Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as locals still call it, is probably the city you’d want to visit in Vietnam first if you’re not gonna be staying in the country for so long. Being the biggest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City offers a wide variety of activities, attractions, and tours that you can experience.
This city has everything you’d want to know about Vietnamese culture, from the chaotic motorbike traffic to mouthwatering cuisine to the serene ambiance of the Saigon River and the remarkable French architecture.
What makes Ho Chi Minh City special is that it holds the remnants of the war that plagued the country. It’s the perfect place to learn about the disastrous events that occurred in the country’s history and how the people of Vietnam rose up together to build a new Vietnam!
Ho Chi Minh also showcases the modernity that Vietnam has accomplished with towering skyscrapers, and luxury brand stores, while still preserving traditional elements like the Chinese pagodas and ornate temples.
Ho Chi Minh City is definitely the perfect travel destination for tourists as it perfectly mixes traditional and modern elements while still being inexpensive for all to enjoy!
So, if you don’t know where to start your journey in Saigon, here are 11 interesting places and activities you can do and visit!
1. Ben Thanh Market
It might sound unusual to recommend a public market as a tourist spot to travelers but hear us out! The Ben Thanh Market is one that you should not miss!
Despite it being the biggest market in Vietnam, we can still consider this as a hidden gem since only locals and experienced tourists in the city know about this! It’s got everything from simple goods to souvenirs you can bring back home and with over 6000 merchants, who knows what else you’ll be able to find?
Ben Thanh Market has been around for centuries but it was formally opened back in 1914. The original was renovated as part of a major project and was finally completed and fully in use in 1985.
Some of the products sold here are quite repetitive and similar to other stores so make sure that you get an idea of how much a product is by comparing the prices. That way, you get the best deal.
How to Navigate The Market?
There are four gates in Ben Thanh Market: the Northern, Southern, Western, and Eastern gates.
- Eastern Gate- where you’d want to enter if you’re meaning to buy cosmetics, products for the body, and skincare products.
- Western Gate- where you’d find stores that sell shoes, footwear, and souvenirs.
- Northern Gate- stores around this sell fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, meats, and flowers.
- Southern Gate- leads to stores and stalls selling clothes, garments, and dried food.
Make sure you know what you’d like to buy first before going to the market so that you won’t go around in circles looking for the gates!
Eat Local Food in The Market
Ben Thanh offers more than just shopping, you can also find some good eats here too! It’s also known as a street food market where you’d find classic Vietnamese food like Pho. There’s a variety of dishes here from Asian dishes to American BBQs, you’ll find something that you’d want to devour.
Food prices are quite inexpensive too, although, in some reviews, foreign visitors have mentioned that they paid more than the locals. Despite this, the prices are quite reasonable starting at $1 or VND23,000 to $3 or VND70,000.
Bargain On The Prices
You would actually want to bring your bargaining skills to Ben Thanh Market as prices here are higher for foreign tourists. So, make sure that you’ve practiced dealing with vendors before you visit the market.
Location: 134 Đ. Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Entrance Fee: Free
2. Saigon Post Office
The next tourist spot we have on our list is the Saigon Central Post Office built in 1886. This is how amazing Vietnam is because even a post office is a famous landmark!
The Saigon Central Post Office is located in the core of Ho Chi Minh City and is a traveler’s favorite because of the stunning colonial architecture that has been used for the structure. The soft yellow color of the exteriors is bright enough that it blends well will the beautiful blue sky. The interior is clean and sleek but it still reminds us of Vietnam’s complicated history.
This post office is also popular amongst locals as the architecture is perfect as a backdrop for photoshoots and other purposes.
Fully Operational Post Office
Despite its popularity with locals and tourists for things not related to postal services, the Saigon Central Post is still fully operational. The services it offers have remained over the years, selling postcards, stamps, and delivering letters and parcels.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 7 AM-7 PM, Saturday: 7 AM-6 PM, Sunday: 8 AM-6PM
Location: 02 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000, Vietnam
Entrance Fee: $4 or VND90,000
3. Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is a great spot if you’re traveling with your family!
Opened back in 1869, the Saigon Zoo is one of the world’s oldest zoos that can still be visited today, making it one of the most visited landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden house over 600 animals from 125 species as well as 1,830 plants and trees from 260 species. With its variety of flora and fauna, the Saigon Zoo has become a conservation park with the goal to protect the lives of the animals and plants that reside here.
