Ho Chi Minh City serves as a major travel hub within Vietnam. In 2018 alone, HCMC welcomed a record-breaking seven million foreign travelers through their gates. Ho Chi Minh City is often described as chaotic and crowded…and it is. Needless to say, it can be difficult to navigate the city if you don’t have much experience. In order to save you a bit of time and lessen the stress, Maika Tours takes us on a trip around the city to learn about 9 must-see sites in Ho Chi Minh City.
Top 9 must-see sites in Ho Chi Minh City with Maika Tours
HCMC is all about the old and the new. Skyscrapers tower above buddhist temples built centuries ago and modernity and tradition are able to amalgamate in an appealing way. With Vietnam’s vibrant street food scene now in the international spotlight, foodies and explorers alike are flocking by the millions. Today, Vietnam has become one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
With around 8 million registered residents alongside millions of motorbikes, finding your way around around a metropolis of this size is no easy task. To help guide you in the right direction, Maika Tours compiled a list of 9 must-see sites in Ho Chi Minh City.
#1. Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is regarded as one of the earliest surviving structures in HCMC. What was once 17th century street vendors gathering together near the Saigon River is now the most famous market in the country.
Located in the middle of District 1 Ben Thanh Market is just a 10-15 minute walk from the nearby the backpacker area of Bui Vien. Originally constructed in 1859 this is just one of many must-see sites in Ho Chi Minh City. Expect a large variety of products ranging from cheap souvenirs to local cuisine, traditional artwork, locally-sourced gemstones, and handmade artisanal products.
Insider Tip: Bartering is part of the experience. Try to avoid fixed prices as up-selling can occur.
Address: Ben Thanh Market – Cho, Le Loi, Phuong Ben Thanh, District 1
#2. Rooftop lounges and bars
When people travel to Vietnam rooftop bars are often overlooked despite the fact the increasing amount of rooftop bars in HCMC all provideInsta-worthy panoramic views of the sprawling cityscape.
Ho Chi Minh City’s sky-high night clubs bring in international DJs, roll out happy hours, and throw many events. Although rooftop bars have became a hot stop for young locals looking to party, all travelers should be aware that they are not cheap. Drink and food items are significantly higher than your average bar in Vietnam.
Insider Tip: Check out Chill Skybar for live music, delicious food, and a stunning view of the city.
Address: 136-138 Le Thi Hong Gam, Phuong Nguyen Thai Bin, District 1
#3. Reunification Palace
The Independence Palace (also known as the Reunification Palace) is one the most historically significant must-see sites in Ho Chi Minh City. It marks the place where Vietnam finally gained its freedom after a Northern Vietnam Army tank plowed through the front gates. This was the end of the war.
A visit to the Reunification Palace is on the itenerary for Maika’s Full Day Tour in Ho Chi Minh City.
Since the end of the war in 1975 the Reunification Palace has virtually remained frozen in time. Still to this day, two of the original tanks from the northern army remain on the premises above a 72.5 meter-long labyrinth of secret military escape routes and communication bunkers.
Insider Tip: If you want a guided tour, rent a headset. It gives you more in-depth information as you make your way through the compound.
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Phuong Ben Thanh, District 1
#4. Nguyen Hue Walking Street
Across from City Hall in central District 1 is a no-car no-motorbike walking area. As you weave through the crowd on certain occaisons there are live performances and viewings of sporting events. Beginning from the Saigon River make your way down the 900 meter strip to witness the stunning architecture of the City Hall. As you approach the City Hall be sure to snag a photo of the famous statue of Vietnam’s beloved leader Ho Chi Minh.
Once the sun goes down Nguyen Hue Walking street fills up with delicious street food, couples and friends mingling, and hoverboards for rent. Along walking street there are many other must-see tourist sites in Ho Chi Minh City to experience. There’s the famous French colonial Hotel de Ville and the gorgeous architecture of the People’s Committee building,
Aside from these sites you can walk down to overlook the Saigon River, and stare up at Ho Chi Minh City’s second tallest building, the Bitexco Financial Tower. It’s also highly suggested to drop into one of the city’s most cherished buildings at 42 Nguyen Hue for local Vietnamese coffee and cuisine, and a slew of new, creative boutique shops.
