Ho Chi Minh City, popularly known as Saigon, is not just the largest and most populous city in Vietnam but also boasts of a lot of colonial charm and historical landmarks. The war history, historical museums and temples, attractions, markets, food tours, and other fascinating scenes have been infused with modern character to give visitors a wonderful and unforgettable trip around the city.
For those willing to take a family trip or private vacation to Ho Chi Minh City, this guide provides you with the necessary information needed to keep your trip from being overwhelming as the best area to stay, places to visit, things to do, and other necessary information will be pointed out in this guide.
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Best Time of Year to Visit Ho Chi Minh City?
Ho Chi Minh City, just like every other Southeast Asian metropolis is either hot and wet or hot and dry hence the best time I’ll suggest you visit is during the drier months, December to March. This however does not cancel the fact that you can visit Ho Chi Minh City at any time of the year as it is known for its pleasant climate and the rare occurrence of natural disasters unlike other parts of Vietnam.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City?
There is a large variety of hotels and guesthouses readily available in Ho Chi Minh City due to the large presence of tourists and guests.
A large majority of the popular hotels are located close to the main attractions that the city boasts of. These hotels are around Districts 1 and 3.
- The Reverie
- Hotel Nikko
- Park Hyatt Saigon.
- Villa Song Saigon
- Papaya Saigon Central Hotel
- Chez Mimosa boutique
- InterContinental Asiana Saigon
- Hotel des Arts Saigon- MGallery Collection
- Caravelle Saigon
- Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon
5 days in Ho Chi Minh City
This guide aims to expose you to aspects of the city that you would like to explore -the history, the museums and culture, the tunnels, and the various landmarks that the city boasts of.
Day 1 – Ho Chi Minh City Culture
Your first day in Ho Chi Minh City should entail you visiting iconic markets and temples.
Pham Ngu Lao Street
This street is a very busy area and located on the western edge of District 1 and is popular as a result of the majority of the tourist lodging there. The street, 25- minutes away from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, houses coffee shops, restaurants, tour companies, international bars, motels, hotels, kiosks, pharmacies, and craft shops.
Pham Ngu Lao Street also provides a nightlife experience as there are a lot of options available for you. You can check out the View Rooftop Bar as it provides an incredible view of the nighttime with a relaxed atmosphere.
Thien Hau Temple
This temple is dedicated to the Chinese Sea Goddess, Mazu, as she is reputed to providing safety to ships and those on the sea. Colorful dioramas are hung from the ceiling, statues, sculptures, and other artworks that depict Chinese architecture. There are porcelain figurines, courtyards full of burning incense that indicate the mythology and religion of the Chinese.
Bitexco Tower SkyDeck
Standing as the tallest building in the city at 262m, this tower provides very great views both in the day and at night. The tower houses company offices of financial institutions, shops, restaurants, and a helipad on the roof.
There is a glass observation Sky Desk on the 49th floor which provides viewers with a 360- degrees view of Ho Chi Minh City and the Saigon River.
This is the only Hindu temple in the whole city and is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess or Fain, Mariamman. She is believed to bless her visitors with wealth and luck and also protect her own temple. There are various intricately detailed statues of gods and goddesses. The temple is closed between 12 pm and 1 pm so you should plan your time accordingly.
Ben Thanh Market
This is one of the most popular and oldest markets in Ho Chi Minh City and is ideal to purchase locally crafted Vietnamese arts and crafts. You can purchase Vietnamese souvenirs and traditional Ao Dai garments here.
There is delicious Vietnamese cuisine, hawker-style food stalls and street eats available. The market provides a lively atmosphere, although it is advisable that you go after the midday sun.
Day 2 – Ho Chi Minh City History
Your second day would be spent outside Ho Chi Minh City.
Cao Dai Temple
This temple is located close to the Cambodian border and showcases a lot of authentic Vietnamese architecture. The temple was built in 1947 and represents Caodaism, a culture that promotes tolerance for all humanity and emphasizes the similarity and equality of all religions.
This boasts of a weekend night market in the city. There is lots of outdoor seating, vibrant nightlife, a display of trinkets, clothes, authentic Vietnamese dishes, and others.
