Welcome to the pulsating heart of Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City is a bustling metropolis that combines modern Vietnam with ancient cultural attractions. Often known by its former name, Saigon, this sprawling metropolis perfectly blends the past, present, and future of the nation. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie or an adventurer, Ho Chi Minh City promises an unforgettable journey for every traveler. Dive into our comprehensive guide as we show you the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, ensuring your visit is nothing short of memorable.
From bustling street markets and colonial-era landmarks to contemporary skyscrapers and tantalizing street food, there’s a world waiting to be explored. Bookmark this page, pack your bags, and get ready to delve deep into the magic of Saigon.
Ho Chi Minh City is a massive and chaotic city located in Southern Vietnam. With a population of over 8 million people, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city and the most visited in the country. Book a private transfer from Tan Son Nhat Airport to your Ho Chi Minh City hotel in the city center to take the stress out of landing.
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Below are some of the top tours in Ho Chi Minh City. Don’t forget to plan ahead when you visit Ho Chi Minh City.
Top Activities and Tours in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
Situated in the Bitexco Financial Tower in District 1, the Saigon Skydeck offers panoramic views of the sprawling metropolis. As the sun sets and the city lights up, the view from the observation deck on the 49th floor is nothing short of mesmerizing.
There’s also an option to dine at the tower’s restaurant, providing a perfect blend of culinary delights and visual treats. Get your fast-track ticket to the observation deck to skip the line and see one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Includes entrance to Saigon Skydeck’s Ao Dai Museum.
Bitexco Financial Tower, with its unique lotus shape, is a testament to Ho Chi Minh City’s rapid modernization. For an upscale experience, the EON Heli Bar on the 52nd floor offers exquisite cocktails accompanied by mesmerizing city views. As Ho Chi Minh City’s tallest building, Bitexco Financial Tower is symbolic of the city’s fusion of tradition and modernity.
Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of rooftop bars besides the Bitexco Financial Tower and one of the best things to do is to grab a cocktail on a rooftop patio. We enjoy going up to a rooftop bar more than an observation deck as the cost of the cocktail is usually less than the skydeck tickets and it’s a more relaxing time. Plus, I like being able to see the most iconic building in the skyline rather than looking from it. Make sure to go just before the sun sets but stay afterward to take in the lights of the city.
Some of the top rooftop bars in Vietnam are:
The Saigon River snakes through the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. Embark on a river cruise and take in the city’s skyline, especially mesmerizing during sunset. This highly rated sunset cruise includes a 6-course Vietnamese dinner. Includes pick up and drop off at your hotel.
Combining the serenity of a river journey with the elegance of traditional design, Bonsai River Cruises are a luxurious way to explore the Saigon River.
These cruises often feature traditional music and dance performances, along with sumptuous dining options. It’s an immersive experience, providing a taste of Vietnamese culture while floating on the tranquil waters.
Situated about 70 km northwest of the city, the Cu Chi Tunnels are a vast underground network that Viet Cong soldiers used during the Vietnam War. Here, you can crawl through some of the safer, yet very tiny tunnels, learn about the ingenious traps set for enemies, and get a sense of life during wartime.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are definitely the most popular day trip from Ho Chi Minh City. The North Vietnamese communists (Viet Cong) used an extensive network of tunnels covering most of the country to hide and protect themselves from the French, American, and South Vietnamese soldiers during the 20th century.
A specific section of the Cu Chi Tunnels has been preserved and converted in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City where tourists can see what life was like during the Vietnam War. Book a day tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels from Ho Chi Minh. You can choose from morning or afternoon with this tour.
The War Remnants Museum, located in District 3, offers a poignant look into the impact of the Vietnam War on the country. The museum, though harrowing, is an essential visit for those seeking to understand Vietnam’s turbulent past. Spread over various floors, exhibits include graphic photographs, military equipment, and detailed accounts of war atrocities.