#5. Bui Vien street
Bui Vien is one of the craziest must-see tourist sites in Ho Chi Minh City. So, if you like to party and enjoy cheap beer this is where you need to be. It is the backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City, bursting at the seams with hostels, hotels, bars, souvenir shops, and restaurants.
Go for a party or just to people watch. No matter what you do, make sure you don’t get lost in the madness of rooftop bars, pubs, clubs, and lounges. Some compare it to Khao San Road in Bangkok. So, be ready for loud music, street performances, heaps of food, and loads of beer and laughter.
Insider Tip: Be warned that this street gets very wild at late at night. Protect your belongings.
Address: Bui Vien, Phuong Pham Ngu Lao, District 1
#6. The Saigon Opera House
On the 17th of January 1900 The Saigon Opera House held its very first event right in the heart of the city. It was buit in 1898 by Eugene Ferret, a French architect who implemented the “flamboyant” style of the French Third Republic. Built in parallel structure, the Opera House is located on the city’s center axis. Today, it connects the metro station and roundabout in front of Ben Thanh Market.
When it came to size Eugene Ferret didn’t hold back when he designed the Saigon Opera House to be 3,200,000 square meters in total areas. And 121 years later shows are still being performed. It seats 468 people and was set to be two meters higher than the street level. Eugene also added two layers of doors in order to prevent traffic coming from outside.
Regarding shows held today, the A O Show is one of the most popular performances in town. The theme of the A O Show plays on the contrast between the wide gap between living in the countryside and big city’s like Saigon and Hanoi. There is bamboo cirque accompanied by dance and folk instruments.
Finally in 2012, the Saigon Opera House was certified as a National Relic.
Insider Tip: All shows at the Saigon Opera House are in high demand so make sure to book your tickets in advance.
Address: 07 Cong Truong Lam Son, Ben Nghe, District 1
#7. Giac Lam Pagoda
The Giac Lam Pagoda is one of the oldest temple in Ho Chi Minh City dating back to 1744. When spelled out in Chinese Giac Lam Pagoda translates to “Feel the Woods Temple”. Like numerous other Vietnamese temples the religous practice is a mix of confucianism and Taoism.
In 1988 Giac Lam Pagoda was listed as an official historical site by the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture. Upon entering the pagoda vistors will walk through a big garden. At the doorway to the temple is a statue of bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara under a tall and healthy bodhi tree. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is an enlightened revered for compassion. In total the Giac Lam Pagoda has Giac Lam Pagoda has 112 historic statues, made from wood with gold coatings painted onto the exterior. In addition, there are seven bronze statues.
Insider Tip: If you plan to visit the pagoda make sure you wear proper clothing.
Address: 565 Lac Long Quan, Phuong 10, Tan Bình
#8. Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
The Saigon Notre Dame Catherdral was established by the French colonists and was constructed between 1863 and 1880. All the materials for its construction was imported directly from France. Then in 1895 two bell towers were added which reach a height of 58 meters. They still ring to this day.
The cathedral itself stands at 60 meters and although it is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous attractions, it continues to hold services for the local community. The ideal time to get inside and take a look is during Sunday mass at 9:30 AM although its doors are open from 8:00 AM to 17:00 PM everyday.
Insider Tip: It is ok to take photos during a sermon but do your best not to disturb those worshipping.
Address: 01 Cong xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1
#9. Saigon Central Post Office
The remnants of colonial architectural design is what makes the Saigon Central Post Office such an iconic site. It was constructed between 1886-1891 and is inspried by both Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
The Saigon Central Post Office is reminiscent of a 20th century European train station, yet it is still a functioning post office today. Ho Chi Minh City has very carefully preserved this elegant structure. The post office offers full service and also sells postcards and stamps, making excellent souvenirs to bring back home.
Insider Tip: Check out the old glue pots to place stamps on envelopes.
Address: 125 Cong xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1