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.
One of the most appealing lanes in Saigon is also the favorite for foreign travelers: three tree-shaded blocks of quirky tube houses and colonial-era shop-houses. Take a walk along the row of cool fashion and home-design boutiques.
What was once Vietnam’s hippest nightspot—in the mid-1990s pioneer days—has lost a bit of its edge: the new décor is too flashy, the lighting distracting, and the clientele more corporate than cool.
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.
If time allows, consider a half-day excursion northwest of the city to these fascinating, albeit touristy, sights. A network of hidden passageways and underground lairs dug by the Viet Cong during the war form the amazing, if claustrophobia-inducing, Cu Chi Tunnels.
Pick up a Vietnamese ao dai (a woman's costume of tunic and flowing pants) reinvented by Minh Khoa, Ho Chi Minh City's edgiest couturier.
For dapper menswear—think Seize Sur Vingt—look for the unfortunately named Massimo Ferrari, a narrow boutique in treelined District 3.
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.
This friendly store—one of many similar cotton shops on Le Thanh Ton—ranks as one of the street’s best. The accommodating staff, which speaks halting but comprehensible English, will make simple embroidered cotton or linen sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, and napkins to your specifications.
Tucked away in the landmark Eden Mall, right off busy Dong Khoi Street, this centrally located sleek salon and spa is a favorite of well-heeled Saigonese.