With graceful tree-lined boulevards, an impressive array of colonial-era buildings and an unhurried air, Haiphong is a very approachable city. It’s an important seaport and industrial centre, but few visitors linger. If you do pass through, you’ll find minimal hassles compared to Vietnam’s main tourism centres, with barely a tout to be found. Café culture is very strong here and many central places have street tables – perfect for people-watching.
Haiphong is a major transport hub, and well connected to Cat Ba Island and Hanoi by bus, boat and train.
The French took possession of Haiphong in 1874 and the city developed rapidly, becoming a major port. Heavy industry evolved through the proximity to coal supplies.
The French bombardment of Haiphong in 1946 killed thousands and was a catalyst for the ensuing Franco-Viet Minh War. Between 1965 and 1972 Haiphong came under air and naval attack from the US, and the city’s harbour was mined to disrupt Soviet military supplies. In the late 1970s and the 1980s Haiphong experienced a mass exodus that included many ethnic Chinese refugees, who left taking much of the city’s fishing fleet with them.
Today Haiphong is a fast-growing city, attracting investment from multinational corporatons lured by its port facilities and transport links.
Sight & Activities
(66P Dien Bien Phu; admission 5000d; 8am-12.30pm & 2-4pm Mon-Fri, 7.30-9.30pm Wed & Sun) In a splendid colonial building, the Haiphong Museum concentrates on the city’s history. Some displays have English translations and the museum’s garden harbours a diverse collection of war detritus.
Queen of the Rosary Cathedral
(p Hoang Van Thu; 24hr) Haiphong’s elegant Roman Catholic cathedral was built in the 19th century and comprehensively restored in 2010. The building’s grey towers are a local landmark, and the inner courtyard is spacious and relaxing – until friendly children from the adjacent primary school are let loose after classes.
(P Quang Trung) With a façade embellished with white columns, Haiphong’s neoclassical Opera House dates from 1904. Unfortunately it is usually not possible to view the interior.
Du Hang Pagoda
(121 P Chua Hang; 7am -10pm) Du Hang Pagoda was founded three centuries ago. It’s been rebuilt several times, but remains a fine ture and sculpture. P Chua Hang is a narrow thoroughfare, bustling with Haiphong street life. The pagoda is around 1.5km southwest of Haiphong’s main street, Dien Bien Phu.
(P Dien Bien Phu; 8-11am Tue, Thu & Sat) The Navy Museum is interesting for visiting sailors and US Vietnam veterans.
Duyen Hai Hotel
( 031-354 2134; 6 D Nguyen Tri Phuong; r 250,000-400,000d) With a recently renovated reception area and decent rooms, the Duyen Hai offers fair value and is handily near Lac Long bus station and Ben Binh harbour.
Bao Anh Hotel
(031-382 3406; www.hotelbaoanh.com; 20 P Minh Khai; r 400,000-700,000d) Refurbished in trendy minimalist style, the Bao Anh features a great location in a leafy street framed by plane tress and buzzy cafes. It’s a short walk to good beer places if you’re after something stronger. Reception is definitely open to negotiation.
(031-374 6468; www.haiphongmonacohotel.com; 103 P Dien Bien Phu; r US$30-50) This modern and central hotel has a real polish about it, including the smart lobby where the helpful reception staff speak some English. The spacious, spotless rooms come with two double beads, and the attractive bathrooms are well presented Breakfast is included.
Harbour View Hotel
(031-382 7827; www.harbourviewvietnam.com; 4 P Tran Phu; r US$95-125) Built in replica-colonial style in 1998, this stately hotel has comfortable rooms and excellent facilities, including a gym, spa and restaurant. Breakfast is included, and the superfriendly team on reception can arrange tours around Haiphong in a vintage Citroen car. Be sure to try for a substanyial discount off rack rates.
Haiphong is noted for its fresh seafood. Visit P Quang Trung for seafood restaurants with point-and-cook tanks, as well as bia hoi (beer) joints. For more stylish cafes and restaurants, take a wander along P MINH Khai.
