From my arrival into Ho Chi Minh City until my departure date, I spent exactly 3 days in this vibrant city. Ho Chi Minh City is also known by its old Vietnamese name – Saigon. Locals and many travelers still refer to it as Saigon, especially the main central district (District 1) of the city. Due to its shorter name, I will also refer to Saigon on this post.
Saigon is a city of nearly 9 million people, which once was actually the capital city of Vietnam. Today the title belongs to Hanoi, while Saigon remains the largest city in the country. Despite being quite a large city, 3 days are really enough to experience the best of Saigon. So if you are planning to visit there sometime and not sure how to spend your days there, here is something to help you out!
Located at the end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard, this beautifully-colored building is known as the People’s Committee Hall. The city hall has a french colonial architectural style – an evidence of the colonial influence in the city. While during the day the building looks great, at night it’s even better when it lights up! On the foreground is the statue of Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese communist revolutionary leader. I’d recommend visiting the city hall both during the day and night.
Fun fact : The city hall used to be a hotel!
Notre Dame Cathedral
Another example of the french influence. This catholic cathedral is a major tourist attraction in the city and while the entry is free, I must say the inside looks quite bland. I personally liked the exterior architecture more and I’m sure many would agree with me as well. Christians (especially Catholics) do make up a significant number of the Vietnamese as well as the Saigonese population.
Saigon Opera House
The Opera House is also known as the Municipal Theater. Located at just a stone’s throw from the Nguyen Hue Boulevard, the theater building also has a french colonial facade. For those interested in theater and drama shows, this is definitely the right place to be! There is even a show dedicated to introducing Vietnamese culture and people. Just like the city hall, the opera house looks amazing at night as well!
Saigon Central Mosque
There is a sizable Muslim community present in Vietnam and this is one of the 12 mosques in the city. Located quite close to the opera house and Nguyen Hue Street, this colorful mosque has quite an interesting look from the outside. It is worth to visit however please do remember to take off your shoes and dress modestly if you wish to enter inside!
Rent a motorbike!
I guess most people already know that Vietnam is famous for getting around in motorbikes. Saigon is no exception too, as the vast majority of the traffic there is made up of motorbikes. If you know how to ride a motorbike, renting one yourself would be really helpful to get around. Finding a motorbike renting place is not hard, though it’s much easier to find one at Pham Ngu Lao Street. Wearing a helmet is compulsory!
Stroll through Nguyen Hue Boulevard
It’s not so common to find European-style boulevards or high streets in many Asian cities. Due to Vietnam’s colonial past however, the Nguyen Hue Street in the city center is a very popular meeting and relaxing place for locals and travelers alike. There are numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants on both sides of this street offering something for everyone. During the day you won’t find much people hanging about because of hot weather – at night is when things start to get… lively and crowdy!
Ben Thanh Market
An important symbol of the city, this marketplace is an ideal place for anyone wanting to buy Vietnamese souvenirs, handicrafts, and food. Some shops unfortunately do tend to charge higher prices so it’s always best to bargain. Keep in mind that paying in the local currency (Vietnamese Dong) is a far better option!
Visit a Pagoda
If you’re interested in Buddhism, there are numerous Pagodas scattered all over the city which one can visit. Some famous ones include Quan Am Pagoda in Cholon district and the Emperor Jade Temple. But the one I personally liked most was Vinh Nghiem (Ever Solemn) Pagoda located in district 3 of the city. It was actually my first time in a Buddhist Temple and I found it quite fascinating and guess what? This is the first Pagoda built with concrete in traditional Vietnamese architecture!
One thing I found interesting was that to enter a pagoda, you have to take off your shoes – just like when entering a mosque!
This large palace-like structure used to be the presidential palace of South Vietnam until the end of the war. Also known as the Independence Palace, a visit inside the building costs only € 1 (30,000 VND). Interestingly, a replica of the tank that ‘ended the war’ by crashing through the palace gate can be seen parked outside!
War Remnants Museum
Just a short walk from the Reunification Palace, this museum is an interesting place for those wanting to learn more about Vietnam War. For an entry fee of just 15,000 VND (which is about 50 cents only btw), you get to see an exhibit of U.S. Military equipment used in the war as well as many other weapons of destruction.
Bitexco Financial Tower and Saigon Skydeck
For skyscraper nuts like me, Saigon definitely has something to offer! Head to the Bitexco Financial Tower – standing tall at 262 meters with 68 floors, this glass and steel structure is the 3rd tallest building in Vietnam. It is one of the 20 most iconic buildings in the world which at 178 meters offers a 360-view of the city from the observation platform known as Saigon Skydeck. Depending on your taste, you could either visit it during the day or night – though I must say the view looks better at night!
Btw, a trip to the Skydeck would cost you 200,000 VND – i.e. € 8
You could spend your last day in Saigon either to relax or explore something more Vietnamese. If you would like to go out of the city, you can take a day trip to the Mekong Delta. There you can have a boat trip in Mekong river and get an insight into more traditional and rural Vietnamese life.
If you prefer staying within the city, you can visit Cholon district, otherwise known as Chinatown. Apparently it’s the largest Chinatown in the world!
Or how about try a bowl of delicious Pho? 😉
It’s your turn!
Do you plan to visit Ho Chi Minh sometime in your life? How many days are you planning to visit there? And If you have already been to Saigon, please do let me know how you spent your days there down there in the comment box! Looking forward to hear your opinions 🙂 .