Ho Chi Minh City attracts millions of visitors yearly as one of the must-visit destinations in Vietnam. Although the city is busy with hectic life, it has its charm and worth exploring at least a few days.
What are the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh city?
Known as one of the most beautiful churches in Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Dinh Church is a great place to visit in Saigon.
With vibrant pink facades, outstanding architecture and sculptured patterns, this church wins visitors’ heart 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 with Roman and Gothic style.
Open hours: 8am-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.
Explore Saigon on Motorbike
Saigon is, without a doubt, the city of motorbikes. There are more than 7.43 millions motorbikes registered in Ho Chi Minh city (Thanh Nien News, 2016), as it is flexible and cheaper to move around compared to cars.
While exploring Thailand with a tuk-tuk is a must-do, traveling in Vietnam on Motorbike is a great experience that you should not miss.
Although the renter usually doesn’t ask for your license when you rent a bike, you may not get insurance if you have an accident. Thus, we recommend going on a motorbike tour instead for your safety and convenience.
Located in District 3, the War Remnants Museum is a must-go place to learn about Vietnamese history. It has heartbreaking exhibition 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.
Open hours: 7 am to 6:30 pm
Ticket price: 40,000 VND/ person
Explore 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 to a museum, you can observe the F5E fighter plane that bombed the palace on 8th April 1975, and the tank number 843 which led the final assault through the palace gate at 11.30 am on 30th April 1975.
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.
Note: 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.
Send Postcard from 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.
Open hours: 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Wander around the 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.
Walk along 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.
Visit 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.
Visit 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 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.
Explore 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 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).
Go Shopping at An Dong Market
If you are too familiar with Ben Thanh Market, try visiting An Dong Market instead. Located in An Dong Commercial Center, this place is considered as the largest wholesale clothing market in Saigon with a variety of models and extremely reasonable price.
Tips: You should negotiate before purchasing any item in this market.
Address: 34-36 An Dương Vương, Ward 9, District 5, Ho Chi Minh city.
Take a look at Turtle Lake
Officially known as International Square, Ho Con Rua (Turtle Lake) is a 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 lakes is also a unique combination between Eastern and Western in 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.
Explore China Town Cho Lon
Saigon is home to different cultures, and the Chinese neighborhoods are one of the remarkable areas. Chinatown, also known as Cho Lon, is located in District 5, District 11 and a part of District 6 of Ho Chi Minh City.
This place focuses on the culture, cuisine, and unique architecture of the Chinese, mainly Chaozhou and Fujian, so it has created a unique feature in Saigon.
Here, you will feel like you are in a residential area of Hong Kong or lost in a world entirely built by the hands of the Chinese. Most of the houses in this area were built in the late 19th century with Chinese architecture.
Bà Thiên Hậu Temple, Hà Chương Hall, Ôn Lăng Hall, and Cho Lon Market are must-visit places in China Town Saigon.
Walk around 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 spring flowers exhibition.
Address: Trương Định, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city.
Have a great time at 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 adult.
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
Enjoy the coffee culture
Traveling to Vietnam without trying Vietnamese coffee will be a huge miss.
Coffee is not only a drink but also a cultural activity in Saigon. You can find several coffee shops in Saigon, with people sitting inside or on the street, sipping coffee at any time of the day.
A most well-known coffee in Saigon is Ca Phe Sua Da, which means coffee with condensed milk. If you prefer something not so sweet, Ca Phe Da (black coffee) is an alternative option.
My favorite area for coffee is on Pasteur street near Notre Dame Cathedral in District 1. You can find many coffee shops around the quarter.
Have drinks on a rooftop bar
What to do at night in Ho Chi Minh?
After a busy night exploring the city, enjoying a night with some cocktails and a vibrant view of Saigon seems to be a great choice.
You can find several rooftop bars in Saigon, but my favorite one is The View Rooftop bar on Bui Vien street.
Address: 195 Bùi Viện, Phạm Ngũ Lão Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city.
Party till morning on Bui Vien Street
Bui Vien street, or known as Phố Tây (Foreign area), is an excellent place for a night out for foreigners as well as the locals.
The weekend is the busiest time of the week thanks to its unique and fascinating entertainment activities. Many artistic performances on the sidewalk or the middle of the street attract a lot of visitors and create an exciting atmosphere.
Bui Vien’s walking street is full of restaurants, cafes, restaurants, and bars. You can sit on the sidewalk, drinking beer and eating street food, or you can get in the busy bars and clubs in the area.
The street can be super crowded, and you cannot move due to “traffic jam,” but a visit here will be fun and relaxing.