The city of Saigon used to be the capital of South Vietnam, nowadays, Ho Chi Minh City can be called the cultural and youth center of the country. It doesn't have such old districts and buildings as in Hanoi, but life is in full swing. Ho Chi Minh City will be of interest to fans of trendy clubs and hipster cafes, fans of skyscrapers and sky-bars. However, in terms of attractions, there is also something to see here, Travellizy Team can assure you.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Notre Dame Cathedral is an excellent example of French colonial architecture in the center of Ho Chi Minh City. It is no less beautiful inside than outside, and tourists and locals love taking pictures against it. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but you must be decently dressed. Notre Dame is also a very convenient starting point for exploring the city center.
To the right of the cathedral, you can see is the central post office, designed by the project of Eiffel himself. Wedding photoshoots are often arranged nearby or students are photographed for their graduation album, and inside, you will find not only a huge portrait of Uncle Ho, as Ho Chi Minh is called here, but also a huge number of magnets, postcards, painted plates and other souvenirs for tourists.
Near the post office, there is a small pedestrian street, which is also a book fair. If you want to see what Vietnam reads, look through the local editions of Harry Potter or Japanese manga, sit in a book cafe, then you should definitely come here. Live music is often played at the fair and various festivals are held here.
Take a walk from the cathedral and the post office a couple of blocks away to the southeast, and you will find yourself in another favorite place for guests and residents of the city, on Ho Chi Minh Square.
Heart of Ho Chi Minh City - Ho Chi Minh Square
The square begins with the city council building built in the colonial style and continues to the embankment of the Saigon River, after which the city was named. It’s nice just to walk here, you can sit on a bench and watch the entertaining youth, you can take a selfie against the backdrop of the Ho Chi Minh monument, or you can eat as much as you want.
The buildings around the square are cafes and restaurants for every taste and budget, and one of them is even one of the main attractions for gastro-tourists. This is a house, all floors of which are reserved for coffee houses, cafes, pizzerias and sushi bars. You can easily recognize it; it stands out from the rest of the buildings in the square.
On weekends and holidays, Ho Chi Minh Square turns into a venue for festivals and concerts, where local and foreign groups play as well as cosplay shows and competitions are held.
Cultural program in Saigon Opera
If you prefer opera arias to street concerts and festival madness, then you should definitely visit the city opera. It is located on a neighboring street with Ho Chi Minh Square and is built in the same European style as many buildings in the center of Saigon.
Performances, ballets and concerts are given at the opera every evening, often foreign stars and groups perform.
Aerial view from Bitexco Tower
The observation deck of the Bitexco Financial Tower offers a gorgeous view of the center of Ho Chi Minh City. Of course, there is a restaurant with a bar, so you can’t just admire the city, but also have a drink or dinner. A ticket can be bought on the ground floor of the tower or via the Internet, it costs 8.5 euros.
Until 2018, the Bitexco Tower was the tallest building in the city, but then the construction of the Landmark 81 skyscraper was completed, and the sparks fell on it, as well as the title of the 10th tallest building in Asia. A sparkling skyscraper stands in the middle of a brand new elite area, where you can easily imagine yourself somewhere in the business center of New York or Dubai. Of course, it also has a restaurant on one of the upper floors and a viewing platform.
Vietnamese Shopping in Ben Thanh Market
If you want to buy souvenirs at low prices, purchase a T-shirt with the inscription "Good morning, Vietnam" or a traditional hat, then you should go to Ben Thanh Market. There are no designer clothes here, but it offers a unique atmosphere of the Vietnamese bazaar, and with skillful bargaining, you can make shopping very economically. There are several popular cafes in the vicinity of the market, including the famous Bep Me In.
There is a street food market near Ben Thanh Market, but this is more like an attraction for tourists, than real Vietnamese street food. Everything is several times overpriced here, so if you want to really get involved in the richest culture of street food, it is better to take a ban from a lady in a street cart, and not at the market.
Fans of luxury shopping centers will also find something to do in the Ben Thanh area, several fashionable malls rise near the market. And a 5-minute walk is Backpackers Street, full of backpackers with a bunch of cheap hostels, bars and cafes for young people and a very active nightlife.
Partisan Past in Cu Chi Tunnels
After a protracted guerrilla war in Vietnam, there were many places that recall the difficult and heroic past of the people. One of them is located several tens of kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City.
Cu Chi Tunnels is a large and very interesting open-air museum. You can watch here a film about the partisans, guides will explain, how partisans dug their tunnels, and demonstrate the work of terrible homemade traps. If you wish, you can shoot from real weapons at the shooting range and even crawl a hundred meters along the same underground passages, and you will be fed modest food, which the rebels ate, at the end of the tour.
You can get to the Cu Chi Tunnels with an organized tour, on a suburban bus or rented transport.
Museums and theaters
Ho Chi Minh City will be very interesting to those who are interested in the recent history of Vietnam, in particular the history of the Vietnam War. True, a number of such places are not for the faint of heart.
The War Remnants Museum was formerly called the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression, but then the name was changed to the neutral one. Inside, you can see not only weapons, shells and military equipment, but also photos of Vietnamese victims of chemicals used in the war, including the infamous Agent Orange.
The Palace of Independence is a less gloomy, but very interesting museum. It was here that a document was signed on the unification of the northern and southern parts of the country, before that the government was sitting here, and nowadays, all the rooms of the Palace are open for tourists. You can see not only the halls for receiving ambassadors or the First Lady’s office, but also go down to the basement, see military maps, radio equipment used to transfer commands to the troops, and much more. Entrance to the Palace costs only 1 euro.
Golden Dragon, a theater on the water, invites guests to get acquainted with the traditional Vietnamese puppet show. Scenes cannot boast of a complex plot, and dolls look the same as centuries ago, but this gives the performance a special charm and helps to understand the culture of the country better.
Temples and pagodas
There are not so many religious attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, the former government of South Vietnam did not really like the ministers of religion, but you can find a couple of interesting places.
Vin Ngyem, the largest pagoda of the city, was built in the Japanese style. Connoisseurs of Chinese traditional temple architecture should visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Adherents of Buddhism will like the Tien Hau Temple, and the Tang Dinh Church will surprise even experienced travelers with its bright pink color.
Ho Chi Minh City is a large but very convenient city for life and tourism with a well-designed infrastructure. You can navigate it on city buses, the routes and timetables of which can be viewed in the Moovit application. If you do not want to get attached to the bus schedule, you can rent a moped, the most popular mode of transport in Vietnam. But keep in mind that traffic in Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City is not for beginners.
There are a lot of coffee houses in Ho Chi Minh City, but you will not find food in them. Coffee houses are for coffee, cafes are for food. And do not miss the chance to try local street food such as rich pho soup, crispy baguettes stuffed with ban mi and Vietnamese famous spring rolls from rice paper.
Many cafes in Saigon are located in the entrances of residential buildings. Sometimes you need to climb a couple of floors, walk past ordinary apartments, nod to the locals, who often leave the doors open. Do not be embarrassed, these are just the features of local establishments.
If you want to stretch your legs and not dodge the flow of mopeds, then go to the embankment of the Saigon River. You can walk along it for hours, and along the way, you can admire the numerous small shrines or take away coffee from local coffee shops.
Ho Chi Minh City is a city where you do not want to run from a sight to a sight, but just live. Drink the strongest local coffee, open a new cafe for yourself every day and nod warmly to the bronze Ho Chi Minh passing through the square of the same name.