Independence Palace – sightseeing Saigon must see!

Independence Palace or Reunification Palace is the official residence and workplace of the president of South Vietnam during the “American War”, as locals prefer to call the Vietnam War. This is the place where the first communist North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates on the morning of April 30, 1975, resulting in Saigon’s official surrender. Independence Palace is preserved almost exactly as it was in 1966, and you can look around at your leisure or take one of the guided tours.

Reunification Palace’s architecture is a blend of traditional ritual and modern architecture, typical of the 60s. However, the design of the complex is not as appealing to tourists as all the historical events related to this building. Wandering around its rooms, visitors may be reminded of various important moments in the past of Vietnam, especially the war command room with its huge maps and old communication equipment, as well as the basement labyrinth.

The building now functions as a museum, where visitors can view the F5E fighter plane which bombed the palace on 8th April 1975 and tank 843 which led the final assault through the palace gate at 11.30 AM on 30th April 1975.

General Information

Location

Its current address is at 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 1, Ben Thanh Ward, Ho Chi Minh City (106 Nguyen Du Street, District 1) – right at one end of Le Duan Street. It borders 3 streets: Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street in the back, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street on the right and Nguyen Du on the left. Independence Palace is only a few minutes walk from Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, 1.5 km from Ben Thanh Market, 2 km from Saigon Backpacker Area.

Operating Hours

Morning: Hours of ticket: 7:30 – 11:00; Hours of visiting: 7:30 – 12:00.

Afternoon: Hours of ticket: 13:00 – 16:00; Hours of visiting: 13:30 – 17:00.

The palace closes for special events and VIP visits.

Entrance fee

Entrance ticket to Independence Palace: VND 40,000 (nearly 2 )/adult; VND 10,000/child.

Exhibit admission tickets: VND 40,000 (nearly 2 )/adult; VND 10,000/child.

Combo of Independence Palace and Exhibit: VND 65,000 (nearly 2 )/adult; VND 15,000/child.

There are very few signboards or explanations of rooms and displays – an English-speaking guide will greatly enhance your visit.

Guided tour: VND 300,000/group of less than 25 Vietnamese; VND 400,000/group of less than 25 foreigners.

Audio guided: Vietnamese: VND 35,000/person, VND 200,000/group of 10 people; foreigners: VND 75,000/person, VND 400,000/group of 10 people.

Electric car ticket: VND 10,000/once

Visitors buy the admission tickets at the ticket booth next to the side gate.

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

1. Direction to the ticket booth 2. Electric car 3. Inside the ticket booth 4. Entrance ticket to Independence Palace

Website: https://www.dinhdoclap.gov.vn/en

Telephone: +84 280. 85037 – +84 280. 85038

History

Construction and renovation

Like Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi, Reunification Palace has stayed in the mind of many generations of not only Vietnamese but also foreigners. It is known as the famous historical witness which passed through the two fierce wars against the French and American colonists. The palace was built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City and designed by architect Ngo Viet Thu.

As Vietnam was split into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, the building served as the presidential home and workplace. President Diem was assassinated in 1963 before construction of the new palace was completed. General Nguyen Van Thieu – head of a military junta – moved into the completed palace in 1967 to serve as the second president of South Vietnam; he changed the name to Independence Palace.

Since its construction, the building has gone through several renovations. Major work was undertaken from 1962 to 1963, which made the President change his office temporarily to Gia Long Palace, which is now the location of Ho Chi Minh City Museum. Much political turbulence led to the come and go of several South Vietnam President, until 1975 when the war officially ended and Vietnam became one country.

Independence Palace served as central command for the South Vietnamese effort against communist forces until 21 April 1975, when General Thieu was evacuated as part of Operation Frequent Wind – the largest helicopter evacuation in history.

From Independence Day

On 30th April 1975, North Vietnamese forces captured the palace and later renamed it Reunification Palace. Reunification Palace is the place where important events and meetings in the city and the country take place. It is also open to the public so that visitors learn more about the majestic architecture and Vietnamese history.

Gate and Garden

The palace is in the middle of a spacious garden which has a total area of 12 hectares and surrounded by fences. The garden is 300 m wide and 400 m long, bordered by four streets: Nam Ky Khoi Nghia(Northeast), Huyen Tran Cong Chua (Southwest), Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (Northwest) and Nguyen Du (Southeast). The garden is full of old green trees, green grass and a big fountain in front of the palace. Although the palace has two gates, one on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, the other on Nguyen Du Street. On Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, there are tree gates in front of the fountain and another trees next to the ticket booth.

