10 best things to do and see in Ho Chi Minh City (former Sai Gon)

Ho Chi Minh City (commonly known as Saigon), is Vietnam in high gear. To travel to Ho Chi Minh City is to be introduced to a dramatic meeting of old and new culture, a dynamic metropolis of skyscrapers and traffic juxtaposed with a wealth of ancient temples and traditional markets. Whether you're traveling to Ho Chi Minh City for a quick stop en route to other parts of Vietnam or are planning a visit to the city exclusively, you will be won over the city's frenetic energy and the many local gems just waiting to be discovered.

 

1.       Museum Of Ho Chi Minh City

The Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is housed in the beautiful Gia Long Palace, housing a range of different collections and exhibitions about the history and struggles of Ho Chi Minh. Exhibitions will change depending on when you visit, but you will see exhibitions on the nature and geography of Ho Chi Minh, the industrial history of the area, and some fascinating remnants of the war. The museum itself is an interesting introduction to the city, and can be less crowded than some other museums. The Palace is a stunning piece of architecture too, and a perfect example of Baroque architecture with European and Oriental influences.

Address: 65 Ly Tu Trong, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City


2.      
Cu Chi Tunnels

The tunnels at Cu Chi are an immense underground network of tunnels connected to other tunnels ranging across the country. Used by the Viet Cong (National Liberation Front) during the Vietnam War, the tunnels served as hiding spots for the VC, as well as stores for food and weaponry, hospitals, and living quarters for soldiers. Many military operations were carried out in the Cu Chi tunnels, such as the Tet Offensive in 1968. Nowadays, tourists can explore parts of the tunnels, and learn about their history. There are two sites open to the public, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. If you are looking for a quieter experience then head to Ben Duoc, further out than Ben Dinh, as this area is less popular with tourists, and contains two original tunnels that visitors can explore if they are deemed fit enough. Ben Dinh is closer to Ho Chi Minh and all tunnel segments at this site are replicas of the original tunnels.

Address: Cu Chi Dist, Ho Chi Minh City


3.      
Vietnamese Coffee

Whilst Vietnam might not be the first place to spring to mind when thinking of coffee, Vietnam is actually the largest exporter of coffee in the world. Introduced by the French, the Vietnamese have created their very own blend and creation, which is very specific to the country. Vietnamese coffee is strong with a rich taste, with condensed milk added to create ca phe sua. Some interesting variations you’ll find are yoghurt coffee, where plain yoghurt is mixed with coffee, egg coffee, where egg yolk is whipped with condensed milk to form a sweet topping to your coffee, and coffee smoothies. In Ho Chi Minh look out for sinh to ca phe sapoche, coffee blended with sapodilla. With such a big coffee scene in Ho Chi Minh you’ll be able to pick up a cup from modern cafes to street vendors, all at very cheap prices.


4.      
War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants Museum exhibits many artifacts and weaponry from the Vietnam War, as well as some from the Indochina Wars. This museum is not for the faint hearted, as the Vietnamese hold nothing back from showing visitors the atrocities of the Vietnam War. The museum is comprised of different rooms, showcasing different themes. Outside of the museum you’ll see American weaponry and transport such as tanks, a UH-1 Huey helicopter, and unexploded weapons. Exhibits include descriptions of the My Lai Massacre, the effects of Agent Orange and reproductions of the Tiger Cages used for POWs. Keep in mind that the War Remnants Museum tends to be very one-sided when it comes to blame, but is an eye-opening experience about the atrocities of war.

Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Hồ Chí Minh


5.      
Jade Emperor Pagoda

Built for the Jade Emperor, the Taoist God, this Pagoda is one of the most beautiful in Ho Chi Minh City. Built at the beginning of the 20th century by the Chinese community, this Buddhist and Taoist pagoda boasts an array of intricate carvings for various different deities. You’ll find the large statue of Jade Emperor himself above the alter, and if you go up the staircase to the balcony above the roof you’ll see the statue of Quan An, the god of mercy. Be sure to also enter the room adjacent to the main alter with the Hall of the Ten Hells, containing 10 wooden carvings of the torture of those souls damned to the 10 regions of hell. Amidst the smoky calm of burning incense, you’ll feel a thousand miles away from the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh.

Address: 73 Mai Thi Luu, Da Kao, 1 Dist


6.      
Ben Thanh Market

Located in district 1, Ben Thanh Market is perhaps one of the best known markets in Ho Chi Minh, and also the most popular. This important city landmark is a crazy mix of stalls, toppling with food, clothing, souvenirs, and everything Vietnamese. This market is popular with both tourists and locals, and you can easily spend hours moving amongst the many stalls. Prices can be high, so don’t be afraid to haggle, and make sure to be aware of pick pockets. The Ben Thanh Market also becomes a popular night market, with many food vendors setting up stalls where you can try some typical Saigonese food such as Cơm tấm.

Address: Ben Thanh, 1 Dist


7.      
Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral shows the pinnacle of French Colonialism in Ho Chi Minh. While not as grand as the Notre Dame in Paris, this Cathedral is still beautiful and well worth a look around. Built between 1877 and 1883, the Cathedral is of neo-Romanesque design, with red brick imported from France and two towers containing six bronze bells. Look over the beautiful stained glass windows and the statue of its name sake outside on the lawn, which was said to have shed tears in 2005. The Cathedral is still in use and Mass is held there every Sunday.

Address: Ben Nghe, 1 Dist


8.      
Dong Khoi Street

Dong Khoi Street reaches from the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Saigon River. This street is full of shops and bars, and houses many of Ho Chi Minh’s more boutique and designer shops. If you are looking to do some upmarket shopping whilst in Ho Chi Minh, Dong Khoi is the place to be. If not, this street is still worth a wander to admire the colonial buildings and the contrast between old and new. Along Dong Khoi you’ll pass the Continental Hotel, the Opera House, the Caravelle Hotel, the Central Post Office, and the Hotel de Ville, all stunning colonial buildings.

Address: Dong Khoi stress, Ben Nghe, 1 Dist

  
         9.       Starlight Bridge

Spending time with your loved one at Starlight Bridge is said to be one of the most romantic things to do in Ho Chi Minh city. Located in District 7, the Starlight Bridge is a beautiful display of coloured lights directed onto the waterfall, falling from the bridge to the river bellow. Located in Phu My Hung, this area of Ho Chi Minh City is distinctly modern and Westernised, with less traffic, bigger streets, and modern shops and cosmopolitan dining. Drawing a distinct contrast to the older, colonial buildings you’ll see in Ho Chi Minh, the Starlight Bridge and Phu My Hung are clear images of modern Ho Chi Minh.

Address: Rach Rang 2, Tan Phu, 7 Dist


10.  
Central Post Office

Just across from the Cathedral, the Central Post Office is another beautiful display of French colonial architecture, and a popular tourist attraction. Constructed between 1886 and 1891, it was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the legendary designer of the Eiffel Tower. The Post Office is still fully functioning today, and is the perfect place to buy and send postcards. Admire the huge tiled floor, the high ceilings, and general grandeur of the building, feeling more like a Parisian train station than a post office. Examine the historic maps of South Vietnam, Saigon, and Cholon painted on the walls as well as the mosaic of Ho Chi Minh right at the back of the main hall.

Address: Cong Xa Pari, Ben Thanh Dist