The courtyard displays American tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets. It’s a sobering experience, emphasizing the cost of war and the value of peace. The Saigon Hop on Hop off Bus Tour stops at the War Remnants and other top Ho Chi Minh City attractions and is a great way to get around while beating the heat.
The Vietnam War is still considered recent history. The War Remnants Museum is one of the most important things to do in Ho Chi Minh City to pay respect to those who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. The exhibition is a stark display of the origins, causes, and effects of the war.
You will find powerful photos from war journalists and propaganda displayed at the War Remnants Museum as well. This may not be considered one of the most uplifting attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, but The War Remnants Museum will have the most impact on your visit.
Technically, the Mekong Delta is located just outside of Ho Chi Minh City and most people visit for a couple of days during a stay in the big city. It is one of the top attractions in South Vietnam, and while in Ho Chi Minh City, book an overnight tour to experience its beauty.
In terms of getting to the Mekong Delta, the drive takes a few hours on a bus. The drive is a great way to see how big Ho Chi Minh City is. We found you could drive for two hours and still feel like you’re in a busy city.
Eventually, you will make it outside of the city where things quieten down and become significantly less hectic.
You can also book an organized tour like we did on our first visit to Vietnam. This is an excellent way to see the best of the Mekong Delta with a guide and in comfort.
The Mekong Delta itself is great for experiencing the authentic, local life of the Vietnamese people. Whether you go with a tour or by yourself, you will get the opportunity to take a boat down the interconnecting canals of the Mekong river.
Along the way, you will find floating markets selling everything from fruit and vegetables to conical hats and fake clothing – not unlike the markets in Ho Chi Minh City. Spending a night here is a good idea to make the most of the long drive.
Book a full day Mekong Delta Tour including a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels with Get Your Guide. Free cancelation for a full refund within 24 hours of activity.
Located in District 1, Ben Thanh Market is Ho Chi Minh City’s most iconic market. A bustling place from dawn till dusk, here you can find everything from fresh produce, souvenirs, clothes, and local delicacies at this famous market.
It’s a must-visit for a taste of local life and some bargain shopping. If you want to try local street food in Ho Chi Minh, this is a great place to do it. Street food stalls line the streets offering all the top eats.
One of the best ways to experience the markets of Ho Chi Minh City is to take a market tour. This highly rated market tour is always a sell out as you follow a local guide and taste local cuisine in off-the-beaten-path-places that only locals know about.
While Ben Thanh Market is a bustling hub during the day, its transformation post-sunset is nothing short of magical. The night market, set up outside the main market area, is a vibrant mix of food stalls, souvenir vendors, and live entertainment.
The aroma of grilled seafood, pho, and other Vietnamese delicacies waft through the air. Local artisans display handcrafted jewelry, textiles, and trinkets. It’s not just a shopping experience at Ben Thanh Market, but a sensory delight, capturing the essence of Vietnam’s rich culture and traditions.
It’s tailored for the tourist crowd so the prices and products reflect this but it is a great introduction to the street stalls of Vietnam. It’s great for a first taste of the markets in Ho Chi Minh City, or if you have limited time. Feeling nervous about going out at night alone? This evening street food tour lets you taste your way through the city’s Southern Vietnamese cuisine with a local guide.
An oasis of calm in the heart of the city, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon stands as an architectural masterpiece from the French colonial period.
Located at 1 Cong Xa Paris in District 1, its red-brick facade, stained glass windows, and two towering bell towers have become icons of the city’s skyline. The cathedral’s interiors, adorned with intricate altars and statues, provide a serene ambiance for reflection.
While the cathedral remains an active place of worship, it also serves as a historical marker, reminding visitors of the city’s colonial past and its blend of Eastern and Western influences.
Notre Dame Cathedral was designed with an impeccable French architectural style and its two bell towers reach 60 metres (196 feet) into the air. Built between 1863 and 1880, Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon was constructed for French colonialists to attend service. It is still used today.
