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Things to do in Vietnam: a full list of must-do activities

by Juan José Herranz | January 13, 2021
Vietnamese people on a boat in a river

Vietnam has got to be one of the many underrated travel destinations around the world. Outshined by its neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos; many people do not know all the places to visit in Vietnam. Landscapes, food, unique experiences and great hospitality are some of the things to see in Vietnam.

If you plan on visiting Vietnam soon, here is a guide of what to do in Vietnam.

Visit the ancient city of Hoi An

Being a well-preserved and ancient city in Vietnam, Hoi An is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. It is well known for the multitude of motorbikes that fill the streets. It is easy to walk around the town and come across Chinese, French and Japanese influences, or to see incredible 360-degree views of the city at the Museum of History and Culture.

Cycling around its old streets is also a joy. However, Hoi An is more famous for its colourful lanterns that hang on the buildings, and light up after nightfall.

Cruise along the Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay

This must be on every traveller’s to-do list. These neighbour bays offer some of the best things to do in Vietnam: seeing the limestone rising from the waters, and fantastic cruise trips starting from Halong. You can also explore small beaches and caves around the bays, where you can eat fresh seafood. 

Bay might be a bit crowded since it is the most popular spot; so I would recommend you to focus your tour on Tu Long Bay, where it is quieter and emptier, and far more relaxing, in my opinion.

boats in Halong Bay in Vietnam

Discover the floating markets of the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is known to be the agricultural land of Vietnam. Rice, fish and vegetables are grown in this area that revolves around the river. Many locals use boats to move around and visiting the floating markets create an exciting and unique experience. This is the numer one on our list of top things to do in Vietnam.

Get on a boat and go shopping for fresh products while appreciating the warmth of Vietnamese people, and embracing all of the beautiful nature surrounding you. However, my advice would be to go on and explore early in the morning before tourist tour buses arrive.

Embrace the full experience of Hanoi

This is the highlight of Vietnam!  One of the major cities in Vietnam, Hanoi, is an excellent mix between history, together with its museums and temples, and modern life, with its markets and lights.

Amongst the monuments and places to visit, The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is where you can relive history through the Hanoi Flag Tower. This is all within walking distance from the Quan Thanh Temple, the Vietnam Military History Museum and Cua Bac Church.

Amongst other appealing attractions, I would strongly recommend the Water Puppet Theatre, as well as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh is laid to rest in a glass coffin case.

A visit to some of the many temples around the area, including the Temple of Literature, the Vong Temple, Thuyet Kinh Cave and the Thien Son Pagoda should also not be missed.

Consider indulging in the savoury street food that the Hanoi Old Quarter has to offer, and end your journey with a visit to the Ba Vi National Park, with its fantastic scenery!

Hanoi Old Quarter in Vietnam

Be amazed by the Ban Gioc Waterfall

Ban Gios are two waterfalls colliding right on the Vietnam-China border. It’s one of the best places to visit in Vietnam and one of the most breathtaking sites in Asia, and the best part is that it is generally not crowded with people and other tourists.

The view of the waterfall surrounded by mountains covered with their green coats makes this a postcard-worthy snapshot. You can enjoy this gem either from the mountain tops or on a boat closer to the falls.

Explore Hang Son Doong Cave 

Vietnam has the world’s largest cave, which is called the Hang Son Doong Cave in Phong Nha National Park. It's another UNESCO-listed treasure and is undoubtedly worth visiting. You can do so with the help of a guide, but make sure you rent or buy the correct and necessary equipment in advance.

Once you visit the cave, you can also enjoy its surroundings; you can go trekking, hiking in the jungle, and climbing up the mountains, while feeling the fresh breeze coming from the waterfalls and watching monkeys and flying foxes going around the jungle!

Sunbathe at the beach

The country has many beautiful beaches. These are places to visit in Vietnam because of their golden sand and translucent turquoise waters.

There are a variety of different options. There are a few more touristy beaches, boasting luxurious resorts, guided tours and activities such as snorkelling and scuba-diving. Danang, Nha Trang and Mui Ne, for example, are popular beaches that get a lot of attention, and which might be overcrowded with tourists.

If you prefer quieter and emptier beaches, I would strongly recommend areas like Lang Co, Vinh Hy and Doc Let, which still conserve their authenticity, serene ambience and simple life.

Take a stroll on the Golden Hands Bridge

Vietnam has already proven itself to be incredibly mesmerizing, but if you think that we have seen it all; just keep reading. The Golden Hands Bridge does not only hold some of the best views around the world but is also one of the most incredibly constructed pedestrian bridges in the world.

You have surely seen a picture of the Golden Hand Bridge, which appears to be carried by two giant hands. Timing of your visit is crucial if you want to take great pictures and freeze that unforgettable moment. I advise you to go early in the morning, around 7 a.m. to avoid crowds, clouds and fog.

Golden Hand Bridge in Vietnam

Tour the city of Hue on a bicycle

Located on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue is a charming city which illustrates the history of Vietnam in its preserved monuments.

You can visit the tombs of ancient emperors, visit the Tu Hieu Pagoda, and explore the Huyen Tran Princess Temple with its magical complex covered with Lotus flowers, then visit the Imperial Citadel and the Thien Mu Pagoda. In addition, you should cycle around the banks over the river where traffic is less, and finish your tour in the Elephant Springs for some rejuvenation.

Dive into the street food

You cannot enjoy a trip to Vietnam without indulging into the amazing street food of the country. One of the things to do in Vietnam is to try Pho; a rice noodle dish with broth and meat, which is Vietnam’s most notorious creation. Bun Cha, another dish consisting of grilled meat, rice noodles and crispy salad, is also a local’s favourite.

Banh mi is the Vietnamese version of a baguette sandwich, and Goi Cuon are light spring rolls to balance all of the fried street food.

Another staple in Vietnam is coffee. Ca Phe Sua Da is the Vietnamese coffee, and it consists of bitter brewed coffee, mixed with a tablespoon or two of condensed milk, and poured over ice in a tall glass. As delicious as this sounds, it is also incredibly sweet! The best way to drink it is to do so slowly, in a coffee shop, while enjoying some people watching.