Ho Chi Minh is a wholly unique city where you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into another world from the moment you land. It’s always busy and noisy, the streets are frankly terrifying for tourists, and the food is strange and almost always delicious. When you travel to Ho Chi Minh, you’ll walk away changed, it’s just unavoidable.
But this isn’t always the easiest city to explore. Everything is different in Ho Chi Minh, from the language to the food and even the way you cross the street! To help you navigate this strangeness and stay alive while you explore all the historical and beautiful places to visit in Ho Chi Minh, make sure you take this easy guide along with you.
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Ho Chi Minh:
Pham Ngu Lao
Known as the “backpacker district,” Pham Ngu Lao is an area in District 1 that attracts budget travelers thanks to the low prices for everything from food and drink to accommodation.
- Join a Vintage Vespa Tour and explore Saigon on two wheels.
- Take a day trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels and learn how the village protected themselves during the War.
- Learn about Saigon’s troubled past at the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Ho Chi Minh!
#1 – Giac Lam Pagoda
Why it’s so awesome: Giac Lam Pagoda was built in 1744 and is the oldest temple in Ho Chi Minh. Brightly colored and cheerful, the pagoda looks amazing set against the lush green trees and gardens that surround it. It looks great in photos and remains one of the best places to visit in Ho Chi Minh if you’re looking for some serenity.
What to do there: When you arrive at the temple, make sure you pay attention to the Bodhi tree at the entrance of the temple, which was a gift from a Sri Lankan monk in 1953. The temple itself is beautiful and looks amazing in photos, but don’t forget to explore the gardens as well. They include some amazing architecture and have a serene atmosphere which is the perfect antidote to the busy city streets.
#2 – The Central Office – One of Ho Chi Minh’s coolest historical sites!
- A slightly strange area to visit, but this is still one of the most important landmarks in Ho Chi Minh.
- Bring your camera with you and marvel at this building, designed by one of the most famous architects in the modern world.
Why it’s so awesome: You might think that visiting a post office sounds boring, but this office is a little different. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the famous Eiffel Tower and dates back to 1886. Built in a gothic style, this stunning building remains one of the most striking points of interest in Ho Chi Minh.
What to do there: Take your camera along with you and explore this monument to architecture and French influence. Make sure you go inside as well, as the huge domed roof looks amazing and the walls are adorned with colonial maps that are worth some study.
#3 – The Reunification Palace
Why it’s so awesome: Vietnam’s troubled history is very close to the present and you’ll feel it everywhere in the city. If you want to learn more about this history, then you need to put this building on your Ho Chi Minh sightseeing itinerary. It’s a monument to the Vietnam War and to the end of the war.
What to do there: This building looks the same as it did in 1966 and it carries its history heavily. If you want to gain a really complete understanding of the building and its place in history, then take the free tour. The guide will help you understand the cultural and historical significance of the building to the war and to modern Vietnam.
#4 – Pham Ngu Lao Street – A great place to visit Ho Chi Minh at night
Why it’s so awesome: This is the street where you need to go if you want to have a night out with friends. There are a huge range of bars and cafes in the area where you can sit and relax after a day of walking and sightseeing. Some of the best places to add to your Ho Chi Minh itinerary are located in this area too. So, if you can’t afford to stay at these expensive hotels, you can at least enjoy a drink in their luxurious bars.
What to do there: Grab a group of friends and enjoy the friendly, busy atmosphere. You can have a drink, grab a meal, and explore the music and nightlife. Also, make sure that you have a drink at the Rex, the Majestic, or the Caravelle Hotels as they all have rooftop bars. There’s nothing quite like having a drink while looking out over the lights of the city.
#5 – The History Museum – A fascinating educational place to visit in Ho Chi Minh
Why it’s so awesome: This museum was once a French colonial villa and the building and grounds still reflect that history. But it’s what’s inside the museum that’s really worth the trip. It contains artifacts that span 4,000 years of Vietnam’s history, from Bronze Age weapons and art to pieces from the Cham and Khmer Kingdoms.
What to do there: Put aside a couple of hours to explore the history and art on display at this museum. And when you’re done, decompress in the garden and let all that history and artwork sink in and influence how you think about Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh in particular.
#6 – The War Remnants Museum – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Ho Chi Minh
Why it’s so awesome: Most people in western countries knows about the Vietnam War, but as you backpack around Vietnam you’ll think about it from new perspectives you may have never considered. In Ho Chi Minh, this war is often known as the American War, and this museum explores it through this very different viewpoint. It doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of the war either, so prepare yourself to have an emotional and harrowing tour through a part of history you thought you knew about.
What to do there: Take your time to explore when you get to this museum, as it will teach you things about the War that you can’t find in the history books. You’ll get to see a variety of different types of war relics from Huey helicopters to attack bombers and tanks. But even more tragic, the museum includes personal memorabilia from the war’s victims as well as old photographs that will take you back to that dark time in history.
#7 – Cu Chi Tunnels
Why it’s so awesome: The Cu Chi Tunnels are a series of underground tunnels and chambers which stretch for 30km outside of the city and they were used by the Vietcong guerrillas during the Vietnam War. You can actually crawl through these tunnels now and experience what it must have been like during that time which is an extreme and viscerally important experience.