Surrounded by utilitarian, Vietnamese apartment buildings and with thousands of mopeds buzzing past, this buildings strongly contrast everything going on all around them.
While the Notre Dame Cathedral may be more famous church in Ho Chi Minh City, the pink-hued Tan Dinh Church, situated in District 3, is a sight to behold.
Known as the “Pink Church”, its vibrant coloration contrasts with the surrounding cityscape. Inside, the church boasts intricate decorations, impressive columns, and a calming ambiance. It’s a testament to the city’s architectural diversity and colonial influence.
Tour Ho Chi Minh City the way the locals do, by motorbike. This fun tour is highly rated and takes you through the 5 Districts of Ho Chi Minh City to see it’s top attractions from the back of a motorbike driven by a local guide.
Ho Chi Minh City’s iconic architectural marvel, the Saigon Central Post Office stands proudly in District 1, a short walk from the Notre Dame Cathedral. Designed by the famed architect Gustave Eiffel in the late 19th century, its grandeur showcases European influences and it is still a functioning post office. We have sent parcels home from here.
The interior is adorned with arched ceilings, vintage wooden phone booths, and ornate tiles. The centerpiece is a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s revolutionary leader.
Apart from its architectural magnificence, the post office remains functional, allowing visitors to send postcards or simply admire its old-world charm. The surrounding area also offers numerous souvenir stalls and cafes, making it a delightful visit for history and architecture enthusiasts.
Built-in 1886, just a few years after Notre Dame was completed, this building is another fine example of French colonial architecture.
Located in District 1, Pham Ngu Lao Street is often dubbed the ‘backpacker district’ of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a vibrant stretch bustling with life – street vendors, bars, cafes, and affordable accommodations. By day, tourists can find an array of affordable souvenirs, local foods, and intricate handicrafts.
By night, the street transforms into a lively hub of entertainment, with music blaring from various bars and clubs. The diverse range of nationalities that converge here also makes it a fantastic place to meet fellow travelers and exchange stories.
The heart of nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City, Bui Vien Walking Street in District 1 is Ho Chi Minh City’s most popular walking street. It’s a pulsating mix of bars, clubs, eateries and excitement in the city center. The street is pedestrian-only post-evening, making it a lively spot to enjoy music, dance, and meet fellow travelers.
Going for a walk down the popular walking street at the heart of District 1 is an important part of visiting Ho Chi Minh City as a tourist.
During the day, this street is bustling with tourists looking for a place to eat, shop, or recover from their hangovers. By night, Bui Vien Street comes alive with drunk backpackers letting themselves go at the numerous bars along the street. If nightlife is your scene, then set aside at least one evening to explore the bars on this street.
As iconic and exciting as Bui Vien Street is, it is far from an accurate representation of Ho Chi Minh City. It is designed for tourists, so to find the best restaurants and to fully experience the city, consider venturing further afield.
Also known as Independence Palace, Reunification Palace is a landmark in District 1 that has immense historical significance. This was home to the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and it was the site of the end of the war during the Fall of Saigon in 1975 when a North Vietnamese army tanker crashed through its gates.
Today, the palace remains largely untouched since that day. Visitors can explore the various rooms, including the president’s office, the bomb shelters, and the command bunker. The palace’s retro aesthetics transport visitors back in time, and the guided tours provide deep insights into Vietnam’s political history.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Reunification or Independence Palace symbolizes the reunification of North and South Vietnam after the end of the Vietnam War. Aside from its historical significance, the architecture is magnificent and exemplifies its martial purpose during the war.
The Jade Emperor Pagoda was built in 1909 by the Chinese Community in Ho Chi Minh City. It is not to be missed as the Emperor Pagoda is one of the most important temples in the city dedicated to the supreme Taoist God.
