Located on a land area of nearly 2 hectares and opened in 1978, Ho Chi Minh City Museum is the only museum displaying artifacts, photos and documents about history, culture, economy of Ho Chi Minh City as well as Vietnam in 10 rooms. With French architecture, this is one of the most beautiful museums and has been a favorite place to take great photos, especially wedding photos in Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City Museum is one of Top 12 museums in Ho Chi Minh City and worth a visit.
Opening hours: 8:00 – 17:00 daily
Location: 65 Ly Tu Trong Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The museum is surrounded by the streets of Ly Tu Trong, Pasteur, Le Thanh Ton, and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. It is only a few hundred meters from Ben Thanh Market, Independence Palace or Saigon Notre Dame Cathedal.
Entrance fee: 30,000 VND/adult; free for children under 6 years old; Wedding photograph: 400,000 VND/a couple; Camera: 20,000 VND; Car parking fee: 35,000 VND; Motorbike parking fee: 5,000 VND
Phone: +84 28 38 299 741
The construction of the museum building was started in 1885 and completed in 1890, according to the design of French architect Alfred Foulhoux. It was commonly called Gia Long Palace because the park and the road in front of the palace were named Gia Long. The purpose of the building was to be an Industry and Trade Museum, displaying products of Cochinchina. However, soon after the construction was completed, the building was used as a residence by Vice Governor-General of French Indochina Henri Eloi Danel (1850-1898). Later, the building was used as a palace for Vice Governors-General of French Indochina, Cochinchina Governers and Vietnamese Prime Ministers.
In 1954, the building was named as Gia Long Palace by the Country Head Bao Dai. Ngo Dinh Diem stayed here temporarily when he was Prime Minister (1954).
After the referendum in 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem used this building as the International Visitor Palace. On February 27, 1962, the Independence Palace was bombed, Ngo Dinh Diem moved the his headquarters to Gia Long Palace and stayed here until he was overthrown in November 1963.
During 1964-1965, the palace was used as the Country Head’s residence. On October 31, 1966, when the new Independence Palace was rebuilt, this building was used as the headquarters of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Vietnam until April 30, 1975.
After 1975, the building was not temporarily used for any specific purpose. On August 12, 1978, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee decided to use this building as the Ho Chi Minh City Revolution Museum. On December 13, 1999, it was renamed the Ho Chi Minh City Museum as today.
Building and Architecture
The building of the museum was designed by Alfred Foulhoux, a French architect. Its architecture is a blend of Oriental and Occidental styles. The has 2 floors and a total area of the building is more than 1,700 m².
Because the original purpose of the building is the Trade Museum exhibiting domestic products, in the past, on the two sides of the main gate had 2 pillars decorated with two statues of Goddess of Industry and Commerce. However, in 1943, Cochinchina Governor Ernest Thimothée Hoeffel removed two statues of the Goddesses to build a porch.
The facade with grand and small columns evokes the classical style of constructions in Paris. The center of front triangular is Republic bust, beside are laurel, flowers and leaves, snake, cock and scops owl symbolizing the day and the night, the last is the head of Republic.
Impressive decor items include the figurine of young Commercial Genie, Hermes – Mercure with bird wings, pearls on grand pillars and at the prow of the ship in the Southeast of the palace. Other decorations include crane, saurian, crocodiles reminiscing Southern marsh. Abundant sculptures including representative animals, geometrical motifs (cartouche, disk), vegetables were used to decorate help to reduce edifice’s monotone.
Surrounding the building is a flower garden campus shaped like a trapezoid, surrounded by the four major roads mentioned above.
White and grey are the dominant colors of this architectural work. Visitors are impressed by not only the line of pillars but also windows with wood shutters and ancient decorations on the facade. Because there are tens of windows, the building is always airy and cool even on hot days. The wood carving main door, the ceiling and cement tiles which were very popular in Saigon in the 20th century can be seen at the museum. In addition, the hall and corridors on the ground floor are very spacious. The curved wood staircases leading up to the first floor is one of the most impressive parts of the building. It has been the background of countless wedding photos and portraits.
On February 27, 1962, Norodom palace (ie Independence Palace) was bombed, President Ngo Dinh Diem moved to Gia Long Palace and built a secret tunnel in the palace. According to the archives, the construction of an underground air raid shelter which costed VND 12,514,114 at that time was started in May 1962 and completed in October 1963. It was designed by Ngo Viet Thu – a famous Vietnamese architect. The shelter is 1 m thick, 2.2 m high, and a total space of 1,392.3 m2. It has 2 stairs, 6 steering wheel-shaped iron doors, 6 rooms including living room, restroom, generator room, store room, rooms for Ngo Dinh Nhu and Ngo Dinh Diem.
The underground shelter at Gia Long Palace
Outdoor display area
The yard is very spacious and houses an old car from the Nguyen Dynasty and some weapons and military transportation.
Some military transportation and weapons displayed in the courtyard include:
- A – 37 Fighter: On 28th April 1975, the “Victory determination squadron” commanded by Nguyen Thanh Trung, a captain of the Vietnamese people’s army researched and used an A-37 fighter which had just been seized from the enemy. Taking of from Thanh Son – Phan Rang Airport to attack Tan Son Nhat Airport, it destroyed 26 aircrafts and cut of the urgent military aid of America for Saigon arm forces.
- F-5 Fighter: On April 8th, 1975, Nguyen Thanh Trung drove this F-5 fighter to bomb the Independence Palace, the headquarters of the Saigon puppet regime.
- UH-1 Helicopter: After April 30th 1975, overcoming any technical difficulty, the Vietnamese air force used UH-1 Helicopters seized from the enemy, supported the land and navy forces, contributed to the liberation of Cambodia from the genocide of Pol-pot.
