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30 Essentials things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)

Ho Chi Minh City is totally a city of contrasts. It is the largest and most inhabited city in Vietnam, and you will also appreciate that it is the most modern. Although it has the essence of Vietnam in every street.

The city is very big and the best way to get around it is to take a taxi. Taxis are cheap, but be sure to ask first if the taxi is metered and at what price. (It implies that you know what you are talking about and that they cannot deceive you). Vietnam is usually a very safe country and where "scams" are not common, but there are always smart people everywhere. Traffic in Ho Chi Minh is chaotic, similar to Hanoi. So I do not recommend going by motorcycle.

In addition to visiting the city of Ho Chi Minh, I recommend that you reserve a few days to see the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi tunnels. In this post I talk about the 30 essential things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh, I add tips to visit nearby places that are worth knowing and some tips on where to stay in Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minn City is also known by its old name: Saigon. In 1976 its name was changed after the reunification of the country to honor its leader, who had already died in 1969 without ever seeing the country united. Many local people, especially the older ones, continue to call the city Saigon, although on an official level this name is no longer valid.


1. Visit the Reunification Palace

Visiting the Reunification Palace is an essential thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a huge Palace that occupies more than 12 hectares of land.

It was built during the French occupation in the mid-19th century. During the war, two dissident South Vietnamese pilots bombed and destroyed the palace.

But later, Diem (President of South Vietnam) ordered to build it again to be able to continue living in it. Diem was assassinated in 1963 and his successor, Van Thieu, also used it as a residence.

In 1975, a North Vietnamese Army tank smashed through the palace gate, ending the Vietnam War. A few months later, the reunification of the country was negotiated there.

There are two types of entrance to the Reunification Palace:

Visit its gardens and see the palace from the outside. Outside the tanks that put an end to the war are exposed. It costs 30,000 VND (€1)

Enter the palace and see the rooms full of history and some exhibitions. It costs 60,000 VND (€2)

I recommend you visit the Palace inside and then walk through the gardens.

Do not imagine a "European" style palace since despite having French influence, it has a lot of Asian communist architectural influence.

2. Do not miss the museum of the remains of the war

This museum is one of the hardest visits to do in Vietnam, but I think it is important to learn more about the history that marked a country. As there is a lot to explain about the museum, you have a specific post where I explain how the museum is divided, what to see in each gallery and a bit of history and reflection.

3. Send a postcard from Saigon Central Post Office A must!

One of the most curious things to do in Ho Chi Minh is to send yourself a postcard. You can buy a postcard there, buy a Vietnamese stamp and send it home. REACH! And it's a nice memory.

The post office is located right next to the Ho Chi Minh Cathedral, and is one of the most beautiful post offices in Asia. It has a French appearance. Despite the years, it continues to fulfill its original function. It was built as a post office and still is.

4. Take a free tour of Ho Chi Minh

If you want to know more about the history of the city and get to know the most emblematic places, you have the possibility of taking a free tour and also in Spanish. With this free tour you will get to know the Trần Hưng Đạ statue, the Ho Chi Minh City Hall, you will take a walk along the river, you will also see the Reunification Palace from the outside, the Bách Tùng Diệp Park, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the post office, the opera house and the rooftop where Saigon's last evacuation helicopter left. Remember to give the guide a tip at the end of the tour, which is sure to be deserved.

5. See the heights from the Saigon Skydeck

The second tallest building in the city has an incredible viewpoint. You will be able to see Ho Chi Minh City from a height of 178 meters. The viewpoint is located on the 52nd floor and the entrance fee is 200,000 VND (€7.50).

On floors 58-60 there is the Heineken museum. It tells the story of the brand and how they make the beer. At the end of the tour you can try two glasses of beer. Admission costs 250,000 VND (€9.50).

6. Visit the Saigon Cathedral, one of the most essential buildings to see in Ho Chi Minh

Saigon Cathedral is one of the most important buildings in the city. It was built during the French colonization. Between the years 1863 and 1880. In 2019, on my last trip to Vietnam, they were completely reforming the sides, maintaining their original style.

The bricks were imported from Marseille, something that caught the attention of the population, that at that time there was no other similar building in the city.

