Top 15 Best Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

While Hanoi claims the title of Vietnam’s capital, it’s Ho Chi Minh City that beckons the largest influx of international visitors each year. This comes as no surprise, considering Vietnam’s multitude of attractions and notably its affordability as a travel destination. From delving into its historical heritage to marveling at contemporary architectural buildings, there is an abundance of wonderful things to do in Ho Chi Minh City that await visitors.

Inspire Yourself with a Cup of Morning Coffee

Vietnamese coffee

Vietnamese Coffee

Embracing the dynamic spirit of Ho Chi Minh City requires a matching vigor if you intend to explore its abundant offerings. Kick off your adventure with a cup of Vietnamese coffee, a surefire method to charge yourself up for the exciting day ahead.

The key lies in the generous layer of condensed milk. Stir the rich, drip-filtered coffee to your desired sweetness level, an infusion introduced to the nation by the French. Cafés that serve exceptional brews can be found all across the cityscape, a legacy of its past. For a gentle awakening, procure a cup to-go from a stall near Tan Dan Park, meandering as you savor the people-watching experience.

Admire French Architectural Buildings

French architectural buildings in Saigon

French architectural buildings in Saigon

What is next on your bucket list of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City? A visit to District 1, which is renowned for its historical French influence. Impeccably planned during the 19th century, its broad, tree-lined boulevards exude elegance. Stroll past trendy boutiques and inviting cafés, culminating your journey at the splendid Central Post Office. Behind its sunny facade, the interior walls are adorned with intricately hand-painted maps depicting the city’s colonial-era layout.

Adjacent to this locale lies the Saigon Opera House, awaiting your exploration. For those desiring more than just a glimpse of its lavish interior, securing tickets to the A O show is a splendid choice. This captivating performance narrates the tale of urbanization through a seamless blend of dance, traditional melodies, and acrobatics. Conclude your escapade by taking in the grandeur of Notre Dame Cathedral, an architectural tribute to its Parisian counterpart, painstakingly crafted during the 1800s.

Pay a Visit to the Reunification Palace

Independence Palace - Ho Chi Minh City

Independence Palace – Ho Chi Minh City

The Reunification Palace, also referred to as Independence Palace, stands as a testament to history in Ho Chi Minh City. Once the official abode of South Vietnam’s president during the war, it has retained its form over the years. A poignant moment occurred on April 30, 1975, when North Vietnamese forces triumphantly entered through the palace gates, signifying Saigon’s capitulation.

Visiting Reunification Palace is one of the best things to do in Saigon, a potential stop to include before the gates close at 4 p.m. Allocate at least an hour to leisurely navigate through the lavish staterooms.

  • Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Opening hours: 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every day
  • Entrance fee: VND40,000/adult and VND25,000/child

Get a View of Saigon from Bitexco Financial Tower

Saigon view from Bitexco Financial Tower

Saigon View from Bitexco Financial Tower

Eager to give your feet a break? Indulge in some elevated relaxation at the Bitexco Financial Tower. Skip the Skydeck observation platform on the 49th floor and head directly to the EON Helibar on the 52nd. Opting for the Skydeck entrance will set you back about the same as a drink at the bar above, making the choice a no-brainer.

Savor a luxurious cocktail as you gaze at the city’s skyline through expansive floor-to-ceiling windows. If you stay until nightfall, you’ll understand why we consider this one of the top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City – the neighboring skyscrapers offer an impressive light spectacle that’s truly captivating.

Visit War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

Allocate a few hours with a clear mind for your visit to the War Remnants Museum, preferably on the following morning. This expansive exhibition offers a poignant narrative of the brutal war. Initially named ‘The Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes’, it doesn’t hold back in its presentation. Objectivity isn’t its aim, and it doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities.

Spread across multiple floors, you’ll encounter the infamous ‘tiger cage’ prison cells, bamboo instruments of torture, and stark photographs depicting the victims of chemical weapons. While undoubtedly challenging, this experience ranks among the top things to do in Saigon if you seek to comprehend the immense suffering endured by the Vietnamese. Conclude your exploration on a more positive note by visiting the lower level, where the display of the global anti-war movement can leave you with a sense of hope.

