35+ Incredible things to do in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam – must-see and unique things to do in HCMC

Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) is a dynamic city with a complex history and plenty of culture to soak up. Let’s find out incredible things to do in Ho Chi Minh City and how to make the most of a visit. 

1. The War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants Museum is a sobering and unforgettable museum which details the effects of the 30 year long war between America and Vietnam. There are immaculately preserved tanks, planes and other war machines in the outside grounds, but the really hard-hitting information is found inside. Photographs, exhibits and written documentation show the horrific lengths that the American Army lowered themselves to in order to try and defeat the North Vietnamese Army.

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 7:30 am – 12 noon in the morning and 1:30 pm – 5 pm in the afternoon, daily
Entrance price: 15,000 VND per person
How to get there: The War Remnants Museum is located just northwest of the Independence Palace, you can walk from there in about 10 minutes.

Candidates go to The War Remnants Museum
Candidates go to The War Remnants Museum

2. Cu Chi Tunnels

This marvellous tourist attraction lets visitors experience what it must have been like for soldiers who used an extensive network of tunnels to move around undetected by their enemies. There is an informative movie to watch, followed by a guided tour of some mock recreations of daily life for the Viet Cong hiding in the jungle. Burnt out tanks make for a great photo prop and then everyone gets to crawl through a small section of the tunnels which has been widened and supported with concrete

Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels

3. Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai Temple is  the centre of the Cao Dai faith, a religion that has taken bits of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Confucianism. Tourists are welcome to visit the temple and learn more about this faith that is practiced by a few dedicated followers. Each Cao Dai practitioner wears a white robe to enter the temple with an additional sash to signify their previous religion. The temple itself is very bright and colourful with dragons flying up banisters and a cloud mural decorating the ceiling.

Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple

4. Jade Emperor Pagoda – Phuoc Hai Pagoda

Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most revered temples in Ho Chi Minh. Originally built in 1909 by Chinese immigrants this Taoist temple now welcomes Buddhist worshipping and is incredibly atmospheric with incense smoke hanging heavy in the air. Intricate architecture, carvings, statues of Gods and Goddesses and Chinese characters create an exotic and timeless ambiance.

Jade Emperor Pagoda in HCMC
Jade Emperor Pagoda in HCMC

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5. Bitexco Tower and Sky Deck

Standing taller than any other building in Ho Chi Minh City, and towering to the sky, is a skyscraper that’s made to look like a lotus bulb, known as Bitexco Financial Tower.

There are two choices for visiting Bitexco Financial Tower for a chance to see the amazing view of the city.

Saigon Skydeck – Located on the 49th floor, this observation deck offers a panoramic view of the city. This is sort of an official Ho Chi Minh City attraction, and after you pay the entrance, you are free to browse around the floor and enjoy the views.

Saigon Skydeck at the Bitexco Financial Tower
Saigon Skydeck at the Bitexco Financial Tower

Eon Cafe – Located on the 50th floor, and not connected to the Saigon Skydeck, is Eon Cafe, a way overpriced cafe and bar where you can come at the expense of buying a drink. Since having a drink or food in hand will always sway my decisions, I decided to go to the cafe (instead of going to the Skydeck). The coffee was good, but extremely expensive, and the cafe looked kind of like a night-club. But nevertheless, I did enjoy the marvelous view of Saigon while sipping my coffee drip by drip.

Eon Cafe in HCMC
Eon Cafe in HCMC

So I personally can’t speak for the Saigon Skydeck, but whichever place you choose, for sure you’ll have an incredible view of the city.

Address: 36 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Bến Nghé Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 9:30 am – 9:30 pm daily (for Skydeck), 11:30 am – 11 pm daily for cafe
Entrance price: 200,000 VND for Skydeck entrance. I went to the cafe and paid 130,000 VND for a tiny cup of ristretto – looked like about ¼ of a shot of coffee.
How to get there: From the Ben Thanh Market area, you can walk to Bitexco Financial Tower, otherwise a quick taxi ride is a good option.

6. Reunification Palace

The centre of the allied command and the place where the North Vietnamese claimed victory in the American War, Reunification Palace has played its part in some incredible scenes. This ageing palace has essentially been frozen in time since a North Vietnamese Army tank smashed through its gates in 1975. Visitors will get to discover secret rooms, grand reception halls and the command bunker where General Ngo Dinh Diem conducted his war strategies.

