With a booming economy and heavy investments in infrastructure and the restoration of landmarks since 1990, Vietnam has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.
Sandwiched between China, Laos, Cambodia and the South China Sea, Vietnam is comparable in size to the state of New Mexico in the United States. Despite the small size, however, the country is full of cities and landmarks worth visiting. Unless visitors intend on staying an entire month, though, it’s near impossible to schedule visits to every site during a single trip. For help planning your trip, here’s a list of the top seven historical landmarks worth visiting in Vietnam.
1. Ha Long Bay
Located in the province of Quang Ninh, Ha Long Bay, or Bay of Descending Dragons, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Bay is comprised of over 2,000 islets, many of which were made from limestone that underwent millions of years of transformation from environmental conditions. Also located on many of the islands are caves, some of which are open for tourists to explore.
2. The Imperial City
Located in Huế, Vietnam, the Imperial City is enclosed by a fortress that’s surrounded by a moat, and was built in the early 17th century for the imperial family of the Nguyễn dynasty. Much of the city was destroyed during war but today restoration and reconstruction projects are well underway.
3. The Royal Tombs of Huế, Vietnam
Located along the Perfume River are the tombs of nine Nguyễn dynasty rulers. Each were individually designed, some by the rulers themselves.
4. Hoi An Ancient Town
Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ancient Town is a beautiful preservation of a trading port that dates back to the 15th century. The architecture of the buildings dates as far back as two centuries and the city design itself reflects the broad multicultural influences common to port cities.
5. Ho Chi Minh City
There are too many sites within Ho Chi Minh City — formerly Saigon when it was the French colonial capital — to list them separately, so instead visitors should put aside a day or two to visit as many sites as possible. The most popular are the Reunification Palace, the Jade Emperor Table, which was built in 1909, and the Municipal Theater whose architecture reflects a French colonial influence. In fact, throughout the city the architecture reflects a French influence that dates back to colonial times.
6. The Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam
Originally built in 1070, the Temple of Literature is a temple of Confucius and the first university in Vietnam. The architecture and layout of the temple is a magnificent preservation of Vietnam’s culture and history.
7. One-Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, Vietnam
One of the most iconic temples in Vietnam, the One-Pillar Pagoda is a Buddhist temple built in 1049 by the emperor Lý Thái Tông.
Photo by David McKelvey