Top 10 things to do in Vietnam for first-time visitors

If you’re planning your first-time visit to Vietnam, a land of captivating beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture, get ready for an unforgettable adventure that will keep you intrigued at every turn. 

From the stunning natural landscapes to the bustling city streets, Vietnam offers an array of experiences that will leave you mesmerized. In this blog post, we’ve curated the top 10 best things to do in Vietnam that will ensure you make the most of your time in Vietnam. Whether you seek ancient wonders, mouthwatering cuisine, or serene beaches, Vietnam has it all. 

Let’s dive into the top 10 things to do and create cherished memories in this breathtaking S-shaped nation.

Best things to do in Vietnam – Top 10 must-do activities for first-time visitor 

Embarking on a journey to Vietnam for the first time is an exciting and enriching experience, offering an abundance of diverse activities and unforgettable moments. From the stunning natural landscapes to the rich cultural heritage, Vietnam has something to captivate every traveler’s heart. Let’s dive into the wonders of Vietnam with our hand-picked top 10 best things to do in Vietnam!

1. Explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Ha Noi Street Vendors
Ha Noi Street Vendors

Exploring Old Quarter of Hanoi is an exhilarating journey back in time and an immersion into the vibrant heart of Vietnam’s capital city. As you venture through its bustling streets, you’ll be captivated by the charming chaos of motorbikes, street vendors, and locals going about their daily lives. The narrow alleys, known as “pho,” lead to hidden gems where ancient temples stand proudly amidst the modern cityscape.

Witness the fusion of old and new as you wander past colonial architecture, French-inspired buildings, and traditional Vietnamese houses. Old Quarter is a sensory delight, with the aroma of street food wafting through the air and the lively atmosphere captivating all your senses.

Be sure to explore the labyrinthine markets, such as Dong Xuan Market, where you can haggle for souvenirs, textiles, and local crafts. The Old Quarter is also home to historical landmarks like the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, where legends of the mystical turtle are intertwined with the city’s rich history.

2. Trek in Sapa’s rice terraces 

Trekking in Sapa’s rice terraces is an awe-inspiring adventure that immerses you in the breathtaking beauty of Northern Vietnam’s highlands. As you embark on this journey, you’ll be captivated by the mesmerizing landscapes of tiered rice terraces, each a work of art meticulously crafted by generations of local farmers. The trek takes you through lush valleys, ascending to picturesque mountain viewpoints that offer sweeping panoramas of the region’s majestic scenery.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this trek is the opportunity to interact with ethnic minority communities, such as the Hmong, Red Dao, and Tay people, who call Sapa home. Their warm hospitality and rich cultural traditions add depth to your experience, and you’ll gain insights into their way of life, customs, and traditional practices.

With experienced local guides leading the way, you’ll navigate hidden trails, cross bamboo bridges, and venture into remote villages, where the harmonious blend of nature and culture creates an unforgettable encounter. Trekking in Sapa’s rice terraces promises an authentic and transformative journey, leaving you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the region’s unique charm.

3. Cruise through Halong Bay


Ha Long Bay landscape view
Ha Long Bay landscape view

Cruising through Halong Bay is a breathtaking experience that takes you on a journey through one of the most enchanting natural wonders in the world. As you sail among the stunning limestone karsts that rise dramatically from the emerald waters, you’ll be transported to a surreal and otherworldly landscape. The bay’s ethereal beauty, with its thousands of towering limestone pillars covered in lush greenery, is a testament to the marvels of nature.

The calm waters of Halong Bay provide the perfect setting for a relaxing and serene cruise, allowing you to take in the awe-inspiring scenery at a leisurely pace. Glimmering caves and grottoes hidden within the karsts beckon to be explored, revealing hidden chambers adorned with stunning stalactites and stalagmites.

As you cruise through this UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll be treated to panoramic views that change with the shifting light and weather, creating a mesmerizing and ever-changing spectacle. Whether you choose a day cruise or an overnight journey on a traditional junk boat, a visit to Halong Bay promises an unforgettable and magical experience that will stay with you long after your voyage ends.