  • Address: 28 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3
  • Opening hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. daily
  • Entrance fee: VND40,000/person

Marvel at Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

In the era of the American War, the villages encircling the Cu Chi district provided significant support to the Viet Cong. In the face of American efforts to eliminate them, they ingeniously burrowed themselves to safety, giving rise to the renowned Cu Chi tunnels.

Here, you will have the opportunity to explore a brief segment of these tunnels, crouch down, hands to the ground, and venture underground to gain a glimpse into the existence of resistance fighters who lived within them. Certain portions of the tunnels have been expanded to accommodate the larger frames of Western travelers, yet the experience remains dim, humid, and suffocating – an encounter that requires steady nerves, especially if enclosed spaces aren’t your forte.

>>> Refer to our Full-Day Ho Chi Minh City and Cu Chi Tunnels Tour to have an overview of how to plan your itinerary in Saigon.

Get Lost in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown (Cho Lon)

For lunch, make your way to Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon, the extensive Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City. Serving as the city’s largest wholesale market, Binh Tay is an excellent option for finding affordable Vietnam souvenirs. Delve into its array of handcrafted lacquered wood items, vibrantly embroidered fabrics, and an eclectic assortment of plastic knick-knacks. Once you’ve perused the stalls and satisfied your shopping desires, venture toward the food vendors.

After indulging your palate, seek a tranquil respite from the bustling market at Thien Hau Pagoda. This temple was erected to honor the goddess of the sea and was constructed by a community of Chinese merchants who arrived by sea. For a nominal fee, light incense and watch as your prayers ascend to the ceiling on the fragrant tendrils of smoke.

Enjoy a Water Puppet Show

A special show at Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater

A special show at Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater

Following a busy day of exploring, find respite for your tired feet at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. The performance unfolds on a water-centric stage, accompanied by singers and musicians positioned on either side of the stage.

Even if you don’t comprehend Vietnamese, the intricately adorned wooden puppets and their cleverly orchestrated movements are sure to captivate. Although the dialogue might remain elusive, the artistry of the puppets and their well-executed choreography will certainly charm. Each show spans around 50 minutes, with numerous performances taking place every evening.

Go Shopping at Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market - Ho Chi Minh City

Ben Thanh Market

Nestled beneath a clock tower reminiscent of a pillbox, Ben Thanh Market has stood as the city’s most vibrant and significant marketplace for nearly a century. Within the market’s central area, a tightly arranged network of aisles, categorized by produce, buzzes with enthusiastic shoppers. For those seeking souvenirs, a thorough exploration here unveils a variety of treasures including conical hats, woven baskets, bags, shoes, lacquerware, Da Lat coffee, and Vietnam T-shirts.

Enjoy Saigon Street Food

Saigon street food

Saigon street food

Dining on the bustling streets might not cater to everyone’s preferences, yet for those willing to embrace the experience, it stands as one of the most wonderful things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Street food often surpasses restaurant fare in flavor, comes at a more economical price, and adds an element of delightful adventure. A degree of careful selection is advised, though – opt for locales with brisk turnovers, where the ingredients manifest freshness.

The culinary landscape in Ho Chi Minh City is thriving, and for the adventurous, embarking on a motorbike street food tour offers a quick immersion into the city’s finest street delicacies, ranging from Bánh mì to bánh xèo. Among travelers, dining preferences are mainly divided between two prominent areas: the city center, adorned with a plethora of high-quality establishments, and the budget-friendly district centered around De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao, and Bui Vien.

Admire Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai Temple

Located a few kilometers off Highway 22, within the town of Long Hoa, stands the enigmatic Cao Dai Temple, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy See of Tay Ninh. Welcoming visitors is a majestic gateway that marks the entry into the temple’s premises. Upon initial observation, the structure might seem to possess a slight tilt, yet your initial impressions are more likely to be captivated by what Graham Greene aptly described as an “Eastern Walt Disney fantasia,” with dragons and snakes vividly colored.