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

Address: 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Thành, Quận 1
Open hours: 7:30 am – 11 am and 1 pm – 4 pm daily. However, occasionally the Palace can be completely closed when there’s a large official event taking place. So make sure it’s open the day you plan to go.
Entrance price: 30,000 VND per person
How to get there: From Ben Thanh Market, you can walk there in about 10 minutes, it’s located right in the heart of Saigon in District 1.

>>> Best tour: Sai Gon – Cai Be – phu Quoc Tour

7. Binh Tay Market

You’re going to hear most about Ben Thanh Market.

But I actually found Binh Tay Market to have better prices, be a more local experience, and I overall enjoyed visiting it more than Ben Thanh.

Binh Tay Market is one of the major official markets, located in the Cho Lon area of Ho Chi Minh City, what is Chinatown.

It has a similar feel to it as Ben Thanh, and even many of the products that are sold – from clothes to food – are basically quite similar.

If you are looking to do some shopping when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, at Binh Tay Market you’ll find just about everything made or produced in Vietnam from clothes to snacks. There’s a huge section of Vietnamese cooking utensils, nuts, spices, and tools.

Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market (Photo by: Xuanhuongho)

Address: Bình Tây Market, 57 Tháp Mười, 2, Quận 6, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 6 am – 7 pm daily for the main indoor market section, 5 am – 9 am or so for the outdoor wet market
How to get there: The market is located in District 5, and it’s easiest to just jump in a taxi to get there. From Ben Thanh Market it cost me 110,00 VND, and the ride took about 15 minutes.

8. Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office

The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a glorious example of French colonial architecture, perfectly preserved with as much style as when it first opened in 1891. The building still functions as the city’s main post office and sending a letter or postcard home is highly recommended for a taste of living history. Beautiful from any angle, this building was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who also designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Inside of Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
Inside of Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office

Address: 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, tp. Hồ Chí Minh
Open hours: 7 am – 7 pm on weekdays, 7 am – 6 pm on Saturday, 8 am – 6 pm on Sunday
Entrance price: Free
How to get there: Once you’re at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Central Post Office is right across the street.

Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office (Photo by: Kushch Dmitry)

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9. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 1880s by French colonists, is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Located in Paris Square, the name Notre Dame was given after the installation of the statue ‘Peaceful Notre Dame’ in 1959. A Virgin Mary statue also stands in front of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, which locals claimed to have shed tears in October 2005. While this incident was refuted by the Catholic Church of Vietnam, thousands of visitors still flock to this statue in hopes of witnessing a miracle

Address: Bến Nghé, tp. Hồ Chí Minh, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 8 am – 11 am in the morning and 3 pm – 6 pm in the evening on weekdays only (on Sunday, there’s an official mass that begins at 9:30 am that you are free to attend)
Entrance price: Free
How to get there: From the Independence Palace, walk northeast through the park directly to the cathedral. It’s located on the northwestern side of Dong Khoi street, adjacent to the old post office.

10. Opera House

Considered to be one of the best representations of French colonial architecture in Saigon, the Opera House theater was built in 1897, and has been beautifully preserved.

If you are interested, the Opera House hosts A O Show, a performance of traditional Vietnamese dance using bamboo.

I didn’t go to the show, but if you are interested in live performances, I’m sure it would be pretty cool to see – especially since it takes place in a such a glorious building.

Opera House in Saigon
Opera House in Saigon

Address: 7 Công trường Lam Sơn, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: Make sure you check the official site for show times and schedules and you can also buy tickets online as well.
Entrance price: Prices range from 504,000 VND –  1,176,000 VND for show tickets
How to get there: The Opera House is located on the prestigious Dong Khoi street

11. Dong Khoi Street

Dong Khoi street and area of Saigon, sort of reminds me of Oxford Street, it’s an upscale area of Saigon, and along Dong Khoi street you’ll find high end boutiques and designer stores.

But along with upscale shopping, it’s just a nice place to walk around. Walking around Dong Khoi, I really felt like I was somewhere in between France and Vietnam, plus there’s a huge contrast of the old and new, modern and traditional.

A corner of Dong Khoi Street in HCMC 
A corner of Dong Khoi Street in HCMC

Along Dong Khoi street there are a couple of modern shopping malls like Vincon, and plenty of international and speciality stores.

