Are you planning a trip to Vietnam? Are you wondering where to go? No matter what, don’t miss Saigon. There are so many things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, including fantastic museums, chaotic streets and markets, and great eateries.
Ho Chi Minh is one of those cities that you fall in love with, but you are not sure why. We’ve lived here for almost six months, and I find myself just enjoying it more and more each day. It creeps up on you. Now when I travel outside the country, I find myself missing the convenience, the predictability of Saigon.
Some of the things I love are getting cheap, but oh, so delicious meals, that cost a mere few dollars at most. I love the juxtaposition of the chaotic streets and traffic to the calm of the parks and believe it or not, the shopping malls.
Not being a shopper at heart, the malls provide order, chic coffee shops, and lots of fantastic restaurants, let alone great play zones for my grandson. These are all things that surprised me when moving here.
I think the one thing I love the most in Ho Chi Minh is the availability of getting freshly squeezed juices for a pittance. Not one day goes by that I’m not drinking a tall glass of refreshing fresh juice. Not one. I know that when I move this is a luxury I probably won’t be able to afford anywhere else in the world, so I’m living it up, one sip at a time.
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
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In this article:
- Is HCMC Worth Visiting?
- Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Map
- Top Attractions in HCMC
- Is Ho Chi Minh City Walkable?
- Best Time to Visit
- Where to Stay in HCMC
Is Ho Chi Minh Worth Visiting?
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is definitely worth your time. If you visit Vietnam and don’t stop in the most cosmopolitan center, where you can buy and eat anything that is produced in the whole country, you are missing out.
HCMC is all at once frenetic, busy, fast, loud, and tons of fun. Especially if you are coming from other parts of Southeast Asia, you will find it is easier to get around and cheaper, as well. This is also the best place to base yourself for visiting the Mekong Delta or the Cu Chi Tunnels, as well as a good flying hub to take off for places like Phu Quoc.
Another good thing is if you think it is too hot to walk, you can always take a bus, taxi, or Grab car, which are all pretty cheap.
You might want to check out our podcast on Ho Chi Minh as well.
Or you can always subscribe to one of these:
Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Map
Top Attractions in Ho Chi Minh City
Being the largest city, there are so many things to do in Saigon (HCMC). You can do most of them in just a few days, but it’s a good idea to have time in-between sights just to experience the city itself. It’s unique, that’s for sure.
- Saigon Central Post Office
- War Remnants Museum
- Independence Palace
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History
- Ben Than Market
- AO Show
- Nguyen Hue Walking Street
- Ho Chi Minh Statue and Ho Chin Minh Town Hall
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum
Some of our favorite tours and tickets in Ho Chi Minh include:
- A O Show at Saigon Opera House – a spectacular show featuring amazing acrobatics
- HCMC: Motorbike City Highlights – hop on the back of a motorbike and explore the city
- Street Food Tour – start your time off right in Vietnam, learning all about the street food
Saigon Central Post Office
Walking inside the Saigon Central Post Office really brings you back to early French colonial times. The arched windows, the dark wooden booths, all come together to give you a feeling of nostalgia. And you will want to buy a postcard and send it to one of your loved ones from right there.
War Remnants Museum
A sobering and poignant reminder of a gruesome war, the War Remnants Museum is a must-see in HCMC. With a large static exhibit of machinery and aircraft on the outside, the museum’s mission is to tell the whole story of what they call the “American War” and we call the “Vietnam War.”
Independence Palace – Reunification Hall
With all kinds of government rooms like the Cabinet, banquet hall, and conference hall, you can tell that Independence Palace has been used for making momentous decisions. To visit, you must be very careful not to break any rules, which makes you feel very much like you are visiting a military installation. Nevertheless, no visit to HCMC would be complete without a stop here.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History
One of our favorite museums in Vietnam, the Ho Chi Minh Museum of History, takes a look at culture, not war. There are parts that talk about the march to independence, but it’s not the overall theme. The colonial architecture of the building is gorgeous, and the exhibits are well put together.
Ben Thanh Market
The most popular market for tourists to visit, Ben Thanh is all at once loud, busy, and sells everything from produce to t-shirts. You will definitely want to make a stop here, do some shopping, taste some foods, and maybe even sample some of that fresh juice I was ranting about. It’s just so much fun.