If you want to take a break from the noise of the city life in Saigon, simply head on to the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden and try to spot some of the rarest orchids in the world.
The Saigon Zoo will definitely tickle your children’s interest in the animal kingdom as it has over 600 animals, from mammals to reptiles to birds! You don’t have to go to India to see tigers because Saigon Zoo is home to a white Bengal tiger! You can also spot African lions, giraffes, gibbons, snakes, and many more!
Saigon Botanical Gardens
Some of the plants and trees in Saigon Botanical Gardens are probably older than our grandmothers, over 100 years of age! There are 1830 plants and trees here and some are quite rare and may just be found in Vietnam!
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 5 AM to 6:30 PM
Location: 2 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Price: $2.50 or VND60,000 for adults and $1.50 or VND35,000 for children.
4. Tan Dinh Church
Easy to spot and easy to recognize, this bright pink structure may not look like it but it is a church! Tan Dinh Church or the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a catholic church designed in the Romanian architectural style and is painted a bright pink color that is quite unique from other Catholic churches we’ve seen in other countries.
In 1874, a catholic mission was established in Saigon and the construction of the first Tan Dinh Church was in 1876, headed by Fr. Donatien Eveillard.
If you’re in the city, you must pass by Tan Dinh Church to catch a glimpse of its Gothic, Roman, and Baroque architectural design or pay your respects (if you are catholic of course). Tan Dinh Church is also the second biggest church in Vietnam after Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City.
It’s definitely worth a visit!
Why is Tan Dinh Church Pink?
The Tan Dinh Church was painted shades of pink during its 100th-anniversary celebration back in 1976. However, this was not the first time because back in 1857, the church got painted light pink on the exterior and vivid pink on the interior.
Note: Remember to minimize any noise and wear appropriate clothes when visiting the site since this is a place of worship and not just a tourist attraction.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 8 AM-12 PM and 2 PM- 5 PM.
Location: 289 Hai Bà Trưng, Phường 8, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
5. Ho Chi Minh Museum
Ho Chi Minh Museum is another landmark that you should add to your itinerary! The reason is that it is a great way to learn more about Vietnam’s history, especially the wars that occurred and how Vietnam fought its way to independence!
Of course, behind its victory is a great leader who stood brave and proud despite the prejudices. President Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the Communist Party of Vietnam became a symbol of strength and pride for the Vietnamese people.
He was so beloved that even after wishing for a simple cremation, the people gave him the grand farewell that a true leader deserves. Now, there are structures built solely to commemorate him, his life, and his legacy.
What can we do at Ho Chi Minh Museum?
Ho Chi Minh Museum commemorates the life of its namesake. The museum has eight chronological exhibitions that talk about the late President’s childhood, foreign travels, influences of Marxism and Leninism, his life, and his death.
Besides the President’s commemoration, you’ll also find memorabilia and artifacts from the Vietnam War and the country’s struggle for freedom and independence.
If you’ve read our blog about Things to do in Hanoi, we highlighted the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where you could visit the embalmed body of the late President. You can actually add the museum on your day tour to the mausoleum since they are conveniently near each other.
What are the Eight Chronological Exhibits at Ho Chi Minh Museum?
- Exhibit 1 is focused on President Ho Chi Minh’s childhood and upbringing.
- Exhibit 2 tells the story of the President’s travels around the world in his search for answers on how to save Vietnam from the hands of the colonizers.
- Exhibits 3,4, and 5 are focused on how Ho Chi Minh used his Marxist and Leninist ideologies in fighting for freedom and independence and establishing the Vietnamese Communist Party.
- Exhibits 6 and 7 highlights his time as the nation’s leader from 1945 to 1969.
- Exhibit 8 is dedicated to his death.
The museum was designed by French architects and the architectural design incorporates both Eastern and Western architectural elements and styles. The building has five floors, each showcasing objects used by the President himself. Beyond these, the interior design of the museum is also one that a lot of tourists appreciate!
Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday: 8 AM to 11:30 AM and 2 PM to 4 PM, Friday: 8 AM to 11:30 AM
Location: 65 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
[Monday to Friday] $6.40 or VND150,000 for adults and $4.26 or VND100,000 for children
[Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays] $8.53 or VND200,000 for adults and $6.40 or VND150,000 for children.