Gates and fences of Independence Palace on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street

Gates and fences of Independence Palace on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street

The green grass field and the fountain in front of Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

The green grass field and the fountain in front of the palace

Architecture of Independence Palace

Symbolic concepts in Eastern philosophy

The design of Independence Palace reflects symbolic concepts derived from Eastern philosophy. The overall structural plan is a rendering of an ancient ideogram 吉 that means good fortune in English, cát in Vietnamese. The front elevation’s opening which means 口 in Chinese, miệng or khẩu in Vietnamese, represents truthful speech. The placing of the flagstaff 中 symbolizes unswerving fidelity. The horizontal strokes illustrated by the roofing, canopy and facade forming 三 that symbolize the mystical triad humanity, firmness of purpose and wisdom. The tree strokes united by a vertical with the flag situated above forms 主 which represents the power of the head of state. The lines along the facade form 興 which symbolizes prosperity.

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Facade of Independence Palace

Vietnamese architectural style

Inspired by jalousie in Vietnamese houses and decorations at ancient pagodas in Vietnam, the facade is decorated with concrete internode-like items. Rooms has many artworks including oil paintings, lacquered painting about beautiful mountains and rivers.

Decoration items of Independence Palace (Reunification Palace) look like bamboo Internodes

Decoration items look like bamboo Internodes

Building

The building was built on a land area of 4,500 m2 and has a total floor area of 20,000 m2. It has a height of 26 m, three main floors, two mezzanines, ground floor, two basements and a rooftop – helipad. There are more than 100 rooms designed in different styles according to the purpose. The cost of this building was 150,000 taels of gold.

All the equipment including the air conditioning system, fire fighting system, communication and stores is the most modern at that time.

Stepping up the stair at the main entrance, visitors are on the first floor where to see some functioning rooms and information counter. The central staircase leads to the conference hall. Another staircase on the right or elevator in the middle leads to the second floor, then the third and fourth floors. After exploring the top floor, visitors go to the two-story bunkers, then the ground floor.

Floor plan and information counter at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Floor plan

First floor

Floor plan and information counter

Information counter at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Information counter where visitors learn more about the floor plan, directions, information about the palace, services, etc.

1 – Cabinet room

Cabinet room or Phòng Nội Các was the place where meetings of cabinet members took place. Three ceiling lights, the oval meeting table and table conference microphones, leather armchairs and green curtains make the room solemn.

Cabinet room or Phòng Nội Các at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Cabinet Room or Phòng Nội Các

2 – Banquet Chamber

In the warm and cozy Banquet Chamber or Phòng yến tiệc, the President served banquet his guests. The ceiling lights in this room are similar to the ones in the Cabinet Room. However, the light yellow curtains, brown dining tables and chairs, large-scale oil painting comprising of 7 small paintings, representing “Cẩm tú sơn hà, thái bình thảo mộc” (Mountains and rivers like silk and satin, peaceful trees and grass). The large painting is 7 m wide and 2 m high, each small painting has a height of 2 m and a width of 1 m. The artwork was painted and presented by the architect Ngo Viet Thu on the grand opening day.

Banquet Chamber or Phòng yến tiệc at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Banquet Chamber or Phòng yến tiệc

4 – Conference Hall

Meetings, conferences, receptions were held in Conference Hall or Phòng khánh tiết which has a capacity for 500 guests. Red and yellow colors dominate the interior of Conference Hall. On the wall is hung the 5.4 m high and 2.34 m wide watercolor painting entitled “Việt Nam Quốc tổ” (Vietnam Ancestor mentioning Hung King), created by the famous artist Trong Noi in 1966. At this time, the hall is temporarily closed for maintenance.

Second Floor

5 – National Security Council Chamber

National Security Council Chamber or Phòng Hội Đồng An Ninh Quốc Gia was used for meetings between the President and U.S. advisers, senior officers. Maps about the war situation in South Vietnam are hung on the wall.

At 9:30 AM on 25th March 1975, President Nguyen Van Thieu ordered senior General Ngo Quang Truong to evacuate Hue and mount a last-ditch defence at Da Nang City. On 3rd April 1975, a meeting between President Thieu and his senior military leaders, seeking to find a solution to the military impasse confronting them, took place in this room.

National Security Council Chamber or Phòng Hội Đồng An Ninh Quốc Gia at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

National Security Council Chamber or Phòng Hội Đồng An Ninh Quốc Gia

6 – Presidential Office

Presidential Office or Phòng Làm Việc Của Tổng Thống has two windows with red curtains, a wooden desk and a wooden and orange antique chair, a tea table set consisting of orange antique chairs, a wooden and glass round table and a vase of lilies. The room was tiled with red velvet carpet. Behind the desk is hung a painting of mountain, sky, beach and sea. Behind the tea table set is placed a wooden cabinet and hung a embroidered velvet painting representing pipe trees and cranes, presented by the Korean President Mul Hien in 1971.

