Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, also known as Saigon, is a city that never sleeps. It is a bustling metropolis in southern Vietnam that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity.
It’s a place where you can get lost in the maze of narrow alleyways, explore the colonial architecture, and eat your way through the markets. There are many things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
In this guide, I highlight some of the top attractions and activities that you shouldn’t miss during your visit to Ho Chi Minh City. You should be able to enjoy all these activities if you have 3 full days in Ho Chi Minh City.
Check out our itinerary for 14 days in Vietnam!
Here is an overview:
Explore the history of Vietnam’s largest city
Ho Chi Minh City has a rich history, that is reflected in its many museums and landmarks. It has been the capital of French Indochina, South Vietnam, and the scene of the Fall of Saigon that ended the Vietnam War. It also has a colorful culture.
Here are some of the best places to visit to learn about the history and culture of this fascinating city.
Visit the Independence Palace
Independence Palace was the former home of South Vietnam’s president during the war. It is a symbol of the country’s turbulent past and serves as a reminder of the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1954 to 1975. During the Vietnam War, the Independence Palace was the official residence of the South Vietnamese president.
The palace was originally built in 1868 by the French colonial government, but was later destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in the 1960s.
Today, the Independence Palace is a popular tourist attraction. You can have a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Vietnam’s former leaders there. The palace is beautifully decorated with antique furniture, ornate chandeliers, and artwork that dates back to the 17th century.
If you are not really into this kind of museums—you can just enjoy the Palace’s lavish garden, as I did. It provides a wonderful cooling relief in this always hot and humid city.
Related tour: War Remnants Museum & Independence Palace Walking Tour
Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is known for its beautiful architecture and gardens.
The palace was built in 1929 by French architect and was originally used as a customs house and then as a residence for the Governor of Cochinchina.
The palace has witnessed many historical events. It saw the Japanese occupation, the Viet Minh uprising, the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem, and the fall of Saigon.
Museum of Ho Chi Minh City displays various artefacts related to the history and culture of Vietnam. You can see statues, ceramics, maps, cars, motorcycles, and personal belongings of Ho Chi Minh there.
The palace was used as the temporary official residence of the Prime Minister (Ngô Đình Diệm). To prepare for the possibility of a coup, Diệm oversaw the construction of three extensive tunnels stretching from the palace to various parts of the city.
The tunnels were built for Diệm and other officials to escape if necessary. During a 1963 coup, Diệm used one of the tunnels to flee the palace siege, but was later caught and executed. The palace was later rebuilt in 1966.
You will see some tanks and helicopters in front of the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City. They are part of the War Remnants Museum, which I describe below.
You can see there:
- UH-1 “Huey” helicopter
- F-5A fighter
- a M48 Patton tank
- an A-1 Skyraider attack bomber
The museum itself is not large, and there is not that much to see. But the price is not high either—40,000 K per person (less than $2).
Address: 65 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Visit the War Remnants Museum to learn about the Vietnam War
The War Remnants Museum is an informative museum for anyone interested in learning more about history. It is also a sobering reminder of the Vietnam War and its impact on the country and its people.
The War Remnants Museum displays photographs, weapons, and personal accounts that document the war. These exhibits showcase the war from the Vietnamese people’s point of view.
Here is the museum’s website – War Remnants Museum
This visit can be hard and sobering. I know it was for me, a US citizen. It was also strange to see some military helicopters (old), which I am used to cheering for on airshows, but they were considered being ‘the enemy’s’ equipment.
But I found the display of military equipment abandoned by the US forces interesting. They ooze history!
But it also made me very appreciative of the ability of Vietnamese people to put the past in the past. They are all smiles and friendliness toward the foreigners and use any chance to practice their English with you. And they really appreciate their French buildings!
Here is link to the see the museum’s location and pictures.
Still, if you decide to visit the museum, maybe visit something bright and cheerful afterwards? You can visit Central Post Office—the iconic French building of Saigon.
Admire the French Architecture of Ho Chi Minh City
If you’re interested in colonial architecture and history, take a stroll through District 1.
Ho Chi Minh City was the capital of French Indochina from 1887 to 1954. The French colonists built some impressive buildings during that time. These buildings reflected their style and influence. Two iconic landmarks, the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, were both built during French colonization in the late 19th century.
Central Post Office
One of the best places to admire the French architecture of Ho Chi Minh City is the Central Post Office. It was constructed between 1886 and 1891, and it was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the famous engineer who also designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Inside, you can see an enormous portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the founder of modern Vietnam, as well as old maps and telephones. The Central Post Office is still functioning as a post office today, and you can send letters and postcards from here to anywhere in the world.