7. Find the Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh City Hall is an example of French colonial architecture. The building is beautiful. Right in front there is a walkway with side planters and huge trees that provide shade. The atmosphere in this street is calm, nothing to do with two streets further back, where chaos reigns in the street. .

8. Ho Chi Minh Opera House

The Ho Chi Minh Opera House is another majestic construction from the French colonial era. It was completed in 1897, and was later completely restored in 1995. At the opera, all kinds of shows are held; plays, traditional shows, operas, concerts...

9. Visit Ben Thanh Market

The Ben Thanh market building is one of the most beautiful and unique in the city. It is located in the heart of the city and you can find a lot of stalls selling clothes, fakes of all kinds, jewellery, souvenirs, handicrafts, fabrics, food... Get ready to haggle. They usually multiply the prices by 4 or 5. That is, if they start asking you for 10 euros, you can get it for 2 or 3 euros. To get the best price, interesting for something, haggle, if you don't reach an agreement, act disinterested and take a few steps forward... they come back for you so that you pay them what you offered at first. It works almost every time.

10. Visit the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the most beautiful buildings in Ho Chi Minh City

This church is one of the most beautiful in the world. And yes, it may have something to do with it being pink and that color is my favorite. But seriously, it's beautiful. It stands out for being pink and having white details. It is the second largest church in the city and has a 60 meter high tower. It was ordered to be built by the French colonial government in 1876.

11. Enjoy the chaos and traffic of the city

One of the things you hate or love about the countries of Southeast Asia is the chaos that reigns in the city, where thousands of motorcycles come and go in a chaotic and disorderly way. I love it. Although it is something that you must take into account, especially when going through a "zebra crossing" or crossing a street. Motorcycles never stop, slow down, dodge you... but if you wait for them to stop, you will never cross the street. Cross decisively, calmly, without running, but without standing still.

12. The Jade Emperor Pagoda

The Jade Emperor Pagoda or Dien Ngoc Hoang is one of the main Chinese places of worship in Ho chi Minh. It is a great example of Chinese architecture erected by the Cantonese community and all of it is a true work of art.

Admission is free, donations are accepted.

13. Stroll down La Nguyen Hue Walking Street

This walk extends from the Saigon River to the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. It is a pedestrian promenade, where you will find the statue of Ho Chi Minh, shops, garden areas... It is a good opportunity to walk quietly and enjoy the good atmosphere of the area.

14. Eat and have a beer around Pham Ngu Lao

Once night falls and dinner time approaches, head to the Pham Ngu Lao area. You will be able to drink a fresh beer, eat some traditional Vietnamese dish and enjoy the atmosphere, teething at those miniature tables and stools outside the food stalls. And all that, for a few euros.

15. Visit the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, the Revolution Museum

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Vietnam War and the revolution, this museum tells the story in an entertaining way. This colonial-style museum is located near the cathedral and the post office.

It was in this building that the president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem (who lost the war against the North), spent his last hours before trying to escape through an underground tunnel that led to a church in Chinatown and where He was captured and killed in 1963.

16. Shop for clothes in Saigon Square 1

At Saigon Square 1 you can buy imitation clothing and accessories from the most popular and luxurious brands. The atmosphere is much more relaxed, there is much more clothing on offer and the quality is quite good. It is somewhat more expensive than Ben Thanh market, but the quality is better. I bought 10 pairs of converse of all colors, with label, box all included, for 10 euros each pair. You have many options and even if you don't want to buy anything, it's worth walking around and enjoying the atmosphere.

17. Eat something in the popular “The café apartment”

This cafe is located in a very original building. Located at 42 Nguyen Hue Street (walking Street). It is a 9-story building that in ancient times housed barracks. Today it has been refurbished in an original way and is full of restaurants, cafes and shops. It has a very hipster air, with a very good atmosphere and at a very good price.

18. Vinh Nghienm Pagoda

This pagoda that was built following the traditional Vietnamese architecture. It is an imposing and beautiful structure, which for many is the cultural symbol of Buddhism in Ho Chi Minh City. The temple is located next to the Cau Cong Ly bridge, its entrance is free.

