Ho Chi Minh City is one of the cities in Vietnam you have to visit. While walking through the city you see and feel the historical influences everywhere. The vibe is completely different from Hanoi which is the biggest city in the north of Vietnam.
We spent quite some time in Ho Chi Minh City because it’s central in the area and it’s easy to travel onwards to the Mekong Delta or Mui Ne. Besides the airport, the train station is an important hub to travel to the nearby areas.
We’ve collected 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City to help you plan your trip. Be prepared for a lot of scooters and learn to navigate the traffic by following the locals. Otherwise, you might be stuck on the sidewalk for a long time! But most of all, enjoy your time in Ho Chi Minh City!
1. Ben Thanh market
Ben Thanh Market is one of the most famous markets in Ho Chi Minh City. There is a day market and a night market and we visited both. The night market consists of stalls selling clothes, bags, food, and more knick-knacks. You can bargain if there isn’t a “Fixed Prices” sign at the stall.
The day market is inside the square building with entrances on all sides of the building. When you walk in you immediately get hit with multiple smells and bright colors. It feels like walking around in the medinas in Morocco.
The day market is divided into sectors, so you see a number of stalls with clothing, and then a lot of souvenirs, or a lot of coffee and tea. In the middle is a section with all kinds of local food, where you can enjoy a bite to eat or a drink. Be aware of the Fixed Prices signs in here as well before negotiating.
2. Bitexco Financial Tower
Ho Chi Minh isn’t a city with a lot of high rises but the Bitexco Financial Tower is one you can’t miss. The view from the top is pretty spectacular. We visited late in the day to see the sunset and enjoy all the lights. A high-speed elevator takes you to the 49th floor within seconds.
The tower offers a 360-degree view of Ho Chi Minh City. From here you can see the Ben Thanh market and you get a sense of the size of Ho Chi Minh City. Some areas are densely populated without any roads crossing them. Old and new come together throughout the entire city.
3. Reunification Palace
The Reunification Palace is a symbol of the war in the 1970s. Many aspects of that time have been preserved and give a good picture of how the president(s) lived and ruled at that time.
In the front yard, you will see two tanks. These tanks are replicas of the North Vietnamese tanks that drove through the gates of this huge complex on April 30, 1975. Behind the tanks, a little hidden, is an airplane. This is a replica of the type of aircraft that bombed the palace on April 8, 1975.
The palace has 4 floors with different rooms and collections that show how people lived there. Take enough time to explore the entire complex. It’s an impressive visit and you feel the weight of the war and the impact it had on this area.
4. Bui Vien
Bui Vien is the backpackers’ street in Ho Chi Minh City, you could compare it to Khao San Road in Bangkok. There are a lot of hostels, a lot of cafes and a lot of restaurants. It’s almost never quiet but the vibe at night is why you should go here.
A lot of bars will promote happy hour to lure you in. But you will also find some of Vietnam’s delicacies, like Bahn mi or egg coffee. It’s just fun to walk around and discover the area. If you leave this street there are a lot of more authentic and quieter streets that have cheap hotels or hostels.
5. Tao Dan Park
It’s impressive, as soon as you walk into Tao Dan Park, the sounds of the city disappear and you imagine yourself in a different world. People are very active with gymnastics or other activities, which we have seen a lot in China. It seems as if people in Asia live outdoors more than we do, visiting each other in parks, and escaping the crowds for a while.
There are more than 1,000 trees in this park and it’s over 10 hectares in size. It is nice and cool under the shelter of the trees. We take a leisurely stroll through the park because there is so much to see.
6. Notre Dame
The official name of this cathedral is Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, but everyone talks about Notre Dame. This cathedral was built between 1863 and 1880 by French colonialists. The cathedral has two bell towers that are 58 meters high. In front of the cathedral is a statue of Mary, who, according to eyewitnesses, wept in 2005.
Unfortunately, you cannot view the entire cathedral from the inside. The first part is accessible to tourists, the rest only to the faithful who come to pray. On both sides, there is an altar at the beginning where one can pray and possibly burn a candle. There are several guides that provide information about the cathedral if you’re interested.
7. Post Office
This building also dates back to the time when Vietnam was under French rule. The post office was built between 1886 and 1891 and really stands out with its yellow color. When you walk in it looks more like a train station. Two large maps are visible on both walls, one of Saigon and the surrounding area around 1892 and one of the telegraph connections in South Vietnam and Cambodia. There is also a very large portrait of Ho Chi Minh. There are also several telephone booths with several clocks with international time above them.
The nice thing about this building is that it is still actively used. So you will find a mixture of tourists and locals. You can send cards or parcels at this post office, but there are also counters for the local population to apply for a passport, for example. Of course, you will also find the necessary souvenir shops. All in all a very lively area and well worth a visit.
8. Mekong Delta
If you are in Vietnam you can’t miss the Mekong Delta. One of the world’s biggest and most diverse deltas in the world. With jungle, swamps, history, floating markets, and much more. The Mekong Delta is in the south of Vietnam, about a 4-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh.
A natural delta of almost 40,000 km2 whose branches flow into the South China Sea. People live here on or with the water. There are floating markets everywhere and everything is transported by water. It’s a totally different world.
The best way to explore the delta is by using a touring operator. Most operators in Ho Chi Minh City offer 1, 2, or 3 days tours. It includes transport, accommodations with breakfast, and sometimes lunch and dinner. We recommend the 3-day tour to get the most out of this experience.
9. Teach English
One of the best experiences we had in Ho Chi Minh City is a casual English class in the park. We had read about this online and while visiting the park someone approached us and asked us if we wanted to do this.
Basically, it’s young adults wanting to learn or improve their English by having a casual conversation. It’s a great way to learn more about Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Vietnamese culture. We both had our own group and they asked us all kinds of questions and so did we.
Afterward, we were invited to grab a bite to eat with a few students which was a lot of fun. Look for people with green t-shirts that say something like For 1 Million Fluent English Speakers.
10. Coffee time
If you’re a coffee lover, Vietnam won’t disappoint you. In Ho Chi Minh City there are a lot of known and unknown coffee places and you’ll find street carts that sell iced coffee as well. We even tried egg coffee, which was invented in a time when there was a milk shortage.
Don’t be surprised if they hand you a bag with a straw, this is the way they serve coffee to go in a lot of places. Make sure to try the local coffee and don’t just head to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. There is something with the iced coffee, the way they make it, it tastes different than any other iced coffee we have tried.
Share your favorite things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
Well, there you have it, 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. We loved exploring this huge city and learning about its history and way of life. The amount of scooters in this city is enormous, even by Asian standards, but it’s amazing to watch the traffic go.
Take at least 4 or 5 days to explore Ho Chi Minh City to take it all in. Do some research for a tour of the Mekong Delta to continue your journey through Vietnam or hop on the train to head to Mui Ne for some windsurfing.
Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City? Share your favorite thing to do in the comments below this article. We’d love to hear about your favorite restaurants, cafes, and hotels.
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