20 Cities in Vietnam

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Vietnam is one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in South East Asia and is extremely popular due to its abundance of contrasting attractions. From the buzzing capital of Hanoi to the slow way of life in the Mekong Delta, white sand beaches all along its east and southern coastlines and the awe-inspiring mountains of the north, Vietnam has it all. What’s more, cities in Vietnam perfectly encapsulate this myriad of different environments, whether you’re a backpacker looking to meet new people and a lively nightlife scene, a family keen to kick back by the beach or an adventurer looking to see everything you can.

Vietnam’s major cities are beautiful throughout the year, with both indoor and outdoor attractions for visitors, however, if you’re planning to visit Vietnam, consider the season you’re travelling. South East Asia’s monsoon season generally hits between June and October, so go outside the months if possible. Likewise, climates can be as hot as 35C in the south of Vietnam with 100% humidity, while the northern mountains in Sapa often drop to 5C even in the warmest months. Getting between places is a breeze, whether you opt for an affordable long-distance bus or one of Vietnam’s famous train journeys, the journey alone is filled with stunning views and warm hospitality. Here are the best Vietnamese cities to visit. 

Cities in Vietnam

20 Towns And Cities In Vietnam To Explore

1- Hanoi

Hanoi Skyline Cityscape At Twilight
Hanoi tops the list of major cities in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi is a slight shock to the senses in all the best ways.

Home to millions of motorbikes, a beautiful central lake and a range of excellent coffee shops, you can start your journey here.

There’s almost too much to see in the city, so save a few days to enjoy it all.

For lovers of history or architecture, don’t miss the Hanoi Opera House, Emperor Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature.

The beautiful St. Joseph’s Cathedral is another famous sight and the best way to experience the city is to simply wander around.

Hoàn Kiếm Lake is the centre of the action, where you’ll find food stalls, locals dancing, walking and playing.

An ancient temple lies in the lake, which you can visit, and nearby is the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, where you can catch a show.

The Old Town is crammed with French-style buildings and shops selling almost everything you can imagine, but at night turns into a vibrant pedestrian zone full of revellers.

Stay in other neighbourhoods if you don’t like noise.

2- Ninh Binh

Bai Dinh Pagoda at night across the water in Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh best cities in Vietnam to visit to see pagodas.

Not far south of Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a fun provincial city in Vietnam frequented by visitors as a gateway to the nearby area of Tam Coc.

Tam Coc, Trang An and the surrounds are known as ‘Halong Bay on Land’ due to the awe-inspiring landscape of lakes, lush green rice paddies and towering limestone karsts.

So unique is the landscape that it was used as the filming location for Kong: Skull Island.

Exploring this landscape on the water and by scooter is your best bet – start by going on a boat trip at either Tam Coc or Trang An (or both) which lasts a couple of hours and winds through nature.

You’ll spot water buffalo, women working in the fields and passing through deep caves, all while the woman at the helm rows with her feet.

If you’re confident and have a licence, rent a scooter to explore further afield towards the Hang Mua Caves, which has one of the best views of the entire area.

3- Ho Chi Minh City

Panoramic view of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is one of the top cities to visit in Vietnam if it’s your first time in the country.

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as many still call it, is Vietnam’s other city and arguably bigger, brighter and more energetic than Hanoi.

HCMC is more westernised than other parts of Vietnam, so alongside street markets and food stalls, you’ll find towering skyscrapers with sky bars, modern hotels and shopping malls.

HCMC is historic and a great place to get to grips with the country’s past.

Independence Palace, once the seat of the President, and the War Remnants Museum are both fascinating and sobering.

Take a walk or catch a Grab scooter to see the pretty Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office.

For war history, take a half-day trip to explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, learn about the history of the Vietnam War and try to squeeze inside the tiny underground spaces used by soldiers at the time.

4- Vung Tau

Vung Tau aerial view of city
Vung Tau is one of the best cities to visit in Vietnam after you’ve been to Hanoi and HCMC.

