- Learn about the best places to visit in Vietnam – from the impressive Temple of Literature in Hanoi to the famous Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City.
- Great ideas to explore on foot or travel further with a junk boat ride or on a quirky cycle rickshaw.
- Discover the colourful floating market at Cai Be or wander the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hue Monuments.
A country blessed with outstanding beauty Vietnam is becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination. It’s easy to see why. Travel across the Vietnamese landscape or take a Vietnam river cruise along the Mekong and you’ll step back in time to discover ancient civilisations, colonial history and a rural lifestyle that makes a holiday here unique.
Vietnam is a land of sharp contrasts. Stylish accommodation and modern restaurants are rapidly evolving, the latter often showcasing world-class, authentic, Vietnamese cuisine. Cities are vibrant too, with plenty to see and do.
Keen to find out more? Here is our shortlist of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
Best places to visit in Vietnam: Hanoi
A holiday to Vietnam ought to include a day or two in its capital, Hanoi. One of the quirkier ways to explore the city is on a tour by cycle rickshaw. A ride will take you through the hectic Old Quarter and pass tranquil lakes, colonial belle-époque villas, grand public buildings and the impressive Opera House. Designed by two French architects in the early 1900s, it resembles the Opéra Garnier de Paris.
Built in 1070, Hanoi’s Temple of Literature is a must-see, too. Originally a university dedicated to Confucius, the ancient site is a revered, peaceful place and an excellent example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Communist leader Ho Chi Minh rests at the city’s Mausoleum, another popular visitor attraction. Dress modestly if entering the memorial. Be prepared to queue and once inside don’t talk, smile, take photos or put your hands in your pockets. Try to time a visit with the changing of the guard.
Best places to visit in Vietnam: Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it’s still called by many locals, is a bustling dynamic city that never seems to sleep and one that’s recognised for its pivotal role during the Vietnam War. It’s a sobering experience, but the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a complex underground network used by the Viet Cong soldiers, is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
The thought-provoking tunnels stretch over 150 miles, and visitors get a fascinating insight into the country’s troubled times and also witness bunkers used as kitchens, sleeping areas, hospitals, schools and even theatres. Note that some people may find the tunnels a little claustrophobic. If you prefer to stay above ground, wander around the Ben Duoc Monument Temple for Martyrs, built to commemorate the millions of people and soldiers who lost their lives.
Best places to visit in Vietnam: The floating market at Cai Be
Taking a junk boat ride to witness the amazing sight of a floating market is definitely another highlight of a holiday to Vietnam. The market found at Cai Be’s waterfront is lively, colourful and when all the bartering is taken place, it’s rather noisy too – prepare for an assault of the senses. You’ll certainly be entertained watching wily sellers dangling their wares from long poles to a myriad of smaller vessels.
Often on a combined Vietnam and Cambodia Mekong river cruise, you’ll also visit the floating stilt village and market at Kampong Chnang. Rural life here is conducted entirely astride the river, so you’ll board a traditional longtail boat for your look around.
Best places to visit in Vietnam: Hue’s Citadel and Imperial City
Don’t forget to include Hue on your list of the best places to see in Vietnam. The country’s last royal capital, and perhaps Vietnam’s most beautiful small town, keen photographers will be snap happy as they wander through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hue Monuments, recognised as a setting of great natural beauty. The incredible complex of the Citadel features hundreds of monuments and ruins including the awe-inspiring Imperial City and the Forbidden Purple City. It was once the magnificent home of the emperor and his royal concubines.
The Palace of Supreme Harmony (or Thai Hoa palace) is considered the most spectacular building. It is painted in the royal colours of red and gold, was the site of official ceremonies and houses the throne of Vietnamese kings.
Interestingly, Hue is crossed by the Perfume River, given its name because of its floral scent during the autumn when upriver orchards drop their flowers in the water.
Best places to visit in Vietnam: Ha Long Bay
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site and undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is the country’s greatest natural wonder – and probably the most recognisable destination too. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, the glorious Ha Long Bay is a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars sculpted by years of wind and wave erosion. Various vessels can glide you over the calm jade-green water, passing some of the 1,600 islands that are clustered in the bay. See if you can spot the ones that fishermen have named Stone Dog and Elephant Rock.
Not surprisingly, Ha Long Bay is Vietnam’s top visitor attraction and as such attracts the crowds, especially in the peak tourist season around November and December. Vietnamese holidays are often best enjoyed during the somewhat quieter months of March, April, September and October.
Best places to visit in Vietnam: Mekong river cruise, Cambodia to Vietnam
One way to discover more of the delights of Vietnam is on a Mekong river cruise, which also meanders through neighbouring Cambodia. And it’s in this equally astounding country that you’ll be able to visit one of the largest religious monuments in the world, Angkor Wat. The temple is part of an immense and important archaeological site that has over 150 significant monuments, and it’s easily accessible when your cruise ship docks at the gateway of Siem Reap.
As Angkor is a sacred spot and place of pilgrimage, adhere to the visitor code of conduct. Respect monks and other worshippers, keep knees and shoulders covered and do not touch, rest or climb on any of the structures. Resist buying souvenirs from children or giving them money as this encourages them to beg and skip school.
The best time to visit Angkor Wat and see it in all of its glory is as the morning mist rises. Fortunately, the temple opens at 5am.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of top sights and experiences to enjoy in Vietnam. And it’s never been easier to travel to the country and explore its wealth of historic and scenic attractions. When will you visit?
Looking for more inspiration and ideas for the best places to visit Vietnam? Explore our collection of holidays to Vietnam, including a journey on the Mekong and Vietnam and Cambodia with Laos extension. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.