Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s largest city, is a vibrant mix of old and new. With well-preserved colonial structures and collections of war relics as well as sleek skyscrapers and humongous shopping malls within a bustling chaotic metropolis – this is a city you don’t want to skip.
Here are 10 things you need to see & do during your visit to the lively Ho Chi Minh City.
1. Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market, constructed by the French in the 1880s, is located in the centre of Vietnam’s largest Chinatown district. Also known as Cholon Chinatown Market, Binh Tay Market is found in a two-storey building along Thap Moui Street. Travellers can find little souvenirs and trinkets here, however it is best known for experiencing the local lifestyle and sampling unique Vietnamese-Chinese delicacies.
2. Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a must visit when travelling to Vietnam. These immense interconnecting network of tunnels served as a hiding place, living quarters and barracks for Vietnamese soldiers and their families during the war.
Many travellers that we ran into told us to skip the Cu Chi Tunnels, but we are so glad we didn’t listen to them. We found our visit to be super interesting, it was as if we were able to touch and experience history first hand.
3. Mekong River Delta
Commonly referred to as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, this 39,000 square kilometre labyrinth of waterways is definitely worth a visit. About four hours drive from the city, you will be greeted by markets, villages and schools floating upon the river. The best way to experience the delta is on a tour, which range from one to five days depending on how much time you have available.
4. Ho Chi Minh City Museum
If you want to learn more about Vietnamese history than this is the museum for you. The Historical Museum house a collection of artefacts covering the last 2,000 years, including items belonging to ancient cultures. The collections run right up to artefacts from 1945. We recommend you hire a guide as labelling is a little poor and you will gain a better understanding of each displays significance.
5. Thien Hau Temple
The Cholon neighborhood, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, is scattered with traditional Chinese-style pagodas and temples, including one of the neighborhood’s most popular places of worship, the Thien Hau Temple. This breathtaking 19th-century temple is dedicated to the goddess Thien Hau, and attracts a mix of worshippers and visitors on a daily basis.
6. Pham Ngu Lao Street
Known as the backpacker district or the budget travel district, Pham Ngu Lao is a convenient place in Saigon to find cheap accommodation, food and nightlife. Because of this many budget travelers spend most of their time in Pham Ngu Lao. With nearly everything that a traveller needs and markets and attractions just a walking distance away, Pham Ngu Lao is the perfect base for exploring the heart of Saigon.
7. Drink a lot of coffee
Since being introduced to Vietnam by the French during the 19th century, coffee has become a national obsession, with the country having some of the best coffee in the world. As the city can get pretty hot, iced coffee is the most popular (locally known as ca phe sua da) served with sweet condensed milk poured over ice – trust us, it is super delicious!
8. Eat all the street food
Vietnam is known for being one of the world’s tastiest street food nations. With so many local dishes and delicacies to try we highly recommend spending one of your first days in Ho Chi Minh City going on a food tour. This way you can have a guide that will tell you where and what you should eat so you know where to go and what to order during the rest of your time here.
9. Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame
The beautiful, red-brick Notre Dame Cathedral has been a very popular landmark since the 1880s. This building is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. At 60 metres in height, the cathedral’s distinctive neo-Romanesque features include the all-red brick façade, stained glass windows, two bell towers containing six bronze bells that still ring to this day, and a peaceful garden setting in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City District 1.
10. War Remnants Museum
Not for the faint hearted, the War Remnants Museum documents the the brutality of the Vietnam War and is one of the most visited museums in the country, attracting more than half a million visitors a year. Out the front you will find retired military vehicles such as helicopters, attack bombers and even an M48 Patton tank , inside, a saddening selection of photographic exhibits tell the story.
Now on to you – what would you add to this list?