The building is beautiful both inside and outside, and it’s fun to visit.
Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon – another iconic landmark in Ho Chi Minh City is the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was built between 1863 and 1880 by the French colonists. The cathedral was named after Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and a statue of her stands in front of the main entrance. It is a place of worship for Catholics, as well as a tourist attraction for visitors who want to admire its beauty and history.
The cathedral is currently under renovation and is not open to the public, but you can still see its exterior and take photos from the outside.
City tour Ho Chi Minh
Taking a city tour in Ho Chi Minh is fun because you can see many historical cities and buildings and map the way for your self-guided walk later.
Some of the places you can visit on a city tour are:
- Ben Thanh Market, a bustling market where you can find everything from souvenirs to spices to local delicacies. Read about this market later in this post.
- Bitexco Financial Tower and Saigon Skydeck, a modern skyscraper that offers panoramic views of the city from its observation deck.
- Saigon River, a scenic waterway that runs through the city and offers boat cruises and water activities.
- Nguyen Hue Walking Street, a pedestrian-only street that is lined with shops, cafes, restaurants.
- HCMC Opera House, a beautiful colonial-style building that hosts cultural performances and events.
- Rex Hotel, a historic hotel that was a famous meeting place for journalists and diplomats during the Vietnam War.
- Ho Chi Minh Statue and City Hall, a monument to the revered leader of Vietnam and a majestic French-style building that serves as the seat of the city government.
These are just some of the highlights of a city tour in Ho Chi Minh. You can book your trip online or through local operators. The Ho Chi Minh Hop On Hop Off tour is also a great way to get around to all the big sights.
Sample local cuisine
Food is a major part of any trip to Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh City is no exception. With street food on every corner and countless restaurants serving up traditional dishes, you’ll never go hungry here.
Make sure to try some of the local specialties such as pho (a noodle soup), banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), and spring rolls. If you’re feeling adventurous, head to local markets, where you can try everything from snails to grilled goat meat.
For those looking for a more upscale dining experience, Ho Chi Minh City has plenty of options as well. Check out The Deck Saigon for stunning river views and gourmet Vietnamese cuisine or Cuc Gach Quan for a cozy atmosphere and farm-to-table dishes. Here’s another farm-to-table experience – a cooking class!
Check out these healthy dishes in Vietnam.
Getting lost in local markets
One of my favorite things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is just wander through its many markets. Not only do these bustling hubs offer some of the best street food around, but they’re also a great place to shop for souvenirs, if you are on vacation.
They are also great practical places for a nomadic traveler to replenish its travel gear, and get, let’s say, a Nike backpack for $4!:). I don’t know how much of an actual ‘Nike” is in my backpack, but it looks and feels good, and for $4 I wasn’t too picky!:)
People watching is also fun.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market in Chinatown is perhaps the most popular market in the city and offers everything you can think of, or even did not know existed! You can find a colorful selection of items in this bustling hub, from fresh produce to clothing and souvenirs.
Ben Thanh Market is one of the oldest and most well-known markets in the city. After you explore the market” endless stalls, you can also enjoy a variety of street food and drinks. You can find pho, banh mi, spring rolls, coffee, and coconut juice and much more here.
Ben Thanh Market is open daily from 6 am to 7 pm. And after dark it transforms into a lively night market filled with additional food stalls and vendors lining the streets.
If you are looking for an authentic cultural experience, Ben Thanh Market is a must-visit destination!
Bin Tay Market (Cholon Chinatown Market)
Bin Tay Market market is a vibrant market in Chinatown, where you can experience the culture and cuisine of the Chinese community. You can find a variety of goods, such as fabrics, electronics, household items, and Chinese herbs and medicines.
Did you like the food at the markets? Maybe you should learn how to cook this food?
Take a Vietnamese cooking class
This cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City includes a ride on a traditional Vietnamese cyclo to Ben Thanh Market. You will shop for fresh herbs and produce there and then learn how to prepare a variety of typical Vietnamese dishes. You will be guided by a professional chef.
So now you’ve already tasted Vietnamese food, and learned the history of Vietnam. You also explored French architecture, so maybe you would like to see the historic Vietnamese architecture?
Cultural Vietnamese architecture
Visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda
Jade Emperor Pagoda is a Taoist Temple.
