A lively city that’s full of history, Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is considered Vietnam in high gear. From ancient temples to bustling markets, Ho Chi Minh City offers you the chance to explore underground tunnels, ornate pagodas and a fascinating war museum before tucking into local restaurants to indulge in warm pork rolls and bowls of pho. A mix of modern skyscrapers and ancient landmarks, here is a snapshot of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
Step back in time at Cu Chi Tunnels
Experience what life was like for soldiers at the Cu Chi Tunnels, as they used this extensive network of tunnels to move around undetected by their enemies. Watch an informative video to learn about how the tunnels work, then take a guided tour of some mock recreations before admiring the historic tanks. Some of the tunnels were even widened so that a crawl through here is easier for visitors.
Browse Binh Tay Market
Constructed by the French in the 1880s, the Binh Tay Market is located in the middle of Vietnam’s Chinatown district. You can observe locals going about their day or pick up a range of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood from regions across Vietnam. If you’re looking for a souvenir, browse the handicrafts, textiles and lacquerware sold from small stall holders. It’s a great place to soak up the local culture and experience some of the regional delicacies.
Marvel at skyline views from Bitexco Tower and Skydeck
For the best views in town, head to Bitexco Tower and Skydeck. It’s here that you can capture panoramic views of the city at the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City, which is 68 stories high. The main attraction here is the 49th-floor Skydeck, where visitors can get soak up a dramatic view of the city’s skyline and enjoy interactive touch screens that offer information on points of interest that can be seen from its binoculars.
Browse the War Remnants Museum
A somber reminder of the results of war, the War Remnants Museum is not for the faint of heart. It’s a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War, with photographs, American military equipment and aircraft such as rocket launchers, tanks and a fighter plane on display. See the 6,800 kg conventional bomb on display, learn about “Agent Orange”, then witness the “tiger cages” that held political prisoners.
Explore Reunification Palace
The former home of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, the Reunification Palace now serves as a museum. Step inside to discover a variety of meeting rooms, dining rooms and lounges with period furnishings that are fit for royalty. When you get to the basement level, you’ll find tunnels, a war room and telecommunications center with war propaganda materials on display. If you climb to the rooftop terrace you can see its heliport.
Admire the colorful Cao Dai Temple
The main temple for the Cao Dai religion, the Cao Dai Temple is a colorful religious landmark where practitioners wear white robes. Promoting tolerance and world peace with its religion that takes pieces from a variety of religions, its temple has a beautiful altar, long central nave and high dome adorned with saints. Admire the Neo-Gothic, Baroque and Oriental architectural features that include dragon wrapped pillars and seven-headed cobras.
Soak Up the Atmosphere at Jade Emperor Pagoda
One of the most important Taoist temples in Ho Chi Minh City, the Jade Emperor Pagoda was built at the turn of the 20th century by a group of Cantonese who migrated from Guangzhou. Step inside the complex to discover a peaceful ambiance away from the hustle and bustle of the city, where you can browse its open courtyard shaded by banyan trees and walk through the cloud of smoke coming from the incense.
Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
Built in the 1880s by French colonists, the Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the few remaining landmarks of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Marking the center of the French colonial heritage in Ho Chi Minh City, you can attend a Sunday service or just visit to admire its beautiful architectural details that include a 131-foot tower, statue of Virgin Mary and beautiful stained glass windows.
Admire the colorful reliefs in Thien Hau Temple
Located in the Chinatown area, Thien Hau Temple was built in the 19th century and is dedicated to Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea. It may not look like much from outside, but once you enter this temple you can admire its intricate details and carvings that line its interior. You can marvel at beautiful sculpture reliefs carved on the upper roof section of the temple, which depict scenes of daily life.
Photograph the Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
If you’re a fan of French architecture, visit the Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office. Acting as the main post office, it was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same architect that was behind the Eiffel Tower. It’s a great cultural site to explore where you can imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. Admire its marble floors, antiquated telephone boxes and looping arches and see if you can spot the two maps of the region painted onto the walls.
Catch a live performance at Saigon Opera House
Another example of French architecture, the Saigon Opera House is a prominent historic landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. Purchase tickets to see a live performance so you can see its beautiful interior that dates back to 1897. Plan a special night out so you can see how their dazzling shows that highlight traditional Vietnamese dance using bamboo.
Explore the colorful Mariamman Hindu Temple
The Mariamman Hindu Temple is the only Hindu temple in the city and offers a mesmerizing display of bright and colorful architecture. The sacred temple is dedicated to the goddess of rain “Mariamman”, and is a well-preserved landmark that is known for its interesting statues of different gods and goddesses. Step inside the 40-foot tall main hall to discover a well-maintained statue of Mariamman and watch as devotees bring offerings of joss sticks, jasmine, lilies and gladioli.