A tranquil spiritual haven in the midst of urban chaos, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is located in District 1. This Taoist pagoda stands as one of the most spectacularly atmospheric temples in Ho Chi Minh City. Rich in history and architectural detail, the pagoda is filled with intricate woodcarvings, statues of divinities, and grotesque heroes.
The air is thick with the aroma of incense, and the murmurs of prayers provide a peaceful backdrop. It’s a spiritual journey, offering insights into Chinese and Vietnamese lore. Don’t miss seeing the Hall of 10 Hells, depicting the ten layers of Hell.
Saigon Square, nestled in District 1, is a two-story shopping haven for those looking for affordable fashion. Unlike the bustling market vibe of Ben Thanh, Saigon Square offers a more air-conditioned and organized shopping experience. From trendy clothing, accessories, bags to footwear, the mall has it all.
Bargaining is a common practice, so visitors are encouraged to haggle to get the best deals. With a plethora of options, it’s a shopper’s paradise and a great place to pick up some fashionable souvenirs.
For culinary enthusiasts, Vinh Khanh Street in District 4 is a gastronomic treasure trove for Vietnamese cuisine. As evening descends, the street comes alive with countless food stalls serving mouthwatering Vietnamese delicacies.
From the famous ‘banh mi’ sandwiches, and sizzling seafood, to the iconic ‘pho,’ the array of flavors on offer is staggering. It’s not just about the food but also the experience – sitting on low stools, watching the world go by, and indulging in the city’s rich culinary heritage.
A street food tour is a great option to really immerse in the flavors of Ho Chi Minh City.
Another architectural gem from the French colonial era in Ho Chi Minh City is the Saigon Opera House. It is the epitome of grandeur in District 1. With its elegant facade and ornate interiors, the building exudes old-world charm.
It’s not just about the architecture; the Opera House regularly hosts performances, from traditional Vietnamese shows to live music, and international concerts. An evening here promises a cultural treat. If you are looking for something unique to do in Ho Chi Minh City at night? Take in a show at the Saigon Opera House. The French Colonial architecture is a throwback to when the French occupied Vietnam.
Dating back to the 19th century, the Opera House was restored in 1995 and now hosts many cultural performances.
Nestled in District 1, the Museum of Vietnamese History offers a comprehensive overview of Vietnam’s history from prehistoric times to the modern era.
The museum boasts a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including sculptures, ceramics, and ancient relics. The well-curated exhibits provide insights into the nation’s rich cultural tapestry and its evolution over the millennia.
One of the most popular things to do in Ho Chi Minh City for families is to attend a Water Puppet Show. This unique art form originating from northern Vietnam is a captivating blend of music, storytelling, and intricate puppet movements on the water.
The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater in District 1 offers daily shows, bringing age-old Vietnamese tales to life. it’s one of the more popular cultural attractions for families. Accompanied by a live orchestra playing traditional instruments, the puppets dance, dive, and glide on the water’s surface, narrating folklore filled with humor and drama. It’s a mesmerizing experience, providing insights into Vietnam’s rich cultural tapestry and the ingenious art of puppetry.
Built during the Vietnam War this apartment complex was used as a headquarters for American military officers. It now houses a collection of eclectic shops, cafes, and eateries. It is certainly one of the most unique things to do in Ho Chi Minh City and we highly recommend it.
Aptly named the Cafe Apartments, each floor houses a row of coffee shops including a lot of cafes. It has real abandoned building vibes, but despite this, it is packed with interesting places to visit.
You can enter the building via a small alleyway. Here you will find some staircases, a lift, and a person guarding the elevator. For 3,000 VND, you can use the elevator, which is certainly reasonable, but if your fitness levels are fine we’d recommend the stairs. This way you can explore every level efficiently. Or take the lift up and then walk down.
The building wasn’t designed as a shopping mall. It is essentially an apartment complex, but behind each door is a different shop. It’s easy to spend a few hours exploring each of the stores. The view from the top is amazing, so consider picking one of the cafes at the top for a cold drink or some noodle soup on the balcony.
