Vietnam is a destination that seems to have it all—floating villages and bustling markets; impressive museums and UNESCO World Heritage Sites; stunning beaches and soaring mountains. In its vibrant cities, you’ll find things to do in Vietnam to suit all kinds of interests, from foodies and culture enthusiasts to history buffs and nature lovers.
From lounging on white-sand beaches to exploring historic monuments and pagodas and marveling at towering limestone islands, this country will unearth the adventurer in you. Vietnam manages to keep a healthy balance of feeling off-the-beaten-path while offering accessible tourist attractions, so you’ll always find something to do here.
Here are 15 of the most inspiring things to do in Vietnam.
Step Back in History at the Reunification Palace
Also referred to as Independence Palace, this historical landmark in the Ho Chi Minh City center draws many visitors interested in learning about its intriguing history. The structure, built in 1962, is an example of architectural excellence and is one of the top Vietnam tourist attractions.
The Reunification Palace was constructed on the same site as the former Norodom Palace, which was destroyed by protestors in the 1950s. Tours will take you through the halls where the President of South Vietnam lived and worked during the Vietnam War as well as pointing out numerous historical artifacts. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time with the well-preserved decor and architectural style.
Walk through the tunnels of the basement, study old photographs and oil paintings, and check out the sprawling oval lawn filled with gardens and tranquil ponds. An exhibition dedicated to the evolution of the palace will have even the most curious visitor satisfied.
Stroll the Golden Bridge
A truly photogenic destination on the outskirts of the coastal city of Da Nang, Sun World Ba Na Hills is a fun-filled attraction for all ages. This amusement park, surrounded by a gorgeous natural setting, is filled with activities like a cable car ride, game zone, detailed French village recreation, and several restaurants.
Perhaps the main attraction is the Golden Bridge, a creatively designed footbridge featuring two giant, mythical hands. The 490-foot-long pedestrian bridge has become a famous site in Vietnam for its beautiful artistry and unique appearance of being held in the sky.
Other than providing sprawling views, the bridge connects the cable car hub to the colorful gardens. Strolling this cinematic walkway will feel like you’ve been transported into the pages of a fantasy novel.
Explore Sung Sot Cave
Located in the stunning Halong Bay, Sung Sot Cave is the biggest cave you’ll find in the bay. The journey to the cave will leave you breathless as you glide past the towering limestone islands protruding from the sea.
Walkways wind you through two sections of this natural wonder, adorned with fascinating stalagmites and stalactites. In the second chamber, the cave ceiling soars and rock formations have been identified as various animals by the Vietnamese. Each animal is said to have a legend attached to it, like the horse, said to have defeated evil spirits.
Take in the Views From the Tram Huong Tower
This lotus-shaped structure by the beach in Nha Trang is an icon of this seaside city due to its unique design. The orange tower, which resembles a flower, certainly stands out on the edge of the main beach along Tran Phu Boulevard.
The observation platform at the top provides panoramic views of both the beach and city below. A relaxing stroll or bicycle ride on the promenade in Nha Trang will bring you to this well-known landmark, also known as the “incense tower.”
Crawl Through the Cu Chi Tunnels
In the northwest portion of Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll find a web of underground tunnels used in the Vietnam War. Soldiers used these tunnels as living quarters, kept supplies there, and as a base to set traps and prepare surprise attacks.
Creating the tunnels, which stretch a total of 75 miles, wasn’t an easy feat—they were dug by hand between the late 1940s and early 1960s. During your visit, you can even crawl through some of these tunnels and observe artifacts from the war while a tour guide shares the history behind the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Marvel at the Thien Mu Pagoda
Perched upon Ha Khe Hill along the picturesque Huong River lies Thien Mu Pagoda, an octagonal Buddhist temple that resembles a layered cake. Known as the “Pagoda of the Heavenly Lady,” this artful structure is as pleasing to the eyes as it is an icon to the country of Vietnam.
The 68-foot-tall Phuoc Duyen Tower is the star structure of the pagoda. Each of its seven stories symbolizes various reincarnations of Buddha. A giant bell, peaceful gardens, and two smaller pagodas are some of the other notable attractions that make up the complex. A visit to the pagoda via a traditional dragon boat makes this an unforgettable experience.
Browse Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Hanoi’s bustling Old Quarter, located north of Hoan Kiem Lake, charms and delights by mixing old and modern in a Vietnamese cultural cocktail. Made up of 36 artisan street sectors paying homage to their traditional craft, the Old Quarter is a lively spot to browse, eat, and shop. You’ll find local creators like basket weavers, shoemakers, tailors with silk clothing, and bag makers selling their wares.
In between browsing the shops, sample authentic cuisine at one of the restaurants nearby. Every weekend, a buzzing night market offers another opportunity to find souvenirs and indulge in the city’s culture through food at the numerous stalls serving delicious bites.
Make sure to try Bun Cha (kebab rice noodles) and egg coffee while in the city.
Appreciate Architecture at the Po Nagar Cham Towers
The Eastern-facing series of temples in the historic Champa Kingdom lies just outside of the seaside city of Nha Trang. The attractive three-story temple sits on a hill, providing a beautiful setting to learn about the history and appreciate the detailed architecture of this sacred site.
