The best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
It’s all buzzing bikes and street-food sizzles in this thrilling 24-hour city.
- February 2022
Ho Chi Minh City is a high-octane city, with wonderful experiences whipping past you at warp speed. Hop off that motorbike to explore tranquil Buddhist temples or hypermodern museums. Get in the scrum for a bowl of pho at a street-food market or sip an iced coffee in a shabby chic French Colonial building. Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant, sophisticated and energetic metropolis that retains its history and authentic way of life.
Explore the city’s food scene
Famous for its pho and flaky banh mi, Ho Chi Minh City is a foodie’s paradise. Dive into its flavour-packed street food, its cinematic coffee culture or go exploring restaurants where local chefs are pushing culinary boundaries. The city is conveniently divided into districts. Take your appetite to the tangle of alleys in District 3 and District 4 for a fragrant hit of authentic street food, with heady soups and herb-spiked cooling noodles. You’ll find the city’s Chinatown in District 5 and a whole variety of international cuisines in District 1.
Take a war history lesson
Not that long ago, Ho Chi Minh City was called Saigon and was in the grips of war. There are some sobering, captivating institutions here that highlight the defining impact of that time on the current-day city and they are well worth visiting. Go back in time at the oddly glamorous 1960s Independence Palace – it’s astounding and not what you would expect. Then go even further back in time at the War Remnants Museum. You can also tour sections of the vast network of Cu Chi Tunnels.
Take the kids to Dam Sen Cultural Park
If it’s getting a bit hot for the kids out there, head for Dam Sen Park. This sprawling, green amusement park offers respite for the adults and a whole mess of fun for the kids. There are paddle boat rides on the lake, lots of themed gardens, epic adventure playgrounds and an electronic games zone. There’s also a handy monorail that loops around the park. This park is also close to the Dam Sen Water Park, which has a wave pool and all kinds of thrilling water rides.
Go shopping at Ben Thanh Market
Ho Chi Minh City’s markets are buzzing centres of crammed, colourful stalls. Ben Thanh Market in District 1, with its iconic clock tower, is the most popular. It’s home to more than 1500 stalls, so get your haggle on. At 6pm, it transitions into a more food-centric night market. Tan Dinh is another excellent market to explore. It specialises in fabrics, ideal if you’re keen to get some clothes made. If the buzz of the markets isn’t your thing, cooling malls like Diamond Plaza, Vincom Center or Takashimaya can deliver on more high-end options.
Check out Saigon Central Post Office – really!
Ho Chi Minh City’s French Colonial architecture is ornate and romantic, and you’ve got to see it to believe it. One of its best examples is the Saigon Central Post Office. (Stay with us.) This knockout building was designed by the same architect who created the Eiffel Tower in Paris and it’s one of the most famous buildings in Vietnam. It has a domed roof, intricately tiled floors and a gorgeous sense of grandeur. Just nearby is the equally impressive Notre Dame Cathedral. There are others too, but these two alone will blow your camera roll.