11 unique Vietnam souvenirs that don’t suck

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t buy that conical hat for a dollar from that friendly lady at the market (although we will be quietly judging you if you proceed to prance around town with it) — but just know that there are so many more interesting souvenirs to bring home from Vietnam. Here are our favorites, from highbrow to quotidian:

1 Tin boat. Part of Vietnam’s collective nostalgia, these hand-painted tin boats used to be popular during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Now they’re a rare find in Hanoi’s Hang Thiec (tin street). 2 Saigon Charlie’s chili sauce. Bring back a bottle to spice up your dishes back home.  3 Woven floor mat. Handmade in countryside villages, these colorful mats come in wide range of patterns and sizes. 4 Vietnam Coffee Republic beans. Blends of 3-4 different Vietnamese coffee beans, masterfully roasted in Saigon. 5 Vietnamese coffee drip filter. To recreate that roadside cà phê sữa đá back home. Found in virtually every souvenir shop and market. 6 Cao Sao Vàng balm. Vietnam’s iconic answer to Tiger Balm is the cure for any ailment. Comes in handy mini-sized tins.

 7 Phu Quoc fish sauce. An essential ingredient if you want to give Vietnamese cuisine a try. Scan the ingredients list for ‘Phu Quoc’ and ‘cá cơm’ (anchovy from said island) to make sure you buy the real deal (further reading). 8 Marou Chocolate. A pastry chef’s favorite, and for good reason. Pick from over a dozen flavors, from rare single origins to inventive flavor combinations. 9 Tuhu Ceramics. Blue-and-whites with modern designs, handmade in Vietnam. 10 Vietnamese market bag. Found hanging on motorcycles, market stands and backyards all over the country. Colorful, versatile and cheap. 11 Valerie Cordier wallet. Colorful statement pieces by Vietnam-based French designer Valerie Cordier. Made from up-cycled materials using fair business practices. 

Best places for souvenir shopping in Vietnam

From antique markets to concept stores, we sniff out some of our favorite spots for souvenir shopping in Vietnam.

Souvenir shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

For anything chic, L’Usine is a dependable choice. Alongside a solid collection of designer clothing (Maison Kitsuné, Cheap Monday, Comme des Garcons, etc.), they stock a great range of products by local artisan brands like Saigon Charlie’s (2), Marou (8) and Triangle Concept. L’Usine has several shops throughout the city, but the one on Dong Khoi street has the biggest retail space. A few blocks away, Sadec District specializes in crafts from around the Mekong region. At its three-story showroom on Mạc Thị Bưởi Street, you’ll find everything from contemporary woven baskets to unique tableware.

For one-of-a-kind antiques, head to Lê Công Kiều Street in District 1. While we question the authenticity of some of the wares on sale, there are some good deals to be had if you know what to look out for.

Souvenir shopping in Hanoi

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is brimming with cool stuff to bring back home. Street names often indicate the type of wares that are sold there, so navigating the labyrinth of alleys is quite easy. Keep an eye out for Hang Thiec Street (Tin Street) for every kind of tinware you can imagine. We picked up number 1 and 5 from there, but you’ll also find pretty tin lamps and metal storage boxes. Lan Ong Street (the street of Traditional Medicine) is worth a stop, too. Even if you’re not planning to bring any dried herbs or exotic medicine home, there are plenty of curiosities to marvel at.

For something more modern, Hanoia House sells sleek interpretations of traditional Vietnamese lacquerware from their showroom set in a heritage building along Hàng Đào Street. Seek out the quirky aN Store next to the Metropole Hotel for a mishmash of handcrafted leatherwares, ceramics and organic cotton shirts and dresses.

Souvenir shopping in Hoi An

Searching for unique gifts in Hoi An can be overwhelming due to the sheer amount of souvenir shops packed in the Old Town. While most of them are of the “if you’ve seen one – you’ve seen them all”-kind, there are a handful of shops that stand out for their unique products.

Sunday in Hoi An stocks contemporary handcrafted homeware in a bright studio-cum-cafe on the main street. The pastel-colored ceramics and decorative towels by Bô Saigon are some of our favorites. A little more hidden is Rosie’s Cafe, a charming cafe with a small shop selling a curated selection of wares such as screen-printed stationary by local brand 3:AM and handmade soaps by SAPO.

We picked up the colorful market bag (10) and floor mat (3) at Hoi An Central Market. Its food court is where tourists tend to stick and is obviously packed with dime-a-dozen souvenir shops. Skip that, and venture out to the market hall behind it. Here, you’ll find loads of interesting ‘everyday’ wares such as the aforementioned, and a wide range of cooking utensils, bamboo furniture, and woven goods.

Looking for more souvenirs that don’t suck? Check out our favorite design souvenirs from Thailand or India.