A General List of Top Things to do in Vietnam

Top things to do in Vietnam

  • Things to do in Vietnam
Top things to do in Vietnam

Attracting millions of visitors every year, Vietnam’s attractions are plentiful, ranging from stunning natural landscapes, untouched islands and quiet villages to war museums and colonial structures. With its colonial heritage, many resources feature a unique mixture of French and Asian influences while its cuisine is highly recommended as one of the best in the world. With so many things to do in Vietnam, planning your travel itinerary as a first-time visitor can be challenging, so we’ve compiled a general list of top things to do in Vietnam.

1. Wander the old quarter of Hanoi

Full of charming colonial structures, Buddhist temples and pagodas, the Old Quarter, located near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hoan Kiem District, is Hanoi’s main commercial district. Its heart and soul is displayed in the ancient commercial streets that are named after their original businesses with a history about 1,000 years. Though most of the specialties (such as cotton, jewellery, herbs, and silk) have changed a lot and have been replaced by a number of nowadays commodities and services, visitors can still admire some of the original ones as well as have a touch of old Vietnamese traditions.

Many of Hanoi’s highlights are within or nearby the Old Quarter, including Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Opera House, National Museum of Vietnamese History, Ba Dinh Square, the One Pillar Pagoda, Bach Ma Temple, and Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

Things to do No.1 in the Old Quarter is to have a look around this, the oldest neighborhood in the city. With a history dating back to about the 13th century, the vibe and energy here is definitely special. Things to do No.2 is to stop by at any local tea and coffee café that offers chairs to sit outdoors. This is thought to be the best place to watch the world go by in the Old Quarter.


Old Quarter of Hanoi


2. Walk down Hanoi’s famous train street

A set of colonial-era train tracks passing through Hanoi's Old Quarter has become a must-visit place for tourists. It was originally built by French colonists and is hidden quietly in a residential street of the Old Quarter. The train from Hue to Long Bien railway station passes here regularly at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. every day. It’s a very special experience for you to watch a train go through a narrow block like this. And it is certain to be exciting and thrilling. Even when there is no train, the place is beautiful enough for you to take photos. However, it’s better to witness the train. So it's necessary for your get there 30 or 40 minutes in advance to guarantee a nice watching position. Finding a delicate coffee shop to kill the longer waiting time can also be a good choice.


Train Street of Old Quarter Hanoi


3. Search for Vietnam’s best Pho

Pho is a Vietnamese unique signature you shouldn’t miss – a quick, tasty meal made from a few simple ingredients: clear stock, boiled beef, rice noodles and herbs or green vegetables. In Vietnam, you’ll find it served on street corners and in upscale restaurants, as well as on every family table. Most authentic and tasty Pho can be found according to our guide if you are interested.

4. Enjoy a glass of the world’s cheapest beer

The most important thing to know is that unlike most beer, beer in Vietnam is freshly brewed every day. This is a light golden beer, with a little foam on it. It contains only about 3% alcohol, which makes it as easy to drink as water. It has almost no preservatives because of its rapid consumption. It is also very cheap with about 20 cents per glass, maybe the cheapest beer in the world. Beer Corner in Hanoi are interesting places for travelers to drink like the locals.

5. Cruise around Halong Bay

Recommended: one- night- two-day cruise

Halong Bay is well known for the largest marine limestone 'karst' landscape in the world and the whole area is awarded as UNESCO World Heritage. Taking a cruise for 2 days and 1 night to discover Halong Bay is worthwhile and highly recommended. During the cruise, you can communicate with local residents and visit the school on water as well as enjoy the breathtaking natural landscape. Meanwhile a series of water activities such as swimming and diving are also available.


Cruise on Halong Bay


6. Taking a Vietnamese cooking class

Recommended: half day cooking class

Vietnamese food is world famous for its delicacy and freshness. It’s really meaningful and great fun to have a cooking class during a trip to Vietnam. Cooking classes can be found in many cities of Vietnam. Take the one which starts in the morning as the class should have an important prelude. That is to get an intimate touch with the food market and vegetable gardens from which fresh food sources come. Fresh local food sources are the guarantee of Vietnam cuisine. Then step into the cooking place and immerse yourself in the flavors of Vietnam. A rich melange of local, neighbouring, Chinese and French influences, Vietnamese cuisine is known for its freshness and variety from north to south. Learn to make some of your favourite dishes in a step-by-step class. Enjoy the fruits of your labour with your classmates and return home with inspirations to try out.

7. Explore Hoi An

Hoi An, the ancient city, is on the central coast of Vietnam. The Old Town of Hoi An is a must for every tourist. It’s an remarkably well-preserved South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. You will visit the Japanese Covered Bridge, also known as the Cau Chua Pagoda, one of the most visited landmarks in the city. You will also discover many of the historic buildings are built in a traditional Chinese style, in contrast with the Japanese Bridge.


Hoi An ancient town


8. Make friends with a Hmong family

One of the most important gains of all the trips is the friendship you get with the local people. The local people themselves are always a beautiful scenery. It’s the same story in Vietnam. Especially when you explore the trekking paradise of Sapa, you will inevitably meet the hospitable minority-Hmong people. They live on the land for generations and know everything about it. They can be helpful guides for you when you hike in the stunning terraces of rice in Sapa. They are also willing to share their life stories with you. You will certainly learn a lot from the friendship with them.

9. Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels

Tunnel is a kind of engineering construction buried underground and also a form of rational use of space by human beings. Especially during the war time, tunnel can be used to protect people's life and safety. Vietnam's most mysterious "tunnel network” - Cu Chi Tunnels have only one-meter-wide entrance, but underneath it is a prosperous city! Located in the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, the entrance of the tunnels is very secret, only one meter, allowing one person to pass. Moreover, the tunnels were built during the Vietnam War. The local people built the 17 km long tunnel network to resist the invasion. Entering the tunnel, you can find that the design is quite humanized. The living area is divided into functions and there are a variety of living goods on which human beings can live. Items with the characteristics of the times are displayed. You will be absolutely impressed by the wisdom and courage of the people.

cu chi tunnel

Cu Chi Tunnels


10. See a traditional Water Puppet Show

Water puppet show is the most distinctive traditional stage show in Vietnam, also the unique puppet show in the world. The show has got a history of more than 1000 years. It takes water as its stage as the puppets float on the water. Water can cover up the puppets’ manipulation control and reach better stage effect. A group of musicians on the left, dressed in traditional Vietnamese costumes, play and sing traditional Vietnamese folk music for show. The performance is basically about the traditional Vietnamese life, such as paddy farming, dragon dancing, fishing and so on. Water puppet show originated in the north and later spread to the south, so it is more authentic in Hanoi than in any other places. The show is not only for the children, but also for all the audience. Hanoi’s Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is the only theater in Asia that never rests all the year round. Each year, it performs over 2000 water puppet shows and introduces the traditional Vietnamese art to more than 50 countries in the world. It is highly suggested to book tickets for the show as early as possible or just leave the job to us.


Water Puppet Show


11. Travel the Mekong Delta in a traditional boat

How can we go to Vietnam without going to the Mekong River, which is the mother river that breeds Vietnam? With a total length of 4909km, the Mekong River is the most important transnational water system in Asia, the seventh longest river in the world, the third longest river in Asia and the longest river in Southeast Asia. After travelling over 4,000km from the Tibetan Himalaya, the Mekong hits Vietnam and slows down to a more languid pace. With islands, rice paddies, stilted villages and a way of life that hasn’t changed for centuries, it’s as if the river wants to take it easy and soak up the view.

When exploring Mekong Delta, you can fully experience different means of transportation in Vietnam: wooden boat, sampan,horse cart and even bicycle! The floating market and islands of Dragon, Unicorn, Turtle, Phoenix are waiting for your discovery. Trying a homemade lunch in a local family, visiting local Noodle Factory and orchard are other highlights. It’s a very good chance for you to get closer to local life and Vietnamese Traditional Culture.

Hitch a ride with a cargo boat and you can do exactly that. Simply find a shady spot to hitch your hammock and gaze at faraway riverbanks as your boat, weighed down with fruit and rice sack.


Boat cruise on Mekong River


12. Cycle around Hue

Hue was the ancient capital of three dynasties in Vietnam. It is located in the central part of Vietnam, once the dividing line to mark the north and the south during the Vietnam war. It is just in the middle of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh on map. There are many historical traces in the ancient imperial city. It would be nice to have a cycling tour to discover the city. The ancient Citadel with all kinds of buildings needed for imperial life such as palaces, temples and monuments is really attractive to cycle around. Then continue the cycling tour to the Royal Tombs in the nearby countryside, where the past emperors were buried. You can find that the Tombs have an extremely quiet and elegant scenery as background. And the Perfume River is the shining belt in the scenery. You will also discover the tallest and iconic Pagoda in Vietnam by an imperial dragon boat cruise on the river. Last but not least, you can feel the authentic life of local people in a market visit.


Cycle around Hue


13. Visit the Ruins of My Son

My Son, once the holy land of Cham people from the 4th to 13th century, is one of the most visited historical sites in Vietnam. Nestling in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains, this temple & tower complex is a masterpiece of ancient Cham architecture. My Son consists of 70 architectural works ranging from small to great size. They are temples of Hinduism. The charming red towers in My Son surely amazes you in the sunshine.

Spare half day tour for My Son is fruitful and enough as it is quite close to Hoi An. Usually it’s about one hour’s drive from Hoi An. These unique Hinduism temples in Vietnam are surely worth a visit.

Like many historic sites around the world, My Son was destroyed by time and wars and after lying neglected for a long time it was rediscovered and renovated by the French in 1898. However, the majority of the central complex managed to survive the bombs and parts of the ruins have now been rebuilt. Overall, this Hindu sanctuary reminds visitors of other similar sites in Southeast Asia including the great Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A must-visit for those who appreciate history.


Temple ruin of My Son


14. Taste your first egg coffee

Vietnam has a proud civilian coffee culture. Local people add a variety of ingredients to create low-cost delicious coffee. In the old alleys and houses in Hanoi's old town, ice, drip pots and dust of time collide together to create a charming atmosphere. There is a special coffee which you can’t find in other countries so that you must have a try here. That is the egg coffee, which is really refreshing for you during a long journey. Many visitors will often miss the flavor of egg coffee after they leave Vietnam.


Egg Coffee Hanoi


15. Visit the Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum

Once the former site of the U.S. intelligence agency, the museum was founded on September 4, 1975. The main entrance looks very simple and there is no grand building. However, it records a very heavy page in Vietnam's modern national history - the Vietnam War, which Vietnamese call the war of resistance against the United States. At the same time, the museum also displays some heavy weapons and equipment used by the U.S. Army in the War, such as war vehicles, aircraft, artillery and bombs. Some illustrations are in English while some pictures are also marked in Traditional Chinese. Some people say that it is from this Museum that we can really understand the history of Vietnam.

Seeing is believing! The beauty of Vietnam is not just on paper, and it actually lies in your own discovery and experience. We can't tell all the charms of Vietnam in our tips. So it’s time for you to start the journey. See you in Vietnam!