It’s the city of many names, which can get a little confusing at times. Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City Sài Gòn to the locals, is one of Vietnam’s most up and coming city’s, becoming more and more friendly to visitors and a place where the action never stops.
Life in Saigon is absolutely crazy. If you’re visiting for the first time you should be prepared for motorbikes riding on the sidewalk to try and avoid the traffic, local restaurants that consist of milk crates and people just squatting all over the sidewalk, and market vendors that will do anything for your attention.
The craziness can definitely be oh so much fun though. So to prepare you for your visit, here are the top 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
In this post:
1. Try a little bit of everything at the Street Food Market
For all the food options you could ever ask for in one place, head to the Benthanh Street Food Market. There are street food vendors with all kinds of different cuisine and drinks for you to try. We actually headed straight here for dinner most nights we were in Ho Chi Minh and tried food from a different stall every night.
Located right in front of the Ben Tanh market, you can find extra seating on the mezzanine level at the back of the market if all the tables out the front are full. There are also live music nights and happy hour cocktails.
Address: 26-28-30 Thủ Khoa Huân, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Opening Hours: Open everyday from 9am to 11pm.
2. Take a day trip out to the Mekong Delta
About a 3 hour drive away from Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta is the perfect place to get more of a glimpse into a different type of Vietnamese life. The locals here live in houses that sit over the river and earn a living by working on the water.
If you get out to the Mekong early enough, preferably if you spend the night before in the region, you can visit the floating markets in the morning to buy all sorts of fruit, vegetables and fresh fish from the locals.
Hop on a day tour from the city for a complete experience out on this iconic river and to learn more about this Vietnamese way of life.
3. Survive crossing the Saigon streets
Wow, can’t these streets be crazy. There is always a million cars, motorbikes and scooters racing all over the place and it seems like the traffic on the roads never stop.
The locals in Saigon don’t really care about pedestrian crossings or even staying off the sidewalks, so it can often feel like there’s never a safe place to cross.
The best (and really only way to do it) is to pick a time when the traffic is lowest and just walk straight across the road. It’s quite amazing but all the scooters and motorbikes just seem to dodge around you and you can cross quite quickly.
This can be a bit scary and if you’re nervous about it it might not be a good idea to try, but it does seem to be the way of life in the city, so we thought we would just have to go with the flow!
4. Sip cocktails at a rooftop bar
Ho Chi Minh City is quickly becoming a hot spot for cute cafes, trendy bars and restaurants and rooftop bars with beautiful views over the city. Head up to one of the rooftop bars for happy hour cocktails and to watch the sunset over this ever buzzing city.
Some of the larger and more popular rooftop bars do have dress codes, entry fees and need a reservation, so it’s a good idea to check out the requirements before you arrive. The more local rooftop bars are super laid back though, with great drinks, local food, and fairy lights everywhere giving you that perfect summer rooftop vibe.
Some of the favourite rooftop bars around the city include:
- Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar – 19 Lam Son Square, District 1
- The View Rooftop Bar at Duc Vuong Hotel – 195 Bui Vien Street, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1
- Glow Skybar Saigon – 93 Nguyen Du, Ben Nghe, District 1
- Chill Skybar Saigon – AB Tower Siagon, 76A Le Lai District 1 (this one definitely has a strict dress code)
- Broma Not A Bar – 41 Nguygen Hue, Ben Nghe, District 1
- Rex Rooftop Garden at Rex Hotel Saigon – 141 Nguyen Hue Street, District 1
- EON Heli Bar at Bitexco Financial Tower – Level 52, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, District 1
5. Visit the Bitexco Financial Tower & Skydeck
This ultra modern building stands out in Saigon as something that might better belong somewhere like New York City or Bangkok. It’s the tallest building in all of Vietnam, with it’s 68 stories standing at 282m tall. It was even recently ranked 5th in the world’s most iconic skyscrapers by CNN.
The public observation deck on the 49th floor offers 360 degree views of the city and the Saigon River. There are restaurants and bars on the 51st and 52nd floor that you can also visit for a meal with a view.
Address: 36 Ho Tung Mau Street, District 1
Opening Hours: Daily from 9:30am to 9:30pm.
6. Shop up a storm at the Ben Thành Market
As the biggest and most popular market in Ho Chi Minh City, there is always something new to see at the Ben Thanh Market. You can find everything here from clothing and beauty products, branded goods and fresh flowers to Vietnamese art and handicrafts, gifts and souvenirs.
Inside the market can be very hot and stuffy, so it’s a good idea to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day. As the sun sets, the market also extends to the outdoor car parks, and the market continues as an open air outdoor market.
Let’s be honest, many people visit Vietnam looking for imitation designer bags and accessories, so we’re just going to be honest with you. The outdoor night market at Ben Thanh is definitely where we saw the best quality and most accurate looking bags and designer products.
7. Stay in Pham Ngu Lao (District 1)
The best place to stay in Saigon, District 1 puts you right in the middle of the action. Within walking distance of the markets, restaurants, cafes and bars, everything you need is right at your fingertips.
There are accommodation options for all budgets in District 1, from luxury hotels to local airbnb’s and backpackers hostels, so you’ll be able to find something that suits your travelling style.
8. Explore the Chu Chi tunnels
One of the most popular and well known attractions in Saigon, the Chu Chi tunnels are part of a massive war museum, allowing visitors to experience the underground life of Vietnamese war soldiers back in 1948.
There are over 120km of underground tunnels on the site, with trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armory, hospitals and command centres to explore. The Chu Chi Tunnel site also has a shooting range, where you can try shooting an M16 rifle, as well as a restaurant that serves meals that the soldiers would have eaten during the war.
Some parts of the tunnels have been widened to allow for visitors to pass through more easily, but there are still some extremely narrow and tight parts to the tunnels, and even some parts where you may have to crawl. If you have breathing issues or claustrophobia it might not be the best attraction to visit.
Address: The Chu Chi tunnels are location 45km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: Daily from 7am to 5pm.
9. Check out the city’s impressive architecture
There are some really beautiful old buildings around the city of Saigon that date back centuries and still hold significant sentimental importance to the locals.
Saigon Central Post Office
A beautiful example of French colonial architecture, the Central Post Office is sill looking just as beautiful as when it opening in 1891. The building is still operating as the city’s main post office, so head over here if you want to send a postcard home.
2 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1 | Open daily from 7am to 7pm.
Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Also known as the People’s Committee Building in Saigon, this elaborate building has stood proud in the centre of the city since 1898. There’s a beautiful little park across the road from the building where you will find a statue of the hero Ho Chi Minh overlooking the city.
86 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Nghe, District 1 | Not open to the public.
Built in the late 1880s, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the last remaining Catholic sites in a largely Buddhist country. Found in Paris Square, a virgin Mary statue stands out the front of the cathedral, which locals have claimed shed tears in October 2005.
1 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1 | Open daily from 8am to 5pm.
10. Learn to cook Vietnamese food by the locals
Always listed as a highlight from any trip to Vietnam, book in for a cooking class to learn how to make your favourite Vietnamese food by the locals. There’s no better way to learn and it’s such a thrill learning in such an authentic environment.
Many cooking classes will also take you to the local market to buy your own produce and ingredients for your dish, so that you get the complete local experience.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Saigon?
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