What To Do In Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is Vietnam’s most lively and action packed city, booming up and developing at a rapid rate. Travel to Saigon you’ll be surrounded by a sea of crazy motorbike traffic, hundreds of street food stalls, and many attractions that will keep you busy and entertained. From French colonial architecture to war memorabilia, from exotic street food to hustle market, the list of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is seemingly endless. I’m going to share what to do in Ho Chi Minh city for those who travel to this amazing city.

1.Go back in history of Ho Chi Minh city

Reunification Palace (known as Independent Palace)

Independence Palace Tracy

Photo source: Scooter Saigon Tour

Saigon was seen as a bloody place throughout the Vietnam War in 20th century. The city is a safe hub for government contractors and U.S. soldiers. But when the main gates of the Presidential Palace crashed by tanks, the city finally fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975. The palace was renamed as Reunification Palace and considered as a marked end to the war. Nowadays the building functions as a museum, where visitors can view tank 843, which led the final assault through the palace gate and the F5E fighter plane, which bombed the palace on 8th April 1975. Reunification Palace has stayed in the mind of many generations of not only Vietnamese but also foreigners. Coming to Saigon, you shouldn’t miss this famous historical place that is similar like “the fall of Berlin Wall” of Germany.

War Remnants Museum

War Remnant Museum In Saigon Tracy

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To learn more about Vietnamese war history, foreign visitors should visit the most famous history museum in Ho Chi Minh city – War Remnants Museum. Half a million visitors peruse the exhibits of Saigon’s War Remnants Museum each year. Of those, two-thirds are foreigners. There is a vast array of exhibits exhibitions, collections and shows about the US Aggressive War in Vietnam. There is also a collection of weapons and military tanks. Many of the atrocities documented here were well published but rarely do Westerners get to hear the victims of US military action tell their own stories. Visitors can browse through many of the most disturbing photographs illustrating US atrocities are from US sources, including My Lai massacre and the horrendous effect of biological warfare on humans.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cellar Doorway Is Small Enough For Thin Vietnamese Soldiers

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The multiple-layered underground network of Cu Chi tunnels were a legendary during the 1960s for its role in facilitating Viet Cong control of a large rural area. The Cu Chi tunnels complex was estimated to consist of 200 km of tunnels. It included hospitals, schools, meeting rooms, kitchens and sleeping quarters. The tunnels are about 30 km to 40 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City in Southern Vietnam. Travelers could join a half day tour to experience the fascinating Cu Chi tunnels. Visitors will have a chance to crawl around a portion of the 121 km long tunnels and learn how thousands of guerrillas managed to stay underground for a long time.

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

2.See French colonial architecture

Dong Khoi Street

dong khoi street

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Dong Khoi (known as Rue Catinatz) is one of the oldest street in Ho Chi Minh city. On the street there are most memorable colonial era buildings: Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, Francis Garnier square, City Hall and luxurious hotels Continental (1880), Majestic(1925), Grand Hotel Saigon (1930). It was centre of Saigon during French colonial times. Nowadays, considered as “gold street”, Dong Khoi is the most expensive street in Ho Chi Minh city. Many modern buildings (Vincom commercial center, Vinhomes apartments, Opera House buildings, Saigon Metrepolitant buildings…) have been constructed on this street in recent years. A walk along the beautiful Dong Khoi street will showcase the mix of old and new architecture, the old Saigon and modern Ho Chi Minh city.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral Tracy 2

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Located at a quiet corner of Dong Khoi street, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral (also known as the Big Church, Basilica, and Cathedral) is the one remaining stronghold of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Established by French colonists, the magnificent and beautiful cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. All materials were imported from France including the bright red bricks from Marseille that still retain their vibrant colour today. The neo-Romanesque structure is 60 metres tall and has two towers containing six bronze bells. In the garden of cathedral stands a statue of the Virgin Mary, made in Rome from Italian marble, which was reputed to have shed tears in 2005. Peaceful and somber, the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is an ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle Saigon for a few minutes.

