Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam, located in the southern part of the country. It has a rich history as the former capital of the French protectorate of Cochinchina from 1862 to 1954 and later as the capital of South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. With its historical significance, Ho Chi Minh City offers a wide range of attractions and activities.
You can explore numerous museums, vibrant markets, and upscale malls, savour delicious local cuisine, relax at charming cafes, and experience the vibrant nightlife. This city truly has something for everyone. However, with so much to offer, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do. To assist you, we have compiled a list of 10 unique things to do while visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
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10 unique things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
1. Tan Dinh Church (Pink Church)
This beautiful pink church is a hidden gem that remains undiscovered by many visitors. It is a Catholic church situated on Hai Ba Trung Road in District 3.
In our opinion, this is the most stunning church in Ho Chi Minh City. Its distinct pink colour and intricate details make it truly magnificent.
Due to its relative obscurity, there are rarely crowds of tourists around. However, during our visit, we found the gates closed, so we are unsure if you will be able to go inside. Nonetheless, admiring its exterior remains a worthwhile and beautiful activity in Ho Chi Minh City.
2. The Cafe Apartments
Are you a food enthusiast or a coffee/tea lover? Then this place is absolutely perfect for you.
One of the most unique attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, it is rapidly gaining popularity. The owners of this establishment had the brilliant idea of transforming an old apartment block into a haven for cafe-goers. You’ll find a delightful selection of eight floors filled with cafes where you can relax and enjoy a drink or a meal.
There’s something for everyone here, ranging from dessert bars and steaks to vegetarian options and, of course, a variety of coffee choices. While it may not be the most budget-friendly spot in the city, the experience it offers is truly one-of-a-kind and shouldn’t be missed.
The Cafe Apartments are open from 08:00 to 21:00, giving you ample time to savour the delights within.
3. Ben Thanh Market
This market is a must-visit in Ho Chi Minh City, offering a wide range of souvenirs, clothing, coffee, and more. Located in District 1, it should definitely be on your list of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Prepare yourself for an immersive shopping experience within this expansive market.
Don’t hesitate to negotiate with the sellers to secure the best deals. If you find something too expensive, feel free to walk away. Chances are, you’ll come across another vendor selling the same item at a more affordable price.
Another fantastic aspect of this market is its proximity to an incredible food market (see the next point).
Ben Thanh Market is open from 07:00 to 20:00, giving you ample time to explore and indulge in its offerings.
4. Ben Thanh Street Food Market (Permanently Closed)
This food market is conveniently located just a 2-minute walk from Ben Thanh Market, making it the food counterpart to its neighbouring market.
Inside this bustling market, you’ll find numerous food stalls offering a wide array of dishes from both Vietnam and abroad. It’s a culinary paradise packed with a diverse range of flavours.
If you’re eager to explore and try new dishes during your time in the city, this market is the perfect place to indulge your taste buds and discover exciting flavours.
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5. Saigon Skydeck
This unique building is situated in District 1, just a short 10-minute walk away from Ben Thanh Market. Not only is it visually stunning from the outside, but it also offers an incredible view deck.
For a fee of 200,000 Dong, you can purchase tickets to access the Skydeck on the 49th floor. From there, you can enjoy a breathtaking 360° view. It’s a hidden gem that many people often overlook or are unaware of.
Additionally, there is a cafe, restaurant, and bar located on floors 50 to 52. While entrance to these establishments is free, please note that placing an order is required.
The Saigon Skydeck welcomes visitors from 12:00 to 20:00 daily, providing ample time to enjoy its offerings and soak in the panoramic vistas.
6. Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
If you’re searching for a stunning cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, your search ends here. This cathedral, opened in April 1880, takes inspiration from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in France.
An iconic landmark in the city, the cathedral’s architecture is truly spectacular. Recent renovations have been carried out to ensure it remains in pristine condition. While you’re here, make sure to take a moment to cross the road and visit the Saigon Central Post Office. It’s a worthwhile addition to your itinerary.
The cathedral is open every day from 06:00 to 20:00, allowing ample time for you to admire its beauty and soak up the atmosphere.
7. Saigon Central Post Office
This is another iconic attraction in Ho Chi Minh City. Construction of this post office began in 1886 and was finished in 1891, showcasing a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and French colonial architectural styles.
