Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is a tourist hub in Southern Vietnam. The city is famous for its vibrant life, and impressive French architecture from the colonies era.
This travel guide to Ho Chi Minh will give you the best places to visit, how to get there, things not to miss, and more.
1. Tan Dinh Church
Known as one of the most beautiful churches, Tan Dinh Church is a great place to visit in Ho Chi Minh city.
With vibrant pink facades, outstanding architecture, and sculptured patterns, this church wins visitors’ hearts from the first sight.
Tan Dinh church was built in the 1880s and underwent several restoration and repair. However, nowadays, its architecture and construction remain the origin of Roman and Gothic styles.
Opening hours: 8 am-11 am or 5 pm to 7 pm from Monday to Friday.
Address: 289 Hai Bà Trưng, Ward 8, District 3, Ho Chi Minh city.
Tips: If you get lost, ask people about the “Pink church.” After visiting Tan Dinh church, don’t forget to pay a visit to Tan Dinh market and Le Van Tam park nearby.
2. Hao Si Phuong
Located in District 5, Hao Si Phuong has more than 100 years of history.
Hao Si Phuong is the alley at 206 Tran Hung Dao B, District 5. It is not too difficult to find this alley, but many visitors still glide through it without realizing it.
The unique architecture makes this alley an excellent location for photography.
The alley is divided into two separate areas. Houses with ancient architecture mixed with modern and eye-catching colors are the main highlight of this place.
3. Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts
Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts is located in the heart of Saigon.
Not only famous for the paintings and sculptures, but the museum also attracts its visitors with outstanding architecture.
It was built in 1934 with a combination of Asian and European architecture, designed by French architect Rivera.
This museum is used to be the residence of a Chinese businessman named Hua Bon Hoa, one of the wealthiest and most famous people of Saigon at that time. He also owned many other famous works such as the Majestic Hotel or Tu Du Hospital.
Address: 97 Pho Duc Chinh, District 1
4. War Remnants Museum
Located in District 3, the War Remnants Museum is a must-go place to learn about Vietnamese history. It has heartbreaking exhibitions related to Vietnam War involving the French and American colonialists.
The museum was opened in 1975 as “The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government,” but then got its name changed in 1993 after going under changes and renovations.
It has traumatizing pictures of Agent Orange, napalm, phosphorus bombs, My Lai massacre, etc. The exhibition is haunting and shocking, so you should prepare mentally before visiting this museum.
Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh city
Opening hours: 7 am to 6:30 pm
Ticket price: 40,000 VND/ person
5. Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace, or also known as Independence Palace, was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The palace is a witness of Vietnamese history with different Presidents and a place to mark the end of the Vietnam War. The first President in this Palace was Ngo Dinh Diem.
As the palace is now transformed into a museum, you can observe the F5E fighter plane that bombed the palace on 8th April 1975, and tank number 843, which led the final assault through the palace gate at 11.30 am on 30th April 1975.
Address: 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Thành Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city.
Opening hours: 7.30am – 11.00am and 1.00pm – 4.00pm daily.
Ticket price: 40,000 VND/person.
6. Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
Located in the heart of Saigon, Notre Dame Cathedral attracts many domestic and foreign tourists daily with its beauty.
The church has an antique look with a little modern, and young people are very fond of coming here to take pictures and keep the beautiful moments.
On the morning of July 4, 2018, the Notre Dame Cathedral began to set up barriers and restrict visitors to service restoration, which will last for two years.
During the construction period, the Masses are typically held weekly, but guests are not allowed to visit.
Address: 01 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
7. Central Post Office
Located opposite the Notre Dame, Central Post Office is an iconic building which was built during the French colonial period. As it still operates as a post office, you can send the customary postcard from here.
There are a couple of souvenir stores that have unique souvenirs that you cannot find at other places, so you should buy some gifts if you’d like to.
Opening hours: 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM
8. Book street
Located near Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office in District 1, Nguyen Van Binh Book Street is the must-visit destination of book lovers.
I love the feeling of wandering around, buying some books, and reading them at the coffee shops on a Sunday morning.
Nguyen Van Binh book street is the first book complex in Vietnam built with open space, allowing visitors free to visit and enjoy the reading culture of the Saigon.
Although the street is not long, it is divided into different areas, such as the bookstore area, coffee book area, bookselling area, and cultural items.
There is also a playground for children, an exhibition area, and an old bus for book exchange.
You can find books in both Vietnamese and English, so don’t hesitate to visit and enjoy a relaxing atmosphere.
