Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) is a dynamic city with a complex history and plenty of cultures 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 to this beautiful and vibrant city of Vietnam.
|Read more: What to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 2 Days|
1. Learn History at War Remnants Museum
With more than 30,000 excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, The War Remnants Museum is always in the top list things to do in Ho Chi Minh – Sai Gon. The War Remnants Museum keeps a sobering and unforgettable memory which details the effects of the 30-year long war between America and Vietnam.
There are immaculately preserved tanks, planes, helicopters and other prison settings in the outside grounds, but the really hard-hitting information is found inside. More than 20,000 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.
Two-Hour of visit would bring you strong reaction: chilling, heartbreaking but eye opened at the same time. War Remnants Museum totally worth your time when in Sai Gon.
- 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.
2. Cu Chi Tunnels
Another historical site in Sai Gon, but again, Cu Chi Tunnels is must-see attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. This marvelous tourist attraction offers visitors an experience of 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.
This trip to Cu Chi Tunnels allows to visit down the tunnels and allows you an amazing insight into the life of Vietnamese guerrillas defending their territory all those years ago!
|>>> See detailed guide and stories discovering Cu Chi Tunnels|
3. Jade Emperor Pagoda – Phuoc Hai Pagoda
biance. Jade Emperor Pagoda has long been recognized as the most revered temple in Ho Chi Minh City, built in 1909 by Chinese immigrants living in the area. The pagoda was one a Taoist worshipping place but now also opened to Buddhist enthusiasts. The place is atmospheric with incense smoke filling in the air. Intricate architecture, carvings, and statues of Chinese deities create such unique and timeless ambiance.
4. Reunification Palace
In Vietnamese modern history, this place has an important role which is no other than marking the end of years of separation of two Vietnams. In 1975, a North Vietnam tank crashed through the gate of this palace to take over of a government that had been left behind by Americas.
Visitors will get to discover secret rooms, grand reception halls and the command bunker where President Ngo Dinh Diem conducted his war strategies. Independence Palace is one of the most visited attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
- 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.
|Recommended Ho Chi Minh tour: Sai Gon – Cai Be – Can Tho – Phu Quoc Tour – 4 Days|
5. Binh Tay Market
You’re going to hear most about Ben Thanh Market. However, Binh Tay Market has its very own charm that I didn’t see in Ben Thanh. Located in Cho Lon Area which is the city’s Chinatown, Binh Tay is no doubt a major market where you can enjoy a lot of things. 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.
- 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.
6. 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.
- 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.
|>>> Highly Recommended Tour: Vietnam Heritage Tour – 12 Days|
7. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is an iconic attraction in Ho Chi Minh City, built in the late 1880s by French colonists, is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam.
Located in the heart of 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. If you can get inside, you will feel a peaceful relief from the hustle and bustle outside, however, make sure to wear modest clothing in order to be allowed in.
- 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.
8. Opera House
Like Hanoi Opera House, Saigon Opera House was also built in the resemble of Paris Opera House. So you can expect to enjoy the beautiful, elegant, original French architecture right in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you wish to watch a performance in this incredible atmosphere, you can book a ticket of A O Show, a performance of traditional Vietnamese dance using bamboo.
It’s such a cool thing to see features of Vietnamese traditions on a grand theater of a European cultural powerhouse.
- 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
9. Thien Hau Temple
Nested in District 5, a small yet beautiful temple is dedicated to Thien Hau or The Lady of The Sea, built back in the 19th century with an impressive quintessential style of Chinese architecture.
Honestly, the temple looks quite modest from the outside. The facade is highlighted with red distichs, beautiful carvings. Once you’ve stepped inside, you’ll be at awe of the beauty and solemn atmosphere of the temple.
I’m most impressed with the marvelous sculpture reliefs carved on the upper roof which depict the scenes of daily life.
These reliefs are colorful, but quite weathered, and had accumulated years and years of incense smoke, making the sculptures look ancient and dusted in black soot.
Another highlight was 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).
- 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.
10. Have fun at Suoi Tien Cultural Amusement 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!
- Address: 120 AH1, Tan Phu, District 9, Ho Chi Minh City
- Open hours: 8 am – 5:30 pm daily
- Price Range: US$2.50 for Children, US$5 for Adults
11. Hang out at Turtle Lake at Night
Looking for a safe and interesting place to socialize and enjoy the nightlife scene of Ho Chi Minh City? Then look no further, just head to Turtle Lake where hundreds of local youngsters hang out every night.