Presidential Office or Phòng Làm Việc Của Tổng Thống at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Presidential Office or Phòng Làm Việc Của Tổng Thống

7 – Presidential Reception Rooms

Presidential Reception Rooms or Phòng Tiếp Khách của Tổng Thống consits of two connecting rooms. In the first room, the president’s throne-like chair and a desk is placed in front of a striped panel symbolizing the Republic of Vietnam’s flag. The chair facing the presidential chair is for the guest of honor. The two red chairs are carved with dragon’s head motifs. Other chairs are arranged on two side of a small round table. All chairs are in red color, carved with a phoenix head or characters symbolizing longevity. A pair of ivories is also placed in the room.

From 19th to 23rd October 1972, six important meetings between President Thieu and Henry Kissinger and President Nixon’s National Security Advisor were held in this reception room. During the meetings, President Thieu was persuaded to accept the agreement Paris Peace Accords of January 1973.

The other reception room is simpler, with armchairs in brown color, wooden tables. In these two rooms are hung cream lined curtains. In the middle of two rooms is placed a treasure of President Thieu – the 1 m long pair of ivories which was presented by his wife’s nephew.

Presidential Reception Rooms or Phòng Tiếp Khách của Tổng Thống at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

The first Presidential Reception Room or Phòng Tiếp Khách của Tổng Thống

The first Presidential Reception Room at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

The second Presidential Reception Room

8 – Vice-president’s Reception Salon

Vice-president’s Reception Salon or Phòng Tiếp Khách của Tổng Thống was used by Nguyen Cao Ky from 1967 to 1971. The principle decorative features are the two lacquer paintings by Than Van Ngon artist in 1966. One represents the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, the other represent the scene of King Tran Nhan Tong presenting his robe to a mendicant in the 13th century. The room is equipped with green armchairs, cream curtains and antique round ceiling light.

Vice-president's Reception Salon or Phòng Tiếp Khách của Tổng Thống at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Vice-president’s Reception Salon or Phòng Tiếp Khách của Tổng Thống

9 – Ambassadors Chamber

In the Ambassadors Chamber or Phòng Trình Quốc Thư, newly arrived ambassadors presented their credentials to the President in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The last ambassadorial presentation ceremony in which President Thieu received the Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Hitoma was held on 18 April 1975 at 11: 30 AM.

The pictures and furnishings in the room are in fine Japanese-style lacquer-work, created by the artish Nguyen Van Minh. Besides the desk and the chair in front of the painting, sofas, armchairs, tables, there are four sconces that are lit during ambassadorial presentation ceremonies.

The large painting in 40 panels which was entitled “Bình Ngô Đại Cáo” represents a scenes under King Le Loi’s reign. The painting is one of the biggest lacquer paintings in Vietnam, it is 14 m wide, 9 m high. Each small lacquer painting has a width of 0.8 m and the height of 1.2 m.

Ambassadors Chamber or Phòng Trình Quốc Thư at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Ambassadors Chamber or Phòng Trình Quốc Thư

10 – Private Apartments

The entrance to Private Apartments or Phòng Gia Đình Tổng Thống is next to the Ambassadors Chamber. Entering the area of private apartments, visitors feel something different from the other rooms which are for political purposes. All rooms face the green garden with a lake, bonsai trees and stones, green grass. On the wall are hung souvenirs the President were presented.

Visitors have a chance to see three bedrooms and one dining room. All rooms are fully furnished with luxury beds, chairs, tables, curtains, vase of flowers, sofas, dressing tables, night lamps, etc. The furniture and interior design show the luxurious life of the President’s family.

Private Apartments or Phòng Gia Đình Tổng Thống at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

1. Entrance to the Private Apartments or Phòng Gia Đình Tổng Thống 2. A lovely garden with green grass, bonsai trees and a lake 3. Presents including heads of cows, buffaloes, deer, boats 4. A statue presented to the President by people in Vung Tau Provincial Town on 26th March 1974, a golden board on which written the year of construction, grand opening day, architect, an eagle carving presented to the President by Major General Nguyen Duy Hinh on 15th January 1974.

The dining room at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

The dining room is furnished with green chairs, a long rectangular table and a round table.

Bed room

A bed room has wooden cabinets, a wood bed with a mattress, a wardrobe, a wooden carved sofa set.