Vung Tau is a coastal city just a few short hours from Ho Chi Minh City, making it popular with day and weekend trippers looking to get away somewhere sunny.

There’s plenty to do in this once-French colonial-style area, such as visiting the massive statue of Jesus Christ or heading to the Worldwide Arms Museum if you’re into military history.

However, Vung Tau is most famous for its stellar beaches – the main two being Pineapple Beach and Front Beach. Join a private beach tour here.

There are great hotels here, from local guesthouses to big resorts and apart from a chance to relax, it’s a great way to get an insight into how the locals like to spend their holidays.

5- Mui Ne

Also not far from HCMC, around four hours by bus or train, Mui Ne is a town that is part of the wider Phan Thiet province.

The neighbouring city of the same name holds the train station and a few shops, but Mui Ne holds the real prize for travellers here.

Famous for its spectacular red and white sand dunes, many tours can take you up at sunrise or dusk to admire the dunes before visiting the equally impressive Fairy Stream, a shallow, winding river surrounded by unique red rock formations.

Once you’ve exhausted yourself on a quad bike or jeep tour, Mui Ne is also famous for its fishing villages, where colourful round boats and locals with swathes of netting sell their produce.

Additionally, Mui Ne is a mecca worldwide for kite surfers due to its high winds and stunning beaches.

You’ll find no shortage of white sand and water that’s almost bath temperature.

For more things to do in Vietnam, read:

6- Nha Trang

panoramic daytime view of Nha Trang with mountains in the background
Nha Trang is one of the top cities in Vietnam for beaches and islands.

Nha Trang is a bustling city on Vietnam’s eastern coast famous for a few things: luxury resorts, water sports, shopping and casinos.

However, there’s a huge range of accommodation here and it’s worth checking out, as snorkelling and diving off the coast here are wonderful.

The beach is lined with great bars, cafes, clubs and hidden gems.

Most people relax in Nha Trang and take a day trip to the nearby My Son Champa ruins, which are intricately carved ancient ruins in the jungle.

Alternatively, the nearest island can be reached by cable car with epic views and houses a theme park, while boat trips visit tranquil islands further afield.

7- Hoi An

Hoi An Ancient Town Riverside View
Hoi An is a famous city in Vietnam for its old town charm.

If Vietnam is a country that has it all, then Hoi An is the city that has it all.

One of the prettiest little Old Towns in Vietnam, the area is lined with French-style wooden houses, shops and cafes selling the city’s famous handmade lanterns.

It is also famous for its tailors, of which there are hundreds and you can have just about anything made to fit you for a fraction of Western prices.

A river runs through the centre of Hoi An, and you can go on peaceful boat trips along it or, in the evening, sit in one of the many bars and restaurants that come to life.

In the Old Town, look at the Central Market, which is full of local food stalls, and later pick up some souvenirs at the Night Market.

Hoi An also has two incredible stretches of beach: An Bang and Cua Dai.

The former is generally more popular with locals, but both have some of the best accommodation options, oceanfront restaurants and cafes where you can sip coffee to the sound of the waves. Find out more here.

8- Da Lat

houses in Dalat
Da Lat is one of the interesting cities in Vietnam to visit in the highlands.

Da Lat lies in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, a popular tourist area that is still under-visited.

Its location means the climate is often cooler, and although the city is home to colonial buildings and quaint houses, the region has plenty of mountains and jungles, which make it popular for adventure sports such as canyoning, trekking and cycling.

Da Lat is also where Vietnamese coffee is produced. Coffee is one of the country’s most important and delicious exports, and you can find excellent quality beans throughout Vietnam, but make sure to visit a plantation or brewers while you’re in Da Lat to see how the process works first-hand.

Top tour: 8-Hour DaLat Countryside with Silk Village, Elephant falls.

9- Sa Pa

Sa Pa, A City In The Mountains at sunset
Sa Pa is one of the most charming cities in Vietnam to visit in the hills.