(031-384 1698; 4A P Hoang Van Thu; mains 40,000d-60,000d; 11am-9pm) This restaurant hits the spot for its affordable local seafood and Vietnamese specialities. Diminutive, unpretentious and with a small patio.
Big Man Restaurant
(031-384 2383; 7 P Tran Hung Dao; mains from 100,000d; 11am-11pm) This sprawling restaurant has an outdoor terrace and an extensive menu with good seafood and excellent Vietnamese salads. It also doubles as a microbrewery, with light and dark lager.
(031-382 1018; 22 P Minh Khai; mains 80,000-150,000d; 11.30am-10pm) At this retored townhouse, authentic Thai dishes are beautifully prepared and presented – try the labmoo (pork salad) or pepper squid; there are good vegetarian options too. Leave room for dessert, which includes delicious coconut ice cream.
(031-374 633; 1 P Hoang Dieu; mains 100,000-250,000d; 11am-11pm) This alegant French-colonial villa is renowned for seafood, including an amazing selection of crab dishes. More exotic dishes featuring deer anf goat are also on the menu. A favourite with local well-to-do families.
Drinking & Entertainment
P Minh Khai is the heart of Haiphong’s caffeine action. Virtually all of these cafes have street terraces, serve beer and have a snack meu.
(16 Đ Lach Tray; 10am-8pm) The local brew is deservedly renowned around Vietnam, and the best place to try it is at the brewery’s bustling beer hall. Lunchtimes get very crowded (the food is cheap and very good) but staff can always find room for a few more drinkers. Haiphong Brewery is a short cab ride to the southeast of the city centre.
(5P Tran Hung Dao; 11am-11pm) Boisterous beer garden with lots of cheap brews, and squid, chicken and pork prepared in many different ways. It’s packed with locals every night enjoying a few (not so) quiet beers after work.
(22C P Minh Khai; 11-11pm) Cosy expat hang-out that’s the ideal spot to get the lowdown on the latest Haiphong gossip.
Caffe Tra Cuc
(46C P Minh Khai; 7am-11pm) The coffee, done loads of ways, and free wi-fi is palled up by grizzled regurlars and Haiphong trendices alike.
Cafes on P Minh Khai have free wi-fi. ATMs dot the city centre.
Haiphong International Hopital (031-395 5888; 124 Nguyen Duc Canh) Recently built and modern, with some English-speaking doctors.
Getting There & Away
Haiphong’s Cat Bi airport is 6km southeast of central Haiphong. A taxi should be around 150,000d. Airlines include Jetstar Pacific Airways (1900 1550; www.jetstar.com), Vietnam Airlines (031-3810 890, Hanoi 04-3832 0320; www.vietnamair.com.vn; 30P Hoang Van Thu) and VietJet (1900 1886; www.vietjetair.com).
Boats depart from Ben Binh Harbour, a short walk from the Lac Hong bus station.
Haiphong has three long-distance bus stations Tam Bac Bus Station (P Tam Bac) Buses to Hanoi (100,000d, two hours, every 10 minutes).
Niem Nghia Bus Station (Đ Tran Nguyen Han Buses south of Haiphong, such as to Ninh Binh (120,000d, 31/2 hours, every 30 minutes).
Lac Long Bus Station (P Cu Chinh Lan) Buses to Halong City (Bai Chay; 70,000d,11/2 hours, every 30 minutes), and regular conections to Mong Cai (120,000d, four hours, approximately every two hours) near the Chinese border. Lac Hong also has buses to and from Hanoi (80,000d, two hours, every 10 minutes), convenient for those connceting with the Cat Ba boats at nearby Ben Binh Harbour.
CAR & MOTORBIKE
Haiphong is 103km from Hanoi on the expressway, Hwy5.
A slow spur-line service travels daily to Hanoi’s Long Bien station (48,000d, 21/2 hours, 6.05am, 8.55am, 2.55pm, 6.40pm).
Try Haiphong Taxi (031-383 8383) or Taxi Mai Linh (031-383 3833). A xe om (motorbike taxi) from the bus stations to the hotels should be around 30,000d.