Whether you feel like slowly sipping a glass of the favorite local beer Saigon Red, or like indulging in a few more than one, you will be able to find the right environment somewhere in Vietnam.
If you travel with Asia Highlights on one of our tours you will have most evenings after 5 pm free to yourself. This is a great opportunity to see what the nightlife has to offer. Like our tour packages, Vietnam’s nightlife has something for everyone, from the most adventurous to those seeking quiet comforts.
The majority of tourist-friendly nightlife in Hanoi is centered in and round the Old Quarter. Below are some recommendations of places for starting your night out.
Old Quarter Street Food Tour
A guided tour of the Old Quarter’s famous winding alleyways and street food vendors should be compulsory for any traveler. Your guide will take you to sample the best local street food while explaining the Old Quarter’s history and how the food is prepared.
While it’s possible to navigate this district on your own, going with a guide will give you a richer and more satisfying experience.
Located at: 49 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi 100000 +84 98 891 69 35
The Water Puppet Theatre
The water puppet theatre is another compulsory stop in Hanoi. The puppeteers use costumes and water displays to recreate scenes from Vietnam’s history. Scenes of daily life and farming are complemented by music from traditional Vietnamese instruments.
Expect an unforgettable experience of Vietnamese culture. Children will be dazzled by the water puppets, while adults can appreciate the history being shared by the puppeteers. Even if you are traveling alone you will not want to miss the opportunity to see one of these shows.
Located at: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street in Hoan Kiem District
The Alley Pub
Located in the heart of the Old Quarter, this pub is a favorite of some of the staff members here at Asia Highlights. It’s perfect for a quick beer or two and offers a relaxed atmosphere that is fine after a busy day in the Old Quarter. Check it out around happy hour, for the best seating and prices.
Expect a speak-easy feeling when you walk through the door. You will be able to find all your favorite local beers and a surprisingly extensive selection of wine. Do not be intimidated by the alley you have to walk down to reach the bar; it’ll be worth it.
Located At: 9b Bao Khanh Alley, | Hoan Kiem, Hanoi 100000
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is a giant and sprawling city that boasts an exciting nightlife. Heavily influenced by American GIs during the war, the number of beer bars in this southern city is truly remarkable.
District 1 is home to more high-end establishments and rooftop bars. District 3 is home to the backpacker paradise of Pham Ngu Lao Street, and has a more raucous atmosphere. No matter what you are looking for on your night out, Ho Chi Minh City has it.
Vietnamese cuisine is the product of the country’s geographical location and fascinating history. While influenced by its neighbors, China and Thailand, Vietnamese food boasts a wide variety of its own unique dishes.
Those who truly want to explore the tastes and textures Vietnamese food has to offer will need to step out of the restaurants and onto the streets.
Look out for bun ca, a delicious noodle dish served with fish, for something to fill you up. For a lighter snack, try fried spring rolls with fresh mint, shrimp, and fried vermicelli noodles.
If you’re looking for something salty, cao lau, or noodles with pork and crispy fried crackers, might be the best option for you. Keep an eye open for pink plastic chairs that mark this city’s street-food stalls.
Family-Friendly: Dinner Cruise Down the Saigon River
Numerous companies run cruises down the Saigon River, perhaps more suitable for a couple than a full family. The prices of these cruises can range from the surprisingly affordable to the somewhat shocking ($20 a person to upwards of $150), depending on the level of service and accommodation you desire.
If you are traveling as a couple you can look out for a candle-lit ride with live jazz music and a sunset view of the city. If you plan on bringing the children along, there are educational options that offer cooking lessons and are more informative than romantic trips.
The Cosmo Cafe
Recharge your batteries with a cup of coffee at Cosmo Cafe. The cafe boasts some of the most modern decor in the city. Its futuristic theme does not detract from its comfort.
This is a good place if you want to relax and prepare for the next phase in your Vietnamese nightlife adventure.
Located at: the corner of Le Thanh Ton and Le Pasteur Street, District 1
The Pham Ngu Lao Bar
While not a single bar per se, the whole Pham Ngu Lao Street does feel like one big bar, one big party. You will see foreigners and locals drinking cold beer and sitting on flimsy plastic stools, mixing seamlessly.
You can wander up and down this street for hours and never drink at the same establishment, but still never feel like you have moved.
Pham Ngu Lao has become synonymous with foreign backpackers in Ho Chi Minh City and attracts a certain type of traveler. The area is safe and always well populated and policed. If you are looking to meet new friends or have an unforgettable night, make sure you stop by this part of town.
If, however, you are traveling with children or are averse to people begging for money or pushing sales, then this might not be the best place for you.
Hoi An used to have a reputation as a quiet riverside city famous for its wine and cocktails. Today, it more closely resembles Pham Ngu Lao, in that it is heavily populated by backpackers. Clubs and bars that favor excitement over tranquility have replaced the quiet lounges that characterized the city.
If excitement, sometimes intense, does not sound like the right environment for you, check out some of the more relaxed ideas below.
Street Food Tour
Even if you have done a street-food tour in another Vietnamese city, consider doing it again in Hoi An. The diversity of Vietnamese cuisine can be best appreciated by visiting as many food vendors as possible.
Cuisine in Hoi An is said to have richer and bolder flavors than Ho Chi Minh City (although Ho Chi Minh locals would contest this).
On a guided tour you can expect as many as 30 to 40 tastings. Each tasting will include a brief talk about how the food is prepared and how it is unique to Hoi An. Guides will generally provide information about the city itself, as well as lessons in Vietnamese history.
Located at: 58B Tran Cao Van Street, Hoi An 560000
Bep Truong Cafe
Bep Truong is one of the most entertaining cafes in the city. Its entertainment comes in the form of its stocked bookshelves, free Wifi, and large menu offering excellent Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese coffee options.
If a day in the city has left you feeling hot and tired, Bep Truong is the perfect location for perusing a book or planning your next adventure.
If you run out of reading material in the café itself, you can always run downstairs, for the café is located above one of the largest bookstores in the country.
Located at: 5 Nguyen Phuc Chu, Hoi An
Mango Mango Bar
The second bar opened by the famous restaurateur and chef Tran Duc, Mango Mango offers a full menu as well as an ambient background for relaxation, after a long day of exploration.
If you are enjoying yourself, stay for dinner. It will not be your cheapest meal in Vietnam but it is sure to be one of the best. Good for any type of traveler and a safe stop for families with children.
Located At: 5 Nguyen Phuc Chu, Hoi An
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