The city's economy has recently switched from coal mining to tourism, due to the large amount of visitors drawn by the famous Hạ Long Islets every year. At present, Hạ Long is experiencing rapid growth not only in tourism sphere, but as a place upon the main road to southern China. In 2007 Vietnam-China Business Forum, a $400 million deal was signed to build a highway linking Hạ Long, Mong Cai and Quảng Ninh.
Hạ Long city is divided into two parts: East Hạ Long and West Hạ Long. The eastern part ("Hon Gai"), where most of the official buildings and industry are concentrated, is connected by bridge with the western part ("Bai Chay"), considered to be more of a tourism attraction.
There are several good quality hotels in Hạ Long city and plenty of budget accommodation, two hospitals and several private medical centers.
In the south of the city there is Bai Tho (‘Poem’) Mountain with its almost vertical seaward face, which was widely used by some famous local poets. The limestone peak is rich in bio-diversity and offers attractive views of the bay. There are also such places of interest as Cua Van Fishing Village, Hoang Gia Park, Hạ Long Market, Bai Chay Trading Center, Quảng Ninh Museum, Vietnam-Japan Cultural House, Children's Cultural House.
Hạ Long city has an active Roman Catholic Church in its eastern part ("Hon Gai") on the hill near the main post office, which holds the services on Sunday evenings and on Christian holidays.