Despite its vibrant and intricate design, this ornate edifice manages to evade any sense of gaudiness. Anchoring the front facade are two square pagoda-style towers, with a central portico crowned by a gracefully bowed first-floor balcony and a Divine Eye. This Divine Eye, encircled by a triangle, stands as a recurring motif within the temple, much akin to its presence on the American one-dollar bill.

  • Address: Pham Ho Phap Street, Hoa Thanh Town, Hoa Thanh District, Tay Ninh Province
  • Opening hours: Always open
  • Entrance fee: Free

Stroll along Bui Vien Street

Bui Vien street

Bui Vien street

Renowned as the “Backpacker’s District,” Bui Vien Street serves as a central hub for hostels and globetrotting adventurers. During the day, this bustling area transforms into a shopper’s paradise, offering a diverse array of shops that range from charming boutiques to renowned international brands. It also boasts numerous affordable spas, where weary explorers can indulge in rejuvenating massages and treatments to unwind from their city escapades.

As dusk descends, Bui Vien Street awakens with its dynamic bar scene. Abundant happy hours, pocket-friendly dining options, and a plethora of bars create an inviting atmosphere for a lively night out on the town. It’s the perfect locale to immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City.

Explore the Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts in Ho Chi Minh City

Museum of Fine Arts in Ho Chi Minh City

Housed within an impressive colonial mansion, the Museum of Fine Arts in Ho Chi Minh City offers a captivating experience for those seeking to explore some of the nation’s most valuable artifacts from the Cham and Oc Eo cultures.

On the first floor, you can delve into temporary exhibitions that showcase a diverse range of artistic expressions. Meanwhile, the serene courtyard at the rear of the museum showcases artworks available for purchase, providing an opportunity to acquire unique pieces.

The second floor is dedicated to revolutionary art, although it often relies on familiar depictions of soldiers, war scenes, and Uncle Ho. Nevertheless, a handful of pieces manage to convey the deep anguish and turmoil of the conflicts. Moving to the third floor, visitors will discover a remarkable collection featuring exquisite Cham and Oc Eo statues, resplendent gilded Buddhas, and other valuable antiquities.

  • Address: No.97A, Pho Duc Chinh Street, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Opening hours: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily
  • Entrance fee: VND30,000/adult and VND15,000/student

Have a Cruise Dinner on the Saigon River

Enjoy a cruise dinner on Saigon River

Enjoy a cruise dinner on the Saigon River

Exploring the city from the vantage point of the river is a highly recommended activity in Ho Chi Minh City, offering enchanting vistas of the urban skyline and the vibrant bustle along the water’s edge. The Saigon River presents a range of cruise options, catering to various preferences, from brief daytime excursions to more leisurely evening dinner cruises. Key attractions along the river include Saigon Harbour, Nha Rong Wharf, and the Thu Thiem Bridge.

Embark on a brief sightseeing tour via Cyclo or scooter before transitioning to the Saigon River. On arrival, you’ll step onto a cozy vessel for a romantic dinner cruise that showcases the city’s nighttime charm. This enchanting experience allows you to bask in the allure of Saigon illuminated by the city lights.

Join a Saigon Cooking Class

Have you ever wondered what the secrets behind the vibrant flavors of Vietnamese cuisine are? There is no better way to find the answer than taking a cooking class yourself. Imagine how wonderful it is to master the art of crafting the perfect Pho broth or uncover the mysteries behind your beloved Banh Mi. You will also have a chance to delve into the intricacies of Vietnamese gastronomy and acquire the skills to recreate these culinary wonders in your own kitchen.

Above, we have listed the top 15 best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Hope you have gained an insight into what to do in this sprawling and dynamic city. Still need more information, feel free to contact us here for immediate support. Thanks for your reading!

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Alice Pham

Hello, I'm Alice Pham - a travel blogger at IDC Travel. I have traveled to almost places in Vietnam and gained numerous useful experiences. I'm here willing to help you plan the most wonderful trip to our stunning S-shaped country.

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