All photography by Christian Berg
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.
Get crafty for the holidays
Making your own ornaments, cards and decorations can do wonders to get you in the holiday spirit. Hocket Haus + Crafts offers workshops this December to help you make your own watercolour wreaths, linocut cards and more. Families are welcome to join in the fun.
Step into winter wonderland at the Metropole
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 impressive gingerbread replicas of the hotel are up for grabs at L’Epicerie.
Catch a Christmas concert in a church
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.
Taste classic Christmas cooking in Hanoi
Enjoy a Christmas meal just like you remember it. Lakeside restaurant, The Fat Pig is preparing a five-course traditional roast turkey and ham with all the trimmings. Spend Christmas with family, friends and a view with a complimentary glass of mulled wine or house beer.
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.
Hear midnight mass at Holy Rosary Church
This stately stone church is the best place to soak up the Christmas spirit in Sapa. On December 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.
Who says you need a white Christmas? If you are spending the holidays by the beach, Da Nang will have quite the festive lineup to keep you entertained this year. Get in the Christmas spirit with these events.
Explore craft markets and street festivals
Relax and indulge with some quality retail therapy at an arts and crafts market at Rainforest cafe on December 20. The same weekend, a holiday street festival will kick off along An Duong St., with live music, a gingerbread house-making competition, and more.
Feast along the Han River
Tree lighting ceremonies, Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas Day brunches are all on offer at Da Nang’s top hotels and resorts, such as Pullman Da Nang Beach Resort, Furama Resort Danang and InterContinental Sun Peninsula Resort. Visit the properties’ websites for full menus and prices.
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.
Enjoy a Christmas buffet by the beach
Christmas by the beach could be quite the holiday blessing, with a fun-filled afternoon at Salt Pub on An Bang. Free-flowing drinks, mouthwatering grub, games and an appearance by old Saint Nick will make this joyful day feel all the more special. DJs will spin at 3pm and a raffle will help raise funds for flood relief efforts in the region.
Watch a Vietnamese nativity play
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.
Da Lat'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.
Catch a mini Christmas concert
Delight in the festive atmosphere of Da Lat at a mini-concert hosted by Lumen Choir at a small congregation in the hills. Titled ‘A Message of Peace’, the performance will take place on December 12, at 7pm. Admission is free of charge.
Take afternoon tea in the Dalat Palace
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 is full of energy. 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.
Hunt for bargains at the Christmas fairs
Ho Chi Minh City offers a raft of cool farmers and flea markets year-round, but the holiday editions kick things up a notch. BLOQ, a retail park in District 2 will host its Christmas market over the weekend of December 12. Entrance is free. Pop by and peruse the goods from a constellation of vendors from around the city.
Sail away on the Saigon River
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.
Splurge on a five-star feast
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 or festive french fare) look no further than The Reverie Saigon.
It’s time to say goodbye to 2020. Vietnam’s big cities – Hanoi, Da Nang, 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’s Eve 2021:
New Year in Sapa: Up in the misty mountains of northern Vietnam, Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa is a cozy spot to ring in the new year. A promotional package is available for visitors to enjoy a set dinner, half-priced spa services and two nights in the lodge-style resort.
New Year in Hanoi: High above West Lake, The Summit serves up riveting 360-degree views of the capital. This classy lounge offers an equally classy 2020 countdown party, with canapes, drinks specials, and live DJ sets.
New Year in Hoi An: Anantara Hoi An is hosting a Great Gatsby themed gala dinner that is sure to lure guests to the picturesque riverside resort. Say goodbye to 2020 with a sumptuous buffet and live entertainment along the Thu Bon River.
New Year in Nha Trang: Nha Trang’s party central, the Sailing Club, is inviting partygoers to a spectacular night on the sand, with sets from the city’s top DJs, drinks specials, and all-night dancing. This year's theme? The roaring 20s.
New Year in Ho Chi Minh City: Vietnam’s buzzing southern hub will be brimming with opportunities for a rooftop cocktail at midnight. The Lighthouse will ring in the New Year with a line up of 10 DJs spinning throughout the night. Modern Vietnamese restaurant and bar AnAn Saigon will celebrate with a Festive Menu and countdown party featuring a live DJ on the rooftop, a perfect spot to catch the fireworks at midnight. On New Year’s Day, the Social Club at Hotel des Arts Saigon will host a festive champagne brunch above the city.
New Year in Phu Quoc: The Sailing Club Phu Quoc will celebrate the end of 2020 with a gourmet five-course dinner, followed by a jam-packed entertainment line up. DJs and fire dancers will keep the party going long into the night on Vietnam's largest island.