Also, many of the high end 5 star hotels, like the renowned Hotel Majestic Saigon are located in this area. If you interested in doing some luxury shopping in Ho Chi Minh City, this is an area you’ll want to visit.

Address: Dong Khoi street
Open hours: Daytime, plenty of nightlife as well

12. Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens (Thao Cam Vien)

Thao Cam Vien, Sai Gon
Thao Cam Vien, Sai Gon

Clustered together in the same park, is both the Saigon Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. They are the 8th oldest zoo in the world and the largest zoo in Vietnam.

Instead of having to pay for both attractions, you just pay a single entrance fee and you can then walk around both.

The Saigon Zoo does host a range of animals from tigers (that really looked like they wanted to escape) to elephants.

Sort of the entire zoo is a botanical garden, full of lush greenery and natural vegetation. But if you keep walking around, you’ll eventually come to the specific botanical garden section.

The gardens throughout the zoo and the wide paths surrounding by natural lush vegetation was a beautiful.

When I went, it looked like many Vietnamese had come to the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens just to hang out, relax and socialize with friends. It looked like many spent the day at the zoo, to use it more just like a peaceful garden park, like an escape from the noisy motorbike roads of Saigon.

As with me, you probably won’t be impressed with the animals or the conditions of the zoo, but the gardens are beautiful, and it’s a good place to walk around for some peace and nature within Saigon.

I think visiting the Saigon Zoo and the Botanical Gardens is one of the many great things to do in Ho Chi Minh city with kids, as it’s quiet, peaceful, with nice grassy areas, and you don’t have to worry about motorbikes!

There’s even restaurant to eat at if you get hungry while walking around, and a number of little refreshment stations.

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Address: 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem Str., Ward Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 7 am – 7 pm daily
Entrance price: 20,000 VND per person
How to get there: It’s easiest to jump in a taxi, but my wife and I took the bus down Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street directly to the entrance of the museum. Get out of the bus before you cross the river.

13. Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda)

Located in the Chinatown area (District 5) of Ho Chi Minh City and built back in the 19th century, Thien Hau Temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea.

From the outside, the pagoda honestly didn’t look amazing.The entrance wall face was well weathered, rather unmaintained (but this did also give it an ancient feel), and it had almost a haunted feeling to look at. However, as soon as you step inside, the beauty of the temple, mostly through the intricate details and carvings, is revealed.

One of my favorite parts of going to Thien Hau Pagoda in Saigon were the incredible sculpture reliefs carved on the upper roof section of the temple, depicting scenes of daily life.

Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda)
Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda)

They were colorful, but weathered, and had accumulated years and years of incense smoke, making the sculptures look ancient and dusted in black soot.

Another highlight were the giant coils of incense that burn slowly, hanging from the ceiling, and filling the temple and atmosphere with smoke.

Ho Chi Minh City has a very strong Chinese presence, and when you’re at Thien Hau Pagoda you’ll feel like you’re actually in China. The pagoda is well worth visiting when you’re in Cholon (Saigon’s Chinatown).

Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda)
Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda) – Photo by: Leslie Richard Wilk

Address: Thiên Hậu Temple, 710 Nguyễn Trãi, phường 11, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 8 am – 4:30 pm daily
Entrance price: Free
How to get there: The temple is located in Cholon, District 5. It’s easiest to get there by taxi.

14. Museum of Ho Chi Minh City

Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
Museum of Ho Chi Minh City

In the past you might have heard of the Gia Long Palace or the Revolutionary Museum, but now, the same place is officially known as the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City or HCMC Museum.

Most of the displays show the history and making of Ho Chi Minh City, and also there are a number of Vietnamese culture exhibits as well.

But what I liked best, was just the amazing mansion palace that the Ho Chi Minh City Museum was housed in, yet another beautiful neoclassical structure built in 1885, with big pillars and wooden staircases.

This museum, I thought, was a little old and sleepy, but for just 15,000 VND for entrance price, I thought it was still worth having a quick browse.

Address: Hồ Chí Minh City Museum, 65 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily
Entrance price: 15,000 VND
How to get there: The HCMC Museum is located near the Dong Khoi area of the city, walking distance from the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

15. San Art Laboratory – Gallery

There are numerous museums in Saigon, many of which I’ve covered in this list of top attractions, but there aren’t too many modern art galleries that promote the local artistic scene in the city.

