Have the time of your life with a motorbike tour in Ho Chi Minh City - the biggest city in Vietnam
Vietnam has 63 provinces and municipal cities, in which 5 are municipal cities, and most of the provinces also have one or several cities under. Year after year, the number of cities increases due to the fast-paced urbanization. Each of which has its own characteristics. Some are cosmopolitan, some have traditional vibes. Some own picturesque landscape, the others are the location of many modern buildings. Below are the major cities in Vietnam classified by the 5 economic zones. They do not only play important roles in the development of the country but also are attractive tourist destinations that are worth your visits.
The whole area is generally flat with intermittent low hills. The highest peak of the region is Ba Den Mount, at 986 meters. The big cities of the Southeast have held important positions as the intersections of domestic and international trading since the time of the ancient civilizations.
Population: 8,297,500 (2016)
Area: 2,061.4 sq km
Officially a city since 1698
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is one of the two most important cities in Vietnam, besides Hanoi.
Nguyen Hue Street in Ho Chi Minh City
This area used to be a primitive land until the land reclamation of the Nguyen Dynasty in the 17th century. It gradually developed to be an important economic center of the South region. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was urbanized and became the location of many crucial administrative departments. However, Saigon at that time was just a 3-kilometer-square land, which equals about half of the size of District 1 nowadays. After 1975, the government decided to combine the area and the nearby provinces, districts to establish Saigon - Gia Dinh City. It was then changed to Ho Chi Minh City, named after Ho Chi Minh.
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Today, the city not only has great potential to grow in the economy but also possesses appealing tourist attractions. Its appearance changes from day till night, and below the cover of the fast-paced atmosphere is a wonder of Vietnamese cuisine and the compelling lifestyle of the locals.
Enjoying the motorbike tour in Ho Chi Minh City
Population: 327,000 (2015)
Area: 144.42 sq km
Province: Ba Ria - Vung Tau
Officially a city since 1991
Vung Tau is another city with great beaches that are not far away from Ho Chi Minh City. It is one of the lands that were first explored by the residents from the Central Coast.
Vung Tau is a favorite destination of families in Ho Chi Minh City
Marvelous beaches are not the only attractive feature of Vung Tau City. It also has Little Mountain with the 100-year-old lighthouse and Jesus monument, and Big Mountain with splendid May Lake surrounded by virgin forests. The temperate climate is a plus for it as an enjoyable place for a vacation. Read more in our blog about What to Do in Vung Tau.
Find a ticket to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau:
Mekong Delta in the Southernmost area of Vietnam is well-developed in agriculture and supplies the majority of rice for the whole country. Fertile soil and the complex system of rivers are crucial components in local people’s lives as well as in the development of the regional economy and eco-tourism.
Population: 1,257,900 (2016)
Area: 1,439.2 sq km
Officially a city since 2003
Can Tho is also a municipal city (not belonging to any province) among the various major cities in Vietnam. Sitting at the heart of Mekong Delta (colloquially known as “Mien Tay” - West region), this riparian city is the most modern and developed in the region.
While other cities in Mekong Delta impress tourists by the diverse nature, the landscape in Can Tho is rather austere just like the characters of the people here. To see the beauty of the scenic rivers that coexist with the city’s development, grand bridges and know more about the local culture, you can visit our blog What to Do at the Mekong Delta.
Population: 220,151 (2015)
Area: 394.64 sq km
Province: Lam Dong
Officially a city since 1893
Located in Lam Vien Highlands, Da Lat is an interesting destination that people would love to visit again and again. The fondness of tourists has brought many substitute names to the city like Foggy City, City of Pines, City of Flowers, and Little Paris.
Da Lat - the Foggy City
At the end of the 19th century, the city was chosen to be the location to build resorts because of its poetic scenery. Dr. Alexandre Yersin found out about this magical city and made a suggestion to the contemporary Governor-General of French Indochina. The French not only discovered this Wonderland but also beautified it by upgrading the infrastructure.
Today, the center of the city is still magnificent with full of small hills and slopes which are intertwined by streams and rivers, lakes, and ranges of mountains.
Another intriguing feature of the city is how nice its weather is. With just one full day from sunrise till midnight, you can experience the weather of four seasons: spring in the morning, summer in the afternoon, fall in the evening, and winter at night. The weather brings good conditions for flower and vegetable farming, which makes Da Lat a big supplier of flowers and veggies to the whole country.
