HANOI VS

(HCMC), formerly Saigon, was the US base during the Vietnam War & since the country’s unification has transformed into a thoroughly modern, thriving metropolis. The somewhat less modern capital, Hanoi
full of winding lanes.

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Yet both cities can at times seem hyperactive, and you’ll need your wits about you khổng lồ navigate their astonishingly hectic traffic. Can’t choose which one khổng lồ visit? Here’s our lowdown on how they differ.


Which is best for culture?

Neither city is short of museums, temples, pagodas & impressive colonial architecture. Both have a cathedral too – relics of the French occupation – and highly entertaining traditional water-puppet shows.

HCMC has several more theme parks than Hanoi, so if rollercoasters are your thing, head south. If you’re more at home in a gallery than doing loop-the-loops, Hanoi will be a better bet, as it pips the post for both fine & contemporary art.

People from Hanoi are known for sometimes being more standoffish than their southern counterparts, with more traditional values and formal manners.

HCMC, more influenced by foreign cultures than Hanoi – particularly American & French – has a more spontaneous and mở cửa feel to it. Innovation is king and young trendsetters lead the way, alongside thriving tech-minded entrepreneurs and booming businesses.


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Where should I go to lớn relax?

Hanoi has developed rapidly in recent years, with new skyscrapers hastily transforming the city’s skyline outside of the Old Quarter. Both cities have populations of around eight million, but people are more crammed into the smaller HCMC. That said, the pedestrianized streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter can get so packed with people that during peak hours it can be difficult khổng lồ move at all, and the city’s ceaseless noise can be too much for some.

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Traffic in both cities is continuously hectic, with countless hooting scooters zipping about in a seemingly insane manner. The newer, wider streets of HCMC at least allow for more movement, but everything is relative ­– don’t expect a walk through town lớn be a peaceful meander.

In Hanoi you can at least cool down, with average temperatures dropping lớn 17°C in January, while temperatures in HCMC never fall below the high twenties. Mix that with high humidity and you’re pretty much guaranteed lớn get a sweat on whenever you go.


So which one should I go to?

Naturally, this depends what you’re looking for. Hanoi errs on the more historical, less glitzy side, allowing visitors a glimpse of traditional Vietnamese culture as well as giving ample opportunities to see the best of the country’s artistic and creative offerings while appreciating the low-key street life.

HCMC, as the commercial centre of the country, inevitably has more investment, fancier hotels, smarter restaurants and an exclusive nightlife scene.

However, both these metropolises have excellent museums và cultural sights, plenty of tranquil places khổng lồ unwind, superb food & day-trips to lớn some of Vietnam’s most interesting locations. Take your pick...

Planning a trip? Find the perfect base with our pick of the best homestays in Vietnam
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