Ho Chi Minh City has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. It has a distinct Chinese feel with red lanterns hanging outside the front of the shops.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, located in District 5, is a vibrant blend of Vietnamese and Chinese cultures. It’s a sensory delight with its bustling markets, ancient pagodas, and delicious food stalls.
Known as Cholon, Ho Chi Min’s Chinatown is filled with Pagodas, and street stalls. Get lost wandering around the streets going pagoda hopping or trying the local dishes.
Visit the Thien Hau Temple, dedicated to the Sea Goddess, where intricate ceramic dioramas depict scenes from Chinese legends. The streets are lined with traditional medicine stores and teahouses. Exploring Chinatown provides a deep dive into the intertwined history of the Vietnamese and Chinese communities.
While in Chinatown, visit the Binh Tay Market. Built in the 19th century by the French, this market is the best place in Ho Chi Minh City to have an authentic market experience. It is a great place to look for affordable souvenirs. Binh Tay Market stands as the commercial center, offering everything from textiles to fresh produce.
One of the best ways to get around cities is usually to walk. This is not the case in Ho Chi Minh as walking around can be daunting. It is a busy and bustling city, but if you book a walking tour when you arrive, you’ll get your bearings and become acquainted with Saigon and you may even learn how to cross the street!
We love joining a free walking tour when visiting a new city and there are several to choose from here. They are usually run by a local student and at the end, you tip what you see fit. It’s a fun way to gain insider knowledge and get recommendations. Plus, you may make some new friends.
If you don’t want to walk, this half-day car tour takes you around the city’s highlights in comfort and air conditioning.
Spread over 10 hectares in District 1, Tao Dan Park is a green oasis in the urban jungle. Frequented by locals, mornings here are a cultural spectacle with people practicing tai chi, aerobics, and badminton. Children play around the sculpted gardens, while elderly folks engage in chess games.
The park also boasts a bird cafe where enthusiasts gather with their caged birds, enjoying the chorus of chirps. Offering a peaceful ambiance, the park has numerous sculptures, pagodas, and a small temple dedicated to Hung Kings. It’s a slice of local life and an excellent spot for relaxation amidst nature.
Housed in a colonial-era mansion in District 1, the Fine Arts Museum showcases contemporary and traditional art from Vietnam. With exhibits spread over three floors, the museum is a testament to the nation’s artistic prowess and evolution. From sculptures and paintings to lacquerware, every art form is celebrated here.
The Ho Chi Minh City Museum is another display of lovely architecture in Saigon. It leads people through the history of Ho Chi Minh including the two wars between France and America.
Most of us know about Vietnamese history because of the Vietnam War, but there was life in the country before the 1960s. A visit to the Vietnamese History Museum showcases Vietnam before its war history.
Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee beans in the entire world – second only to Brazil, and comfortably beating out Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. Despite this, people don’t really think of Vietnam for its coffee. This is because Vietnam produces what is considered a ‘lower-quality’ bean, called Robusta.
Vietnamese coffee is prepared with Robusta beans which are drip-brewed through a filter on top of a layer of condensed milk. The condensed milk counteracts the bitterness, creating a delicious coffee that can be consumed both hot (ca phe sua) and cold (ca phe sua da).
Another alternative, and a must-try, is egg coffee. In this case, the coffee is prepared with an egg yolk. This produces an unbelievably creamy and sweet coffee – don’t worry, it doesn’t really taste like egg.
One of the best things about visiting Vietnam is its delicious cuisine. Ho Chi Minh City is filled with countless food stalls and places to eat local food.
A fusion of both European and Asian cuisine blends together influences from French colonization and immigration from neighboring countries. This makes Ho Chi Minh City a fantastic destination for foodies. You will find some of the best variations of Vietnamese classics.