Saigon Central Post Office

Saigon Central Post Office

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Saigon Central Post Office is a must-see attraction in Ho Chi Minh city to foreign visitors. The post office was built in the late 1900s and designed by famous architect Gustave Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The building looks a little bit like a European train station with its huge clock displayed on the front and solid wrought iron fence. The post office still remains 14 phone booths which are placed in two main lobbies to serve residents and tourists who want to contact as well as find back a bygone time. Tourists usually visit here to admire the unique architecture. There’s plenty of history and atmosphere to soak up. If you are on a tour or just getting around Saigon by yourself, the Central Post Office is worth a visit.

3.Go to the markets and shopping in Ho Chi Minh city

Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh Market In Saigon Tracy

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From a wet market created by street vendors by the early 17th century, Ben Thanh has experienced many ups and downs throughout hundreds of years. The market was built in 1870 by the French and called Les Halles Centrales. In 1912, the market was renamed as Ben Thanh, which has become a bustling market during the day and a social center after sunset. Ben Thanh market is a must in the list of things what to do in Ho Chi Minh city.

Binh Tay market in China Town (Cholon)

Binh Tay market in China Town (Cholon)

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Chinatown is a blend of old and new, filled with traditional stores and bustling markets as well as best street food stalls. Cholon’s main market – Binh Tay market originally built by the French in the 1880s. The market has a great clock tower and a central courtyard with gardens. Binh Tay is a wholesale market and offers everything from fresh products to locally made Vietnamese products and items depicting a Chinese background.

Ho Thi Ky flower market

saigon sightseeing tour and street food ho thi ky flower market

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Ho Thi Ky is the biggest wholesale flower market in Ho Chi Minh city. It’s called market but actually there are small areas in the place of an apartment building in the small Ho Thi Ky street. There are all sorts of buckets and bouquets of fresh flowers (daisies, roses, orchids…) come from Dalat and Hanoi. The narrow street and alleys become colorful worlds away from the fast, noisy life of Sai Gon. Wandering this visually vibrant Ho Thi Ky flower market at night is an exciting experience in the life and culture of Saigonese.

4.Learn about religion in Saigon

Jade Emperor Pagoda

Jade Emperor Pagoda Or Chua Ngoc Hoang

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The 100 year-old Jade Emperor Pagoda was built by the city’s Cantonese community. The Jade Emperor Pagoda is unique for carved gilt woodwork, and its panoply of weird and wonderful deities, both Taoist and Buddhist, beneath a roof that groans under the weight of dragons, birds and animals. The pungent smoke of incense (huong) fills the air, obscuring the exquisite woodcarvings. Locals and tourists come to this quiet and hidden Jade Emperor Pagoda to pray and pay their respects or simply escape the bustle and hustle downtown.

Thien Hau Pagoda

saigon motorbike tour at thien hau temple

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Thien Hau is one of the oldest pagodas of Chinese community in Ho Chi Minh. All the materials constructing the pagoda were brought from China. This gorgeous 19th-century temple is dedicated to the goddess Thien Hau – the Lady of the Sea. It is believed that Thien Hau rides the clouds to save people in trouble on the seas.On the main dais stand three figures of Thien Hau, each is flanked by two servants or guardians. This colourful and ornate pagoda is worth a visit for those exploring the history and culture of Ho Chi Minh city.

5.Sample Saigon street food

Mixed Rice Paper Salad 2

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It is said that “Saigon is the kitchen of the world”. Whenever you would like to fill your stomach or satisfy your appetite, it is always easy to grab a delicious dish right on the pavement. Zip through the streets, you will discover that there are other amazing foods besides the famous Pho and Banh Mi. Characteristics of Saigon street food are fresh ingredients and simple recipes. Big or small street food stalls are everywhere in Ho Chi Minh city on main roads or hidden back alleys. Saigon people eat any time from the early morning till late evening. In the morning locals eat their fast breakfast with steamed sticky rice, Vietnamese sandwich, soup cake, chitterling gruel… After a hard-working day, couples, families and friends gather at street food stalls on the streets to share their meals and talk about everything. Top night foods include broken rice, Vietnamese pancake, snail, sweet soup, noodles, barbecue… If you travel to our city, do not forget eating exotic Saigon street food and immerse yourself into exquisite flavours of Vietnamese cuisine.

