Vietnam draws millions of tourists for its untouched landscapes, from sprawling mangrove forests to picture-perfect limestone islands. Nature lovers come basking in the beauty of the UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay, cruising on deep blue waters on a traditional wooden junk boat. Outdoor enthusiasts also flock to the country’s hiking trails, backpacking through remote villages and lush rice paddies.
Yet cities are often left out of the tourist equation. But there is more to Vietnamese cities than an unflattering reputation for crazy traffic and a dizzying atmosphere. So, from cultural hubs to vibrant metropolises and quaint towns of old, here are four incredible cities to explore in Vietnam.
A former Vietnamese capital, Hue is an essential item to check off any history buff’s Vietnam bucket list. The country’s last royal dynastic family thrived in this Imperial City, leaving countless palaces and pavilions for visitors to admire. Passing travelers may also pay homage to Hue’s prominent emperors by visiting their tombs. The Art Déco façades of the Le Loi district paint a more modern historical picture, steeped in French colonial history.
But while significant preservation efforts have allowed the Hue Citadel to be restored to its former glory, this architectural gem in central Vietnam is far more than some mere open-air museum. The pervasive spirituality at Hue’s many monasteries and pagodas is a vivid testimony to Vietnam’s Buddhist roots, while the city’s surrounding countryside offers plenty of cycling trips through picturesque rice fields.
Da Nang strikes the perfect balance between a beach cation and a city trip. Situated in central Vietnam, this coastal city by the South China Sea boasts dozens of beaches for visitors to laze around in the sun or take a romantic sunset stroll. Gorgeous beaches also mean some pretty yummy seafood to enjoy, whether you go for a fancy seafront eatery or an inexpensive street food meal.
Besides sunbathing and eating out, travelers may set out for a nature walk amid the nearby Marble Mountains, home to as many atmospheric pagodas as unexplored caves. The Son Tra Peninsula is another natural gem where visitors can spend the day wildlife spotting. But culture vultures can as easily hop on a bus to explore the historical wonders and floating markets of Hoi An on a day trip.
Vietnam might arguably be called Asia’s premier nature destination. And Sa Pa seems the perfect city for nature lovers to choose as a base. Standing among stunning rice terraces and lush green mountains looming in the distance, this city in Northern Vietnam entices newcomers at first sight for its spectacular natural backdrop. Visitors might kick off their journey with a bird’s eye view on top of Mount Fansipan, which goes by the evocative moniker of “Roof of Indochina.”
Back on firmer ground, hikers can pick one of several trekking options leading them to unspoiled villages like Ta Phin. Overnight treks may even allow them to live an unforgettable ethnic experience first-hand, while mountaintop lodges are the perfect spots for a serene and reflective retreat. And Sa Pa offers many more ways to get active, from mountain biking to canoeing.
With a history going back a thousand years, Vietnam’s capital city is chock-full of ancient temples and colonial mansions, not to mention quite a few museums to learn about the country’s time-old culture.
And strolling down the Old Quarter is a sure way to work up an appetite as street kitchens infuse the air with the scrumptious scent of Phở broth and noodles. Alongside traditional eateries and coffee houses, Hanoi is also growing a unique cafe culture. Tourists may therefore hit trendy cafes or rub elbows with locals catching a soccer game at a lively sports bar.
Sharing the hype for Vietnam’s most beloved sport, visitors might even feel like placing some bets. While land-based gambling venues have yet to be legal across Vietnam, locals have a knack for cá cược thể thao trực tuyến (online sports betting). Punters can access a range of popular sports and events, both domestic and international. Safety is of the essence, and reputable platforms offer secure banking options. Better yet, top online bookies reward users with lofty bonuses.
Vietnam might be a nature haven, but the country’s cities are just as appealing to visitors. So, whether you yearn for a laid-back historical town or an exhilarating mega-city, Vietnam has got you covered on your next Southeast Asian adventure.