Ho Chi Minh City, often referred to as Saigon, is the largest city of Vietnam. Therefore the first point of contact with this country for many travelers. Our first impression of Ho Chi Minh City was that it was chaotic, full of lights and sounds. There were motorbikes everywhere! Road rules seemed to be non-existent as there appeared to be an unspoken code of tooting and steadily merging lanes.
However, Ho Chi Minh City is an overwhelming place – and not just because of the traffic. There’s so much to do here, it is a buzzing hive of hustle and bustle, mixed in with a modern, but traditional, city that makes for a really eclectic mix of experiences. If it’s your first trip to Vietnam, it’s likely you’ll want to fit in as much as you can, so take a look at some places you could include when visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The tunnels of Cu Chi are an immense network of inter-connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. During the American War, the tunnels were extended over an area of approximately 250 km, and assumed a huge strategic importance to the Viet Cong troops.
They also played an immense role in helping the Vietnamese troops win against the American insurgents. Not only was it home for thousands of Viet Cong guerrillas, but it was also a complicated structure consisting of numerous trenches, bunkers, booby traps, bomb shelters and an amazing air ventilation system.
Ho Chi Minh City, which the locals still call Saigon, is an important place to visit in our opinion, and to take a half day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels; the maze of kilometers of underground tunnels that the Viet Cong lived and got around in under the jungle during the war.
Day trip to Mekong Delta
Essentially a large area of multiple rivers, lush greenery, houses on stilts, little villages, and floating markets, the Mekong Delta claims to be a breath of fresh air from the hectic streets of Ho Chi Minh City. This is iconic Vietnam – flat rice fields as far as the eye can see, wooden houses on stilts located along the river edge, and men and women in small boats selling theirs produce. A day trip to the Mekong Delta is a great way of getting a taste of the Vietnamese countryside.
War Remnants Museum
Once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’, the War Remnants Museum is a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War.
Most of the inside of the War Remnants Museum is filled with photography, shown in exhibitions, about various events of the Vietnam War. On the outside the building is a range of American military hardware that had been captured or abandoned, with much of it handed over to the South Vietnamese regime.
There’s also a display of the gruesome prison conditions set up first by the French colonial government, and then adopted by the South Vietnamese government. There’s a guillotine – a frequent symbol of the French colonial years – and some of the brutal ‘tiger cages’, where the South Vietnamese government kept their political prisoners. Locals believe the cages imprisoned up to 14 people at a time.
Opening Hours: Daily 07:30 – 12:00 and 13:30 – 17:00
Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Entrance Fee: VND 15,000
The Reunification Palace, also known as Independence Palace, is not only a museum, but there are still meetings and events held by the government there. This is the site of those famous images of tanks crashing through the gates during the Fall of Saigon in 1975.
Aside from the stunning grounds and impressive architecture, the inside of this building almost feels like you’ve gone back in time. You can see where the southern government operated the executive branch during the Vietnam War – even the bomb bunker in the basement, where the maps still hang on the walls.
Opening Hours: Daily 07:30 – 11:00 and 13:00 – 16:00
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Entrance Fee: VND 30,000
Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office
Even if you don’t have a bundle of postcards to send to the relatives back home, you should still drop into Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office to admire its interior. Check the working phone booths, and the beautiful, hand painted maps on either side of the interior walls that depict Saigon and the surrounding area in 1892, and the former telegraph lines of Cochin China.
Located right opposite the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, 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. Beautiful from any angle, this building was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who also designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 – 19:00
Address: 2 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Entrance is FREE
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
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 the center of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cathedral is another landmark of the city and was built in 1883.
The two bell towers are 58 meters high and the Cathedral was built with materials from France. A Virgin Mary statue also stands in front of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral.
In 1962 the Cathedral was officially declared a Basilica by the Pope and since then, it has been named Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Today it is not only a church, but also a major tourist attraction.
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 – 11:00 and 15:00 – 18:00
Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Entrance is FREE
Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
The Fine Arts Museum is conveniently located near the Ben Thanh Market. From the distant view, our eyebrows raised by the yellow-white hue of this colonial-era mansion.
It was established in September 1987 by the People’s Committee. Housed in a magnificent colonial building, it was used as a commerce center. A combination of French and Chinese design that brings about a typical colonial feeling through its marble floors and the spacious, airy rooms.
The building is considered a piece of art itself. The museum is located over 3 separate buildings, and contain some good quality art work, as well as pottery and sculptures, mostly from 19th and 20th century.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 – 16:45 (Closed on Monday)
Address: 97A Pho Duc Chinh, Phuong Nguyen Thai Bin, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Admission Fee: VND 30,000
Bitexco Financial Tower
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. Bitexco Financial Tower is an ultra-modern office tower in Ho Chi Minh City, with a characteristic oval extension which acts as a helicopter landing pad. Standing at 262 meters tall, this 68-story building is the highest in all of Vietnam with a sky deck offering breathtaking 360-degree views across the city and the Saigon River.
Opening Hours: Daily 09:30 – 21:30
Address: 36 Ho Tung Mau Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Entrance Fee: VND 200,000
Ben Thanh Market
The Ben Thanh Market is one of the famous landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City. Unlike Binh Tay Market mainly serves the local population, Ben Thanh Market caters a bit more to foreign visitors. Every day thousands of visitors come to the market to stroll around and buy something.
Wander through the stalls, where you can browse through a huge range of Vietnamese goods. Whether you are looking for a kitschy souvenir or traditional clothing, you will find it here. However, the market is not just for tourists. Residents of Ho Chi Minh City do their daily shopping here, so Ben Thanh Market offers visitors a peek into local tastes and customs. Don’t forget to bargain about the prices!
When the shops at the Ben Thanh Market close about 6 pm, various stalls are set up outside for the daily night market. Save your appetite and head to Ben Thanh Market in the evening, where you can be served some real street style local food at one of the 20 or so eateries that surround the market building.
Address: Le Loi, Ben Thanh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Daily 06:00 – 24:00
Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple is the center of the Cao Dai faith, a religion that has taken bits of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Confucianism. The Cao Dai religion (Caodaism) is unique to southern Vietnam and was established in 1926, this temple was built by the French around that time. It’s something completely different and rather mysterious. It is the 3rd largest religion in Vietnam and 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 colorful, with dragons flying up banisters and a cloud mural decorating the ceiling.
Opening Hours: Daily 06:00 – 17:00
Address: 95 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City
Entrance is FREE
Note: The information provided in this post was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service.