Vietnam seldom practices Taoism in its pure form; however, the Vietnamese folk religion has absorbed certain aspects of it. You can see Taoist temples here and there in Vietnam.
Visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda if you’re interested in Taoist culture and religion. The pagoda is an important shrine in Ho Chi Minh City and was built in 1909 by a Chinese merchant named Liu Daoyuan.
It is dedicated to the Jade Emperor, who is the supreme god of Taoism. You’ll find statues, paintings, and woodcarvings inside, as well as a pond with sacred turtles.
Admission is free, and you can join the locals in burning incense and making offerings to the gods. It’s a peaceful and spiritual place that will give you a glimpse into Vietnam’s rich religious traditions.
Enjoy the nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is a city that never sleeps, with a lively nightlife. When you walk on a busy street at night, it is very exciting to see so many people outside, enjoying the cooler temperatures! I think I enjoyed this time of the day the most.
You don’t need to walk far from any main street to eat if you are hungry. There are so many places to eat everywhere, opened late!
And if you are in the mood to club, here is the list of top nightclubs in Ho Chi Minh City.
Best clubs around Ho Chi Minh City
Bars in District 1
This is the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife and among the most popular areas for clubbing. This is where most tourists stay. You can find many bars and clubs here catering to various tastes and budgets.
A few of the best clubs in District 1 include:
- Chill Sky bar:
This is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most renowned rooftop bars. It offers breathtaking views of the skyline with a chic atmosphere. The music typically features EDM and hip hop, while the drinks can be pricey but worth it. On the same floor, you can also indulge in fine dining at the Chill Dining restaurant.
Address: AB Tower, 76A Đ. Lê Lai, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
- Apocalypse Now Bar:
A legendary club that has been around for over two decades, drawing locals and foreigners alike. Apocalypse Now Bar has two floors with a spacious dance floor, pool table, and a stage for live music on the ground floor. The upper floor has a lounge area with sofas and a balcony. The DJ plays a blend of rock, pop, and dance, and the drinks are affordable.
Address: 2F Nguyễn, Thi Sách, Bến Nghé, TP, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000
- Lush Club:
A trendy club that attracts a young and fashionable crowd. The club spans two floors, with a sizable dance floor, VIP area, and a bar on the ground floor, Lush Club also has a rooftop terrace with a pool and a bar on the upper floor. The music mainly features EDM and house, and the drinks are reasonably priced.
Address: 156/2 Lý Tự Trọng, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Bars in District 3
This is a quieter and more residential region compared to District 1, but it still offers some excellent options for clubbing. Some of the top clubs in District 3 are:
- Carmen Bar:
An intimate and cozy bar that specializes in live music, especially Latin and jazz. The bar boasts a rustic and elegant decor with wooden furniture, red curtains, and candles. The music is performed by talented local and foreign musicians, and the drinks are reasonably priced.
Address: 8 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
- Envy Club:
A luxurious and glamorous club showcasing state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. Envy Club offers shows with impressive performances by dancers, singers, and DJs. The club has a large dance floor surrounded by VIP booths and tables. The music mainly features EDM and hip hop, and the drinks are expensive but high-quality.
Address: 74-76 Đ. Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 11111
- Seventeen Saloon Saigon:
A western-style bar providing live rock music every night. Seventeen Saloon Saigon has a cowboy theme with wooden barrels, leather sofas, and cowboy hats. The music features energetic bands playing classic rock hits from the 70s to the 90s. The drinks are cheap and strong.
Address: 130A Đ. Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Bars in District 4
This is a working-class district with a reputation for being rough and dangerous, but it also offers some hidden gems for clubbing. Some of the top clubs in District 4 include:
- TNR Saigon:
A friendly and relaxed bar that offers cheap drinks and excellent music. The bar has a pool table, and you can request your preferred music from the DJ. The crowd is mostly expats and backpackers who come here to socialize and have fun.
Address: 57 Đỗ Quang Đẩu, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000
- Ong Cao Craft Beer:
A craft beer bar offering a variety of local and imported beers on tap or in bottles. The bar has a modern and minimalistic decor with wooden tables and stools. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful, and the prices are reasonable.
Address: 240 Đ. Bùi Viện, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
- Broma Not A Bar:
A rooftop bar providing splendid views of the streets below. The bar has a laid-back and casual vibe with wooden furniture, fairy lights, and plants. The music mainly features indie rock and alternative pop, and the drinks are moderately priced.
Address: 41 District, 41 Đ. Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Make sure to taste this beer in Vietnam!