Stepping inside this building feels like entering an old European train station. The architecture is truly stunning and captivating.
It’s remarkable that the building is still used as a functioning post office today. It presents a perfect opportunity to send a postcard back home. Visiting hours are from 07:30 to 17:00, Monday to Saturday, allowing ample time to explore and appreciate its historical charm.
8. Bui Vien/ Phạm Ngũ Lão street (Backpackers street)
If you’re seeking a vibrant nightlife experience, Backpackers Street is the place to be. This lively street boasts numerous restaurants, bars, and small shops.
During the daytime, the street is relatively calm, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely lunch. The restaurants here often offer similar menus and prices.
However, when night falls, the street truly comes alive. It transforms into a bustling hub where you can find a wide array of food and beverages while mingling with fellow travellers and locals. It’s an excellent place to immerse yourself in the energy of the city and meet new people.
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9. Independence Palace
The Independence Palace is a captivating historical site that seems frozen in the 1970s. It holds great significance as it was here that a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the front gate on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War.
Outside the palace, you’ll find the original two tanks used on that momentous day, serving as a reminder of the event. Entry to the palace costs 40,000 dong, and guided tours are available to provide deeper insights into its history. The palace is open from 08:00 to 15:30.
While there are numerous museums in the city worth exploring, the Independence Palace stands out as a top choice for us. Additionally, you can also visit other notable attractions such as the Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, and the Fine Arts Museum. Vietnam is a country steeped in history, and Ho Chi Minh City serves as a prime destination to delve into its incredible past.
10. Do a cooking class
Vietnamese cuisine is truly extraordinary and unlike anything we’ve tasted before. The flavours of most dishes in Vietnam are simply delicious. Embarking on a cooking class to learn their techniques is a remarkable and unforgettable experience.
In the city, you’ll find numerous cooking classes to choose from. Select a class that focuses on the dishes you enjoy and want to learn how to cook. A helpful tip is to look for classes with positive reviews. Additionally, you can ask the receptionist at your hotel for recommendations.
To book a cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City, click here.
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Is Ho Chi Minh City worth visiting?
Yes, Ho Chi Minh City is definitely worth a visit, especially if you enjoy exploring cities. It’s a fantastic place to wander around, with surprises and activities waiting at every turn.
For history enthusiasts, Ho Chi Minh City is an ideal destination, as it offers a wealth of opportunities to delve into Vietnam’s rich history. The city is home to some of the finest museums in the country, providing fascinating insights.
Even if museums aren’t your cup of tea, fret not! Ho Chi Minh City offers a plethora of other attractions. You can indulge in amazing dining experiences at its outstanding restaurants, relax at cozy cafes, and immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife scene. There’s truly something for everyone in this bustling city.
What is Ho Chi Minh City known for?
Ho Chi Minh City is renowned for several notable aspects. Firstly, it holds the distinction of being the largest city in Vietnam and serves as the country’s bustling business and financial centre.
The city’s historical significance is another captivating feature, spanning approximately 200 years. This rich history is showcased through numerous museums and striking old buildings boasting colonial architecture, remnants of the past French rule.
Do Vietnamese prefer Saigon or Ho Chi Minh?
In general, Vietnamese locals tend to refer to the city as Saigon. There are a few reasons behind this preference. Firstly, Saigon is a shorter and more convenient term to use. For some residents, there may also be political significance attached to the name.
However, it’s worth noting that both “Ho Chi Minh City” and “Saigon” are commonly used and can be used interchangeably without causing offence.
Is Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi better?
These two cities offer starkly contrasting experiences.
Hanoi exudes tradition, while Ho Chi Minh City embraces a more Western influence. Each city provides a plethora of activities and attractions to explore.
Hanoi is renowned for its traditional cuisine, with most attractions conveniently located within the town and easily accessible on foot. On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh City offers a mix of traditional and modern Vietnamese cuisine, as well as a variety of Western food options. While attractions may be spread out, transportation between them is generally hassle-free.
Ho Chi Minh City is dominated by skyscrapers, rooftop bars, and restaurants, creating a vibrant urban atmosphere. Generally, Hanoi is considered more budget-friendly and popular among backpackers. However, both cities are worth visiting.
If you have to choose between the two, take into account your preferences and desired activities. Consider which city aligns more with your interests and priorities.