6. Tao Dan Park
For budget travelers like us, it’s difficult to find things to do that won’t require us to pay. That’s why Tao Dan Park is here on this list because it’s an ideal place for tourists who are on a budget trip!
Tao Dan Park a.k.a “The Lungs of Ho Chi Minh City”, boasts of the alluring design of the gardens that surround it! This is the perfect place to unwind and be amongst nature after a long day of touring the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
Take your loved ones on a walk, or picnic, or simply revel at the historical structures that are scattered on the premises.
Obviously, the first thing you’ll notice in Tao Dan Park is its stunning trees!
Did you know that Tao Dan Park is home to over 1,000 trees and measures around 10 hectares? Well, now you know! That’s why you need to come here because it’s one of the places in Ho Chi Minh City where you’ll breathe clean, fresh air!
Historical Structures in Tao Dan Park
There are two prominent historical structures in Tao Dan Park:
- Temple of Hung King. This notable temple in Tao Dan Park is special because it holds the Hung King Temple festival every year from the 8th to the 11th day of the third Lunar month. The festival is dedicated to the contributions given by the first Emperors and founders.
- Cham Tower. This is a replica of the Po Nagar Cham Towers in Nha Trang. It’s much smaller in size and details are more simplified but it’s one that causes a spark of interest for the Cham culture.
Best Time to Visit The Park
The recommended time to visit Tao Dan Park is early in the morning before the break of dawn. The park is simply more peaceful around this time, not a lot of people yet, and the streets do not have noisy vehicles passing by. Visiting Tao Dan Park first thing in the morning is really just an awesome way to start the day!
Opening Hours: 7 AM to 10 PM, Everyday.
Location: Trương Định, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Entrance Fee: Free!
7. Can Gio Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO Biosphere Reserve)
Can Gio Biosphere Reserve is another landmark in Vietnam that is officially recognized by UNESCO as Biosphere Reserve! It is unique for being covered by mangrove trees in both saltwater and brack water.
This biosphere reserve is home to over 200 species of fauna and 150 species of flora. Because of the high diversity of mangrove species, the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve is dubbed the “Green Lungs” of Ho Chi Minh City.
Can Gio Biosphere Reserve also houses approximately 2,000 monkeys, earning the name, “Can Gio Monkey Island”. The reserve is not just popular among locals and tourists; scientists from all over the world frequently visit the reserve to study the flourishing biodiversity.
There are tours that consist of a boat ride along the river, visiting parts of the reserve, and many other fun activities. Tour prices start at $30 for a day tour in the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve with lunch included.
Location: Southeast of Ho Chi Minh City
Price: Tours start at $30 or VND705,000 per person for a 1-day trip.
8. Binh Quoi Tourist Village
Binh Quoi Village is simply the best place to experience rural life in Saigon. The village was designed after the famous Mekong Delta with its lush greenery and a beautiful lake where you can paddle, fish, and eat what you caught.
We know we’ve said this with pretty much all other places on this list but Binh Quoi Village is the perfect place to visit in Ho Chi Minh City if you really want to get away from city life.
If you’re only in Vietnam for a short while and you can’t really explore much of it, the village is also a great alternative for Mekong Delta. Of course, nothing beats the original but to save time and money, Binh Quoi Village is the place to be!
Want to explore more of Vietnamese cuisine? You can dine in at an all-you-can-eat buffet called, “Reclaiming Southern Food”, featuring 50 Southern Vietnamese specialties. The dishes served in the buffet originate hundreds of years ago. Some of the dishes you can’t find elsewhere, which makes them even more special, and is probably the most authentic Vietnamese cuisine you’ll ever get to try.
So, after exhausting yourself from paddling around the lake and making sure that you caught a fish, you can also take a break and keep yourself full while you’re in Binh Quoi Village.
Binh Quoi Village Areas
Binh Quoi Village has three different areas: Areas 1, 2, and 3.
- Binh Quoi 1 is the most popular and has a lot of activities that tourists can try. Prices here are also affordable.
- Binh Quoi 2 is popular among sports enthusiasts because this area has different areas where you can play tennis, go swimming, and do many other things.
- Binh Quoi 3 is the place to be if you want to chill and relax, drink some beer or have a meal.
All of these areas offer different activities and each has a unique flare to them so, we recommend you explore all three!
