Hanoi is an atmospheric city at any time of year, but it’s especially romantic in the holiday season, when temperatures can dip to around 10 degrees. Get bundled up and join the locals for tea, street food, and evening strolls around the city’s picturesque lakes.
St. Joseph Cathedral is ground zero for Christmas mania on the night of December 24. Hanoians flock to this neo-gothic church for festive activities and chorale singing, as well as an annual Christmas mass, held from 11pm to midnight.
TIP: If you're a music lover, don't miss the Christmas concert by the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra, held at Cua Bac Church from 8pm on December 21.
The Goethe-Institut and the German Embassy of Vietnam are teaming up to host a real German Christmas Market in Hanoi. The market will be held at Cua Bac Church from the 16th to the 18th. Aside from last-minute gifts, we can think of other compelling reasons to visit -- namely mulled wine and stollen pastry.
The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi goes all out each year on its Christmas displays and activities. This elegant heritage hotel is a must-visit if you're staying in Hanoi. This year, a twinkling, 15-metre pine tree soars above the leafy rooftop garden, and a life-sized gingerbread house awaits at L’Epicerie.
Sapa’s foggy peaks and spectacular valleys make a fantastic backdrop for Christmas in the Far East. December may have days that are sunny and clear, or days that are foggy and wet. There’s even snow on occasion. Whatever the weather, stay warm as you explore mountain markets, villages and tea fields.
Sapa’s second Winter Festival is centred on the culture of the area's ethnic minorities. If you're in town from Dec. 22 to 24, or from Dec. 29 to 31, you'll have chance to experience folk games, dances, and street parades. The highlight of this year’s festival is a fire dance show by the Red Dao ethnic group.
This stately stone church is the best place to soak up the Christmas spirit in Sapa. On Dec. 24, join Vietnamese from all around Lao Cai province as they pour into the church grounds in high spirits, ready to mingle and listen to the Christmas sermon.
If you’re looking for roaring fireplaces, twinkling lights, and European charm, Victoria Hotel in Sapa has your number. On Dec. 24 the hotel hosts a Christmas Gala Dinner, with songs by H’mong schoolchildren and dances from local ethnic groups. We hear Santa is scheduled to make an appearance too.
Don’t let December’s shifting weather put you off: Hoi An has beauty in spades, and its magic is heightened in the holiday season. This storybook town will lure you with soothing countryside and lantern-lit nights. Ever spent Christmas by the rice paddies? This might just be the year.
At the most colourful restaurant in the Ancient Town, charismatic chef Duc Tran puts a Hoi An spin on the holidays (naturally.) Mango Mango's mouthwatering five-course menu stars dishes such as seared yellowtail with salsa, and crispy five-spice duck in chocolate passion sauce. On New Year’s Eve, musical trio Bonalipsio promises to rock the stage all night long.
Hoi An’s annual Christmas show always draws a crowd of Catholics and curious onlookers to the church on Ly Thuong Kiet. Part musical, part nativity play, the programme starts at 7pm and features carolling and a Christmas mass just before midnight. For the English service, come back on Christmas morning at 9am.
Silk Sense Resort is inviting one and all to ‘Joy to the Bells’ -- its first Christmas Eve Dinner. Get warmed up with canapés and a free flow of mulled wine. Watch a Christmas light display along the riverbank, then sit down to a sumptuous buffet dinner, with live music, lucky draws, and activities for children.
Missing your turkey and trimmings? Head over to Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort for the main event: A Christmas Brunch Buffet, complete with Western and Vietnamese delicacies: just-caught seafood, French foie gras, gourmet cheeses, and much more... When you feel you could use a stretch, the infinity pool is just a few steps away.
Dalat's crisp highland weather makes it the perfect Christmas escape. Travelling with a loved one? Even better. Scenic lakes, cosy villas, and flower-lined streets all contribute to that European feeling. Join the action around Xuan Huong Lake, share a steaming hotpot dinner, and spend a few leisurely hours in a hilltop cafe.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Dalat in late December, you can't miss the Flower Festival. This year’s dates are from the 23rd to the 27th. There’s lots going on, but a few highlights are the opening ceremony at 8pm on the 23rd, the tea, coffee, and wine stalls on Ho Tung Mau street, and the flower bike parade at 8am on Dec. 26.
No visit to Dalat is complete without a peek into the grounds of the Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel. Claim a seat on the elegant Terrace for Christmas High Tea: a towering tray of pastries, finger sandwiches and luscious cakes, perfectly complimented by views of grassy hills, pine trees, and the lake below.
Like many things in Ho Chi Minh City, the Christmas season can be chaotic. The southern Vietnamese have heaps of fun snapping pictures at the glittering displays in the malls, and riding in throngs under the Christmas lights.
TIP: Ditch the transport (traffic is intense anyway) and go on foot. Better yet, seek our your own urban oasis, and savour a moment of calm amid the bustle.
Overwhelmed by the streets? Hop aboard a boat for Christmas cruise and dinner on the water. Chances are you’ll cast off just before sunset, the lights of motorcycles reflecting off the water, the outlines of skyscrapers standing out in the dusky sky. Just be sure to reserve in advance.
Ho Chi Minh City offers a raft of cool farmers and flea markets year-round, but the holiday editions kick things up a notch. Oxygen, Outkast, and Saigon Flea Market all have exciting bazaars scheduled in the last weeks of December.
There’s nothing quite like an exquisite buffet with friends to underscore the holiday season. In Ho Chi Minh City, luxury hotels such as the Hyatt and Intercontinental have long led the pack in lavish Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas Day brunches. For something a little more specific (such as regional Italian cuisine) look no further than The Reverie Saigon.
Ready or not, it’s time to say goodbye to 2017. Vietnam’s big cities – Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh – have massive countdown parties in the streets with live performances and fireworks. Aside from these, here are a few of our favourite picks for New Year 2018:
In Hanoi: High above West Lake, The Summit serves up riveting 360-degree views of the capital. This classy lounge offers an equally classy 2018 countdown party, with canapes, drinks specials, and live DJ sets.
In Nha Trang: Nha Trang’s party central, the Sailing Club, takes its year-end bash very (very) seriously. This year's theme? Alice in Wonderland.
In Danang: Waterfront Danang Restaurant and Bar is dropping a lure for partygoers with a New Year Eve Neon Party, featuring glow sticks, irresistible beats by DJ J-WATT, and surprises throughout the night.
In Ho Chi Minh City: Events on 26, the new rooftop venue at the Caravelle Hotel, is welcoming 2018 with a Masquerade Party high above the city. Bring your masks and get a front-row seat to the fireworks.
In Phu Quoc: Epizode is back in Vietnam with Epizode 2. Fly away to the island of Phu Quoc for an epic 11-day electronic music festival to kick off the new year. The party starts on Dec. 31, 2017 and runs all the way up to Jan. 10, 2018.