Sàn means “platform” in Vietnamese, and the San Art laboratory is really a place where artists can learn and nurture their creativity surrounded by other artists.

The gallery is located within a home that’s converted into an artistic space.

San Art Laboratory – Gallery
San Art Laboratory – Gallery

On the bottom floor you’ll find a small library with a collection of contemporary art books and a communal table where you can hang out and connect with other artists.

San Art Laboratory is open to the public, but I would only recommend visiting if you really appreciate contemporary art and creativity, which if you are, I’m sure you’ll be able to connect with other creative artists when you’re there.

Also keep an eye out for special events and artist gatherings that they occasionally host.

San Art Laboratory – Gallery
San Art Laboratory – Gallery

Address: 48/7 Me Linh Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City
Open hours: 10.30 am – 6.30 pm on Tuesday – Saturday, closed on Sunday and Monday
Entrance price: Free, non-profit
How to get there: The art gallery is located in a neighborhood right across the river from the Saigon Zoo. It’s easiest to take a taxi there, or you can take a bus to the main road and then walk into the neighborhood.

16. Have fun at Suoi Tien Theme Park

Apart from being the biggest cultural theme park in Ho Chi Minh City, the park is also home to the longest roller-coaster in Vietnam. However, Suoi Tien Theme Park is far from your oh-so-ordinary amusement parks. With a cultural twist, you will feel as though you have stepped into the setting of a folk tale, with Asian statues and buildings, as well as landscapes that tell long-standing Vietnamese legends. Boasting attractions ranging from the water park to the dolphin and sea lion shows, there is indeed something for everyone. Even those ambitious to start a crocodile farm will be happy. The 1,500-reptile farm in the park not only allows you to feed and look at the crocodiles, but also to buy a baby crocodile to take home. Yes, you read that right!

Suoi Tien Theme Park
Suoi Tien Theme Park

17. Turtle Lake at Night

If you’re looking for one of the top local things to do in Saigon at night, you have got to head over to either the Cathedral of Notre Dame or the roundabout of Turtle Lake after the sun goes down.

Turtle Lake in HCMC Picture
Turtle Lake in HCMC Picture

Located right within central Saigon, both locations are home to dozens of street food snack vendors that set up shop, and make snacks for the hundreds of young Vietnamese, both groups of friends and families, that come to hang out and socialize.

At the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the snack and tea vendors set out little canvas covers on the planters where you can take a seat and enjoy the social buzzing atmosphere with the lights of the cathedral in the background.

At Turtle Lake, within the roundabout is an old school park, with a central sculpture that looks like a dead tree in the middle surrounded by a maze of water and fountains, and an awkwardly placed flight of stairs.

The park itself is very unmaintained, not very pretty, and resembles an abandoned structure. But at night is when things change. Just like at Notre Dame, young people flock to Turtle Lake to hang out and mingle with friends, eat snacks, and enjoy life.

There are two main snacks that everyone who goes to hang out eats and you shouldn’t miss either:

Banh trang tron – Banh trang are Vietnamese rice paper sheets (the same ones used for summer rolls), and banh trang tron is a snack salad made with strips of dry rice paper mixed with hot sauce, slivers of green mango, quail eggs, strips of dried squid, and all kinds of random goodies. It’s the latest and most popular craze snack in Vietnam.

Banh Trang Tron
Banh Trang Tron (Photo by: Foody.vn)

Banh trang nuong – Also known as Vietnamese pizza, banh trang nuong is also made with rice paper, which is grilled like a pizza crust over charcoal, topped with a quail egg, chili sauce, dry pork, green onions, among other things. I thought it was more like a Vietnamese taco, then a pizza.

For a cultural evening experience, visit both places anywhere from about 8 pm – 10 pm.

How to get there: Turtle Lake is located northwest of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, at the cross roads of Vo Van Tan and Pham Ngoc Thach

18. Phu My Hung and Starlight Bridge

Starlight Bridge
Starlight Bridge

Phu My Hung is an upscale development area in District 7 of Saigon

Although it’s only 6 km south of the central Ben Thanh Market (considered the downtown), the area has a completely different feel to it from other parts of the city.

It’s more quiet, there’s less traffic, there are malls and cafe’s, and there are wide spacious, uncluttered sidewalks; Walking through Phu My Hung almost feels like you’ve left Vietnam altogether and have taken a day trip to southern California.