What to do there: Don’t even think about exploring these tunnels if you have claustrophobia as they are very small and dark and frightening even if you don’t have trouble with tight spaces. But if you’re feeling brave and want to experience this little slice of history when you visit Ho Chi Minh City, take the time to immerse yourself in what it must have been like for those fighters during the.
#8 – Notre Dame Cathedral
Why it’s so awesome: You wouldn’t expect to be able to see a building in this style right in the middle of Ho Chi Minh. It’s a jarring contrast the buildings around it and that’s what makes it one of the most popular points of interest in Ho Chi Minh. Built between 1877 and 1883, the towers are 40 meters high and the inside is lushly decorated with stained glass windows and devotional tablets.
What to do there: The staff at this cathedral are available during the week to teach you all about the history of the cathedral. So, if you want to learn more about significance in Ho Chi Minh’s history, make sure you show up during working hours.
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#9 – The Mekong Delta – A must visit place to visit in Ho Chi Minh on the weekend!
Why it’s so awesome: Stretching over 39,000 square kilometres, this mass of waterways is densely populated and one of the hotspots in Ho Chi Minh for travelers. The Mekong Delta is about 4 hours from the city, which makes it the perfect place to visit on an organized tour. The waterways are filled with floating markets, homes, and schools and you simply can’t miss what all this looks like when it’s arranged around rushing water.
What to do there: If you have limited time to stay in this beautiful area of Vietnam then it’s probably best that you find an organized tour. That way you have the transport organized for you as well as a guide who can show you the best places.
#10 – Cao Dai Temple
Why it’s so awesome: Cao Dai is a relatively new religion established in Vietnam in the 20th century. It’s a monotheistic religion that integrates aspects from all the major religions within its doctrines. There are several Cao Dai temples in Vietnam, but the temple in Ho Chi Minh is said to be the most beautiful in the country.
What to do there: This temple looks amazing in pictures, so make sure you take a few selfies outside. Once you’re inside, you’ll find ornately carved dragons and a dazzling mix of religious statues that are from sometimes opposing religions but nonetheless look amazing together. Make sure you examine the effigies of Brahman, Buddha, and Christ in particular because they’re reflective of the inclusiveness this religion is known for.
#11 – Bitexco Financial Tower
Why it’s so awesome: This tower was designed by Carlos Zapata and reaches 68 storeys in the air and 262 meters. The building was designed to resemble a lotus bulb and there’s a sky deck on the 48th floor where you can take in the views of the city.
What to do there: Try to get to the tower at sunset for amazing views of the city against the colorful sky. You can also grab a drink at the rooftop bar if you want to sit and relax against the backdrop of that stunning vista.
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#12 – Ben Thanh Market – A must-see for foodies!
Why it’s so awesome: This market is in the center of the city and is one of the most popular landmarks in Ho Chi Minh for shopping and eating. It contains a huge range of world-class street food vendors selling snacks and meals and you can find almost every type of souvenir in the market that you can imagine.
What to do there: When you arrive at the market, spend some time perusing the stalls first. You’ll find a dizzying array of ceramics, textiles, and souvenirs for sale and make sure that you bargain to ensure you get a good price. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to the food sections and try as many snacks as you can fit in your stomach!
#13 – Jade Emperor Pagoda – One of the most religious places to see in Ho Chi Minh
Why it’s so awesome: This is the type of pagoda that you probably imagined when you were planning your Ho Chi Minh itinerary. It’s atmospheric, with the heavy smell of incense and strange, fierce characters glaring at you from the walls. It was built in 1909 in honor of the supreme Taoist God, the Jade Emperor, and is also stunningly beautiful with amazing woodcarvings and a tiled roof.
What to do there: This is a working pagoda, so you’ll find people worshipping at the altars and praying at the statues. This means that you need to be quiet and respectful while you explore. Make sure that you explore all the different rooms. The room on the left-hand side of the Jade Emperor’s chamber is dedicated to the Chief of Hell and contains the Hall of the Ten Hells. You’ll find some amazing and slightly disconcerting imagery in this room.
#14 – The Fine Arts Museum
Why it’s so awesome: This art gallery is housed in a colonial building from 1929 that includes stained glass, lovely verandahs, and art from the modern and ancient past. Some of the artwork dates back to the 4th century and a lot of it was inspired by the war and its effects on Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam as a whole.
What to do there: If you want to learn more about art in Vietnam, then this is the best place to visit in Ho Chi Minh. Explore the artwork on the walls, but also explore the ground as well. There are some amazing statues scattered around from the 7th through to the 14th century. And if you want to take home a memento of your visit, head to the shop for some great prints for reasonable prices.
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Final Thoughts on the Coolest Places to Visit in Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh is an exciting, frantic, frenetic city that will change what you think of Vietnam, traveling and the world. There are lots of amazing places to visit in Ho Chi Minh, but the best part of being in this city is actually experiencing its heartbeat, the amazing food, and the local way of life. Ho Chi Minh isn’t a city that’s easily accessible to tourists. Not a lot of people speak much English and it is definitely very foreign. But it’s also a city that will delight your taste buds and your wanderlust. So, if you’re looking to get the most out of this experience, this guide should point you in the right direction.
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