- Anti-aircraft artillery 37mm, model 1939, manufactured by the Soviet Union: this piece of artillery was used to fight against the destruction war of American air force in the North in 1964, then used in Long Ninh battle. From Nguyen Hue Campaign (April 1972) to Ho Chi Minh Campaign (April 1975), artillerymen use this piece to shot down several types of U.S. aircraft.
Indoor display area
Artifacts are displayed in 10 rooms on two floors and there are a few artifacts in the shelter.
Natural – Archaeological of Saigon Room
Ho Chi Minh City locates on 10°38′ – 11°10′ of the North parallel and 106°22‘ – 106°54′ of the East Meridian. It spreads out 99 km and has an area of 2,095.24 m2. The formations are from Mesozoic to Cainozoic era, about 180 million years before. The city is on the lower section of Dong Nai – Saigon Rivers, one side of the city looks the sea. So that its terrain includes hill, salt-marsh and plain. The artifacts were found at archaeological sites in Ho Chi Minh City, some of them are displayed at this museum.
The Natural – Archaeological of Saigon room introduces:
- Geographical location, geology, minerals, topography, climate, animals, plants, river system;
- Life of ancient inhabitants 3000 – 2000 years ago with working tools: stone ax, stone hoe, jewelry, weapons, burial jars, found in the archaeological sites of Ben Do and Go Sao, Rieng Bang, Go Cat, Giong Ca Vo, Giong Phet, Giong Am;
- Relics in the city of Ho Chi Minh.
In addition, the room displays include a map of archaeological sites of Ho Chi Minh City, pieces of Saigon River sand, andesit, bricks, kaolin, laterite. Visitors are impressed by models of mangrove forest and crocodile and 3 maps under glass floor panels.
Geography and Administration of Saigon Room
With a collection of maps, charts, pictures, artifacts, this exhibit room shows the process of formation and development, geography and administration of Saigon. From a city planned for 50,000 people to the city having a population of over 6 million people. Ancient maps created from the previous centuries show that the system of rivers is the main part of city structure. Currently, the rivers has been replaced by streets including Ham Nghi Street and Nguyen Hue Street. The room also houses map and model of Eight Trigram Citadel of Saigon – Gia Dinh, photos of various famous landmarks in the past, bronze seal granted to a Gia Dinh viceroy, tables of area, population and population density by district.
Commercial port – trade – service of Saigon Room
With more than 527 artifacts, 36 photos and 10 maps, the gallery presents an overview of Saigon’s economic role in the southern region in particular and the country in general through the following sections (topics): Saigon Port, Ben Thanh Market and old markets, old Chinese shops, ancient measurement objects, bus stations, train stations, airports.
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Industry and Handicraft of Saigon Room
The room introduces some traditional handicraft industries in Saigon from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. With nearly 300 artifacts and pictures on pottery making and bronze casting, jewelry making, weaving, wood carving … Some of the first industrial facilities of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industrial parks in the period 1954 – 1975, high-tech parks today.
Saigon Cultural Room
Introducing the customs, beliefs, arts and education of Saigon, The gallery depicts traditional weddings of four ethnic groups of Vietnamese, Cham, Hoa, and Khmer, betel eating custom, worship of Mother Goddess, Thanh Hoang, Tho Dia, Tai God, collection of musical instruments, costumes, props and pictures of some famous reformed plays of reformed theater, traditional theatrical arts of Khmer ethnic people. Especially, the gallery also introduces materials about education in Saigon, where the Vietnamese national script is spread and the newspaper is published in Vietnam firstly.
Marks of land reclaiming in South Vietnam through the museum objects Room
Year 1698 saw the birth of Ho Chi Minh City, when commander-in-chief Nguyen Huu Canh was dispatched to the South for inspection with mission of making Gia Dinh sub-province, and establishing the first administration in the South. Since the 17th century, Tay Son and Nguyen Dynasties promulgated many seals and stamps for those officials who represented the royal court in ruling, building order, rules and laws, expanding the reclamation and development of the land of Saigon.
In order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the museum, they organize the thematic exhibition introduce one of the rare and precious artifacts about the history of Southern land reclaiming during 1698 – 1858.
Room of Revolutionary Struggle 1930 – 1954
The gallery shows documents and pictures of the political struggles since the Communist Party of Vietnam. In addition, the room also shows documents and pictures of Independence Day in Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi, September 2, 1945, and the 9-year resistance war.
Room of Revolutionary Struggle 1954 – 1975
Displaying the following topics: Geneva Conference on the end of the war in Indochina on July 21, 1954, Dong Khoi Movement started in 1960, Cu Chi Tunnels, the birth of the National Front liberated South Vietnam on December 20, 1960, the Tet Mau Than Attack (1968), the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam established on June 6, 1969, the Paris Conference on January 27, 1973, Operation Ho Chi Minh (1975), The struggle movement of countries in the world to support the people of Vietnam.
Room of Resistance Souvenirs
Displaying artifacts accompanying the life and fighting of cadres, soldiers and martyrs in 30 years of resistance, including artifacts groups: Relics of Gia Dinh Regiment’s reconnaissance martyrs , artifacts of front-line culture, personal equipment of Truong Son soldiers, cameras, camcorders of battlefield journalists, memorabilia in prison of revolutionary soldiers, Hoang Cam kitchen model
Vietnamese Money Room
The gallery Introduces 1,086 artifacts, including coins and banknotes through Vietnamese historical periods. In addition, there are pictures of money casting stages in feudal time, some documents related to money.
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