Are you interested in visiting a history-must while you are in Ho Chi Minh City? Independence Palace is one way to do this. The best part is having lunch on the grounds when you are done.
Independence Palace is one of the many sights to see in Ho Chi Minh that you can enjoy on your trip, such as the War Remnants Museum, the Jade Emperor Temple, and the Saigon Central Post Office. You are really going to enjoy this city.
This is your guide to Independence Palace and what you can expect.
We spent a little over an hour there, exploring the main palace as well as the exhibition hall. Then we went for lunch at the restaurant right on the site. It was a great way to get a little more information about this amazing country.
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Visiting Ho Chi Minh City Fast Links (TLDR)
These are our top recommendations while visiting HCMC.
- Caravelle Hotel – ($$$) Famous, or infamous, for their Vietnam Era rooftop bar.
- Orchids Saigon Hotel – ($$) Right downtown and has a pool.
- Singita Saigon Boutique Hotel – ($) – Comfortable, cute, friendly staff and right downtown.
- Ibis Saigon Airport – ($) Near the airport.
Best Tours in HCMC
- A O Show Ticket at Saigon Opera House – Folk Show with a Cirque du Soleil vibe.
- Street Food Evening Walking Tour – a must-do!
- Cu Chi Tunnels: Morning or Afternoon Guided Tour – most popular tour in the city!
Essentials To Pack for Vietnam
In this article:
- Brief History of Independence Palace
- The Exhibition Building
- Lunch on Palace Grounds
- Planning Your Visit
With a turbulent history mirroring that of Vietnam, the Independence Palace, also called Reunification Palace is where the president and vice-president worked and met with dignitaries from around the world.
As you walk around the palace, it feels like a government building. There are conference rooms, banquet halls, meeting rooms, the presidential office, a war room, and even private quarters. The rooms are enormous and richly decorated, ready to welcome the ambassadors of the world. However, the palace was not in use for very long.
A Brief History of Reunification Palace
Originally, the current building was commissioned in the early 1960s after bombs nearly destroyed the old French building, called the Norodom Palace.
It was inaugurated in 1966 but was basically out of commission when the Vietnam war ended in 1975. Two major events happened on site. First, taking a bow to the first bombing flight over the palace, an F5-E pilot tried bombing the palace again, but no real damage was done.
The second event was that two tanks stormed the gates. You can see the tanks, or replicas of them, on the palace grounds not far from the main entrance.
When these two events transpired, it spurred on the departure of the US from Vietnam and the collapse of the South Vietnamese government on April 30, 1975.
Independence Palace Exhibition Building
The exhibition tells you the history of Saigon, and a little of the history of the palace as well. It costs more to include the exhibition in your ticket price, but I would say it’s well worth it.
On the first floor, where you can cool off in the air conditioning, you can watch four films about life in Saigon and the palace history starting with Norodom Palace. The films are very short, and the best part is seeing all the old photos of the city. Each projection is a different movie, so feel free to move about the room to take in the different videos.
On the second floor, you will meet President Ngô Đình Diệm and his family, and learn a little about the war between North and South Vietnam.
Eating Lunch on Palace Grounds
The palace grounds encompass a huge, shaded park. With ancient trees, beautiful flower bushes, and even a large playground for kids, it’s a great place to sit and have lunch.
There are two restaurant buildings, but both have the same name, so I’m not sure if there is a difference in menus or not. We ate at the one on the left, mainly because it had a lot more people in it…mostly locals. In fact, the whole time we were there, we only saw a couple of other foreigners.
This was an amazingly quiet spot in Central Ho Chi Minh, looking out at trees instead of people driving by as in most restaurants. Every guest is greeted with an iced light tea, which was really welcome after walking around in the heat and humidity.
The menu was one of the most Vietnamese I’ve seen, too. You could eat breakfast or lunch there, with everything from pho to fried rice. Some of the more local dishes included snake head, frog, and conger eel.
We didn’t try those, though. We had fried egg with rice, pork belly, and squid with chili, and I can never pass up fresh juice so I ordered carrot. It was all very good, and we really enjoyed the quiet atmosphere.
Everything we ordered cost 60K dong, so our entire meal was only 240K. Well, well worth it.
Planning Your Visit
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia st., Dist. 1, HCMC
106 Nguyen Du st., Dist. 1, HCMC
Hours of Operation: Palace 8:00 – 3:30 and the exhibition 8:30 – 4:30
Costs: There is a cost for just the palace and an additional cost for the exhibition.
Palace only: Adults 40K dong, and children 10 K dong
Palace and Exhibiton: Adults 65 K dong, children 15 K dong
Maybe not the flashiest, most fun of the things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s well worth an hour or two to check out Independence Palace and its grounds.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.