During daytime, the lake looks just like any ordinary city construction that is unmaintained and actually a bit boring. But when the night comes, everything changes into an atmospheric beautiful little space full of people talking, eating and enjoying life.
This place is also a spot you can find street food snack selling by local vendors. There are two main snacks that everyone who goes to hang out eats and you shouldn’t miss either:
Banh Trang Tron – a feast of all flavors packed into one neat, plenty bag. This dish shows how creative Vietnamese people can be in making good food from cheap, everyday life ingredients.
Banh Trang Nuong – or 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 crossroads of Vo Van Tan and Pham Ngoc Thach
12. Cafe at Phu My Hung and walk on the Starlight Bridge
If you’re tired of dusty streets filled with honking motorbikes, how about passing by Phu My Hung, the other side of Ho Chi Minh City where the atmosphere is quiet, and the infrastructure is much better.
Located only 6km south of the central Ben Thanh Market, but Phu My Hung is a world apart from the rest of the city. It’s more tranquil and less chaotic.
You can enjoy your time in the malls and cafes. Walking through Phu My Hung almost feels like you’ve left Vietnam altogether and have taken a day trip to southern California.
Do not miss to come by the Starlight Bridge, the main highlight in Phu My Hung. The sparkling bridge spans over a beautiful lake with colorful like water cascade. On the bridge are the small lights resembling stars dotting along the walkway. Spending time with your loved one at this bridge would be wonderfully romantic.
- 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
13. Water Puppet Show
Don’t think that you can only see a performance of this folklore art in Hanoi and North Vietnam. Right in Saigon, you can also easily enjoy a Water Puppet Show. There’s a number of venues showing water puppetry.
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.
14. Visit the Mysterious Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts
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. Come to Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts, you can enjoy not only the artworks but also the unique French architecture.
The museum is properly one of the most elegant and well preserved French buildings in the city. It’s located just across the huge roundabout from Ben Thanh Market. A fun fact about the museum is that it has a total of 99 windows, looking exactly the same in shape, size and color.
This building is also the rumored place where many people have seen ghosts. Does this information make you curious or scare you away?
- 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.
15. Discover nearby local wet market
If you think Ben Thanh and Binh Tay markets are all there is to markets in Ho Chi Minh City, then you’re wrong big time. The two are absolutely decent choices for a market tour but they’re a bit different from the daily wet markets that cater for the locals.
Vietnamese people go to wet markets like people in other countries go to supermarkets. A wet market is a place people come to eat quick, hot food, buy fresh ingredients for your home-made meals and all other necessary things. It can also be a place you can meet friendly locals and understand a little more about their everyday life.
It’s absolutely a memorable thing to do in this beautiful city.
16. Explore the street food scene in Ho Chi Minh City
For food enthusiasts, Saigon is your lovely paradise where you can enjoy delicious food at surprisingly cheap prices. The city is also leading in making new trendy food that can make everybody go crazy. You’ll be pleased with not only the quantity, quality but also the food culture here which you cannot find in anywhere else in Vietnam.
Eating street food in Saigon is a great way to have new friends. Saingonese are extremely socialized and helpful, they’ll tell you all the spots that have the best food in the city.
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).
17. Grab a local draft beer and unwind at Bui Vien Street & Pham Ngu Lao 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-colored 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.
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
18. 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.
19. Get to Can Gio Mangrove Nature Reverse for nature and wildlife enthusiasts
Nature-lovers will be thrilled to find that Can Gio Mangrove Nature Reverse, 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 center.
The protected national park with UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status additionally harbors a 10- kilometer (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.
20. Cruise along the Mekong River 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 colorful flower nurseries, has a more universal appeal, while just down the road, Vinh Long is another jumping-off point for boat trips.
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 colorful 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 travelers going on to Phnom Penh by boat, and several of them rest up a few days here before leaving the country.
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|
Tips to visit Ho Chi Minh City
As the largest and most crowded city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh city poses certain risks to tourists, but mostly just petty crimes like pickpocketing and snatching. To stay safe in Ho Chi Minh during your stay, these are the things you can do:
- Phone – Restraint from using your mobile phone out in the open on a busy street. Do not put your phone in your back pockets when you’re outside.
- Camera – It goes the same with your camera, always make sure it’s safe enough to take photos on an open and busy space in HCMC
- Wallet – Keep some small money on your front pockets to buy things on the streets and keep your wallet inside a bag to avoid taking it out every time you need to buy anything.
- Touristy areas – The majority of muggings happen in touristy shopping areas, so be extremely cautious 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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