Its four remaining towers honor the goddess of the Dua clan, who governed the southern portion of the Cham Kingdom and taught skills such as weaving and agriculture to the people under her rule. Each April, a festival with sacred dances, rituals, and prayers occurs to pay homage to the goddess Po Nagar, whose name translates to “Mother of the Country.”
Sample Local Food at the Ben Thanh Central Market
It’s no secret that Vietnamese food is amazing. If you’re a foodie, one of the best things to do in Vietnam is to go to a local market. The Ben Thanh Central Market is a bustling street-food haven where you will get your fill. Picnic table style benches provide community seating to enjoy your local fare with a cold beer.
Try the banh da xuc hen, which is lemongrass clams topped with a rice cracker and sprinkled with sesame and coconut. Another popular item to try is bun thit nuong, a bowl filled with rice vermicelli noodles, lettuce, pork, and topped with a crispy pork spring roll. The classic pho shouldn’t be missed either—although the soup originated in Hanoi, you can sample the southern style here in Saigon.
Trek up the Marble Mountains
The Marble Mountains, between the cities of Da Nang and Hoi An, are a collection of five limestone and marble hills named after the five elements: earth, water, fire, metal, and wood.
Legend has it that a mystical dragon laid an egg on the nearby beach, and after a thousand days, a stunning girl hatched. What was left of the egg’s shell on the sand grew into the mythical Marble Mountains.
Trekking up the mountains will grant you with spectacular views of the surrounding area and My Khe Beach below. Ancient 17th-century pagodas adorn the Mountain of Water, which also houses several caves. It’s an exciting area to explore on foot if you enjoy hiking.
Laugh at the Hanoi Water Puppet Theater
One of the best theaters in the world, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is a famous traditional Vietnamese form of performing arts dating back to the 11th century. Derived from the method employed long ago, the theater gained its name because villagers performed puppetry for entertainment in waist-high water that had flooded the rice fields in the Red River Delta.
Authentic live music with drums, bamboo flutes, cymbals, guitars, and singing accompanies the stories, often with a humorous twist. Performers in Hanoi use large poles to hold the puppets over a pool of water while sharing folktales and legends with the audience.
Order a Meal from a Floating Restaurant in the Mekong Delta
Known to locals as the River of Nine Dragons, the Mekong Delta is a lush region with much to offer by way of landscape, culture, and authentic experiences. The area’s largest town and capital, Can Tho, is a great base for exploring the area.
At the Cái Răng floating market, numerous vendors sell local goods and produce like mangosteen and durian. You can even purchase a full meal from one of the boats. Visit in the morning and order Vietnamese coffee and breakfast while observing the atmospheric buzz of trading amongst local residents.
While there, you might spot the Bình Thuỷ Ancient House, a French colonial-style dwelling built in the 1800s.
Take a Cooking Class
In a land where the cuisine is a portal to its rich culture, taking a cooking class is a great way to immerse yourself.
In Hoi An, you’ll find culinary delights specific to the region and a wide array of places hosting classes. Many cooking lessons also include a visit to the Central Market, where you can see the fresh ingredients and the process of choosing and purchasing what you need for each dish.
Try your hand at making classics like banh xeo, a rice pancake with prawns; nom hoa chuoi, a banana flower salad; Vietnamese spring rolls; and bun thit nuong, pork with vermicelli noodles.
Armed with a copy of the recipes you learned, the skills you’ll pick up in a cooking class is one of the best souvenirs you can gift yourself when you recreate the meals at home. This is definitely one of the top things to do in Vietnam.
Stand in History at Ba Dinh Square
Historical Ba Dinh Square, one of the top Vietnam tourist attractions, is perhaps most well known for the Presidential reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1945, signifying the beginning of the People’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Today, the square is a popular green space for people to unwind in the midst of the bustling city. Arrive in time for the daily flag-raising ceremony, then wander the grounds and people watch. After your visit, head to the nearby Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and museum, and the One Pillar Pagoda.
Vung Tau City
Previously a French colonial village, Vung Tau City is a popular destination for sun-seekers with relatively close proximity to Ho Chi Minh City. A two-hour trip grants you a break at some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
There are four beaches in this resort-town catering to all types of beach-goers. Front Beach is perfect for seafood-lovers, with many options for eating fresh catches from the sea while people-watching. Back Beach is a surfing hotspot; both the classic surf sport as well as kite-surfing.
Pineapple Beach is best for relaxation and swimming in calm waters. At Paradise Beach, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee which will give you access to showers and sit-down restaurants.
While you’re in the area, consider hiking to the oldest lighthouse in Vietnam, which sits behind Núi Nhỏ Mountain. The picture-perfect scene is worth the effort.
Ready for an exotic adventure? Dive into the rich culture and cuisine of this incredible destination on a luxury cruise to Vietnam. With a little something for everyone, Vietnam is a destination filled with history, beaches, authentic cultural experiences, adventure, and exciting culinary endeavors.
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