If you go to Phu My Hung in the evening, you can enjoy the cooler temperatures, and it’s also when many local Vietnamese and expats are out and about, eating, socializing, and hanging out.

Along with restaurants, modern malls, and the shops that fill Phu My Hung, one of the main draws is the Starlight Bridge, a bridge that spans across the lake, with a waterfall cascading down, illuminated by flashing lights in a rainbow of colors.

Spending time with your loved one at Starlight Bridge is said to be one of the most romantic things to do in Saigon.

Address: Tôn Dật Tiên, Tân Phú, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: The entire Phu My Hung strip is nice to walk around after the sun goes down, but there’s also the major Crescent Mall shopping mall open from 10 am – 10 pm daily
Entrance price: Free
How to get there: Taxi is the best way to get there since you must leave the main central part of the city

19. Water Puppet Show

Although water puppetry originated in the north of Vietnam around the Halong Bay area, performances are also available at a number of locations throughout Saigon.

The art of Vietnamese water puppet performing (known in Vietnamese at múa rối nước) has been around since the 11th century, and most of the skits depict Vietnamese cultural scenes, countryside life, and folklore stories.

Address: 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Open hours: Official show times are 5 pm and 6:30 pm daily, and you can go to the ticket office to buy your ticket from 8:30 am – 11:30 am and from 1:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Entrance price: 160,000 VND per person
How to get there: The theater is located on the back side of Tao Dan Park on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street, and just a short walk from the Independence Palace.

20. Rooftop Bar

Saigon is a rapidly developing and expanding city, and sky-rise offices and condos are going up at near frightening rates.

Along with high-rise buildings, one of the recent trends in the city are rooftop bars and lounges.

The streets of Saigon are loud, crowded, and quite often on the chaotic side – and don’t get me wrong, the street life is amazing – but it can also be very nice to see it all from above, in a peaceful environment from a bird’s eye view, enjoying the city skyline and sunrise with a cool beverage in hand.

One of the most popular rooftop bar options in Saigon is Shri Restaurant and Lounge, which is not only a bar, but a full restaurant.

Other well known spots to enjoy a drink with a view include the Hotel Continental and Hotel Majestic

Shri Restaurant and Lounge
Shri Restaurant and Lounge

Address: Shri, 72 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, 6, 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: For Shri, 10 am – 12 midnight from Monday – Saturday and 4:30 pm – 12 midnight on Sundays and public holidays. Also, don’t miss their happy hour from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm daily.
Entrance price: Rooftop bars in Saigon can be a bit on the pricey side, but it’s worth it on a special occasion for the atmosphere and view. Lunch for my wife and I cost a rather pricey 850,000 VND.
How to get there: Shri Restaurant and Lounge is located just up the road from Independence Palace, and very close to Turtle Lake

21. Fine Arts Museum

Like many of the museums in Ho Chi Minh City, one of the best parts of visiting is to admire the structure its housed in.

Possibly one of the most elegant and well preserved pieces of architecture in the entire city (at least what I thought) is the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, located just opposite the giant roundabout from Ben Thanh Market.

Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City

Address: 97 Phó Đức Chính, Nguyễn Thái Bình
Open hours: 9 am – 5 pm from Tuesday – Sunday (closed Monday)
Entrance price: 10,000 VND per person
How to get there: The museum is located right across the roundabout (sort of to the south) of Ben Thanh Market.

22. Local Wet Market

As much as visiting both Ben Thanh and Binh Thay Markets are wonderful things to do when you’re in Saigon, a trip to the city would not be complete without getting lost in one of the countless fresh wet food markets scattered throughout the city.

While the other two markets mentioned above are more wholesale goods markets, right now I want to talk about neighborhood alley markets. It’s kind of like going to the supermarket in Saigon.

People sell and shop, hang out, sleep, eat and drink, and do just about everything you can possibly think of at markets in Vietnam.

A corner of Local wet Market in Saigon
A corner of Local wet Market in Saigon

23. Vietnamese Street Food

Saigon is an overwhelming paradise for food lovers, both because of the delicious flavors and combinations of Vietnamese food, and for the abundance, quantity, and variety of food available everywhere you look. Street food is what I would consider a major part of Vietnamese culture.

