Hanoi or Saigon – Which of Vietnam’s big cities is best for travelers?

Vietnam has been one of the top destinations for travelers to explore. With so many tourist attractions, beautiful landscapes and historical heritages, it can be quite challenging to decide which city to travel to first.

Travelers and backpackers find it hard to choose which of the two largest cities to visit when they come to Vietnam – Hanoi or Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Both these cities offer compelling reasons to be the best in Vietnam. However, it all depends on various factors.

In this article, you will find both cities compared side by side based on different reasons. These will help you decide which place you would want to visit if you don’t have time to explore them both.


Food Vietnam

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Both Hanoi and Saigon offer incredible types of food.

The dishes are mouth watering, and it can be interesting to taste how different ingredients are mixed to create delicious flavors. It is quite hard to determine which city offers the best food. Hanoi’s food typically consists of salty flavors while Saigon cuisine prefers the sweet flavors. So it depends on what your taste in food is.

Based on street food, Hanoi seems to be a favorite among travelers and backpackers. The dynamic and vibrant streets of Hanoi consists of street vendors and food stalls that offer traditional dishes. Saigon also has many dishes that you can eat on the road, but the buzz isn’t the same as in Hanoi.

Saigon is considered a better option if you don’t prefer street food. The local restaurants in Saigon have created beautiful and inviting settings where you can enjoy local dishes. So if sitting in a restaurant suits you better, then Saigon is the place for you.

Saigon is also a better host when it comes to preparing international dishes.

With a competitive environment, this southern city of Vietnam offers excellent international restaurants. You can find some in Hanoi as well, but they are fewer in number. Most of Hanoi’s cuisine is based on local dishes rather than international ones.


Activities in Vietnam

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Both Hanoi and Saigon offer many activities.

Recently Hanoi is considered to be better than Saigon when it comes to what you can do during your trip. The most impressive feature about Hanoi is the street-life it has. The city’s buzzing atmosphere never ends, and there is always something worth taking a picture of. You can also take a trip out to Hanoi’s countryside for a short escape from the city.

Saigon, on the other hand, has had a few setbacks that are a result of recent constructions. Although Saigon has some impressive colonial monuments, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office, it still lacks the architectural beauty that Hanoi has. Hanoi offers more impressive buildings such as the Thang Long Citadel and the Temple of Literature.

Hanoi also has a more diverse and attractive landscape. Travelers love to visit the many lakes, parks, and streets which seem to be more hospitable.

Historical Value

Vietnam History

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Based on the historical value of both cities, Hanoi is the oldest and holds a greater heritage.

In almost every street you can feel the history oozing from the corners of the city. From the 11th century, Hanoi has been the ancient capital of Vietnam. You can also see the cultural heritage the French left after the colonial period. From many temples to ancient structures, Hanoi offers a lot more than Saigon.

That doesn’t mean that Saigon doesn’t have any historical heritage at all. Despite the city’s history beginning relatively recent, you can still find the historic architecture that is quite compelling.


Vietnam Nightlife

Saigon has been a favorite of travelers when it comes to the nightlife.

Although Hanoi does have a buzzing street life, the nightlife, on the other hand, isn’t very diverse. However, there are some interesting night markets in Hanoi where you can explore.

In Saigon, you can choose from mega-clubs, rooftop bars, lounges, live music and more. So if you’re looking to visit a city which you can party at night, Saigon is your best option.


Accommodation Vietnam

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When taking into account the accommodation possibilities, both Hanoi and Saigon have fantastic hotels to choose from. You can find many luxurious hotels as well as cheaper ones, depending on your budget.

If you don’t want to spend your money on a hotel, you can find many listings on Airbnb. They can be cheaper and sometimes more stylish than most hotels in Hanoi and Saigon.

So you can have excellent accommodation in both cities for different prices. Some argue that the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi is one of the best hotels in Vietnam.

The Locals

Vietnamese People

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The people you will encounter while traveling to Hanoi or Saigon will most likely be ones to remember. With two of the most popular cities in Vietnam offering different opportunities, you will also meet different people.

Locals in both Hanoi and Saigon are quite hospitable. Saigonese tend to look happier and cheery. Saigon itself boasts of having an atmosphere that consists of a lot of energy. People from all over the world are compelled to visit this city.  Also, people from all parts of Vietnam come to Saigon to seek for opportunities. In Hanoi, you can find different people from the surrounding provinces and locals who contribute to the vibrant everyday life.


Vietnam Culture

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It can be hard to say which city is better based on their culture and artistic value. However, both Hanoi and Saigon seem to do quite well when compared to one another. The only thing is both of the cities are different. Hanoi is considered the center for arts and creativity, whereas Saigon is more popular for commercial reasons.

Both Hanoi and Saigon offer outstanding artistic value.  You can find the best festivals, bookstores, and cultural institutions in these two cities. Where Hanoi holds a bigger historical heritage, Saigon has a dynamic artistic environment.

Exploring on foot

Walking in Vietnam

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What most travelers and backpackers are looking for in a place is how accessible it is on foot. Having the option to visit everything on foot is a big plus.

In this case, Hanoi is better when it comes to offering breathtaking scenery and landscapes that you can explore by walking. You can’t see much in Saigon on foot, except for a “walking street.” Travelers seem always to be drawn to the Old Quarter when they visit Hanoi. Saigon has also become a little unsafe when it comes to walking since motorbikes have become more frequent on Saigon’s sidewalks. If you are a person, who loves to explore on foot than Hanoi is the best option for you. You can reach many of the city’s tourist attractions by a short walk.


So which city is better? It all depends on what you are looking for on a trip. Both Hanoi and Saigon have various opportunities. If you’re looking for a better street life, better historical legacy and which is easy to explore on foot, then Hanoi should be your pick. On the other hand, Saigon would be the best option for you if you want to have better encounters with the locals, a livelier nightlife, and better local restaurants.

This shouldn’t mean that you should visit only one of these cities and completely forget about the other. Hanoi and Saigon are the most frequented cities in all of Vietnam. So if you have time, you should visit both cities to have an unforgettable experience in Vietnam. As usual, never forget your travel insurance in order to avoid any potential travel risks.