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Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Which is Better to Visit? (8 Key Differences)

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Which is Better to Visit? (8 Key Differences)

By CindyUpdated Dec. 4, 2023

Hanoi (the capital city) and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) are the two biggest cities in Vietnam. Both provide travelers with multiple sightseeing activities, various shopping opportunities, plenty of food choices, distinctive accommodations, and more. Like Washington D.C. and New York in the United States, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City represent Vietnam's political and economic centers respectively.

But, if your time is limited, which is better for you to visit? In this article, we compare Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City in many ways, to help you make a decision about which you'd prefer to visit.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Summary

hanoi vs ho chi minhHo Chi Minh City VS Hanoi

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is known for its rich history and culture, charming Old Quarter, beautiful lakes, and delicious food. Hanoi offers easy access to Halong Bay, Sapa, and Ninh Binh. See the Top 7 Day Trips from Hanoi for inspiration.

Ho Chi Minh City, on the other hand, is the largest city in Vietnam and is famous for its modern cityscape, lively nightlife, and its concentration of many different peoples and cultures. It's a bustling metropolis that combines the old and the new. The city is a great base for exploring the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi Tunnels, and the beaches of Phu Quoc.

You would definitely have different experiences when traveling in these two cities:

In Hanoi, walking on the streets in the historical area, you would encounter very old, traditional buildings that you would not find in Ho Chi Minh City. In Ho Chi Minh City, you would find more multicultural artifacts, such as Hindu temples. This is a very rare sight in Hanoi. In Hanoi, it is common to see neighbors getting together, which is quite rare in HCMC.

Ultimately, the choice between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City depends on what you are interested in seeing and doing. If you prefer a more traditional and historical experience, then Hanoi may be a better choice. If you want a more modern and vibrant atmosphere, then Ho Chi Minh City may be the better option.

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Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Ease of Getting There

Ho Chi Minh City has the largest airport in Vietnam, Tan Son Nhat International Airport, while Hanoi has the second largest airport in the country, Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport. The airport in Ho Chi Minh provides more international flight connections and is the most popular gateway to the country.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: City Vibe

Hanoi has a more traditional appearance with old quarters, local markets, narrow lanes, and low buildings. Some people say Hanoi provides a more authentic view of Vietnamese life and culture.

On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh is a modern city with the tallest skyscraper in Vietnam, newer and broader roads, trendy shopping malls, rooftop bars, and a variety of international restaurants.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: City Sightseeing & Extended Trips

Hanoi is known for its history, culture, and nearby natural scenery, while Ho Chi Minh City is a more modern and vibrant city with a window on the Vietnam War.

Hanoi

halong bay Halong Bay

Hanoi tours typically vary from 3 to 6 days. You can spend a whole day for city sightseeing (including Hoan Kiem Lake, Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, etc.) and spend several days for its nearby attractions.

One of the nearby highlights is Halong Bay. Exploring there, either on a one-, two-, or three-day cruise, is as breathtaking an experience as they come, and it's certainly one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. Take one of our selected cruises to explore a remoter area and enjoy quality time with your family or partner on a smaller but more exquisite boat.

Ninh Binh is a good alternative if you have no time to visit Halong Bay, which is known for the karst landscapes and countryside scenery of North Vietnam.

If time permits, you can take an extended trip to Sapa, which is famous for rice terraces and minority culture.

See the Top 7 Day Trips from Hanoi for inspiration.

Ho Chi Minh City:

mekong delta Mekong Delta

Generally, a minimum of 3 to 4 days is recommended to explore the city of Ho Chi Minh City and its surroundings.

In Ho Chi Minh City, you can spend one day visiting popular attractions such as the War Remnants Museum, the former Presidential Palace, and Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta are both doable in a day. These trips not only give you a fantastic insight into the traditional Vietnamese way of life but also a detailed look at the innovative tactics the country used during the Vietnam War.

An affordable luxury way to experience Mekong Delta's floating market is to take an overnight cruise (with only 2 cabins only for you and your partner or kids). In this way, you can save time on the road, spend more leisurely time on Mekong Melta and wake up on a floating market.

If you have more time, you could consider enjoying some relaxation time on the beaches of Phu Quoc Island.

A private tour is the best option to make the most of your time. Let us know your interests and length of stay, and we'll personalize a tour for you.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Food

vietnam food

Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) are famous for their delicious food, but they have their own unique specialties.

Hanoi is known for its traditional and rustic dishes that reflect the culture of Northern Vietnam. Some of the must-try dishes in Hanoi include:

  • Pho: a noodle soup made with beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, and various herbs and spices
  • Bun Cha: grilled pork served with vermicelli noodles, herbs, and dipping sauce
  • Banh Mi: a French-inspired baguette filled with meat, pickled vegetables, and herbs

On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh City is known for its vibrant and diverse street-food scene, influenced by the city's history and its international connections. Some of the must-try dishes in Ho Chi Minh City include:

  • Banh Xeo: a crispy Vietnamese-style pancake filled with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts
  • Com Tam: cooked broken rice served with grilled pork chops, shredded pork, and a fried egg
  • Bun Bo Hue: a spicy noodle soup with beef and pork, flavored with lemongrass and chili

Want to sample the best local food in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City? Take one of our foodie tours and follow our local guide to explore the hidden restaurants and taste authentic food like a local.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Nightlife

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City both have vibrant nightlife scenes, but they offer different experiences.

Hanoi's nightlife is more laid-back and focused on local culture. The Old Quarter is a popular spot for tourists, with many bars and restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese food and drink. In Hanoi shop shutters are closed by 9 pm, restaurants start to wind down at 9.30–10 pm, most bars begin to empty at 10–10.30, and by 11 Hanoi is peacefully asleep.

On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh City's nightlife is more cosmopolitan and geared toward younger crowds. District 1 is the hub of the city's nightlife, with a wide range of bars, clubs, and live music venues. You can find everything from rooftop bars with city views to underground clubs playing the latest electronic music.

If you're looking for a more cultural and traditional experience, Hanoi's nightlife may be more up your alley. But if you're looking for a more modern and party-centric experience, Ho Chi Minh City has more to offer.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: History and Culture

Ho Chi Minh City

Both cities have a rich history and culture, but they are pretty different in their styles and influences.

Hanoi is regarded as the cultural and artistic capital of Vietnam, with a history stretching back 4,000 years. It has many traditional art forms, such as painting, lacquer art, instrument making, and puppetry. It also has many historical sites, such as temples, pagodas, and colonial buildings.

Founded in the 18th century, Ho Chi Minh City is named after the revolutionary leader who led Vietnam's fight for independence from France. It has a more modern and cosmopolitan culture, with influences from China, Cambodia, and France. It has many pop-culture creatives and marketing professionals. It also has some cultural sites, such as museums, churches, and markets.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: Climate

Hanoi has four distinct seasons, unlike HCMC with only two seasons (hot-and-dry season and extremely-hot-and-rainy season).

Located in the north of Vietnam and surrounded by mountains, Hanoi is usually cooler than Ho Chi Minh. They have similar temperatures in the wet season, but Hanoi is up to an average of 10°C (18°F) cooler in its winter (Vietnam's dry season). In January, the temperature range in Hanoi is 14–20°C (57–68°F), while in Ho Chi Minh it is around 21–33°C (70–91°F).

The best times to visit the two cities are similar, from November to April, when they both experience drier, cooler, and quite pleasant weather. See more on Vietnam Weather and Best Time to Visit.

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No matter which city you choose to visit or whether you decide to visit both, we're here ready to work with you to create your personalized Vietnam journey.

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