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Best Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

THINGS TO DO IN HO CHI MINH 

Ho Chi Minh City is an overwhelming place – and not just because of the traffic. There’s so much do here, whether you’re a lover of history, art, cuisine, culture or nightlife. With so many great options, many travelers worry they’ll leave something out. But don’t fret, here’s what you should do.

1. Explore Ben Thanh Market

First opened in 1912 and located in a prime location in the city center, Ben Thanh Market has emerged as one of the leading marketplaces with lots of goods trading from different regions of Vietnam. It also offers visitors a vast selection of branded items, knockoff brands, foods, and a glimpse into the local trades.

 

In many cases, the clock tower at the south gate of this market is considered an unofficial symbol of Saigon. Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is a great place to buy local handicrafts, Vietnamese art, ornaments, try the Vietnamese foods and a refreshing coconut, and other souvenirs.

 

Tips and note:
– In a crowded place, keep your eyes on your valuables at all times and avoid keeping things in your back pockets
Location: Intersections of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao, and Le Lai Street, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Opening time: 6 AM – 6 PM

 

  • Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Hours: 8 AM – 4 PM
  • Pricing: Free

2. Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral

Just like the Saint Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is another architecture masterpiece left by the French colonists. Built in 1880, the Cathedral remains one of the few strongholds of Catholicism in a country that is deeply influenced by Buddhism.

 

The name of the building was inspired after the erection of the statue “Peaceful Notre Dame” in 1959, a statue of Virgin Mary standing in front of the Cathedral. Many believed that they saw the statue shredding tears in October 2005.

 

Nowadays, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral has become one iconic tourist site in Ho Chi Minh City. All visitors are free to attend the official mass at 9:30 AM on Sunday.

 

  • Address: Ben Nghe, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Open hours: 8 am – 11 am, 3 pm – 6 pm on weekdays

 

Official mass on Sunday at 9:30 am
Admission: None

3. Walk Around Nguyen Hue Street

One of the main Saigon attractions you should not miss is the Nguyen Hue Walking Street. After opening on Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, it has become an ideal attraction not only for Saigonese but also for tourists far and near.

 

Nguyen Hue walking street is a desired place for hosting significant events of the city, such as parades, concerts, street festivals, and the annual flower displays on the Tet holiday. Besides, this walking street is a social gathering place for the young generation on the weekend and evening. When you visit Nguyen Hue, one of the free things to do is join in the water fountain fun with the local kids trying to get some cooling from the tropical heat. Occasionally, there is live acoustic music and dance entertainment put on by street performers. At night, all of the lights light up making Saigon very lively and busy.

 

Tips and notes:

  • Come on the evening weekends if you want to watch water music performances
  • Be aware of your belongings in crowded areas

Location: Nguyen Hue Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening time: 5 AM – 12 AM

 

Our advice is that you should book a walking tour with local guide to explore the best of Saigon centre.

4. Join in the Nightlife Scenes at Bui Vien Walking Street

Bui Vien Walking Street, as known as “Pho Tay,” is a street located in the backpacker’s area of Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, Cong Quynh, and Do Quang Dau streets in District 1, Ho Chi Minh city.

 

From July 2017, the city officially turned this place into a walking street for travelers to safely walk around and join in the liveliness of the city scenes full of bars, restaurants, mini marts, street food vendors, and cheap beers. Some places open late until past midnight. Join in the fun and take a stroll with other locals and travelers at Bui Vien’s exciting night scene in the evening.

 

Tips and notes:

  • The night scenes start from 7 PM, and it’s much more crowded on the weekends and holidays
  • Be mindful of your belongings

Location: Bui Vien Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Vehicles are prohibited from 7 PM – 2 AM (Saturday and Sunday only)

5. Visit Thien Hau Pagoda

Thien Hau Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City is the most sacred worshiping place of Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea, and an important character in the religious worship of Vietnamese and Chinese people. The pagoda was built back in the 19th century with every Asian architecture style.

 

Looking at Thien Hau Pagoda’s façade, it seems to bring you back in time with a kind of haunting feeling. The most beautiful feature of the pagoda to behold must be the roof section on which an incredible sculpture reliefs were carved on.

 

But as soon as you walk inside, the beauties of intricate details and sculptures will be something to feast your eyes on. The many giant coils of incense hanging in front of Thien Hau’s altar makes the place even more photogenic.

 

  • Address: 710 Nguyen Trai, Ward 11, Dist. 5, Ho Chi Minh
  • Opening hours: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm daily
  • Admission: none

6. Get Closer to Nature in Tao Dan Park

There are so many free things to do in Saigon, and if you are the person who looks for fresh atmosphere, Tao Dan Park is the perfect place for you. Tao Dan Park has an abundant urban green space that covers 10 hectares of Saigon, and it is the home of over 1,000 prominent trees. Situated in the center of the city, this refreshing park provides much oxygen to the people in a congested city.

If you come to this park in the early morning or late afternoon, you can see more of the local lifestyle with people doing exercise, walking, and practicing yoga or tai chi together. Not to mention that there is a bird singing contest in the early morning, where locals bring their pet birds in cages to meet up and enjoy a cup of coffee; this is a fascinating part of Vietnamese culture.

