Top free things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids
From technicolour pagodas and bustling markets to vibrant streetlife and a rooftop playground, a family holiday to Ho Chi Minh City needn’t break the bank.
- Updated September 2022
Supercharged and supersized, Ho Chi Minh City may not seem like an obvious destination for a family holiday. But look past the big-city bustle, and you’ll find a surprising number of kid-friendly attractions. Even better, many of them won’t cost you a dong.
Run amok on a rooftop playground
Escape the crowded streets and head skywards to this fabulous playground on the rooftop of the glitzy SC Vivo City shopping mall. Catering for younger children, Vivo Playground offers aquatic fun galore (water jet spray zone, anyone?), plus less water-logged amusements like a mega-trampoline. Check out the huge wall mural, depicting the traditional Vietnamese legend of the River God and the Mountain God. The mall has a couple of other play areas inside, but this is the only one with free entry.
Location: Fifth floor, SC Vivo City, Nguyen Van Linh Boulevard, District 7
Promenade and people-watch along the ‘walking street’
Head down to the iconic Nguyen Hue Street in the evening and join the throng for a quintessential Ho Chi Minh City experience. Every night, crowds of locals descend on this wide traffic-free strip to walk, socialise, sing, dance and ride hoverboards. The atmosphere is buzzing, with primo people-watching opportunities and some of the city’s key sights along the way. Extending almost a kilometre from the-colonial era People’s Committee Building, with its statue of Ho Chi Minh, down to the Saigon River, it’s a fun and free family outing.
Location: Nguyen Hue Street, District 1
Experience Vietnam’s largest Chinatown
Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, Cholon, is bursting with interesting things to see. Plus, with its attractions free to enter and browse, a visit here won’t cost much more than your taxi fare. Expect to come across pagodas, spirit houses, old Chinese assembly halls, and some of the city’s most colourful markets, such as the enormous Binh Tay Market. Top tip: if your kids like sweeties, Chau Van Liem Street is where you’ll find the best Chinese desserts. Put aside at least half a day to explore the area on foot.
Location: Chinatown: District 5 and part of District 11 Che Tau Ha Hy, 138 Chau Van Liem, District 5
Marvel at magnificent temples
With their ornate architecture, lavish interiors and peaceful ambience, Ho Chi Minh City’s famous temples are a must-see for the whole family. Try to count the Buddhas in the stunning Chua Van Phat (Temple of 10,000 Buddhas), or wander through the incense-suffused Jade Emperor Pagoda, crammed with intricate statues representing figures from Taoist and Buddhist legend. On the city’s outskirts, the Cao Dai Temple is spectacular inside and out. Bright colours, soaring ceilings, flamboyant carved pillars, white-clad worshippers and striking eye iconography combine to create an experience your kids won’t forget.
Wander the aisles of Ben Thanh Market
You don’t need to dig into your wallet to enjoy Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous retail hub. If you can resist its endless temptations, this historic market is a vibrant place for commitment-free browsing. Its lively atmosphere will keep the kids entertained, and if you do fancy bagging a bargain, there's endless opportunity to practise your haggling skills! After the market building closes (around 6pm), a bustling night market springs up on the streets outside. With some excellent food stalls, it’s a great place for a cheap, tasty dinner.
Location: Le Loi Street, District 1