4. Visit the ancient town of Hoi An

Hoi An and Fukien essembly hall
Hoi An and Fukien essembly hall

Visiting the ancient town of Hoi An is like stepping into a time capsule that transports you back to Vietnam’s enchanting past. As you wander through its well-preserved streets, you’ll be captivated by the charming fusion of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese architectural influences. The UNESCO World Heritage site exudes a unique ambiance, especially during the enchanting lantern-lit nights when the town transforms into a magical wonderland.

Hoi An’s bustling night markets offer an array of handicrafts, local delicacies, and colorful lanterns, adding to the town’s vibrant atmosphere. One of the must-do activities is lantern-making, where you can partake in the centuries-old tradition of creating your own lantern masterpiece. Choose from an array of colorful silk fabrics, and under the guidance of skilled artisans, craft a lantern that reflects your creativity and wishes.

Hoi An’s ancient town offers an immersive experience of Vietnam’s cultural heritage, making it an unforgettable destination for travelers seeking to connect with the country’s rich history and artistic traditions.

5. Marvel at the Imperial City of Hue

Inside The Citadel. Imperial Forbidden City. Hue, Vietnam / Source: Smoke666 - YayImages
Inside The Citadel. Imperial Forbidden City. Hue, Vietnam / Source: Smoke666 – YayImages

Marvel at the Imperial City of Hue, a mesmerizing journey into Vietnam’s rich history and imperial heritage. Step back in time as you explore the ancient citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site that served as the political and cultural center of the Nguyen Dynasty. The majestic walls and grand architecture reflect the opulence of Vietnam’s royal past, offering a glimpse into the lives of emperors and their court.

As you wander through the Imperial City’s complex, be enchanted by the intricate details of its palaces, temples, and gardens. The imposing Ngo Mon Gate, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, and the Forbidden Purple City stand as testaments to the dynasty’s grandeur.

To complete this unforgettable experience, take a boat ride along the Perfume River, offering a scenic route to the royal tombs and historic pagodas that dot its banks. The tranquil river setting adds to the serene ambiance of the imperial exploration, leaving you with a profound appreciation for Vietnam’s cultural heritage and royal legacy.

6. Relax on the beaches of Nha Trang or Phu Quoc

Relaxing on the beaches of Nha Trang and Phu Quoc is a blissful experience that combines serene coastal landscapes with warm tropical weather. 

Nha Trang, located in the south-central part of Vietnam, boasts long stretches of golden sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and a vibrant beachside atmosphere. Whether you’re seeking water sports, beachfront dining, or simply lounging under the swaying palm trees, Nha Trang has it all. Phu Quoc, an island paradise in the Gulf of Thailand, captivates visitors with its untouched beauty and laid-back ambiance. The island’s pristine beaches, lined with coconut palms and lapped by gentle waves, create an idyllic setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring nearby islands are popular activities, while the evenings offer romantic sunsets and beachside dining experiences.

Both destinations cater to travelers seeking a perfect blend of tranquility and adventure, making them ideal havens to unwind, recharge, and immerse oneself in the breathtaking coastal wonders of Vietnam.

7. Join in the never ending party in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh city Bui Vien street
Ho Chi Minh city Bui Vien street

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, offers a vibrant and electrifying atmosphere that makes it a never-ending party for both locals and visitors alike. This bustling metropolis is a melting pot of cultures, blending traditional Vietnamese heritage with modern influences. From the energetic streets filled with motorbikes to the lively markets and street food stalls, the city’s dynamic energy is palpable.

The nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City is a feast for the senses, with a plethora of trendy bars, rooftop lounges, and live music venues. Experience the famous Bui Vien Walking Street, where backpackers and locals gather to enjoy the diverse entertainment options until the early hours of the morning. Apart from its nightlife, Ho Chi Minh City offers an array of cultural experiences. Visit historical landmarks such as the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Embrace the lively atmosphere of the local markets and indulge in the tantalizing flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.