Discover what to see and do in one of the major cities in Vietnam for tourism with our Da Lat Travel Guide.
Compared to other areas of the country, the soil in the North and South Central Coast is not so ideal for agriculture, and the climate is not as pleasant sometimes. But the redeeming feature is great tourism potential due to the long coastal line, with Da Nang and Nha Trang the most notable names.
Population: 354,124 (2015)
Area: 70.67 sq km
Province: Thua Thien - Hue
Officially a city since 1929
In the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue was chosen to be the capital. Therefore, many traditions are still carefully preserved and appreciated. With a variety of cultural activities, the goal of the government is to make Hue become the Festival City.
The antique vibe of Hue Citadel
UNESCO has also recognized the heritage of the last dynasty in Hue, Vietnam, presenting the city with 5 prestigious titles: Hue Imperial City Complex as the World Cultural Heritage, Nha Nhac (elegant music) - Vietnamese court music as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Woodblocks and Imperial Archives of Nguyen Dynasty, and the Royal Literature of Hue Royal Architecture as Memory of the World. A trip to Hue would not be complete without a visit or contemplation to at least one of those five.
Population: 1,046,200 (2016)
Area: 1,284.7 sq km
Officially a city since 1889
Da Nang is another municipal city of Vietnam that has constantly developed in recent years, earning the title of the most livable city in Vietnam. Interestingly, it is hypothesized based on the artifacts found in Da Nang that 1,000 years ago, this place might have been an epicenter of trade and economic development, a busy city. During the Nguyen Dynasty, it was a prosperous land and a frequent destination for many foreign businessmen.
Together with the growth of the country, the city has taken a principal position in the administration, economics, culture, and education. Da Nang truly deserves the title of one of the most major cities in Vietnam. And like other provinces and cities in the North and South Central Coast, Da Nang has both mountains and beaches, so lately, there has been an increasing number of resorts, which makes it become the tourism center in the region and in Vietnam. Check out our Da Nang Travel Guide.
Dragon Bridge, the symbol of Da Nang
Population: 91,993 (2013)
Area: 61.71 sq km
Province: Quang Nam
Officially a city since 2008
Not far away from the modern city, Da Nang is Hoi An, a city with many historical and cultural values.
Before the existence of Da Nang, with the arrival of businesses of the Chinese and Japanese, Hoi An was a wealthy harbor. But it was in the 19th century that the economy of the city slipped into recession. The reason for it was the accretion and change in the flow of the river, together with the regulations of the contemporary authority. By that time, the French-built up Da Nang commercial port which gradually overwhelmed the roles of the one in Hoi An.
Find where to stay in Hoi An below:
Nowadays, the local authority has actively tried to recover the relics and develop the city into a tourism destination as well as preserve the traditional values. Hoi An Ancient Town - a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage - is a place you should not miss out on when visiting this region. Besides, in Hoi An, there are villages dedicated to traditional productions and craftsmanship: Kim Bong Carpentry, Thanh Ha Pottery-making, Phuoc Kieu Bronze-casting, and Tra Que Vietnamese Herbs and Vegetable. Untouched by tall modern buildings, Hoi An is perfect for you to bike around and relaxingly enjoy the fresh air. See how you can explore this nostalgic city and its exclusive cuisine with our Hoi An Travel Guide.
Hoi An Ancient Town at night
Population: 406,000 (2015)
Area: 254.3 sq km
Province: Khanh Hoa
Officially a city since 1977
Nha Trang is also a city with spectacular beaches. Because of its exclusive jewel-blue seawater, it is known as the turquoise pearl of the South China Sea. Thanks to its distinct complex of islands that surrounds it, Nha Trang hardly suffers from hurricanes, unlike other cities in the central coast region.
Many people have fallen in love with the clear blue sea water in Nha Trang
A primitive land until the mid-19th century, Nha Trang rapidly developed within the first two decades of the 20th century. Nowadays, it is one of the most crowded holiday destinations in Vietnam.
Read our Nha Trang Travel Guide to know about the historical, religious, and natural sites that should be in your traveling plan to this coastal city.
Population: 272,457 (2015)
Area: 206.45 sq km
Province: Binh Thuan
Officially a city since 1999
Phan Thiet is the southernmost Central Coast city, another one on the list of major cities in Vietnam for tourism. The city is flatter compared to other areas in the same region. Traces of the ancient Champa are found in the city as evidence of the appearance of this community a long time ago.