Situated in Vietnam’s misty northern mountains, Sa Pa is technically a large town, but its significance on the tourist trail and the wealth of sights on offer make it worthy of any list.

Sa Pa proper is high in the mountains and overlooks Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina, where you can either trek or catch the cable car.

It also has a quaint little church, vibrant night market and many authentic restaurants serving traditional Sapa style cooking – grilled pork and goat are particularly famous.

Many travellers use Fansipan as their base to explore this wider region.

You can walk to the local village of Cat Cat, which has breathtaking views, do a day or multi-night hike into the surrounding hills and mountains, or opt for a homestay in one of the villages where you’ll be welcomed by members of North Vietnam’s many tribes.

Sapa can easily get to freezing temperatures, and rain, fog and mist are extremely common, so you should bring warm clothing and allow enough time to get at least one clear weather day.

10- Ha Giang

Ha Giang is a city in the far reaches of northern Vietnam, which takes visitors even further into the mountainous wilderness.

When visiting the north, consider doing the Ha Giang Loop, a multi-night motorbike tour that can be done as a self-drive or with a guide.

The tour explores the Ha Giang region, winding through cascading rice terraces, steep mountain passes and huge waterfalls, even passing as far north as the border with China.

Despite the popularity of these tours, Ha Giang and the surrounding area is still almost untouched by tourism and the local tribes-people, villages, markets and landscapes you’ll see are a true insight into Vietnam.

11- Haiphong

Haiphong is mainly an industrial city, although temples, lakes and museums can also be found.

Check out Tam Bac Lake, the main lake in the city, as well as the pretty Opera House and Queen of the Rosary Cathedral.

The main reason to pass through Haiphong is that it is the gateway to Ha Long Bay, with many hotels, hotels and guesthouses.

From Haiphong, you’ll have almost too many choices when it comes to cruises, including one, two or three-night trips, stays on a private island on the bay, junk boats, party boats and luxury yachts.

Regardless of which you choose, seeing the karsts rising out of the bay is one of the most beautiful sights on earth and is unmissable if you’re in Vietnam.

Haiphong is also opposite the island of Cat Ba, where many bay cruises stop on overnight trips; it’s covered in lush jungle and beaches, perfect for exploring or relaxing.

12- Danang

Panorama Of Da Nang City In Vietnam. Daytime
Da Nang is one of the main cities in Vietnam and a popular resort region.

Danang is a relaxed city on the coast of Vietnam, not far from Hoi An and most visitors pass through here when travelling from Hue to Hoi An or vice versa, but don’t stay.

Those who do will discover a city with one of the country’s best beaches lined with great restaurants and shops, while the major river that runs through Danang is the centre of its buzzing nightlife.

Rooftop bars, local restaurants and streetside stalls all come alive at night.

Danang has a couple of other fun sights, including its iconic dragon bridge, which breathes fire on weekends, and the nearby Marble Mountains, which offer scenic views over the coastline.

Top tour: Da Nang: Lady Buddha, Monkey Mountain and Am Phu Cave Tour.

13- My Tho

My Tho is a little visited city close to Ho Chi Minh and is generally not on the tourist trail.

The city is the capital of the Tien Giang province and is well-known for its local markets along the river, where you can catch a boat and explore all of the little islands and waterways in the area and stroll along the waterfront.

Many stalls sell My Tho’s popular produce, like bananas, coconuts and rice, and tours often pass through here on the way to the famous floating markets on the Mekong Delta in Can Tho.

14- Can Tho

Can Tho is Vietnam’s fourth-largest city and one of the most popular day trips from Ho Chi Minh.

Visitors to Can Tho go to explore its incredible floating markets – you’ll be taken out on a boat and see hundreds of other boats on the rivers laden with fruits, dry food and almost every other type of produce, which you can buy if you’re feeling peckish.

The abundance of fresh produce sold here also means it has an excellent food scene, so after a day of exploring the river, head to one of the many restaurants for some hearty Vietnamese food, such as fresh fish, pho or bahn mi.