Ho Chi Minh City’s vibrant ambiance promises an unforgettable adventure where the party never truly ends, leaving you with memories to cherish long after your visit.

8. Discover the historic Cu Chi Tunnels

Ho Chi Minh city Cu Chi tunnel
Ho Chi Minh city Cu Chi tunnel

Discover the historic Cu Chi Tunnels, a fascinating attraction that offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s turbulent past and wartime legacy. Located just outside Ho Chi Minh City, these underground tunnels played a crucial role during the Vietnam War, serving as a strategic stronghold for the Viet Cong guerrilla fighters. Exploring this intricate network is a compelling experience that takes you back in time.

As you venture through the narrow passageways, you’ll gain insights into the ingenious tactics employed by the Vietnamese resistance against American forces. Marvel at the resourcefulness of the tunnel system, which included living quarters, storage rooms, hospitals, and even command centers. Witness the resilience and determination of the people who inhabited these tunnels during some of the war’s most challenging times.

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels is not only an educational journey into history but also a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Vietnamese people. It offers an opportunity to honor the sacrifices made during the war and gain a deeper understanding of the nation’s enduring strength and courage.

9. Experience the local life Mekong Delta

Local poeple harvest coconut
Local poeple harvest coconut

Experiencing the local life in the Mekong Delta is a journey of immersion into the heart of Vietnamese culture and traditions. Taking a boat tour through the intricate maze of rivers and canals, you’ll witness the bustling activity of vibrant floating markets, where locals trade their goods from boat to boat, creating a colorful and lively spectacle. The Mekong Delta is a fertile land of lush landscapes, dotted with coconut groves, fruit orchards, and rice paddies, all nourished by the life-giving waters of the Mekong River.

As you glide through the waterways, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with the friendly locals, who are always eager to share their stories and ways of life. Visit riverside villages to witness traditional handicrafts being made and indulge in the warm hospitality of the Mekong people. The experience allows you to see firsthand how the locals live and work harmoniously with the water, making the Mekong Delta an enchanting and unforgettable encounter with authentic Vietnamese life.

10. Last but not least, no matter where you go, don’t forget to sample Vietnamese cuisine

Banh Mi Vietnam
Banh Mi Vietnam

Sample Vietnamese cuisine is a delightful and unforgettable experience for food enthusiasts. At local eateries across Vietnam, you can immerse yourself in a culinary journey that will tantalize your taste buds. Begin with Pho, Vietnam’s iconic noodle soup, featuring flavorful broth, tender rice noodles, and your choice of beef or chicken, garnished with fresh herbs and lime.

Next, savor the beloved Banh Mi, a French-inspired baguette filled with a medley of ingredients such as grilled meats, pickled vegetables, and pâté, resulting in a perfect fusion of flavors and textures. Fresh spring rolls are a refreshing delight, featuring rice paper filled with herbs, rice vermicelli, and either shrimp or pork, served with a delectable dipping sauce.

Venture further into the culinary landscape with other mouthwatering dishes like Bun Cha, a tasty combination of grilled pork, rice vermicelli, and herbs, or Com Tam, broken rice topped with grilled meats and served with a side of pickled vegetables. Each dish showcases the ingenuity and richness of Vietnamese cuisine, promising a true gastronomic adventure that will leave you craving for more.

Final thoughts

Preparing for your first Vietnam trip is crucial to ensure a remarkable and hassle-free experience. With a multitude of breathtaking destinations to explore, let this list of the top 10 things to do in Vietnam guide you through enchanting cities and regions, creating your Vietnam bucket-list. 

Joining a well-organized cultural tour, such as the one offered by Viland Travel, ensures you make the most of your journey with expert guides providing in-depth knowledge and smooth logistics. From comfortable accommodations to carefully planned itineraries, our tours offer convenience and a comprehensive exploration of Vietnam’s diverse landscapes, fascinating heritage, and mouthwatering cuisine. With meticulous planning and attention to detail, embark on a memorable vacation that unveils the true essence of Vietnam. 

Book now and get ready to create lifelong memories while immersing yourself in the captivating beauty of this remarkable country!