Vietnam is a fascinating southeast nation with unparalleled natural beauty, rich culture, incredible cuisine, long and complex history, which world travelers just begin to explore. There are actually lots of things to do in the country and it seems that it has everything for everyone for various tastes. If you're planning a trip to Vietnam and still aren't quite sure about what to do, here is our list of top things to do in Vietnam.
1. Wander the old quarter of Hanoi
Old Quarter is the highlight of Hanoi where the charm attractions of Hanoi are clustered here. It has 36 streets and historically each of the streets specialized in one particular trade and from this trade derived the name of the street. Today the business in the streets have been extended, the Old Quarter is also home to countless bars, hotels restaurants and travel agents.
When you start your exploration of the Old Quarter, the first thing you have to do is figuring out how to cross the street as the traffic here appears to be chaotic, as a never-ending stream of motorbikes zipping everywhere without a stop sign in sight.
You can start your walking from Hoan Kiem Lake in the morning, watching locals practicing tai chi and do some other exercises then go north to the bustling and vibrant 600 years Old Quarter. When you are wandering, you can taste Vietnamese food in some local eateries, purchase souvenirs at the small shops and you can even watch a water puppet show… It is the ideal place to feel real Hanoi.
2. Walk down Hanoi's famous train street
The train street is a hidden place in Hanoi and few people know about it. There is a track hiding in a very narrow residential street near the train station in Old Quarter. Regularly the train passes every day at 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm as it makes its way from Hue to Long Bien train station. To witness the train passes by the narrow neighborhood is a unique experience that you cannot miss which is sure to get your heart racing. Even you go there at other times, it is pretty enough to attract you to take photos as well. To witness the heart beaten moment, you'd better get there at least 30 minutes before the expected train arrival time to get a good viewing point. You can go there even earlier to relax at The Coffee Egg café for some amazing local refreshments until train comes.
3. Search for Vietnam's best Pho
Pho is the most famous food throughout Vietnam and there is no trip to Vietnam is complete without having a bowl of Pho. Hanoi has gained a reputation of the pho capital of Vietnam. Every food shop in the city boasts a secret recipe. We have a guide of pho and you can follow our guide to find the most authentic ones. Having a bowl of Pho during your trip is one of the important things to do in Vietnam.
4. Enjoy a glass of the world's cheapest beer
Vietnam is home to the famous Bia Hoi beer, the cheapest beer in the world. The beer is brewed locally every day and delivered to all the local bars so the beer is very fresh and only contain 3% alcohol which is a perfect drink on a hot summer day. It is very cheap that only costs about 20 cnt per glass. You will find a bill of about 2 dollars after drinking all night. Beer Corner in Hanoi is one of best place to drink like a local while sitting on a small plastic chair drinking and chatting.
5. Cruise around Halong Bay
Recommended: one- night- two-day cruise
There are over pinnacle-shaped 1,600 limestone towers rising from the turquoise waters in the Halong Bay. It is considered one of the most beautiful spots in Vietnam and it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world. Explore the bay by taking a cruise for 2 days and 1 night. cruise around the bay and enjoy the stunning natural wonders in the meanwhile do some water activities like swimming, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling and so on.
6. Taking a Vietnamese cooking class
Recommended: half day cooking class
Vietnamese food is one of the most delicious cuisine in the world so taking a cooking class during your trip in Vietnam is quite cool. Nearly all the major towns and cities offer full or half day cooking classes. We highly recommend half day cooking class in the morning as the chef will take to the local market and lead the way to shop for the meat, seafood, vegetable, fresh herbs and necessary ingredients. After shopping, you will be taken to the cooking school, you can walk through the herb garden to learn about the how the herbs giving the distinctive flavors to Vietnamese cuisine. During the class, you will have an opportunity to learn 3 to 5 typical delicacies, such as the famous spring rolls, seafood salad, Vietnamese-style plate and Hoi An pancakes. After the cooking, you will enjoy the Vietnamese food you cooked together with your classmates. Taking a cooking class during your trip is one of the most interesting things to do in Vietnam.
7. Explore Hoi An
Hoi An is an ancient small town in the middle of Vietnam and is one of the most popular places to visit. The town was once a major trading port during the period from 15th to 19th century. The small town is still very well-preserved and shows a variety of culture influence from different countries. You will find many Chinese temples, pagodas and a famous Japanese Covered Bridge.
8. Make friends with a Hmong family
Meeting people and making new friends along the way of travel is one of the charming things of a trip. Vietnam is not different. The Hmong people in Sapa are very friendly and they can say very well English. You can talk with them especially the young girl, in various topics instead of simple conversation. They will greet you when you get off the bus and they want to be your hiking guide around their village which is regarded as the one of the hiking paradise in Vietnam. They will also like to introduce you to their Grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, kids and neighbors. You will learn a lot in a very short time and you will honestly have a friend for life. Hiking around the villages and making friends with the locals is one of the charming things to do in Vietnam.
9. Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels
Spend a day or a half visiting the Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City is a very good way to understand the extent the Viet Cong to stage secret attacks and remain hidden during the Vietnam War. The usage of the network of tunnels during the war was living quarters, storage facilities for the Viet Cong and supply routes. The life underground was not easy, as people mostly sustained by eating tapioca and sometimes couldn't come up for days. You will have opportunity to get to head into the famous tunnels yourself. If you're claustrophobic, we do not recommend you to do it. During the visit you will learn other methods of capture used during the war and you will even have a chance to shoot weapons such as AK47's. It is a pretty eye opening experience. Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels is one of very cool things to do in Vietnam.
10. See a traditional Water Puppet Show
It sounds like a children's activity, however, it is a must-see show at Hanoi's Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. It is one of the famous Vietnamese tradition which dates back 1,000 years. The show is given on the "stage" which is actually on the surface of container filled with water. The hidden puppeteers operate the puppets from a curtain behind, standing below the "stage". The water hides the mechanisms of the hand-painted wooden puppets, creating a wonderful effect. The troupe operate the puppets with super skills showing the audients some traditional Vietnamese tales and you will get lots of surprises throughout the show with the live musicians provide the soundtrack. The tickets for Thang Long are not easy to buy and you'd better to buy tickets at least a few hours in advance or even a day ahead. However, UME Travel has included it into the tour packages as it is more easy for us to get the tickets for our clients. This is one of the very interesting things to do in Vietnam which suitable for people of all ages.
11. Travel the Mekong Delta in a traditional boat
With a length of 4,909km, running through six countries including: China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, the Mekong River is the most amazing river in the world. In the 1860s, Francis Garnier, the second-in-command of the French Mekong Expedition said" without doubt, no other river over such a length, has a more singular or remarkable character." When Mekong river runs to the south of Vietnam where is the famous the Mekong Delta. When we travel to the part of the Mekong Delta, floating markets and a boat tour are the most popular ways to experience the local life and culture. It is better to wake up early to visit the floating market that retained its traditional way doing business. You will take a sampan through tree-shaded canals to visit the islets and you can also ride a bike around the orchards and enjoy the exotic idyllic scenery.
12. Cycle around Hue
Situated by the beautiful Perfume River, Hue is in the halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and it marked the divide between the north and the south during the Vietnam war. It is one of the very important historical sites and it has always played an important part in Vietnamese history. Today, it is a great place to cycle as well. Set off in the cool morning and go three kilometers out of town to Tiger Fighting arena where was the Colosseum in Vietnam's version. It was a place where tiger and elephants would fight to honor the strength of the monarch. Then you can ride to Tu Duc Tomb before reaching Vong Canh Hill where is the best place to enjoy a panoramic view of the pretty Perfume River. Then you will cycle back to the town and upon reaching the walled fortress of the Imperial Citadel, you can cycle leisurely through the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Forbidden City of Vietnam. You can also have a relaxing drink by the Perfume River as well.
13. Visit the Ruins of My Son
The Ruins of My Son is one of the most interesting historical attractions in Vietnam. They are Hindu temples built during the period of Champa Kingdom between the 4th and 13th centuries. It is a fascinating place to visit and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are over 70 temples scattered in the area and some of them are still remained in good shapes. Restoration efforts are continually in this area to preserve this important religious sight. The temples at My Son are temples of Hinduism dedicated to Shiva, “The Destroyer” in the Hindu trinity of gods.
My Son is not very far from Hoi An. It takes about an hour by van to go there from Hoi An so a half-day tour is enough. These unique Hinduism temples dramatically located in the site that was the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom for most of its existence. So we think it is a great place should be on your list of things to do in Vietnam.
14. Taste your first egg coffee
Vietnamese coffee and its coffee culture are quite famous in the world. When you are travelling in Vietnam, you will find coffee shops on every corner of every street. With its unique coffee culture, you might not have known is that there are a lot special coffees. Egg coffee is the most special one that I do not think you had before in your own country. This deliciously frothy egg coffee is a best reward after a long day sightseeing and you can get it at any of street coffee shop. It is one of the most relaxing things to do in Vietnam.
15. Visit the Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum
It is the museum where you can wander around for hours with tears on the face. The Ho Chi Minh War Museum is a haunting place with detailed stories and full of photography from the Vietnam War. We believe it is one of the most important things to do in Vietnam and you will learn a lot after visiting. Today, Vietnam has been a beautiful country, however, the entire country has been through great suffer and almost destroyed during the war in the past. Try to give yourself at least a few hours there to witness this phase of history.
Tip: take some tissue with you to go there, you will shed tears.
Ready for Vietnam?
The above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do in Vietnam. It is really an amazing country with lots of activities on offer. Even on a short trip here, you can cruise on the sea, explore the bustling cities, relax in the small ancient town, trek through rice terraces, journey into a massive cave, make friends with Vietnamese, eat the mouth- watering food, taste the egg coffee, and have a cup of cheapest beer. Are you ready for Vietnam now?