Cu Chi Tunnels
These tunnels boast of underground tunnels that are all networked and were put to use by the Viet Cong soldiers. Some parts of the tunnel have been expanded to accommodate crowds while some others are narrow.
The tunnels are over 120km long and there are various sections that you can visit – underground living quarters, armories, trap houses, and hospitals.
Day 3 – Ho Chi Minh City Landmarks
Your third day is to visit the iconic places in the city.
War Remnants Museum
This is a very important trip as there are exhibits from the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War. The displays, especially those from the war, are very graphic and serve as a reminder of the damages that war causes and how war changes lives negatively.
The museum is easy to locate as it is in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.
This palace is also known as the Reunification Palace and has a lot of historic symbols. The original palace was built for the then French Governor-General of Indochina in 1868 and it was brought to grounds when it was targeted by the Vietnamese Liberation Army in 1975. This then made way for the Independence Palace to be built on the site.
Saigon Central Post Office
This is also the Ho Chi Minh City Post Office and boasts of a well-preserved building. Constructed in the 19th century, the post office stands unchanged. The high ceilings, wooden shutters, arched windows, and other design elements are such a beauty to behold.
Notre- Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
This Catholic cathedral is very popular and located in Paris Square. Fashioned after Notre Dame de Paris, even the materials for her construction were brought in from France. The exterior designs are enough to wow visitors and that is small compared to the interior.
Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House, also iconic since 1898 has been certified as a National Relic, and is still used to host a lot of performances now including concerts, ballet, bamboo cirque, and cultural performances.
Day 4 – Mekong Delta (a day tour)
Mekong Delta boats of a maze of rivers, islands, and swamps in southern Vietnam. You should visit this part by boat as it houses a couple of floating markets, villages, workshops, farms, pagodas, and friendly locals.
There are tour companies that would show you around for the day, you could use the Mekong Eyes. The tour companies will pick you from your hotel and then take you on a leisurely cruise, explore the traditions of the inhabitants, try out local dishes. The tour costs about USD 110 for adults and USD 80 for kids under 12 and lasts for about 8-9 hours.
Day 5 – Ho Chi Minh City Food & Shopping
Ho Chi Minh City boasts of a large selection of Pho restaurants. Pho is the famous national dish and you should not leave the city without trying it. Pho is a very delicious meal and made with noodles, broth, chicken or beef, beansprouts and garnish.
Pho 1954 is a very popular spot and there is a guarantee of a tasty bowl of authentic Pho. This restaurant has been in operation since 1954 and has been serving tourists since then, hence the name.
Asides from the Ben Thanh Market, there is also the popular An Dong Market, famous for its fashion and craft, and also the Bin Tay Market, famous for its array of textile, exotic fruits, and handicrafts.
More Fun Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Ho Chi Minh City Hall
- The Café Apartment
- Bai Sai Gon 73
- Jade Emperor Pagoda
- Tan Dinh Church
- Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
- Giac Lam Pagoda
- Bui Vien Street
Getting around the City
This is very important if you want to really enjoy knowing the city. Your trip would take you around the majority of the city and you sure do not want to walk all the way. Ho Chi Minh City provides you with a large network of cheap buses. The fares are low and there are plenty of routes that the buses can access. There are also taxis and motorbikes which are inexpensive due to the low cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City.
This might probably look overwhelming but I can assure you that a trip to Ho Chi Minh City is one that is full of culture and exciting attractions and this guide has now provided you with all the information needed to make your trip unforgettable.
Guest Author: Catalin Geangos is the Founder and Editor of TravelTrained and a travel blogger who mainly focuses on nightlife, pub crawls, and party experiences while traveling in Southeast Asia. He moved from Romania to the UK 6 years ago and since then he traveled to over 30 countries. You can follow him on Instagram at https://instagram.com/traveltrained.
Incorrect fact about Independence Palace, it was not “Brought to grounds” or even targeted for destruction at the end of the war in 1975. It was last rebuilt during the 60s after the 1963 coup that overthrown the first Republic of Viet Nam leaders and the beginning of the second Republic period.