One of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is go to the AO Show at the Saigon Opera House. It’s energetic, acrobatic, full of dance, humor, and overall just plain fun! Kids will love it as much as the adults.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street
This wide cemented path right in the middle of the city is a great place to take some iconic photos of Ho Chi Minh City. Along the Nguyen Hue Walking Street you’ll come across the Instagram-famous Café Apartment where you have a choice of many different coffee shops to try, as well as ending up at the HCMC Town Hall. It’s especially nice right before sunset.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum
The Ho Chi Minh City Museum is a re-purposed old palace and the building itself is stunning. So much so, in fact, that lots of locals schedule photo shoots here for important occasions, like weddings.
The museum itself is a collection of everything about Saigon and its particular history. Some of my favorite things included the “currency” room and again about the independence movement within the city.
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Even though it’s in a small area, smack dab in the middle of the city, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens are mostly shaded, and have beautiful flowers, and a fair diversity of animals. Kids, especially, will love running around the zoo, looking at the animals, and playing in the playgrounds.
Vietnamese temples are peaceful and beautiful. It seems as soon as you walk through the gate, the sights and sounds of the city fade, and you can enjoy some serenity. The temples are always decorated with bright cheery colors and have designs from ranging bamboo to dragons. It’s free to enter, and each one is a little different.
Here are some temples that we’ve enjoyed:
- Jade Emperor Pagoda
- Chua Phap Hoa
Shopping in HCMC
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City is a combination of themed streets such as book street, guitar street, even ornamental pot street; markets and shopping malls. You can get clothes and shoes made to order, and really find anything that you could possibly want in this huge city. Just don’t forget to bargain for a good price in most of these places.
Is HCMC Walkable?
One of the great things about Ho Chi Minh is that all the main sights are pretty much within a walkable distance. And most of those places are in District One where you are more likely to find crosswalks with traffic lights and sidewalks. Walking around before 9:00 in the morning will give you a chance to see the city while it’s waking up, but not too many tourists are out yet. It’s a fantastic time to take photos and a great way to beat the heat.
Additionally, most of the year, if you walk around in the evening, the air is a bit cooler. Not cold, but cooler. There will be lots of people around, vying for those Instagram shots, but the other great thing about the evenings is the sunsets in Ho Chi Minh are usually quite stunning. They burst out beautiful oranges, yellows, and lots of pink.
Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City
Since Ho Chi Minh is located in Southern Vietnam, solidly in the tropics, the temperatures never drop too low, but there definitely is a rainy season to look out for as well as the heat of mid-summer.
You can see from the graphs below the actual temperature change is not that significant, but the rainy season is also more humid, even when it’s not raining. It can be very uncomfortable.
The good thing is that Saigon has plenty of places that have air-conditioning, unlike other parts of the country, so as long as you can go inside, you’ll be comfortable.
What to Pack for Ho Chi Minh City
As you can see from the temperatures, you really want to be prepared for sun, heat, and rain.
We always travel with the following in our day packs, because we don’t like to get caught out in the weather without being prepared. It’s proved to be worthwhile many times.
- A wide-brimmed sunhat
- A good water bottle
- Sunscreen and Insect Repellent
- lightweight rain jacket
We also wear good hiking sandals, that let your feet breathe, but won’t fall off, as well as light clothing, preferably cotton.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
District One is where most of the sights and points of interest are in the city and naturally, this is where most of the hotels can be found. Prices and comfort levels are available to meet any budget. Here are some of our favorites:
- Caravelle Hotel – ($$$) Famous, or infamous, for their Vietnam Era rooftop bar, Saigon Saigon, everything about the Caravelle is elegant comfort in the heart of the city.
- Orchids Saigon Hotel – ($$) Another excellent value choice within walking distance of most of the main sights in town with a soothing indoor pool where you can really beat the heat.
- Singita Saigon Boutique Hotel – ($) – Comfortable, cute, friendly staff and right downtown.
- Ibis Saigon Airport – ($) Need to stay near the airport, there are only a few good options, and the Ibis is the best of them offering good quality at a great price.
- Amango Dorm – (Hostel-<$) – great amenities and attention to detail.
Ho Chi Minh City will surprise you. It will draw you in, and make you want to come back time and time again. Luckily, the city is always changing, upgrading. It’s a place where you can feel like a true traveler, a journey-person, an explorer. You will love it.
There are also some other great places to visit in this amazing country, like Dalat, Phu Quoc, Hanoi, and many, many more.
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.