Address: Nguyễn Văn Bình, Bến Nghé, District 1,Ho Chi Minh City.
9. Nguyen Hue Walking street
Located in the heart of the city, Nguyen Hue Walking Street has become a great attraction in Ho Chi Minh city.
In the evening, this street attracts hundreds of visitors walking, singing, or playing outdoor games. Most of the visitors are young people or families with children and tourists.
Surrounding Nguyen Hue walking street, there are plenty of coffee shops and restaurants. One of the must-visit places is Cafe Apartment.
10. Saigon City Hall
If you’re around Nguyen Hue walking street, don’t forget to stop by People Committee Head Office (Saigon City Hall).
Saigon City Hall is one of the most beautiful French colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. The place was first used in 1909 as a hotel named Hotel de Ville.
11. Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngoc Hoang Pagoda)
As one of the most popular religions in Vietnam is Buddhism, there are many pagodas and temples in Vietnam or Saigon in particular.
Generally, Vietnamese visit pagoda to wish for luck and peace, as well as showing respect to the religion.
One of the famous pagodas in Ho Chi Minh city is Jade Emperor Pagoda or Ngoc Hoang Pagoda. This place is also known as Dakao pagoda during the French period.
Jade Emperor Pagoda is located on Mai Thi Luu Street, District 1, with the age of more than a century and has been recognized as a national architectural heritage.
The architecture of the Jade Emperor Pagoda is brightly decorated with Chinese style.
Once entering, you will be amazed by the impressive three-pointed gate with the water-bending curves of the two dragons in the posture.
Tips: When visiting the pagoda, you must wear appropriate clothes that cover your shoulder and knees.
Address: 73 Mai Thị Lựu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city.
12. Ben Thanh market
If Dong Xuan Market is the symbol of Hanoi, Ben Thanh Market is one of the iconic buildings of Saigon.
It will be a great regret if you visit Saigon and miss Ben Thanh market.
The market has a history dating from the early 17th century. At that time, the market was located near the Saigon River and was a famous place for small traders.
During the French war, the Ben Thanh market was located on the banks of the Ben Nghe River and was used to serve visitors and soldiers in the city. Therefore, the market gained its name as Ben Thanh Market.
These days, Ben Thanh market is a famous place for travelers to experience the old architecture of the building or to try some Vietnamese food.
Note: You should negotiate before purchasing souvenirs in this market.
Tips: At night, you should visit Ben Thanh Street food market, which is located at 26 Thu Khoa Huan, District 1 (opposite Ben Thanh market).
13. Turtle Lake
Officially known as International Square, Ho Con Rua (Turtle Lake) is the name of the traffic circle with fountains, connecting three streets: Vo Van Tan, Pham Ngoc Thach, and Tran Cao Van in Saigon.
The Turtle Lake area is now one of the most active dining areas from morning to night, with many restaurants and bars around.
Especially at night, you can find many Vietnamese meeting friends and eating street food around the corner.
Not only attracts visitors as a nice dining area, but Turtle lake is also a unique combination between Eastern and Western architecture that was built before 1975.
Designed with only massive concrete pillars plug into the lake bowl, the Turtle Lake is associated with the anecdote related to Feng Shui of the President of the Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Van Thieu.
Address: Vo Van Tan and Tran Cao Van Streets, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.
14. Tao Dan Park
One thing I love about Ho Chi Minh city is its parks.
There are many parks in Saigon, and most of them have a medium size. A large and central one is Tao Dan Park.
In the past, this park is located on the premises of the French Governorate.
Until 1975, this place became the official park of the city and was built more sites such as the Temple of the Hung King and Cham towers.
Many events are happening here frequently, such as the spring flower exhibition.
Address: Trương Định, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city.
15. Dam Sen Park
Dam Sen Park is an amusement park built and designed with a variety of styles from nostalgic to modern.
Along with beautiful gardens, zoo, and aquarium, Dam Sen Park also has several thrilling games for children and adults.
On a sunny day, visitors can enjoy a fun time at Dam Sen Water Park. It has 36 modern water game equipment and a 3000 square meters wave lake.
Address: 3 Hòa Bình, Ward 3, District 11, Ho Chi Minh city.
8 am – 6 pm from Monday to Friday
8 am – 8 pm on the weekends
16. Can Gio
Located quite close to the city center, Can Gio is an excellent destination for those seeking nature.
You can visit the eco-tourism area to visit the monkeys and paddling along the mangrove forest. Also, stopping by Can Gio market and sampling fresh seafood dishes are great ideas!
I highly recommend taking a Can Gio tour to visit this area.