15- Hue

Truong Tien Bridge In Hue
Hue is one of the historic cities in Vietnam to visit.

Hue is a major hotspot on the east coast of Vietnam, filled with thousands of years of history.

It is the starting point for tours of the breathtaking Hai Van Pass over the mountains to Hoi An and home to the famous Imperial Citadel.

The Citadel is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site and a walled fortress that is 10 km long.

It’s the main attraction in Hue and could take a few hours to a full day to explore as there’s a plethora of artistic gates, temples and exhibits to discover inside.

Aside from this, the Perfume River, which runs through the city, is a relaxing place to enjoy a boat trip, while the riverside night market is a hub of action each evening.

16- Phong Nha

Phong Nha is far from a city; it is a small town with a population of around 3000 people that draws visitors from far and wide for its unique attraction.

Phong Nha is home to the world’s largest cave, Son Doong, and several other equally spectacular, slightly smaller cave systems.

Surrounded by jungles and karsts, the landscape feels like it has been preserved for millions of years.

Son Doong Cave is inside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and outside of the rainy season, you can camp, trek and explore deep inside the cave systems here and float along underground rivers or abseil into remote tunnels.

17- Phu Quoc

Aerial View Of The Resort Coast Of Vietnam, Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is not one of the largest cities in Vietnam but it’s rapidly becoming a popular resort destination.

Phu Quoc is an island off Vietnam’s far southern coast and is extremely popular with both tourists and locals, although many visitors don’t get the chance to go here due to the bus and ferry ride it takes to get there.

However, its offshore location is worth making time for with its soft white sand beaches, world-class snorkelling and diving and laid-back local life.

If beach life isn’t for you, there’s plenty on offer, including fishing villages, waterfalls and even pepper farms, a unique export Phu Quoc is famous for.

18- Ben Tre

Approximately two hours south of Ho Chi Minh City, Be. Tre is a unique city known for its endless number of coconut trees.

If you didn’t know there are many different varieties and colours of coconut, you can try all of them here!

There’s even a coconut festival every year.

The best way to get into the heart of the thousands of acres of coconuts is by taking a boat trip, rowed by a local woman who can tell you about the city and perhaps let you try some offshoots of the product, like coconut candy and crisps.

19- Quy Nhon

Quy Nhon isn’t often considered a tourist destination and in fact, people only occasionally jump off here as it’s in the middle of a very long train journey between Hoi An and Nha Trang, so it’s a useful place to break up the journey.

However, it is packed with exciting attractions and several picturesque beaches.

Some of the country’s best-preserved ancient Champa ruins are located here, along with pagodas, museums and quaint fishing villages.

The beaches here, such as Stone Egg Beach and Ky Co are relatively untouched and lined with surf bars and swaying thatched huts to enjoy a drink as the sun goes down. 

20- Soc Trang

Boat On Beach In Con Dao Islands
You can get to the Con Dao Islands via a couple of cities in Vietnam, such as Soc Trang.

Soc Trang is famous for its Khmer pagodas, such as the 16th-century Bat Pagoda and the 12th-century Doi Pagoda.  

The city is a cultural melting pot of Chinese, Khmer, Kinh and Cham cultures. It has lovely beaches, Chinese temples and monasteries to explore. 

Con Dao Island, off the east coast of Vietnam, is accessible by high-speed ferry or plane from Soc Trang.

Most of the island is part of Con Dao National Park, which contains the country’s most transparent waters, most beautiful beaches and a huge amount of wild and marine life.

It’s easy to find a beach to yourself for the day or visit more than one, or if you’d like to go out on the water, boat trips to nearby reefs offer fantastic snorkelling and diving.

There are a few great guesthouses and hotels, along with wellness retreats and resorts scattered across the island, if you’re looking to treat yourself while there, and the best way to get around is by bicycle, which can usually be rented from your hotel.\

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.