What to Visit in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) ?

See this interactive Map, with all the places mentioned on this page :

In this page :

The two “Must See” museums

1. Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)

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During the Vietnam war, It was an administrative and operational headquarter for the South-Vietnamese army and Americans. It was from the roof of this building that the last American helicopter escaped, when the war ended (April 1975).
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The basement of the building served as a telecommunication center and there are now several rooms to visit with interesting old equipment (it was before the Internet era).
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As a bonus, you will see a lot of furnitures from the seventies. It will remind you your childhood, if you were born at the right time.
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See more photos in the reunification palace page.
You can read more about the reunification palace in Wikipedia.

2. The War Remnants Museum

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It is a museum about the Vietnam war and its horrors. Inside the building there are several halls with explanations and photos about the history of the war, the weapons, the “orange toxic powder” that was sprayed by the Americans with airplanes in order to destroy the vegetation where the VietCong were hiding.
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And the consequences on the population. 4 million people were affected by this chemical, with heredity affects still going on.
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In the courtyard of the museum, there are exhibitions of methods of tortures employed by the South Vietnamese army when they caught soldiers from the north. In the photo the “Tiger cages”. Prisoners where held inside these reduced cages as a form of torture.
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This is not an easy visit. I was very upset and sad after visiting the museum, especially remembering that tortures are still going on, in our days, in different conflicts on our planet. You can read about the Vietnam War in Wikipedia.

A Walk in Saigon Town Center

In the very Center of Saigon there are several monuments and elegant streets that you can visit walking :

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Constructed between 1863 and 1880 by the French. You can read more about the Notre Dame Cathedral in Wikipedia.

Central Post Office

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In the same square of Notre Dame Cathedral. It was constructed between 1886-1891, also by the French. You can read more in Wikipedia.
The post office is fully operational. I sent from it a postcard and it arrived to destination.
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Opera house

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You guessed right, it was also constructed by the French. In 1897 by
the architect Eugène Ferret. More details in Wikipedia.

Nguyen Hue Street – The pedestrian street

An elegant pedestrian street, it reminds Paris, during the evenings.
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There’s a lot of things happening in this walking street, in the evenings :
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It is really the centre of Saigon, people like this place. It is the only place I know where you are safe from motorbikes.
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The walking street is specially decorated and alive on the Vietnamese new year, the “Tet”, which happens in February (some years in January). Read more about the Tet feast in Wikipedia. If you visit Saigon in Tet time, be aware that a lot of businesses and attractions are closed for vacation, including the big malls.
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The river

If you succeed to cross the large street (traffic, traffic), you will arrive to the promenade on the river. Not amazing, it could be more developed but still nice.
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A Walk around Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh market is not far from the walking street.

Ben Thanh Market

This market is an icon in Saigon, a well known spot.
It’s a day market. At night the building is closed and there are stands outside, for tourists. Including food.
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Inside the building, you will find items for tourists and food, including some stands where they will cook for you Vietnamese dishes and you can sit to eat (somehow).
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You can buy a T-shirt with a star on it :
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Hindu Temple – Mariamman

Really close to the market is Mariamman hindu temple
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The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of rain Mariamman.
You can read more about this goddess in Wikipedia.
You can see more photos of the temple in the Temple page.
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Hindu Temple – Sri Thenday Yuttha Panin Temple

This temple is also not far from the market. It is just beside the big mall “Saigon Center”.
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You can see more photos of the temple in the Temple page.

View over the city – Bitexco tower

Bitexco Financial Tower – The skydeck

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I always like to see a city from above, it is impressive and it helps me to understand the orientation of the city. Bitexco is the highest building in Saigon. It has 262 meters. The observation deck is lower, it is located just under the Helipad. There is a 360 degree view, including over the river. The binoculars are free to use.
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The entrance is relatively expensive : 200,000 Dong, but it is worthwhile in my opinion, if you like this kind of attractions.
Instead of paying for the observatory, you can ask to go to the cafeteria, which is located one floor above. The entrance to the cafeteria is free but you will pay for a Cappuccino the same price and you will not be able to move from your table, so don’t do it.
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There are other options for having a view over the city. You can go to one of the skybars, in the evening, in one of the skyscrapers beside the big river. For example the skybar of Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel, very close to the walking street (and the river, of course).

Pham Ngu Lao area

Pham Ngu Lao is the backpacker’s area and it is located a walking distance from the famous market Ben Thanh. Visit the place at night. it is very live.

Pham Ngu Lao at night

One of the best things you can do here, is to eat western food in one of the many restaurants. They prepare good Italian, Mexican and Indian food at very good prices. A lot of Vegetarian options. Also Vietnamese food, of course.
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The park in front of Pham Ngu Lao – “September 23 park”

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In front of Pham Ngu Lao, there is a strip of park, with a lot of activity at sunset.
Vietnamese use to come to this park and play a special version of ball game, that is kicked with the heel. See this in Youtube Video. There are also areas where people practice dancing (Swing dance and others).

The Zoo area

Jade Emperor Pagoda

From all the temples that I have visited in Saigon, this is the most impressive, a must visit.
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It is a Taoist pagoda. You can read more about Taoism in Wikipedia.
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The roof :
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You can see more photos of the temple in the Temple page.

Saigon Zoo

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In terms of animals, it is not amazing. You will not see Pandas like in the zoo of Taipei, for example (apparently, the upscale zoos have pandas). What I saw in this zoo, was a live rabbit put as food to snakes.
It is nice to visit Saigon zoo on a week-end, when there are families with kids. They come to picnic in the park and they are in good mood. If you are a tourist you will be an attraction for them at least like the bears and elephants.
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China Town area (Cho Lon)

This area is less elegant than the center of Saigon and the traffic is even worse. Try not to visit China town on the hottest month (April) during the hottest hour of the day (I did it). There are some famous temples to visit, restaurants (Chinese) and a big market. You better don’t walk there from center Saigon (I did) but take a taxi.

