Things to do in Vietnam
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.
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.
Head here for faithful copies of Western styles.
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.
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.
At this minimalist shop tucked under the Beaux-Arts Municipal Theater, graphic primary-color classics are reminiscent of Michael Kors; a crimson satin party dress with an exposed zipper is a steal for less than $100.
Owner-tastemaker Catherine Denoual’s shop in the towering Saigon Centre mall, features delicately embroidered sateen bed linens in rich chocolates, golds, and caramels, as well as perhaps the world's most decadent silk charmeuse robe ($185), for your inner Marlene Dietrich.
Whimsical, flamboyant handbags.
Every expat in town eventually winds up on Pacharan’s fourth-floor terrace (directly opposite the Park Hyatt hotel) for wine, sangria, and reliably good tapas on weekend nights.
This venue is closed.
Racks of candy-colored Indo-chic dresses (from $120) fill the sleek pink-and-black space. Traditional Asian silhouettes are modernized and delivered in unusual fabrics such as houndstooth or nubby wool.
Specializing in Art Deco furniture (both reproduction and antique), this densely packed multistory shop may have a corny name but it’s been a favorite of expats looking to outfit their villas since it opened in 1998.
The gallery showcases the leading edge of contemporary Vietnamese art
Peeling ocher walls, sun-bleached curtains, musty corridors, a fountain full of pond scum: Saigon’s oldest art museum is atmosphere incarnate, like Miss Havisham’s parlor gone tropical.