Ho Chi Minh has some amazing street food. The locals eat street food so you know it is fresh and authentic. Go with an open mind and be willing to try anything that looks or sounds nice.
Bun Cha 145 in Bui Vien Street is another delicious option that is a bit less known than some of the other dishes mentioned above. For all of our favourite places to eat, take a look at our Ho Chi Minh City restaurant guide.
Located in District 1, Le Van Tam Park offers a refreshing respite from bustling city life. Spanning over 10 hectares, this green space is filled with lush trees, manicured gardens, and serene pathways. In the mornings, you can witness locals engrossed in tai chi or aerobics, while evenings see families gather for picnics.
The park also houses a beautiful lake, where paddle boating can be enjoyed. Numerous food vendors serving local snacks around the perimeter offer local delicacies like banh mi and sugarcane juice, ensuring visitors get a taste of local life. Festivals and events are often hosted here, making it a vibrant hub of cultural activities.
We would also recommend checking out Tan Dinh Market a bit further away from the other markets for a more authentic experience. If you are looking for more authentic street stalls and shopping, this is a great place.
The vendors here have far more ‘broken’ English, assuming they speak any at all – unlike Ben Thanh market where they all speak English surprisingly well. It’s far more challenging with the language barrier, but you will find the experience significantly more rewarding.
For a lot of tourists, the local markets in Ho Chi Minh City can be daunting. They are often crowded with enthusiastic vendors hassling you around every corner – they will even physically pull you into their stalls. Regardless, visiting the local markets in Ho Chi Minh City is a crucial part of experiencing the culture of the city.
Not only are markets a great way to pick up souvenirs and gifts to take back home, but they are also where the locals go to find products and food to take back home.
You can certainly find cheap, fake clothes here, but it is so much more than this. Take the time to interact with the locals and learn how to barter with the vendors.
A great tip is to find a popular and clean looking food vendor and ask them to make you their favourite dish. You’ll experience the food of Vietnam better than you could at any food tour or touristy restaurant (including the ones Bill Clinton purportedly visited more than 20 years ago).
Consider buying locally-made products rather than mass-produced, fake Gucci handbags. Check out this list of the best things to buy in Vietnam before your trip.
As mentioned above, you will most likely be staying near or in District 1 as it is in the heart of the action. This is the best area to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for first-time visitors. Search For Hotels on Booking.com
Things you see in District 1 Bitexco Financial Tower, Ben Thanh Market, Central Post Office, Bui Vien Walking Street Notre Dame Cathedral, Museum of Vietnamese History, Saigon Opera House, The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater
Pham Ngu Lao is a popular area for backpackers to stay. There are guesthouses and mini-hotels that you can find at affordable prices. Saigon Backpackers Hostel is popular
Attractions in this district include: You can also easily visit the Reunification Palace, Pham Ngu Lao Street, Bitexco Tower, and the Jade Emperor Pagoda from here.
Upscale options can be found in Dong Khoi. The commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh. Colonial buildings are mixed with highrises and historic landmarks including Hotel de Ville, Central Post Office, and the Saigon River. Equatorial Hotel is conveniently located on the corner of the city’s 4 main districts and is highly rated.
Most attractions in Ho Chi Minh City are located within walking distance of one another. But be prepared, walking in Ho Chi Minh is an adventure. We looked at crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City as a game of Frogger. Just keep on walking and motorcycles will go around you.
If you have skills and experience, renting a scooter is a good way to get around the city. Locals get around by motorbike, but tourists are taking their lives into their hands by driving one if they don’t have experience.
If you don’t have riding experience, you can hire a motorcycle taxi at reasonable prices and they can be hailed from any street corner. But this is also not for the faint of heart as weaving through traffic on a motorcycle is hair-raising. Take a taxi instead to be safe.
If you want to experience a motorcycle in Ho Chi Minh, take an organized motorbike tour. These are made for tourists and are much more relaxed than a motorbike taxi.
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