19. Giac Lam Pagoda

This is the farthest pagoda from the center, but if you have time I recommend you go there. It is located in a fairly large enclosure with different buildings. It was built in the year 1744, and it is a Buddhist pagoda. The pagoda and the compound itself is walled. In the enclosure, in addition to a temple, there is a beautiful garden and several statues.

20. Stroll through Dong Khoi

In Ho Chi Minh City you will also find an area with luxury shops, and this is Dong Khoi Avenue. In addition, the avenue is beautiful because it is full of colonial buildings that mix with the most modern skyscrapers. Many of the 5-star hotels in the city are located on this avenue or in its surroundings.

During the time of French rule the street was called Rue Catinat. Later, during the Vietnam War, it was renamed Tu Do (freedom street). When the communists took control of Ho Chi Minh City they renamed it again, calling it Dong Khoi meaning "total revolution".

21. Stroll through Tao Dan Park

This beautiful park has many landscaped areas, with huge trees, with statues, Buddhist temples, Taoist temples... You will even find a temple very similar to the characteristic buildings of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. It is a beautiful walk that you cannot miss.

22. Find the only Hindu temple in Ho Chi Minh

This temple is a sample of the religious diversity in Vietnam. It is the only Hindu temple in the city and it is beautiful. Traders from India in the 19th century built this temple in honor of Mariamman, the goddess of rain. It stands out for its tower that reaches 12 meters in height. It is located near the Ben Thanh market and admission is free.

23. Dam Sen Cultural Park

If you feel like a bit of fun without visiting more places, this amusement park is a good opportunity. It is located in the center of Ho Chi Minh and has a water amusement area, a roller coaster and various attractions. In addition, the entire park is decorated with temples, a beautiful length. If you have time and can add one more day to your trip, do not miss it.

24. Don't miss the Binh Tay local market

I love markets and I try to visit almost all of them. In this case, the Binh Tay market is one of the most interesting markets to see in Ho Chi Minh. It is not a market "for tourists" where you can buy counterfeits... but rather a market for locals, with fresh food stalls, all kinds of fruit, fish, meat, handicrafts... It is located in Chinatown.

25. Stroll around Turtle Lake

In the center of the city you will find a park called Turtle Lake. In it, in addition to garden areas and walks, you will find a lake with a curious sculpture that has the effect of a waterfall.

26. Enjoy art at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts

This museum is a recommended stop to do in Ho Chi Minh City to learn about Vietnamese art. There are many works by national artists. Admission costs 20,000 VND (€0.60).

27. Enjoy a Saigon River Boat Ride at Sunset

A recommended activity to do in Ho Chi Minh is a boat ride on the Saigon River. I recommend you at sunset, since during the day the heat and humidity is brutal.

You will have beautiful views of the city dyed in warm colors.

28. Visit the Cu Chi tunnels, an essential thing to do in Ho Chi Minh

On the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City there is a large system of tunnels that were key to destroying US troops during the Vietnam War. The Cu Chi tunnels are over 200 kilometers long and were the base of operations for the Viet Cong guerrillas. There they hid, stored weapons and food, cooked and treated the wounded. It is something curious and impressive to see how tiny the entrances were and how narrow the tunnels are.

In the post visiting the Cu Chi tunnels I explain what to see in the entire enclosure, what they were used for, curiosities...

Excursions to visit the Cu Chi tunnels:

29. Take an excursion to the Mekong Delta

You cannot leave Vietnam without visiting the Mekong Delta. You have many options to get to know the Delta, although I recommend that you do it with an organized excursion. Here I talk about how to visit the Mekong Delta. In our case, we visited the Vinh Tràng Pagoda and the Mekong Delta on the same day, doing a lot of activities such as a bike ride, a boat ride…

Excursions to visit the Mekong Delta:

30. Visit the floating market and Tan Phong Island

If you have the opportunity to add more activities to your trip, visiting the island of Tan Phong and the floating market is a good opportunity to learn how the locals of this region live. In addition, it is a less popular activity and with fewer tourists. On this tour you visit the Cai Be floating market, where they literally live and trade on the water.

Tan Phong Island is a rural island where you can take a bike ride through the town, kayak through the Mekong... as well as eat a traditional Vietnamese dish.



I hope you enjoy your trip to Vietnam very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

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A hug and see you soon!


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