Top 5 attractions in Vietnam

Vietnam has changed rapidly since the hugely destructive American War. Access is vastly improved and there is much to see in this buoyant nation. From vibrant Ho Chi Minh City to the laid-back charms of Hanoi and Halong Bay’s stunning scenery, here is our guide to the top five attractions in Vietnam.
Halong Bay, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock
Halong Bay, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock

Idyllic, white sand beaches, ancient pagodas and temples, enlightening museums, street food feasts and vibrant cities... Here, at a glance, are our tips for the best places to visit on your trip to Vietnam.

1. Halong Bay

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay off the northern coast is one of the top attractions in Vietnam. It is home to magical scenery. More than 3,000 limestone crags and half-submerged outcrops riddled with caves pepper the indigo-coloured bay. The soaring sails of multiple Chinese-style junk boats and sampans glide across the water adding to the beauty. For an authentic experience, spend the night on a traditional sailing junk and visit one of the floating fishing villages as part of Insight Guides' Discover Vietnam trip.  

2. Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s southern capital and economic powerhouse.  A dynamic metropolis, it is home to everything an international city has to offer – upmarket restaurants, high-end hotels and stores selling imported designer goods. Grand French colonial buildings stand within easy reach of ancient pagodas helping to maintain elements of the city’s old Saigonese charm. Fascinating cultural attractions include the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and War Remnants Museum. Downtown District 1, traditionally the French Quarter, has trendy bars and cafés, fine dining and plentiful shopping. There are also a wealth of sites bearing testament to the city’s colonial legacy. 

View of Ho Chi Minh City's busy streets. Photo: Vichy Deal/Shutterstock

3. Hue

The city of Hue, in the heart of the country, straddles a maze of moats and canals, lotus lakes and the sleepy Perfume River. The Imperial City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the former home of the Nguyen dynasty, the kings and queens of which now lie in elaborate nearby mausoleums. To discover the site's secrets, take a guided tour of the royal tombs in Hue as part of Insight Guides' The Wonders of Vietnam trip

People in traditional costumes walk under an archway in the Imperial City of Hue, Vietnam. Photo: ShutterstockPeople in traditional costume pass under an archway in the Imperial City of Hue, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Nha Trang

On Vietnam’s south-east coast, the resort city of Nha Trang overlooks the South China Sea. In a spectacular location, backed by mountains, the city benefits from an expansive stretch of palm-fringed, white sand beach. The main reason to visit, however, lies out in the bay. Divers and snorkellers head to offshore islands to enjoy close-up views of some of the country’s finest coral reefs. With its laid-back atmosphere, Nha Trang is the perfect destination to break up a journey, relax and soak up the sun. Ideally placed in the middle of Insight Guides' Vietnam and Cambodia by Rail trip, our carefully planned itinerary ensures you can do exactly that.

People on the beach in Nha Trang. Photo: Ovchinnikova Irina/Shutterstock Relaxing on the beach in Nha Trang. Photo: Ovchinnikova Irina/Shutterstock

5. Hanoi

This vibrant city is both the political and cultural capital of Vietnam. With a complex history, yet brimming with modern energy and potential, Hanoi’s blend of colonial charm and contemporary luxury make it the place to really get the measure of 21st-century Vietnam. The Old Quarter dates back 700 years. Its nickname ‘36 Streets’, refers to the 36 merchant guilds founded in the district during the 15th century. Each is located on its respective street in an area dotted with pagodas, temples and ancient banyan trees. The neighbouring Ba Dinh district is home to cultural monuments such as the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda and the dignified Presidential Palace. A visit to the pilgrimage site of Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum is a good stepping stone toward understanding the Vietnam of today. The French Quarter’s tree-lined avenues contrast with the luxury apartment developments and shopping malls that have appeared in the city over the last 20 years. 

Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Jimmy Tran/Shutterstock Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Jimmy Tran/Shutterstock

Ready to experience the cultural attractions and natural wonders of Vietnam?

Insight Guides can help you plan and book fantastic trips to Vietnam. Simply get in touch with us to share your ideas for the trip and to let us know when you would like to travel. We will then create a personalised itinerary based on your preferences, which you can amend until you're completely happy with every detail before booking. Our existing itineraries in Vietnam can offer inspiration, and remember that all of our planned itineraries can be tailored to suit your own specific requirements. 

Updated 5 September, 2019