Vietnam Travel Guide
From exploring historic palaces and relaxing on a wide beach to enjoying the vibrant street life, upscale shopping and notable architecture of the cities, there are endless things to do in Vietnam. Travelers would need more than a few weeks to savor it all, but some top activities include taking a historic tour of Hanoi, with visits to the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hoa Lo Prison (aka the "Hanoi Hilton") and the Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius.
Save time for a stroll around Hanoi's lakes and the Old Town, where you'll find boutiques stocking silks, lacquer goods, artwork and more. In Saigon, visit the War Remnants Museum, Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park, and Museum of Fine Arts. A stay in Hue is a must for exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site Imperial City and Citadel ruins complexes and the spectacular Royal Tomb complexes outside of town, which can be accessed via a scenic bike path. The quaint former trading port town of Hoi An, another UNESCO site, is known for its well-preserved 15th to 19th-century houses, many of which are now museums, galleries, cafes, and fashion boutiques.
The most stirringly beautiful of the Royal Tombs in Hué, Vietnam's most historic city.
Along with the Archbishop’s Residence, this ranks as perhaps the most graceful and visually arresting colonial building in Saigon, full of rococo flourish and wonderful wedding-cake detail.
Headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, this tour company organizes custom trips to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Bali. In addition to a variety of set itineraries, the company also designs personalized tours based on budget and interests, such as history, philanthropy, or cooking.
Saigon’s main public market sells everything from dried spices and live chickens to cheap clothing and plasticware. And while it may be chaotic and crowded, it’s always entertaining to explore—and especially good for a quick snack from the many food vendors here.
Saigon’s largest selection of English-language books, travel guides, and magazines is also a good bet for postcards, maps, and hard-to-find international newspapers.
The white-on-white Modernist building that houses Gaya makes a dramatic first impression (yes, those are giant fountain-pen nibs on the façade). Inside, you'll find the best haute souvenirs in all of Saigon.
Locating Villa Anupa, hidden down a slender lane off Le Thanh Ton Street, is a challenge; even harder is deciding which of Anupa Horvil's butter-soft leather bags should come home with you. Will it be the white hobo with tourmaline beading ($250)? Or the metallic-gray clutch ($160)?
Bespoke couturier Nguyen Cong Tri fashions runway-worthy satin and silk frocks at ready-to-wear prices (a floaty, turquoise chiffon dress for under $300). But don't expect a quick turnaround: it will take up to 10 days and a couple of fittings (shipping is available).
Since the “Five O’Clock Follies” (the U.S. military’s daily press briefings during the Vietnam War) were held downstairs, the rooftop garden—with its wacky Dr. Seussian topiary—became a beloved journo hangout, and remains an essential tourist stop to this day.
Head here for faithful copies of Western styles.
An Indian monk arrived during the third century in what is now the Ha Tay Province, and established the Dau Pagoda that has become one of Vietnam's oldest. An ancient place of worship with ornate wooden carvings, it was rebuilt during the 14th century.
Irony comes to Ho Chi Minh City at this perfectly named boutique that trades in Socialist-themed ephemera: Communist Party T-shirts, Uncle Ho coffee mugs, key-chains emblazoned with NVA tanks, and more.
Formerly known as the Exhibition House of American War Crimes (at least until the United States became Vietnam’s biggest trading partner), this haphazardly organized museum provides not so much a coherent narrative of Vietnam’s conflicts with the French and Americans as a visceral and often grues
Valerie Gregori McKenzie, a French clothing designer based in Saigon, sells her breezy resort wear (sundresses, tops, and sarongs in soft cotton, silk, and linen) and yoga separates at this pleasant and well-run boutique, which emphasizes ethical sourcing of fabrics.