6. Explore small back alleysvisiting-ho-thi-ky-flower-market-on-saigon-sightseeing-tour-and-street-foods

Photo source: Scooter Saigon Tour

To experience Ho Chi Minh city the right way, there’s no better place to do this than in extensive network of small back alleys hidden from crazy traffic on major roads. Thousands of narrow alleys is where the majority of Saigon people live. Explore these alleyways, foreign visitors have chance to interact with friendly and kind locals, delicious street foods and Saigon’s real life. The life in Saigon alleys is slow, calm and quiet but there are many things to do: local markets, peaceful pagodas, hidden cafes and best street food stalls…

7.Drink Saigon Coffee

Cafe In Saigon Tracy

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In the late 19th century, coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French and the Vietnamese have taken coffee to new levels of almost gastronomical heights. The role of coffee is so deeply embedded in Saigon and it’s hard to imagine this city without its iced milk coffee. In the morning, elders, office workers, drivers and friends sit around small tables at a drink stall on the street for a leisurely chat over the day’s first cup. In the afternoon, students and couples enjoy cool coffee in the parks to escape the summer’s heat. Coffee has been an indispensable culture of Saigon. If you are not Saigon residents, let’s taste café at any corner of Saigon street as the locals do.

8.Try karaoke

Try karaoke

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It is one of the favorite Asian pastimes and Vietnam has taken it to a whole new level. If you are a screamer, let enter a karaoke bar in Ho Chi Minh city to sing your heart out. In Saigon karaoke is big business so that you can easily find a karaoke bar around you. Inside karaoke bars you can choose the song to sing in books jam-packed with list of international and Vietnamese songs. Drinks and snacks are available. Karaoke bars are where you would take a bunch of friends and enjoy the night together. The more people you bring, the funnier it is.

9.Bia Bet (Sitting Plump Beer) in backpacker area

There is a non-sleeping area of several square kilometers in District 1 in Saigon, which is a hot spot for foreign tourists. This small area is bounded by the 4 streets: Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, Bui Vien and Do Quang Dau. The criss-crossed small alleyways connect the ends of this area to form a “labyrinth”. So that it takes less than an hour to get around this area.The streets and alleys are home to various travel offices, hotels and guesthouses, laundries, convenience stores, fashion and gift shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and numerous eating tables set up along pavements.

“Bia Bet” (Sitting Plump Beer) in the backpacker area is a unique part of Saigon that any tourist would like to try. The beer is very cheap there. The Sitting Plump Beer is interesting for the way beer is served. The guests don’t sit on a chair with a beer on a table but they sit plump on mats or plastic sheets on the pavement of Bui Vien street. Numerous people sit on crowded streets with beers on their hands, share their stories and simply have fun together.

10.Cyclo and Cooking Class

Cyclo Tour Saigon Tracy

Photo source: Scooter Saigon Tour

Traditional cyclo is a three-wheeled bicycle with a carriage at the front for the passenger to sit in, while the driver uses pedals to power you along. Hop on a cycle, visitors could enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Saigon without the barrier of a bus window. Foreign tourists can dive into the soul of Saigon by cyclo.

Having a long history of cultural interchange and stretching over several years, Vietnamese foods are very different from North to South. A short cooking class in Ho Chi Minh city will show you simple ingredients and delicious recipes that can get you much closer to authentic Vietnamese cuisine and food heritage.

I hope the post about what to do in Ho Chi Minh city gives you great ideas and helps you plan your trip. If you would like to take a tour around Saigon to see, smell, taste the city in just a few hours, let join our Saigon Sights & Foods Tour on Motorbike with female guides. You will never regret. Click here for more information about the tour.

Ho Chi Minh Sightseeing & Food Tour by Motorbike

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