Hailed as the largest metropolitan city in the Mekong Delta, Cần Thơ is a waterfront city that’s never asleep. The city derives its name from the Vietnamese phrase “Cầm Thi Giang,” which translates to “River of Poems”.
With so many floating water markets, delicious food, and Buddhist pagodas, it’s easy to see that the name is well-deserved. Cần Thơ is also nick named as the “Western Capital” or “Tây Đô.”
Can Tho’s best things to do
Phong Dien Floating Market. Photo: Phil Norton
Cần Thơ’s natural beauty as well as its exotic, rustic appeal has turned it into a popular tourist destination. Many travel to the city through its canal system because it’s a city that’s best viewed from water. Situated only 169kms from Ho Chi Minh City, this is a place you must visit when planning an itinerary in Vietnam.
When you’re booking your vacation to this wonderful destination, you should try to step out of the ordinary routes. As a destination, Cần Thơ is akin to Venice. You’re going to a canal city that has an undeniable rustic charm and gives a clear view at the authentic rural life of most Vietnamese. For accommodations, there are several top luxury hotels in Can Tho, if you’re looking for something upscale.
When visiting this beautiful city, the following are some interesting things you should try. Here are top tourist activities in Cần Thơ, Vietnam, in no particular order:
1. Shop at the Cái Răng Floating Market
Shop at the Cái Răng Floating Market. Photo: Khánh Hmoong
As one of the largest floating markets that you can find in the Mekong Delta, the Cái Răng Market is not one that you should miss. The Cái Răng Floating Market also ranks among the top 10 most impressive markets in the world and it also won cultural heritage status in 2016. Visiting this market should definitely be on your bucket list.
Surprisingly, despite its international fame, the market has not changed much and still stays as busy and rustic as ever. For photographers, this place is a haven. It’s busy, vibrant, and you can take some of the most photogenic shots here. This floating water marketplace stretches under a bridge which gives you the perfect vantage point for photography.
The best time to visit the market is anywhere from 6 am to 7 am before it becomes too crowded. The best part about going at this time is that you can escape the heat too! Early morning wares are also the best ones so if you’re looking to buy something, this will be a great time to shop. The market opens every day, except for Mondays, from 4 am to 9 am only.
Address: 46 Hai Bà Trưng, Tân An, Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ
2. Take a Private Sampan Tour!
Cần Thơ floating market tour boat operator. Photo: Prince Roy
Since Cần Thơ is a water-based city, the best way to look at it is by exploring its different canals. So, it’s time to hire a private sampan (water boats). You can find boats to rent at the Ninh Kieu quay and the canals. For a small amount, they can show you the city and some will also take you to the markets or recommend eateries where you can get delicious local food from.
You can also pre-book sampan tours with your travel agents but these can be more costly. Talking directly with the sampan owners will allow you to work out a rate that you will enjoy. A sampan tour might seem a bit cliché but it is something that’ll let you see the city from a closer angle. You’ll walk away seeing a part of Cần Thơ that most tourists don’t get to see!
Address: At the Ninh Kieu quay, Cần Thơ
3. Marvel at the Architecture of the Ong Temple
Ong Temple. Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Also known as the Ong Pagoda, this beautiful structure is hard to miss. Situated in the heart of the Cần Thơ city, it was previously used as the gathering place for spiritual prayer by the Hao. Even though it was built in 1894, the structure has been well-preserved and remains unchanged by the hands of time.
This is one of the main reasons why it counts as an architectural marvel. It continues to attract many domestic and international tourists. The temple also houses many different statues and statuettes from China’s history, including the Records of the Three Kingdoms. Exploring the whole temple can take up a good few hours so be prepared.
Address: 32 Hai Bà Trưng, Tân An, Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ
4. Connect with Locals at Phong Điền Floating Market
At around 6 AM the Phong Dien Floating Market is already bustling with activity. Photo: Ingmar Zahorsky
If you loved the Cái Răng Floating Market, then get ready to visit the Phong Điền Floating Market. Cần Thơ is home to many water-markets and while Cai Rang is the most famous one, Phong Điền is still worth visiting. It’s a more intimate setting because you will see more individual sellers here instead of the wholesalers at Cái Răng.