Along with being very affordable, eating street food is a way to socialize with friends, and enjoy the atmosphere of the city. You’ll find street food stalls set up in every neighborhood, along every street, and on just about every corner of Saigon.

You’ll also discover dozens of other delicious Vietnamese dishes like bun rieu (crab noodles), com tam suon (pork chop over rice), banh khot (savory griddle cakes), and one of my personal favorite Vietnamese foods, bo la lot (minced beef wrapped in wild betel leaves and grilled).

24. Picnic and fly a kite at Dong Dieu Entertainment Area

At the outskirts of the city, you will find an ideal spot to picnic in the Dong Dieu Entertainment Area. Also an extremely popular site for kite flying, join in with the myriad of kites in the sky by buying one from the local shop.

Engage in the simple joys of eating sandwiches and fruits on a picnic mat while spotting kites of different colours and shapes in the sky. If you are here during the weekend, catch the Saigon Kite Club practicing their skills with bigger, bolder kites.

Location: Dong Dieu Entertainment Area

Address: 33/2 Cao Lo, District 8

Dong Dieu Entertainment Area
Dong Dieu Entertainment Area

25. Grab a local draft beer and unwind at Bui Vien Street

Popular with locals and tourists alike, Bui Vien Street is the perfect lazy spot to simply unwind. With music blaring from the local businesses, the multi-coloured lit street is made more vibrant with the different types of backpackers and motorcyclists making their way around.

Grab the local draft beer, Bia hoi, and settle onto a seat facing the street to watch the interesting blend of people amid the comforting foreign language. Alternatively, share a table with some strangers and divulge your interesting travel stories over the slur of drinks.

Address: Bùi Viện, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Bui Vien Street (Bui Vien Walking Street)
Bui Vien Street (Bui Vien Walking Street)

26. Have brunch by the river at The Deck

Named as one of Vietnam’s best Asian fusion restaurants by The Daily Telegraph London, The Deck is situated on the banks of the Saigon River and is one of the few restaurants that offers a riverside view to complement your dining experience. From the restaurant’s famous Pan-Asian French fusion cuisine to the classic double eggs Benedict, the brunch menu may leave you drooling even before food is served.

If you are feeling extra lavish, consider engaging The Deck’s private boat taxi and arrive at the steps of the restaurant by boat and in style.

The Deck Saigon

The Deck Saigon
The Deck Saigon

Address: 38 Nguyễn Ư Dĩ, Thảo Điền, 2, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – 12:00 midnight

Website: http://www.thedecksaigon.com/

Contact: +84 8 3744 6632

27. Can Gio Mangrove Forest for nature and wildlife enthusiasts

Nature-lovers will be thrilled to find that Can Gio Mangrove Forest, one that stretches from the ocean to the edge of Ho Chi Minh City, boosts forty-thousand hectares (98,842 acres) of mangroves, palm-fringed islands, jungles, wetlands, and salt marsh. Known as the “green lungs of Saigon”, a visit to this reserve is undoubtedly a good break from the fast-paced, crowded city centre.

An activity in Can Gio Mangrove Forest
An active in Can Gio Mangrove Forest

The protected national park with UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status additionally harbours a 10- kilometre (6.2-mile) coastline, 1,000 monkeys on Monkey Island, and crocodiles in Vam Sat. With opportunities to reconnect with nature, explore the vegetation, and spot interesting wildlife, it is no wonder that this is a budding eco-tourism hotspot.

28. Get a slice of country living at Thanh Da Island

Surrounded by the Saigon River, Thanh Da Island remains an undeveloped pocket of land within Ho Chi Minh City. Adopt another perspective of the city as you observe the simple lives of these locals, staying in modest houses, catching their own fish, and picking their own fruits.

A similar sight to what the Mekong Delta has to offer, be prepared to be greeted by beautiful landscapes of lush green fields, rice paddies, and fish ponds. The island within the city is coupled with labyrinths of paths and unmapped landmarks; it’s not uncommon to run into geese, chickens and pigs walking around.

Thanh Da Island
Thanh Da Island

29. Indulge in a relaxing massage at the L’Apothiquaire Spa

With all that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer, your limbs may be asking for a well-deserved break before you know it. In the thriving market of spas and wellness centres, L’Apothiquaire Spa easily stands out with its endless charms and achievements.