Opening Hours: 8 AM to 9 PM, daily.
Location: 1147 Bình Quới, Phường 28, Bình Thạnh, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
9. War Remnants Museum
Before Vietnam became a popular travel destination, the country has gone through some of the most gruesome wars in modern history with the Vietnam War being the most well-known. Today, Vietnam has done its best to preserve all the memories from the past for people to look back and appreciate how hard Vietnam fought to gain independence.
The War Remnants Museum is one of the places in Ho Chi Minh City that preserves war history in detail. It focuses mainly on the Vietnam War but other exhibits also show wars during the French colonization, specifically the first Indochina War.
We do have to warn you about some of the photographs displayed in the museum as these photographs may show disturbing scenarios. These have led critics to say that there is bias in what the museum shows but really, the museum simply portrays the true side of any war which is always negative.
With that being said, photographs and displays may not be appropriate for younger children so we advise you to take precautions if you’re visiting with your family.
The War Remnants Museum might not be the conventional tourist attraction we’d expect but this is still a must in your itinerary to truly see the real story of Vietnam!
Opening Hours: 7 am to 6:30 pm, daily.
Location: 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh city
Price: VND 40,000 per adult, VND20,000 per child.
10. Mekong Delta
The most well-known tourist destination in Vietnam, the Mekong Delta offers a glimpse of the Vietnamese way of life and how people rely on the waters to survive.
The Mekong Delta covers 55,000 square kilometers, producing the majority of Vietnam’s grain produce with 90% of this produce exported internationally. But perhaps, the most defining characteristic of the Mekong Delta is the amazing floating markets that have captured the attention of people globally.
Usually, group tours have two options when visiting Mekong. We recommend you to take the longer tour as this would bring you to the Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world, where you’ll find the iconic floating market.
Full-day tours to the Mekong Delta can cost around $20. You can actually go to the floating market alone by talking to some of the locals and they’ll take you off of the touristy path and into the actual scene!
We guarantee that you’ll have a blast looking at how beautiful the system works in the floating market and we’re sure that this is one of the few places you’ll find vibrant floating markets!
Opening Hours for Mekong Floating Market: 5 AM to 6 PM, daily.
Location: Cái Bè, Cái Bè District, Tien Giang, Vietnam
Price: $20 or VND469,000 for a full-day tour of the Mekong Delta.
11. Cu Chi Tunnels
We know that we said places “other than” Cu Chi Tunnels but we just had to add this to the list since these tunnels are undoubtedly one of the most intriguing sites in Ho Chi Minh City!
No matter what tour you’re going to book or if you’re planning your own DIY trip to Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels will always pop up. Plus, for first-time travelers to Saigon, this would be great information.
Cu Chi Tunnels are a network of hand-dug tunnels spanning over 250 kilometers that were built during the Vietnam War. This served as the base for the Viet Cong’s military operations. These narrow underground tunnels gave shelter, hid hospitals, supply routes, communication lines and bases, and served as pathways for the Vietnamese guerilla soldiers.
When you visit Cu Chi Tunnels, you’ll get to experience crawling inside the cramped tunnels just like how the soldiers used to back in the day.
A fair warning, though. If you’re not comfortable going in tight spaces, we don’t recommend you to go inside one. Though there is an authorized guide that could help tourists, we don’t want you to pass out while you’re inside the tunnels.
Ho Chi Minh City is a must for travelers meaning to visit Vietnam! The place itself offers a variety of attractions that range from nature to history! These sites are not just fun-filled but are also great places to visit to if you’re traveling on a tight budget.
There are tours that cover the whole city of Ho Chi Minh that you can book locally but if you want to skip the hassle of contacting, negotiating, and worrying about your safety, we recommend you to book online! We have a list of the best online booking websites for attractions and tours you can use, not just on your trip to Ho Chi Minh but also anywhere in Vietnam!
Some of these attractions may not be conventional tourist spots but places like historical sites tell the stories of past wars in Vietnam. If you get to visit the majority of these historical sites, you’ll be able to understand why Vietnam’s history is greatly preserved and cherished by its people. They may not be sweet tales to tell but their stories are the truth and the truth is always worth telling.
If you want to know more about places like these in Vietnam, read our blogs about Hanoi, Hoi An, Da Nang, and many more!
What place or country do you want us to cover next? Let us know in the comments!