The market is open from 4 am to 9 am so again, getting here earlier will allow you to beat tourists, the heat, and get the best wares. The energy level here is also more relaxed so if the Cái Răng market was too over-stimulating for some, the Phong Điền one is going to be a better market to visit.
Address: Phan Văn Trị, Nhơn ái, Phong Điền, Cần Thơ
5. Eat the Most Authentic Nem Nướng at the Nem Nướng Thanh Vân
No trip to Cần Thơ is complete without trying the best Nem Nướng at the Nem Nướng Thanh Vân. It’s locally acclaimed for its flavor and a must-try for any tourist. You’ll find the place pretty busy with local and foreign tourists flocking to it.
The menu is extensive, the serving size is good, and the servers are more than happy to guide you on how to eat Nem Nướng with your hands. You’ll have to make your own rice rolls, with given ingredients like cucumber, green banana, pork sausage and a number of fresh herbs. It might sound simple but give it a try – each roll is an explosion of flavor.
Address: 17 Đại lộ Hoà Bình, Tân An, Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ
6. See Native Wildlife at the Bang Lang Stork Garden
Bang Lang Stork Gardens in Can Tho. Photo: Christine und Hagen Graf
One of the most impressive sites to visit in Cần Thơ is the local, Bang Lang Stork Sanctuary. This is an impressive bird garden, which was established in 1983. It’s home to thousands of snowy egrets and 20 different heron species.
Spanning over 1.3 hectares, the sanctuary gives you a look at these magnificent birds in the wild. There’s even a viewing platform for which not only lets you see the birds but also gives breathtaking views at sunset and sunrise.
There’s an entry charge of VND 10,000 for locals and VND 20,000 for foreigners. The gardens close by 6 pm and open up at 5 am every day. The best time to go here is at dawn from 6 am to 7 am when the birds are foraging and 5 pm, when the birds are coming in to nest. It’s a sight that will truly take your breath away.
Address: Thuận An, Thốt Nốt, Cần Thơ
7. Find the Perfect Souvenirs at Tây Đô Night Market
If you literally want to shop till you drop, you’re going to love the Tây Đô Night Market. It’s made up of stalls that sell almost anything from fruits and local delicacies to cheap leather goods, perfumes and purses. You can shop for some of the perfect souvenirs here at the most reasonable rates.
Rustic, local made goods can also be found in abundance here. Whether you want goodies like cakes and treats or hand-made rustic jewelry, you can find it all here with ease. It’s also situated inside the Cần Thơ International Exhibition.
Slowly, Tây Đô has grown to be one of the most famous night markets here. It functions from 4 pm until 4 am but some vendors can choose to close earlier by 12 pm too.
Address: Cách Mạng Tháng 8 Street, Cai Khe Ward, Ninh Kiều District, Cần Thơ
8. Ninh Kiều Night Market
Can Tho Night Market. Photo: Michelle Lee
Situated along the popular Ninh Kieu Quay, this fun market gets busy every night. There are a myriad of local goods to purchase, as well as local fare of the south. Ninh Kiều Night Market is a popular place for both tourists and locals alike. Stop by nightly for some tasty street food and handmade Vietnamese crafts.
Address: Tan An ward, Ninh Kieu District, Can Tho
9. Indulge Your Poetic Side at the Ninh Kiều Quay
To make the most of sunsets or sunrises, you should head over to the Ninh Kiều Quay in Cần Thơ. This is one of the most famous places, situated on the banks of the Hua River. This quay was once a vital part of the trading ports in Cần Thơ. Today, it has been retired and turned into an attractive park with some of the most scenic views. It opens every day from 5 am to 10 pm.
The park attracts local and foreign tourists who love to take a walk in the picturesque park and enjoy the fresh air. It’s also in close proximity to many of the night markets. Since there aren’t benches at the market, most people buy food and walk to the benches here. It’s really the perfect way to end the day by enjoying some delicious food while looking at the beautiful Hua River.
Address: 38 Đường Hai Bà Trưng, Tân An, Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ
These are just some of the things that you can try when exploring Cần Thơ, Vietnam. Once you get there, you can discover more hidden gems in the city!
Keyword: Top things to do in Can Tho