Highly raved about online and offline, L’Apothiquaire Spa was voted the best spa in Ho Chi Minh City since 2003 and has seen customers old and new coming back for their services. Housed within an old colonial mansion, think impeccable service, 75-minute-long massages, revitalising facials, and a meal by the pool afterwards. Therapeutic and luxurious? You’ll find yourself never wanting to leave!

The L’Apothiquaire Spa in Saigon
The L’Apothiquaire Spa in Saigon

Address: 64A Trương Định, Phường 7, Quận 3, TP Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Opening Hours: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Contact: +84 8 3932 5181

For a better knowledge of the culture and the locals, go outside of the city and visit the surrounding areas for a truly unique experience. A trip to My Tho city is a good way to get away from the hustle & the bustle of HCMC. This small city has a lot of interesting activities and worth a visit when you are in the big capital!

If you want to try something different, a chocolate workshop in Bình Thủy is what you need! You`ll have the chance to make chocolate, try cocoa wine and find out the secrets of making cocoa butter. It’s handmade and it smells delicious too!

Let your personal guide know that you wish to see outside of the city. They’ll take care of everything to make sure make sure you enjoy the experience!

30. Get Lucky at a Casino

Several of the best hotels in Ho Chi Minh have casinos within so you can hit the roulette table, play some mah-jong or get lucky on the slot machines. Two of the biggest casinos in Saigon are located in the Caravelle Hotel and Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers. Casinos in Ho Chi Minh City are not on the scale of Las Vegas and some games, such as hold ‘em poker, are available on a computer screen only, but having a flutter is still an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

Join Casino in Saigon
Join Casino in Saigon

31. Beer Hoi on Pham Ngu Lao

The street drinking scene along Pham Ngu Lao in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh is legendary. It is the backpacker hub of the city and welcomes a mix of foreigners and local Vietnamese who mix freely and chat the night away, drinking cheap beers on small plastic stools all along the street. There are many cheap restaurants here too and several nightclubs if you want to hit the dance floor later in the night

Beer Hoi on Pham Ngu Lao
Beer Hoi on Pham Ngu Lao

32. Live Music Bars

Live music fans are spoilt for choice in Ho Chi Minh City. From smooth jazz to heavy rock and everything in between, there is probably a bar or club that caters to your music preference. Gigs are fairly well spread out across the city so you should never be too far from some singalong fun, and if you are staying in the popular areas of District 1 or 3, then you will be spoilt for choice.

Live Music Bars
Live Music Bars

33. Thu Thiem Tunnel

Just across the river in District 2 the government has turned what was once Slums into beautiful parks. This features a great view of the city with numerous street food carts set up selling everything the heart might desire.

Thu Thiem Tunnels
Thu Thiem Tunnels

34. Take a leisurely Bonsai dinner cruise in the Saigon River

Looking for a romantic night in the city? Try a dinner cruise. If you found a regular Mekong Delta cruise to be romantic, then the Bonsai dinner cruise in the Saigon River is sure to stand out among even the most romantic things to do in Ho Chi Minh city. In addition to the sumptuous dinner & the night views of the city, the slow river cruise journey offers jazz & Vietnamese dance performances for the couples to enjoy.

Bonsai dinner cruise in the Saigon River
Bonsai dinner cruise in the Saigon River

35. Cruise along the Mekong Delta in a speedboat or a rowboat

A visit to the Mekong Delta is so memorable because of the region’s diversity. Everyday scenes include children riding on the backs of water buffalo or cycling to school through country lanes clad in white ao dai; rice workers stooping in a sea of emerald; market vendors grinning behind stacks of fruit; bright yellow incense sticks drying at the roadside; flocks of storks circling over a sanctuary at dusk; Khmer monks walking mindfully in the shadow of pastel pagodas; locals scampering over monkey bridges or rowing boats on the delta’s maze of channels.

There are over a dozen towns in the delta with facilities for tourists, though some are rarely visited as they are not on the way to anywhere. My Tho is well geared up for boat trips, and near enough to Ho Chi Minh City to be seen on a day-trip: it affords an appetizing glimpse of the delta’s northernmost tributary, the Tien Giang. From My Tho, laidback Ben Tre and the bounteous fruit orchards besieging it are only a hop and a skip away. Cao Lanh is strictly for bird enthusiasts, but Sa Dec, with its timeless river scenes and riotously colourful flower nurseries, has a more universal appeal, while just down the road, Vinh Long is another jumping-off point for boat trips.

