Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – the best city to visit in Vietnam

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Hello there! In this article, I wanted to compare two cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam and trying to choose between both of these cities and can only visit one, hopefully, this article will help you understand which city to visit and which city is more interesting for you: Ho Chi Minh vs Hanoi!

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Read this post about our 7-day itinerary for Vietnam or this article about our 14-day recommended itinerary for Vietnam and Laos here >>>

Ho Chi Minh City – is it worth visiting?

Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city. Even though the Capital is in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City is very important, and it has also been developing much faster than Hanoi. The tallest building in Vietnam is located in Ho Chi Minh City (The Landmark Tower), and some of the nicest restaurants in the country can also be found there.

Ho Chi Minh City is a much more modern city, but it’s also much busier than Hanoi. The sound of the honking can be a bit overbearing, and crossing a road in Ho Chi Minh City is also quite an adventure.

Ho Chi Minh City doesn’t have as many landmarks as Hanoi, and since it’s a much newer city overall (it started developing in the 19th century), there are very few historical buildings and architectural highlights.

However, that doesn’t mean that Ho Chi Minh City is not worth visiting! First of all, it’s always hot in Ho Chi Minh City! Winter in Hanoi can be quite chilly, but at the same time, it will always be +32C in Saigon. Secondly, we found the food offerings in Saigon a bit more exciting than in Hanoi. There were plenty of nice restaurants and also cool street food markets; there was great bubble tea around every corner, and Bahn Mi was to die for! There are also way more Western food options and also lots of hipster and trendy bars and cafes (like the Blank Lounge at the Landmark Tower).

How long should you stay in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)?

We spent 2 days in Saigon and felt like it was enough to see most of the landmarks in the city, but we didn’t have time to go outside the city – on a day trip to the floating market and the war tunnels. One of the must-do things in Ho Chi Minh City is taking a street food tour with the local students by motorbike – it’s a fun experience, and we got to try so many things we otherwise wouldn’t have tried or known how to eat! It’s also a very affordable tour – you can check the prices and availability of this tour here >>>

What about Hanoi? Is Hanoi worth visiting?

Hanoi, on the other hand, is the capital of Vietnam that is rooted in deep historical significance. Hanoi has so many landmarks that it’s difficult to visit them all in a couple of days. The distances between them are also huge! Hanoi is also renowned for preserving its cultural heritage. The city’s Old Quarter stands as a living testament to its traditional roots. The narrow streets in the Old Town are filled with small shops, traditional eateries, and ancient temples.

Hanoi doesn’t have as many modern buildings as Ho Chi Minh City, and it even has a completely different atmosphere.

Hanoi is a much more beautiful city, it’s not as busy, and it’s way greener. It’s more touristy, and accommodation options are also a bit more expensive in Hanoi, especially if the hotels are on a better side.

Vietnam’s most beautiful bay, Ha Long Bay is also easily accessible from Hanoi; it’s just a 2-hour drive away – hence, many people come to Hanoi & Ha Long Bay on a long weekend trip.

How many days are enough in Hanoi?

If you’re visiting Hanoi and planning to visit Ha Long Bay as well, I recommend spending at least 3 days or, better, 4 days in Hanoi – that will give you enough time to see the city and go on an overnight cruise to Ha Long Bay!

The cruise we took, and I can recommend a lot, is the Paradise Elegance cruise – it’s an overnight luxury cruise that doesn’t break the bank and visits all the main points of interest in Ha Long Bay!

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City – if you can only visit one place in Vietnam?

However, if you can only visit one place in Vietnam and are choosing between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, that really depends on what you like. If you like modern, super-busy cities with excellent shopping malls, skyscrapers and trendy restaurants, you might enjoy Ho Chi Minh City a bit more. If you like nature, architecture and history – Hanoi would be a better option.

Some other articles you might enjoy reading:

5 days in Laos: the best itinerary for Vientiane and Luang Prabang
18+ amazing things to do in Luang Prabang
14-day itinerary for Vietnam and Laos in one trip
Vietnam in 7 days: from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi via Phu Quoc
1 week in Japan: the best things to see

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