Halong Bay On Land”
Situated in the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam, Ninh Binh is often dubbed the “Halong Bay on Land” due to its jaw-dropping landscapes of limestone karsts and caves rising out of the emerald green rice paddies. The city is also surrounded by numerous tourist sites, including the Trang An Landscape Complex, a valley dotted with limestone karst peaks, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, famous for its ancient temples dedicated to past Vietnamese kings, and the Tam Coc area, known for its three caves, ideal for boat trips and leisurely bike rides along the countryside paths.
Phan Thiet: The Red Sand Dunes
This list of the best cities to visit in Vietnam wouldn’t be complete without Phan Thiet, a coastal city in south Vietnam famous for its unique natural feature – the Red and White Sand Dunes. These sprawling sand dunes, reminiscent of a desert landscape, offer a striking contrast to the usual tropical scenery you’ll come across in most of the country.
Visitors can enjoy a fun-filled day sliding down the slopes, riding quad bikes, or simply admiring the sun setting over the undulating sands. In addition to the dunes, Phan Thiet is also home to several beautiful beaches like Mui Ne and Phu Quy (a bustling fishing harbor brimming with colorful boats) but also a few historical sites like the Po Sah Inu Cham Towers, showcasing the architectural legacy of the ancient Champa Kingdom.
Are you a fan of history and want to learn more about this part of the world? Then reading more about the Ayutthaya Kingdom is a good start.
Quang Ngai: The Ancient Ruins Hub
Quang Ngai is a city in central Vietnam steeped in history and culture. The city is home to a myriad of ancient ruins, war relics, and traditional villages but it’s best known for the impressive remains of the Champa civilization, with the Thap Poshanu Cham Tower standing as a testament to this ancient culture. Another impressive sight is the My Lai Massacre Memorial Museum which serves as a poignant reminder of the Vietnam War. Aside from historical sites, the city also features pristine beaches and the nearby Ly Son Island, known for its garlic farms and scenic volcanic landscapes.
Tuy Hoa: A Hidden Beach Lover’s Paradise
Last but not least, we round up this list of the best cities to visit in Vietnam with Tuy Hoa, the perfect hidden paradise for beach lovers. Known for its pristine beaches and clear turquoise waters, Tuy Hoa is a perfect destination for a relaxed, off-the-beaten-path seaside holiday. The city’s most famous natural landmark is the Da Dia Reef, an expansive area filled with thousands of basalt rock columns formed by volcanic eruptions.
The next most famous natural landmark is probably Nhan Mountain, home to the ancient Nhan Tower which provides stunning panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes. Tuy Hoa might not be as well-known as some of the other cities on the list, but still, it’s a city rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage, and overall, a captivating place to explore.
Did you like our list of the best cities to visit in Vietnam? Which one would you like to visit first? Do you think we forgot to include some other interesting cities on this list? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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