Landscape of Vinh Long, Vietnam
Landscape of Vinh Long, Vietnam

Many visitors spend a day or two in Can Tho, the delta’s biggest settlement, to take advantage of its decent hotels and restaurants and to recharge batteries before venturing out to the floating markets nearby. From Can Tho, there’s something to be said for dropping down to the foot of the delta, where the swampland that surrounds Ca Mau can be explored by boat, and Mui Ca Mau signals journey’s end in Vietnam. Pulling up, en route, at the Khmer stronghold of Soc Trang is especially rewarding if your trip coincides with the colourful Oc Om Bok festival (Nov or Dec), during which the local Khmer community takes to the river to stage spectacular longboat races. Northwest of Can Tho meanwhile, and a stone’s throw from the Cambodian border, is the ebullient town of Chau Doc, south of which Sam Mountain provides a welcome undulation in the surrounding plains. The opening of the border here has brought a steady stream of travellers going on to Phnom Penh by boat, and several of them rest up a few days here before leaving the country.

A view of Chau Doc, Vietnam
A view of Chau Doc, Vietnam

Ha Tien, a remote border town surrounded by Khmer villages, is the best place to hop on a boat to Phu Quoc. The town has also become popular for its international border crossing, which allows beach bums to slide along the coast from Phu Quoc Island to Sihanoukville in Cambodia or vice versa.

Given its seasonal flooding, the best time to visit the delta is, predictably enough, in the dry season, which runs from December to May.

>>> Recommended Tour: Mekong in Depth Tour – 9 Days

A Few Tips to visit Ho Chi Minh City

You may read some stories of theft and snatching in Ho Chi Minh City.

And just like any fast and busy city, there’s always going to be a risk of carrying belongings with you. One of the main safety concerns in Ho Chi Minh City are thieves swiftly swinging by on motorbikes and grabbing bags or mobile phones or cameras, right out of your hand.

Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:

Phone – Never pull out and use your mobile phone facing or open to the busy street. When I busted out my phone I usually went to the side of the street, and tried to duck into a business patio and sheltered myself with the wall.

Camera – Likewise with a camera, you sort of have to use your own discretion of when and when not to be holding your camera out in the open to take photos. Again, try to have your back against a wall or stand to the back of parked motorbikes when you take photos of the open roads to provide a bit of a bunker.

Wallet – I typically like to keep my wallet in my front right pocket, and then I like to keep some small money in my left pocket. When I buy something small on the streets, I just reach into my left pocket to pay, rather then having to take out my entire wallet. Use whatever system works best for you, but it’s a good idea to have some small money to buy small things, where you don’t have to take out your full wallet.

Touristy areas – The majority of muggings happen in touristy shopping areas, so use extremely caution with your valuables in these areas.

However, just to reassure you, many of the people in Saigon are extremely friendly and very kind.

When I was eating street food and walking around Saigon, I was greeted by dozens of friendly people. So don’t be too uptight, enjoy and experience as much as you can, but do take some precautions as mentioned above.

How to get around Ho Chi Minh City

From the Airport to the City

If you fly into Saigon, you’ll arrive at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport.

From there, the easiest way to get to your hotel is probably to take a taxi. Walk outside of the airport, take a left, and you’ll see the taxis waiting for you. Vinasun is a good brand to choose. It cost me a little under 160,000 VND to get from the airport to the Pham Ngu Lao area.

You can also take the bus, which costs just 5,000 VND . Walk out of the airport, cross the street, and look for bus #152. The bus will take you all the way to Ben Thanh Market.

Here are the main best taxi companies:

Vinasun – Vinasun is one of the most reliable taxi companies in Ho Chi Minh City, and they are also one of the largest. You’ll see Vinasun taxis, with their green and red stripe, everywhere you go in the city. Just make sure the logo is correct and make sure the phone number (38 27 27 27 – written on the side of the taxi) is correct as well.

Mai Linh – Mai Linh is the other big taxi company in Ho Chi Minh City. Honestly though, I probably took Vinasun 90% of the time.

Grab – Grab the private cab service, is available in Ho Chi Minh City. We used Grab quite a bit, and it’s almost the same price, if not a bit cheaper than normal taxis 

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35+ Incredible things to do in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam – must-see and unique things to do in HCMC
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