Bedroom in Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Stepping up a staircase, visitors enter nice and luxurious bedroom with a dressing table, a dress, an armchair, many wooden wardrobes and a bathroom. In this bedroom there is a sofa set in green color, a tea set and vase of flowers are placed on the coffee table. A vase of lotus flowers are put on a wooden cabinet next to the sofa set. On the dressing table there are some perfume bottles, hair styling tools such as hair dryer, hairbrush.

Third Floor

11 – Library

In the Library or Thư Viện are placed a wooden desk and a chair, especially bookshelves containing thousands of President’s favorite books in Vietnamese and foreign languages.

Library or Thư Viện at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

The spacious library where to read good books and relax

12 – First Lady’s Reception Room

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Mai Anh who is President Nguyen Van Thieu’s wife First used the Lady’s Reception Room or Phòng Khách Phu Nhân Phó Tổng Thống before 1975. In this room, the President’s wife held receptions and entertained visiting heads of State and leaders of many international and national organisations.

The floral lamps make the room peaceful and charmful. The decoration items features the blend of two contrasting motifs. The abstract fresco is in modern cubist style. Rectangular and round tables, chairs, curtains and ceiling lights features Western interior design. The three porcelain figures represent traditional Gods of Happiness, Prosperity, Longevity (Phúc, Lộc, Thọ).

First Lady's Reception Room or Phòng Khách Phu Nhân Phó Tổng Thông at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

First Lady’s Reception Room or Phòng Khách Phu Nhân Phó Tổng Thống

13 – Cinema

The Independence Palace has a cinema room, equipped with modern lighting system and comfortable seat. The blue leather doors and red velvet wall make it look elegant.

Cinema at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

The cinema has about 50 seats and a red interior design

14 – Game Room

The game room is rather spacious, furnished with sofa set in brown and gray color, mahjong table and chairs. The round sofa set is one of the most impressive in this room. In the corridor, there are a billard table and a piano, a wall painting representing a forest.

Game room at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Mahjong table, billard table, sofa sets, piano

Cinema equipment room

The Independence Palace has the best film projectors at that time.

Theater equipment room at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Cinema equipment room

Fourth Floor

15 – Salon of the 4 cardinal directions

From the salon of the 4 cardinal directions, visitors can have nice views from 4 directions. The salon is a spacious room where leaders calm themselves and made important decisions. Sometimes it became a dance floor where the President and his guests entertain, enjoy dancing music and dance.

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Green view of the grass, fountain in the garden of Independence Palace and green trees on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Le Duan Streets

16 – Helicopter UH-1

At 8:30 AM April 8th 1975, the first lieutenant pilot Nguyen Thanh Trung flew FSE and threw down two bombs at the right target here.

Helicopter UH-1 at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Helicopter UH-1

Bunker

17 – Command Center

The heavily shielded area was used as an intelligence coordination center. Maps on walls gave an overview of the military operations in Vietnam.

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

18 – Communications

Walking through Switchboard, Radio Receiver, High frequency communications, Radio transmitter rooms

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Switchboard (Tổng đài điện thoại), Radio Receiver (Đài thu vô tuyến), High frequency communications (Vô tuyến siêu tần số), Radio transmitter (Đài phát vô tuyến)

19 – President’s Bedroom

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

20 – President’s War Room

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Ground Floor

21 – Kitchen

In this kitchen, the most experienced and talented chefs cooked luxurious meals and banquet for the President’s family and the guests. The kitchenwares are the most modern at that time. They are all electric or gas restaurant equipment, made of stainless steel in Japan in 1966. A cold storage, cooking smoke filter system, food elevator dumbwaiter lift with a capacity of 100 kg to transfer foods.

Kitchen at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Kitchen has modern equipment that only 5-star restaurants had at that time

22 – Jeep

Jeep M152A2 at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

This is a restored Jeep M152A2 of the same model M151A2 as the one that was used to convey President Duong Van Minh to deliver his surrender speech as a broadcast by Radio Saigon on 30th April 1975.

23 – Mercedes

Mercedes at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

This Mercedes-Benz 200 W11, manufactured in West Germany in the 1960s, was among the many vehicles used by President Thieu

24 – Documentary Film Rooms

Documentary Film Rooms are for visitors who would like to learn about the Vietnam War, Vietnamese history, historic events related to leaders and presidents during Vietnam War and information about the Independence Palace.

Documentary Film Rooms at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Documentary Film Rooms

25 – Shooting Gallery

In this room, the Presidents and his seniors train for rifle shooting and relax.

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Souvenir Shop

A souvenir shop is located next to an exit on the ground floor. There are many choices, prices are fixed and reasonable. So that visitors can stop and buy some great souvenirs without bargaining which is a must souvenir shops at markets in the city.

Souvenir shop at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

The souvenir shop sells a large number of great items to bring home

Independence Palace Tracy

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