The Beauty of Saigon in the Past and at Present

In the past few years, Ho Chi Minh City (known as) Saigon, the city’s pre-reunification name still used interchangeably with its current name. Ho Chi Minh City has become one of the fastest-growing hubs and the heart of Vietnam. Through historic years, it could be found in the city many old streets and buildings which remind of the past. Both Vietnamese or foreign visitors come to Saigon to admire its fanciful beauty, see the sights and learn more about the history of a city known as “Pearl of Far East”. In this blog, I would like to share some photos of Saigon in the past and at present.

1. Ben Thanh Market

From a wet market created by street vendors by the early 17th century, the oldest surviving market in Saigon Ben Thanh has experienced many ups and downs throughout its history. After taking over the Gia Định citadel in 1859, the French colonial powers formally established the market. This market was destroyed by fire in 1870. It was rebuilt to become Saigon’s largest market and called Les Halles Centrales. The market was moved to a new building and renamed the Ben Thanh Market in 1912. Today it is one of the symbols of Ho Chi Minh city and a must-see attraction for tourists.

Ben Thanh Market in the past
Ben Thanh Market in the past
Main Gate Ben Thanh Market Tracy
Ben Thanh Market in recent days – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

2. Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

Independence Palace is known as the famous historical witness which passed through the two fierce wars against the French and American colonists. As Vietnam was split into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, the building served as presidential home and workplace. Today in most locals’ minds, the palace is remembered vividly as a marked end to the war, as the North Vietnamese tank crashed its gates on April 30th, 1975. The building now functions as a museum.

The beauty of Saigon
Independence Palace in the past was served as presidential home and workplace – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
Independence Palace Tracy

 Independence Palace functions as a museum in recent days  – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

3. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral (also known as the Big Church, Basilica, and Cathedral)

Located in a quiet corner of bustling city Saigon, Notre Dame Cathedral is the one remaining stronghold of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam.

Work began in 1880 and took quite a few years to complete. In 1962, the Vatican officially anointed the cathedral as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Today, it is simply known as Notre Dame Cathedral and is still used as a place of Catholic worship with services every weekend.

The beauty of Saigon
Notre Dame Cathedral in the past

Notre Dame Cathedral In Saigon Tracy
Notre Dame Cathedral in recent days – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

4. Turtle Lake

Turtle Lake attracts tourists by its unique mix of Eastern and Western architecture. It was one of the symbols of this city that were built before 1975 and still stays nearly the same until today. There’s no turtle in the lake, but the structure looks like a huge turtle from high place. That’s why it is called Turtle Lake.

Nowadays, there are many cafes around the Turtle Lake area and it becomes a popular place to enjoy coffee, take some nice photos, taste street foods, share stories, read books…

The beauty of SaigonTurtle Lake in the past

Turtle Lake Tracy
Turtle Lake in recent days – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

5. Saigon Opera House

At the turn of the 20th century, this magnificent building, designed by French architect Ferret Eugene, was built as a classical opera house with 800 seats to entertain French colonists. From 1956, the house functioned as the home of the Lower House Assembly of Southern Vietnam. It’s not until 1975 that the Opera House was used as its original purpose. In 1998, the buildings were restored and equipped with state-of-the-art electric appliances, lighting and sound systems, and safety equipment. Today the Saigon Opera House becomes a theater for various traditional and classical performances.

The beauty of Saigon
Saigon Opera House in the past
Saigon Opera House
Saigon Opera House in recent days – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

6. Dragon Wharf

In 1862, the French colonist built this harbor to meet the demand for transportation between the colonized Vietnam and the world. The building has two dragons on the roof, like “two dragons flanking the moon” so often be called with the name “The Dragon House”, therefore, the wharf belongs to this region is also called Dragon House Wharf. Here, on 06th, May 1911, Vietnamese youth – Nguyen Tat Thanh go to seek the ways for national salvation. In September 1979, the government reformed it into a Ho Chi Minh Museum branch in a city of the same name.

The beauty of SaigonDragon Wharf in the past
The beauty of SaigonDragon Wharf in recent days

7. City Hall (Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee)

The city hall of Saigon was built between 1898 and 1908 in the French colonial style by the famous French architect P. Gardes, designed after Hôtel de Ville in Paris. When Ho Chi Minh City was known as Saigon, the city hall was a hotel as well, also named Hôtel de Ville de Saïgon, located at the end of Nguyễn Huệ street. After the end of the war and the fall of Saigon in April 1975, the hotel became a town hall and was renamed into Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Head Office.

The beauty of SaigonCity Hall in the past

Ho Chi Minh City Hall Tracy 2
City Hall in recent days – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

8. Saigon Central Post Office

Saigon Central Post Office is no doubt the biggest post office in Vietnam. Built between 1886 and 1891, The Central Post Office was designed by Gustave Eiffel – the renowned engineer who also designed the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. It is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia.

The beauty of SaigonSaigon Central Post Office in the past
Saigon Central Post Office Tracy 3
Saigon Central Post Office in recent days – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

9. Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal

Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal, which snakes through District 1, District 3, Phu Nhuan District, Binh Thanh District, and Tan Binh District. The Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal’s pollution plague began after 1954 and lingered well into the 1960s. A project to revamp the canal and its surroundings was given high priority attention and started in 2002.

The beauty of SaigonNhieu Loc-Thi Nghe after 1975 với stilted houses and stinky garbage
The beauty of SaigonThe banks of the “revived” Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal is green and clean. People can come here for fishing

10. Binh Tay Market

Binh Tay Market is one of the oldest and Most Famous Markets in Cholon (China Town). In addition to the values of history and architecture, Binh Tay market is a busy purchasing place of Saigon and attracts a lot of tourists to come to visit.

The beauty of SaigonBinh Tay Market in Saigon in the past
The beauty of Saigon

The beauty of Saigon

Binh Tay Market in recent days


Warmest Greetings To All from Tracy Do! If you have any questions about Vietnam including Vietnam tours, do not hesitate to contact me.

Tracy and her team are proud to provide excellent Ho Chi Minh City Day Trips including Ho Chi Minh Motorbike Tour, Ho Chi Minh Food Tour, Mekong Delta Tour, Cu Chi Tunnel Tour, Ho Chi Minh Transfer Service and Shore Excursion to thousands of guests for nearly 10 years. Let us have a chance to show you South Vietnam to the fullest.


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