The Hanoi’s climate is classified as “warm, humid subtropical” – which essentially means cool, dry winters and hot, wet summers. Ho Chi Minh, meanwhile, has a tropical climate, with a wet season and a dry season rather than a defined summer and winter. In Hanoi, you can at least cool down, with average temperatures dropping to 17°C in January, while temperatures in HCMC never fall below the high twenties.
Most of the tourists consider Ho Chi Minh as a street food capital of Vietnam, with a great variety of foods and drinks, which is the result of the successful combination between Vietnamese cuisine and International cuisine.
However, the king of Vietnamese food is Pho – the famous Vietnamese noodle soup – and its spiritual home is Hanoi. In Hanoi, you’ll find thousands of street-side stalls and small kiosks with plastic chairs and tables on the pavement where you can give a try to this delicious national dish.
Cafe culture permeates both cities too. In Ho Chi Minh City the coffee is sweeter and not quite as punchy as the equivalent brews in Hanoi.
- Historical and cultural heritage
If you’re big on history, Hanoi is probably a safer bet for you. Rich historical heritage has left Hanoi with an excellent collection of museums and monuments to keep the visitor busy. Walking through the Old Quarters of Hanoi is like living through history already. In Hanoi, you will be able to see so many layers of history coexisting in one place. With countless French, Chinese, Soviet and Southeast Asian influences, Hanoi is a melting pot of architectural styles. Only in Hanoi can you step into the French-era glory of the old Post Office or Presidential Palace, see Vietnam’s Confucian roots at the Temple of Literature, and catch a modern concert at the old opera house all in one day.
However, if you are interested in the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh City is the primary source to get knowledge from for many visitors to the country. As most of the actual fighting occurred in the South, Ho Chi Minh City is home to the bulk of Vietnam’s most fascinating war sites. The Cu Chi Tunnels (a network of passages where the Viet Cong sheltered from American troops) make for a fascinating day trip, and the city itself is home to the country’s finest collection of war memorabilia at the War Remnants Museum. We think these are both must-see places for anyone interested in the history of Vietnam.
When it comes to nightlife, everyone would recommend Saigon in a heartbeat. If that’s what you’re looking for, then yes, Ho Chi Minh is definitely a good choice. Old Quarter nightlife in Hanoi is more in a backpacker setting, although you will be surrounded by locals as well. Imagine a street filled with tiny chairs and tables with craft beer for as low as less than a dollar.
The Vietnamese government is cracking down on venues opening after midnight. It is especially well seen in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh City has managed to retain far more late-night options than its northern sister, though a handful of Hanoi bars still manage to stay open until the last customer leaves (or passes out).
- Side Trips
If you’re considering out of town trips, both cities are close to some amazing places. From Hanoi, you can reach the UNESCO Heritage Site of Halong Bay, or you may even take a train to reach the mountains and rice terraces of Sapa. From Ho Chi Minh City, you can experience the local life along the Mekong Delta and one of the country’s finest beaches just over four hours away by car at Mui Ne. Also, Vietnam’s best national park, Cat Tien, is only three hours away by road. It is basically a win-win situation.
Hanoi has the superior choice of crafts, silk accessories, and handmade goods. The streets in Hanoi’s old quarter are still named according to the tradesmen who used to ply their wares here in pre-colonial times. It is a fantastic place to explore a wildly diverse array of products and services. Ho Chi Minh City offers a plethora of cheap souvenir options. The southern city is also famous for the big malls with many brand and designer shops – ideal for cooling off from the humid urban heat.
People from Hanoi are known for sometimes being more standoffish than their southern counterparts, with more traditional values and formal manners. Ho Chi Minh City is more influenced by foreign cultures than Hanoi – particularly American and French – thus the locals are more familiar with cultural diversity.
Traffic in both cities is continuously hectic, with countless hooting scooters zipping about in a seemingly insane manner.
Popular airport in Saigon
Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) - Vietnam
Popular airlines flying from Hanoi to Saigon
Jetstar Airways -> 26 USD Vietjet Air -> 43 USD Vietnam Airlines -> 34 USD
If you’re looking for Vietnam’s most energetic, creative and cutting-edge city, you’ve found it in Saigon. There’s always a new art exhibition to go to, a new restaurant about to open, or a new band playing – the arts scene is constantly expanding and changing in so many exciting ways. Sure, there are exhibitions and gigs in Hanoi, but it’s just not on the same level. Despite Ho Chi Minh City having glitz and glamour, Hanoi is the heart and soul of Vietnam.