Hai Phong is considered to be Vietnam’s second-largest industrial city in the North with a population of more than 2 million. It’s located on the northern coast of Vietnam and is the hub for technology, science, economy, education, medicine, and trade in this part of the country.
Known as the “City of Flame Flowers”, Hai Phong is the third-largest city in terms of urban population located on the coast. Being near to the sea, it has a good share of historical sites from its rugged past. But it’s not all sightseeing, there are numerous places that cater to nightlife as well.
Hai Phong was said to be discovered by a semi-mythical female military general named Le Chan, who was believed to be part of the Vietnamese revolution against the Chinese.
When the French took over Vietnam in 1885, they picked Hanoi as their political center and Hai Phong served as their naval base. And because Hai Phong was Northern Vietnam’s sole port, it was regularly bombed during the Vietnam War. Upon reunification in 1975, Hai Phong rose from the remnants and transformed itself to be the fast-growing city it is today.
In part because of Hai Phong’s long, dynamic history, and partly due to its stunning natural landscapes, there are a lot of tourist attractions around this coastal city. In addition to some of the main activities below, there is a slew of other top things to do in Hai Phong. Any time of year is a good one to visit!
Ha Long Bay – Ha Long which translates to “Bay of Descending Dragons” is easily accessible from Hai Phong. It is a very popular destination among tourists because of its emerald waters and many tiny islands. Because of its natural wonder and beauty, it was included in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Tourists who wish to explore Ha Long often book island tours that would take them on boat rides and cruises.
The Colonial Quarter – Hai Phong has managed to preserve its colonial charm despite the many wars it has fought. If you walk around this area, you will get to see many French-style architectures that reminiscent of its history.
Cat Ba Island – It is a 50 km attraction east of Hai Phong. Although it is relatively far away from the center, it is one of the most frequented islands in the area. It was proclaimed as a “World Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO thanks to its lush tropical green forests. Cat Ba is often visited by local tourists in April and August but there are fewer guests around December to March. The island is perfect for those who want is looking for a beautiful array of undisrupted island scenery.
Nghe Temple – This temple started as a small shrine before it expanded into a temple and became an important religious site for many locals. It is specifically devoted to Le Chan, who is said to be the founder of Hai Phong City.
Du Hang Pagoda – It is a Buddhist temple that was built in the 17th century. Today, it serves as an attraction for many tourists. There is a pagoda, bell tower, a bonsai garden, intricate carvings, and Buddha images. Some visitors bring bread if they want to feed the fishes and the turtles that live there.
Do Son Beach – the beach is approximately 22 km away southwest of Hai Phong. Do Son is popular among locals who want to go swimming, sunbathe, and do other recreational beach activities. Because it is just a two-hour drive from Hanoi, many Hanoians spend their weekend at this particular beach.
Shop around – You will notice that most shops sell cheap but good-quality products whether you are at a mall or wandering around the neighborhood market. Also, Hai Phong in particular has an “open all hours” policy in most of their stores. This means that shops open at around 7 or 8 in the morning up until midnight.
Drink beer – Yes you read that right. Vietnam might not be the beer capital of the world but Hai Phong has a local brewery that is famous all over Vietnam. Food is very good and comes very cheap but take note that lunchtime could be busy so you might want to drop by during non-peak hours.
Go on a land or sea tour – There are many companies that offer land or sea tours. There are also different packages that you can avail, depending on what you want to see, do, and your budget.
There are both land and sea-based options for overnight lodging near Hai Phong. If you’re not looking to spend a night or two on the water aboard one of Ha Long Bay’s luxury boat cruises, Hai Phong makes the next best base for exploring the region.
The city of Hai Phong lies about an hour southwest of Ha Long Bay, so you can still day trip it out to all the wonderful water-based attractions there, while still benefiting from the city’s large size and amenities. There are a couple of luxury hotels in Hai Phong we recommend.
Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival – This festival in the Do Son District has long been held since the 18th century. It is done not only to worship the Water Goddess but locals also believe that it will bring them safe voyages, excellent crops, health and wealth.
Dragon Boat Race Festival – It happens every 1st of April (by solar calendar) as a form of celebration and worship to President Ho Chi Minh. This takes place in Cat Ba Town, in the Cat Hai District of Hai Phong.