Looking for the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City?
Located in southeast Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is the country's most populous city and its economic center. Ho Chi Minh City is rich with history, culture and a pulsing nightlife. From ancient historical sites to chic fashionable districts, there is a little something for every type of traveler here.
In this guide, we highlight the top 12 best things to do to get a full experience of all that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.
Be sure to read through to the end for a special surprise...
But first, read through our article for the 12 Things Ever Tourist Must Do in Ho Chi Minh City:
Get Lost in the Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is the perfect place to lose yourself for an afternoon. This giant marketplace is a maze of vendors selling handmade trinkets, clothing, electronics, and more. Swing by to pick up some souvenirs from your trip and witness the sights and sounds of a bustling local market. Plus, after dark, the neighboring streets come alive with food stalls serving up mouthwatering Vietnamese street food, so be sure to come hungry!
Not sure where to start? You can also take a market tour!
Pro Tip: The market is a top spot for tourists, so be prepared to haggle with vendors.
Address: Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 6 am – 6 pm daily for the indoor market and about 6 pm- midnight daily for the night market.
Take a Day Trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels
Originally built in 1948 to help the Vietnamese evade French soldiers and later expanded during the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi tunnels are an extensive network of underground tunnels spanning 121 kilometers. They were used by the Viet Cong during key operations like the Tet Offensive, serving as hiding places, supply routes, and even living quarters for Vietnamese soldiers. Ultimately, they were one of the critical factors that helped Vietnamese soldiers successfully overcome American forces.
Visitors can walk through the narrow passageways and gain a new visceral perspective of what wartime conditions were like for Vietnamese soldiers. This experience is certain to leave a compelling impression in your mind! While located a little ways from the city, a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels is definitely worthwhile.
Hours: Sunday to Friday 7am-6pm, Saturday 7am-5pm.
How to Get There: Travel to the tunnels via car or motorbike booked through a local tour operator. Bus tours are available as well.
For a more immersive experience, venture to Ben Duoc entrance (50km from Ho Chi Minh City). Alternatively, the Ben Dinh (35km from Ho Chi Minh City) entrance is closer to the city center and easier to get to, though a bit more saturated by tourism.
Take a Cooking Class!
Have you ever wondered how Vietnamese food achieves such vivid flavors?
Vietnamese food is famous for its freshness and complexity, from their aromatic herbs to the perfect balance of salty and sour. Take a local cooking class to gain a deeper understanding of Vietnamese cuisine and learn to replicate it at home!
Whether you want to perfect your pho broth or discover the secrets of Bahn mi, there are a wide variety of classes to help you.
Send a Postcard at the Saigon Central Post Office
Built in the late 19th century, the Saigon Central Post Office is difficult to miss. Its bright yellow exterior is latticed with green window shutters and door frames, a sprawling Gothic and Renaissance styled testament to the French colonial period. Inside, the building features an impressive tall domed ceiling, arched windows, beautiful hand-painted maps, vintage wooden telephone booths, and ornately patterned floor tiles.
While beautiful and historic, this is still an active place of business. You will see locals hustling and bustling as they carry on their everyday business in this functioning post office.
Address: Số 125 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 710009, Vietnam
Hours: Mon - Fri 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM, Sun 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Sat 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral
Located conveniently across the street from the Saigon Central Post Office, the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral is another beautiful sight to behold. Built in the late 1890s by French colonialists, the church was constructed with iconic red brick imported from Marseilles. It also features colorful stained-glass windows and two impressive bell towers that might make you think for a moment that you've been transported to Paris.
Pro tip: Though a popular tourist destination, the church still hosts mass for local parishioners every Sunday at 9:30. Visitors are welcome to attend the service, but remember to dress appropriately.
Hours: Daily 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Eat Southern Vietnamese Street Food
If you are visiting Ho Chi Minh City, you must try the street food!
As all foodies know, the street food in Vietnam is a paradise for your taste buds. Most likely, you will find yourself crouched low on a plastic stool, elbow to elbow with hungry Vietnamese locals and tourists alike.
Differences in climate reflect heavily in southern cuisine because sugar, coconut milk, and other herbs and spices are readily available in the warmer south. Whether you are eating crispy fritters dipped in fish sauce or sipping a viscous, creamy mouthful of Vietnamese coffee, the street food will not disappoint.
While the dishes to try extend far beyond the scope of this list, a few must-try include crusty Bahn Mi sandwiches, phở, com tam (broken rice), crepe-like omelets called banh xeo and fresh spring rolls. If you want to try it all but you're not sure where to start, consider taking a street food tour from a knowledgeable local!