HCMC has a shopping scene that caters to all tastes and budgets.
Here are some of the best places to enjoy shopping in Ho Chi Minh City
- Ben Thanh Market:
More details about this marker are above.
- Vincom Center:
This is one of the largest malls in Ho Chi Minh City, with over 250 shops, restaurants, cinemas, and entertainment facilities. You can find international brands such as Zara, Mango, Adidas, and Nike, as well as local products and services.
- Fashion boutiques:
If you’re looking for a nice outfit by local designers, you can check out some of the fashion boutiques in Ho Chi Minh City. Some of the popular ones are L’Usine, Nosbyn, Cashew, and Ren. You can find trendy and unique clothing, accessories, and shoes at reasonable prices.
Shop for bargains and souvenirs at Saigon Square
Saigon Square is a wholesale fashion mall in District 1, where you can find a lot of cheap clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories. The quality may vary, but you can haggle for a lower price. The mall is popular among locals and foreigners alike.
Suoi Tien Theme Park
If you are a traveling with a family, visit Suoi Tien Theme Park, a Buddhist-Themed Amusement Park.
Suoi Tien Theme Park is an amusement park in District 9, Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is the world’s first water park devoted to Buddhism, specifically the SE Asian animistic form of Buddhism. The park includes several entertainment areas that illustrate Vietnam’s history and legends.
These areas are: Au Co and Lac Long Quan, the Battle of Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh, and the Four Noble Truth.
The park opened in 1995 and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ho Chi Minh City.
Some attractions in the park
- Crocodile Kingdom:
A large pond with over 1,500 crocodiles that visitors can feed with fishing rods.
- Tien Dong Beach:
A man-made beach with a waterfall that has the face of an emperor sculpted into it.
- Dinosaur Garden:
A garden with life-size models of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.
- Roller Coaster:
A thrilling ride that goes through a dragon’s mouth and a giant Buddha statue.
- Unicorn Palace:
A palace with statues and paintings of unicorns, fairies, and angels.
The park also has a zoo, a cinema, a spa, a temple, and many restaurants and shops.
Suoi Tien Theme Park park will be served by Suoi Tien Park Station on the first line of the Ho Chi Minh City, that is currently under construction. It is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day.
The admission fee is 90,000 VND (about 3.9 USD) for adults and 45,000 VND (about 1.9 USD) for children.
You can visit their official website for more information.
Day trips from Ho Chi Minh City
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a network of underground tunnels that were used by the Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City.
They stretched for about 250 kilometers, connecting different VC bases and hiding spots. The tunnels were dug by hand, often using simple tools such as shovels and baskets.
The tunnels were used for different purposes, like:
- Hiding from American and South Vietnamese forces, who relied heavily on aerial bombing and ground
- Transporting supplies, weapons, and communications across the battlefield.
- Providing shelter, medical care, food, and entertainment for VC soldiers and supporters.
The tunnels had traps to stop enemies, like explosives, spikes, scorpions, and snakes. To destroy them, the Americans and South Vietnamese used bombs, chemicals, dogs, and soldiers called tunnel rats who searched inside. But the tunnels were strong and helped the VC resist the stronger enemy.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are now part of a war memorial park in Ho Chi Minh City, where visitors can learn about the history and experience of the tunnels. The tunnels have been widened and lit to accommodate tourists, who can crawl through them and see various exhibits and displays.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a popular attraction for locals and foreigners who want to learn about the Vietnam War or like this type of attraction. There are many day trips to the tunnels from Ho Chi Minh City, including this half-day tour and this full-day tour that also visits the Mekong Delta.
Mekong River tour
Experience the integral part of Vietnam’s history with a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, considered being a must-see attraction.
Upgrade your visit to a luxurious tour that includes round-trip transport by a luxury limousine and a leisurely cruise on the Mekong River. You will have a personalized experience in a small group of 7 with air-conditioned comfort while exploring the tunnels with a guide.
Continue the tour to Mekong River for an unforgettable experience.
Explore the Mekong Delta on a rowboat and motorboat, and observe the rural life of the locals.
There are different ways to book a city tour in Ho Chi Minh, depending on your preferences, budget and time.
One of the options is online booking. You can compare prices, reviews, itineraries and availability of different tours and choose the one that suits you best. Some of the websites that offer online booking for city tours in Ho Chi Minh are Get Your Guide and Viator.
If you plan to visit Vietnam, don’t miss Ho Chi Minh City!
You will enjoy this wonderfully vibrant city and all the top attractions it offers!