In the park, there is a replica of Nha Trang’s Cham Tower and the Hung King Temple built to honor his contribution to developing the country in the past.

 

Tips and notes:

  • You should not go to Tao Dan Park at late night
  • Sit on the bench in the early morning, have some coffee and take a deep breath to relax your body and mind, and you will have a great starting day

Location: 55C Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening time: 5 AM – 8 PM

7. Stroll Through the Book Street

If you are a book-lover and you like strolling through bookshops on a short street, we recommend you to visit one of the new free attractions in Saigon at Nguyen Van Binh Book Street. They sell Vietnamese and foreign language books, new and second hand, though they don’t come with a vast selection.

 

Located on the opposite of the Notre Dame Cathedral and adjacent to the Central Post Office, the Book Street now has over 20 shops selling lots of domestic and international books with different genres ranging from songbooks to classic Vietnamese. On this fancy new pedestrian book street, locals sometimes host live music performances and authors come and talk about their books.

 

Fancy stopping by a reading station, browsing through your favorite books, and enjoying a cup of coffee? Take part of these free things to do in Saigon.

 

Tips and notes:

  • Choose a shaded place in the center where you can enjoy some quietness, away from the traffic
  • Be aware of pickpockets

Location: Nguyen Van Binh Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening time: 8 AM – 8 PM

8. Touch the sky

Ho Chi Minh City rooftop bar’s are a must while you are in the city.

Actually, they are famous.

Enjoy the views from one of the Skybars the city has to offer with a drink on your hand.

  • Chill: this was our favorite, as you can still see the traffic from the rooftop bar. We recommend going for sunset and see how the colors in the city change. After 12, it turns to a dancing club.
  • Glow: offering drinks in in a beach club atmosphere, this Skybar attracts well-dressed expats and locals looking to dance.
  • EON Heli Bar: Located in the Bixteco Financial Tower, it is the highest Skybar in Ho Chi Minh city.
  • The View Rooftop bar: located in the backpacker’s street, Bui Vien Street. This rooftop bar is located in the 9th floor of Duc Vuong Hotel. It is known for being one of the cheapest skybar in the city.

9. Watch an Opera Show at The Opera House

The Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City was built in 1897 by the French colonists, beautifully preserved until this day. Just like Hanoi Opera House, Saigon’s Opera House is a top venue to listen to classical and opera music.

 

Visitors come to the Opera House have the chance to enjoy photographing since its architecture boasts as the best of European style. To make the most of Opera House, buying a ticket for a performance is the best way to do so. We recommend you A O Show, a blend of Cirque du Soleil and traditional Vietnamese elements. See a Opera Show Review here

 

  • Address: 7 Cong Truong Lam Son, Ben Nghe
  • Tickets: Prices range from 504,000 VND – 1,176,000 VND for show tickets

You can get the discount online ticket here at Klook

10. Saigon Food Tour

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City is famous for the abundant, affordable and diverse street foods. Saigon is indeed a city for food lovers all over the world. A food tour has become a must-do thing when in Ho Chi Minh City. See more about the tour with reviews here.

Here are some of the best spots to check out:

 

Bun Mam (Noodle Soup with Fermented Fish Sauce Broth)
Bun Mam can be challenging because of its strong smell. It’s a noodle soup with fermented fish broth, seafood and pork belly. It sounds smelly but once tasted it, you might be addicted to its thick rice noodles and savory fish and meat.

  • Bun Mam Dac San: 22 Phan Boi Chau, Dist. 1
  • Bun Mam 444: 369 Le Quang Dinh Str., Binh Thanh Dist.

 

Banh Beo (Water Fern Cake)
A very familiar street food dish among Vietnamese, as well as Saigonese. You dip the small round rice-flour cakes, topped with pork rinds and toasted shrimp powder, into a dipping bowl of fish sauce. One serving often comes with 8-10 cakes.

Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Rolls)
Banh Cuon is a favorite breakfast dish for Vietnamese people – it’s cheap, simple yet delicious. The thin steamed rice papers are rolled with or without ground pork and wood ear mushrooms, topped with fried onions. Dip one roll into a bowl of fish sauce, you’ll know why this dish is loved widely by Vietnamese people.

  • Banh Cuon Hai Nam: 11A Cao Thang, HCMC
  • Banh Cuon Tay Ho 1: 127 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, District 1

Banh Trang Tron
Banh Trang Tron was invented by Southerners, the most popular street snack in Ho Chi Minh city. You can easily find the stalls selling this dish on almost every corner of the city. The dish is composed of rice paper threats, mixed with all kinds of toppings and spices. The taste is sour and lightly spicy which is so addicted and makes you crave it for more.

Com Tam (Broken Rice)

Common dish of not only Ho Chi Minh City but all the South Vietnam. People can eat Com Tam (Broken Rice) for all meals. The dish is simple yet can make you full for half of the day, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. The name came from the fact that after the drying and milling process, the farmer used the leftover grains which are usually broken but cheaper than whole grain.

  • Com Tam Cali: 32 Nguyen Trai Street, Dist. 1
  • Com Tam Moc: 85 Ly Tu Trong, Ben Thanh Ward, Dist. 1

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