Mui Ne is one of the best beaches closer to Ho Chi Minh City
Located just about 200 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, it is an advisable choice for family travel on the weekends. Owning some best beaches near Ho Chi Minh City, Phan Thiet is not just a place to go swimming but also to have delicious dishes from fresh seafood, and get to know some sea specialties such as Fish Sauce or dried fish. The most famous beach in Phan Thiet is Mui Ne, a top-notch holiday beach.
Population: 7,328,400 (2016)
Area: 3,358.9 sq km
History goes back to 1010
Hanoi is the millennial Capital City of Vietnam. It has suffered from the fury of the Indochina War and the Vietnam War, but nowadays, it has recovered and become one of the most developed cities in Vietnam.
Besides the rich history, culture and cuisine are also what make Hanoi stand out. Check out Hanoi 3-day itinerary to see detailed directions for a variety of activities such as drinking egg coffee, visiting Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hoan Kiem Lake, the Red Bridge and more.
A part of Hanoi's Old Quarter
Population: 127,690 (2016)
Area: 48.36 sq km
Province: Ninh Binh
Officially a city since 2007
Speaking of major cities in Vietnam for tourism, you can't forget about Ninh Binh. Before Thang Long (Hanoi) was chosen, Ninh Binh had been the capital of several Vietnamese dynasties, known at the time as Hoa Lu Citadel. Located at the fork of Van River and Day River, two big rivers in Red River Delta, it has many advantages for economic and cultural development.
There is a Vietnamese saying that goes: “Dat lanh chim dau”, means that the good land attracts birds. In Ninh Binh, the natural landscape is breathtaking, and the biodiversity is so great that bird is just one of the species which are found. To contemplate the gift of Nature, you can visit the Van Long Natural Reserve, Thung Nham Bird Park, Cuc Phuong National Park, and Trang An - a UNESCO Cultural and Natural World Heritage.
The splendid landscape of Ninh Binh
As for culture and religion in Ninh Binh, there are two famous complexes: Bai Dinh Pagoda (Buddhism) and Phat Diem Cathedral (Catholicism). While Bai Dinh Pagoda is holding many Asian and Vietnamese records such as the biggest vermeil statue of Buddha, or the longest hall of Arhats, Phat Diem Cathedral is recognized as the most beautiful church in Vietnam by the press.
A specialty that you should not miss out on when visiting Ninh Binh is Com Chay - The Scorched Burnt Rice. Simple yet delicious, it might become your favorite snack after the trip.
Population: 229,300 (2013)
Area: 271.95 sq km
Province: Quang Ninh
Officially a city since 1993
Nestled in the famous Ha Long Bay, the city is a developed tourism center of Vietnam. The topography of Ha Long can be divided into three separate areas: mountainous area, coastal area, and island area. Although the majority area of Ha Long is hills and mountains, the bays and the islands, beaches, caves, and ecosystems draw the most attention.
Ha Long's beauty
“Ha Long” means a dragon landing on earth. The name of it is related to a myth of this land. At the beginning of the creation of the world, the Jade Emperor found out that ancient Vietnam was always attacked by the invaders from the sea. He then told the Mother Dragon and her children to come to the realm below and help the residents. They breathed fire to burn the enemy’s boats and sprayed pearls to create countless islands to stop their marches. The dragons eliminated invasion risks and returned the peaceful life for the Vietnamese, and instead of coming back to heaven, they decided to stay in this rich land of industrious people.
To know where to visit and what to eat in the miraculous land of Ha Long, check out our comprehensive Halong Bay Travel Guide.
Major cities in Vietnam have gone through many ups and downs of Vietnamese history and Mother Nature has blessed them with splendid scenery. The cities in each region have their own vibes. The ones in the Southeast, especially Ho Chi Minh City, are both modern and dynamic, while the ones of Mekong Delta are more pastoral and peaceful. Central Highlands and Central Coast house ideal cities for tourism development. Red River Delta is largely cultural and historical, and its neighbor, the North Highlands, is still mysterious and primitive. In every city of Vietnam, you are sure to find friendly locals and diversified cuisines.
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we did the Ho Chi Ming city tour and learned many things, loved zipping around on the motorbikes like locals!