Binh Tay Market in China town

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In 2017 the main building is closed for renovation, but there are many stands outside. It is a more authentic market compared than the famous Ben Thanh in central Saigon (the names are confusing, right ?).
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Outside the main building :
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Thien Hau Temple (Pagoda) in China town

There are tourists from organized tours, coming to visit this temple, so you will not be alone. It is very impressive inside.
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It is a Chinese-style temple of the Chinese sea goddess Mazu.
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You can read more about Thien Hau Temple in Wikipedia.
You can see more photos of the temple in the Temple page.

Ho Quan Nghia An temple – in China town

Situated very close to Thien Hau Temple and less visited by tourist groups.
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It is also a Chinese temple.
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You can see more photos of the temple in the Temple page.

Out of town – One day excursions

There are many travel agencies in town, especially in the backpacker’s area Pham Gnu Lao. They propose one day trips or half day trips to several popular destinations. It is not expensive but sometimes there are also entrance fees, that are not included in the original price.
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Look at the following map. Click to enlarge :
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Cu Chi tunnels + Cao Dai Temple

The most popular one day trip. There is also a half day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels without the Cao Dai temple. Price is around 160,000 Dong for the full day version. There is also entry fee to the Cu Chi reserve around 110,000 Dong.
Cu Chi is an area where there have been fierce battles during the Vietnam war. Guerrillas were hiding in tunnels. A small area is now a sort of open air museum. You can read more about the Cu Chi tunnels in Wikipedia.
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Cao Dai is a very colorful temple belonging to a small religion called Caodaism (you can read more about Caodaism in Wikipedia). With the full day excursion, you arrive in time to witness a religious ceremony with singings.
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My personal experience : I took this day excursion a few years ago. I mainly remember being in a minibus all day long, we stayed in the two spots just a little time. The Cu Chi reserve is a very humid area with mosquitos (take with you protection) and you don’t walk a lot in tunnels, you mostly stay over the ground (luckily). There are exhibitions of traps used by the guerrillas with explanations. Overall you get the feeling of how tough the war was. The Cao Dai temple is nice.
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The Mekong delta

The Mekong is a very long river (4,350 km) passing in several Asian countries (you can read in Wikipedia about the Mekong river). The Mekong goes into the sea in South Vietnam.
Before it goes into the sea, it splits into smaller rivers and all the area (a delta) is very unique.
There are 1, 2 or 3 days tours to the Mekong delta. You will travel in boats on rivers and see floating houses and farms. A one day trip cost around 170,000 Dong. Some points on the journey : My Tho, Ben Tre, Can Tho.

Vung Tao beaches

Vung Tao is a town on the beach, about 70 Km south of Saigon (see the Map above).
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The nice thing is that Vung Tao can be reached with a speed boat (hydrofoil) on the
river, from center Saigon, so you can do this trip on your own and even return the
same day to Saigon. It costs around 250,000 Dong one way and takes 1.5 hours.
Buy also your return ticket, to avoid surprises. See Petro Pacific website and GreenlinesDP website for more details. The town can also be reached with a public bus from the main central national bus station in Saigon “Mien Dong” (see the bus station on map).
There may be also minibuses going there, tickets can be bought in the travel agencies.
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Inside the speed boat :
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They let you get out on the terrace on the rear, but it is rough, there is a lot of noise and some engine smells.
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Once you arrive to Vung Tao, you can choose to take a cable car to the mountain.
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Or better, just walk on the sea promenade and drink a coffee.
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When your have Free time in Saigon

Drink Vietnamese Coffee

You know that Vietnam is a great producer of Coffee, right ? There are many Cafeterias in town and the coffee is excellent. One of the famous local chains is Trung-Nguyen coffee but there is also Starbucks and Coffee Bean and others.
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Relax in a swimming pool

There are several public swimming pools in Saigon center, but the one you see in the picture is more fancy, it is “country club” style. If you will arrive in the morning, you will be more or less alone. In the afternoons there are some expatriates who visit. Located in the park “Ho Boi Van Thanh” in the north of the city (search “Van Thanh swimming pool” in Google maps). Go there with a taxi.
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Eat a Pho

Pho is a Vietnamese soup. The one you see in the picture is completely Vegetarian (like me). There are noodles inside, of course. See my page about being vegetarian.
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Dance Salsa

Yes, there is Salsa dancing all over the world and also in Saigon. The Salsa in Saigon is very good, it exists every day of the week. As a tourist, it is a good idea to come in the evening to a Salsa club because you will meet local people and expatriates. Some of the Salsa organizers in Saigon : Salsa Saigon, XSalsa and La Salsa.
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Other things that exist in Saigon and I didn’t cover on this page and
may interest you :

  • Ho Chi Minh City Museum – about the history of Saigon.
  • Museum of Vietnamese History
  • Fine arts Museum – Vietnamese art
  • Water Puppet shows


star More on Saigon :

star  On Thailand :

star See What to Pack ? the visual list that will help you prepare the suitcase and not to forget things.

star See Important Products for the Trip Hidden pocket to carry cash, padlock,  Universal plug adaptor…

star Visit my Vegetarian page. Why be Vegetarian ? What to eat ?

star Visit my Salsa Dance page. Salsa main Styles. Why Dance Salsa ?

star See City Information about 2 more cool cities: Barcelona and Tel-Aviv.

star Listen to basic Words In Spanish, Words in French, Words in Hebrew

star Listen to nice Songs with translation in French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew.

star If you find incorrect data in this page, like a restaurant has closed or a big river has moved or you want to tell me something, please write me at contact.
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