Take a Stroll on Bui Vien Street
Known widely as the “Backpacker’s District,” Bui Vien Street is a hub for hostels and international travelers.
This popular area is a great place to shop during the day, with a myriad of stores ranging from boutique shops to the higher end global brands. It also features many affordable spas where you can get relaxing massages or treatments to relax after exploring the city.
In the evening, Bui Vien Street comes alive with a vibrant bar scene. With a plethora of happy hours, cheap eats and bars to choose from, Bui Vien street is the perfect place to have a night out on the town.
Get a View of the City from the Bitexco Financial Tower
To see Saigon from a new perspective, visit the colossal 262-meter tall Bitexco Financial Tower. Completed in 2011, this chic skyscraper is one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam.
Visitors can ride a high-speed elevator to the 49th floor Skydeck for a magnificent view of the sprawling city streets and the curving path of the Saigon river. Additionally, the tower features Vietnam’s first non-rooftop helipad, artfully constructed in the shape of a blossoming lotus bud.
Cost: 200,000 VND
Hours: Open every day 8 am - 11 pm
Address: Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, 700000, Vietnam
Try Southern Phở and Learn to Make it Too!
In the northern parts of the country, pho features a rustic clear broth with chicken or beef. It is seen as a gentle, mild, medicinal soup. Meanwhile, though sharing a name with its northern counterpart, southern pho could not be a more different experience.
In Saigon, pho is sweeter, with bolder flavors and spices. The southern interpretation offers a wider variety of meat cuts like sliced rare beef, tendon and bone marrow. The noodles are served alongside plates of herbs and colorful chopped peppers and condiments like hoison sauce, hot sauce, and sate sauce are provided as dipping sauces for the meat. The result is a coordinated tango of sweet, sour and spicy flavors that hit your mouth with a rush that thrills the taste buds. You do not want to leave Ho Chi Minh City without a taste of their distinctive mouth-watering rendition of this Vietnamese favorite!
Take your knowledge of pho a step further, learn how to master the art of pho in your own kitchen by taking a cooking class.
Get a History Lesson at the War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is one of the most prominent museums in Vietnam, featuring a multitude of war artifacts and powerful photography exhibits. The museum is a sobering reminder of the realities of war. Not for the faint of heart, this museum imparts to its visitors an eye-opening account of the Vietnam War and its impact on the lives of Vietnamese civilians.
Pro tip: Some photographs contain graphic content and may not be suitable for children.
Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Hours: Open every day from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm Cost: 40,000 VND
Have a Drink with a View one of Saigon’s Rooftop Bars!
Ho Chi Minh City has some of the most impressive selection of rooftop bars in the world. Whether you are looking for an upbeat, lively ambiance or something a little more relaxed, Saigon’s rooftop bars will certainly not disappoint.
We recommend the Saigon Saigon Rooftop bar, a unique and notable establishment which served as the meeting place of war correspondents during the Vietnam War. For something more upbeat, check out Chill Sky Bar, with live DJs who have you dancing deep into the night.
Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar
Hours: Daily 11:00 – 03:00
Address: 19 Lam Son Square, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City Chill
Chill Sky Bar
Hours: Monday - Thursday & Sunday 17:30 - 02:00, Friday & Saturday 17:30 - 04:00
Address: Rooftop 26th Floor, AB Tower Saigon, 76A Le Lai. District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Explore Cholon, Saigon's Historic Chinatown
Cholon has been home to Chinese minorities since the late 1770s when the Chinatown was established by refugees fleeing from the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, where it remains one of the largest Chinatowns in the world today. Cholon is the perfect place to try authentic Chinese cuisine and see beautiful classical Chinese architecture in the two-hundred-year-old neighborhood. Go shopping in the hectic but noteworthy Bin Thay market.
The neighborhood is also home to many notable Buddhist temples, where you can appreciate the unique Chinese architecture featuring interior pagodas, altars, and courtyards. Famous temples in this area include the Thien Hau Temple and the Quan Am temple. Other notable landmarks include the Cholon Mosque and Joan of Arc Church.
Thien Hau Temple
Address: 710 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường 11, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
This is it... plus a little bonus!
These were the top 12 Things Every Tourist Must do in Ho Chi Minh City. Hopefully, you've gotten some insight on what you must see in Ho Chi Minh City and had fun doing so!
We also have a little something for you! If you're interested in a cooking class, use the promo code HOCHIMINH10 and get a 10% discount on www.cookly.me