Ho Chi Minh is a crazy chaotic city that you will either love or hate. That’s just the way it is. Everyone I have met that has been to Vietnam starts in the north in Hanoi or the south in Ho Chi Minh. Most hate the first city they went to but love the last. It’s funny how it happens to so many and it did for me as well!
I finished in Ho Chi Minh and was used to the chaos of Vietnam as vehicles go wherever they want on the road and the sidewalks.
Originally named Saigon (and what the locals prefer) this city is full of Vietnamese history. You’ll stumble upon French architecture throughout the city, find amazing food and experience a great nightlife. I recommend spending at least 3 days in the city to experience the bare minimum of what this spectacular city has to offer.
So add Ho Chi Minh to your Vietnam itinerary and discover what to do in Ho Chi Minh!
Things to do in Ho Chi Minh
Cu Chi Tunnels
During the war the Viet Cong lived and moved through tunnels that were created to hide from American soldiers. As one of the top Ho Chi Minh attractions, you can visit the tunnels and experience what it was like for Vietnamese soldiers.
Tours will give you an informative lesson about the tunnels, life during the war and show tactics used to capture American soldiers before offering the opportunity to crawl through the tunnels yourself. It is not for people who are claustrophobic. The tunnels have been slightly widened and are supported by concrete.
Ben Thanh Market
Easily the most popular market in Ho Chi Minh, the Ben Thanh Market is where you can find souvenirs and all the delicious local food at cheap prices. Get your bargaining skills ready though, vendors will start high and ignore any of the fixed price signs. The market itself is one of the oldest surviving structures in the city.
Pro Tip: Because it is a popular tourist destination, be aware of your belongings.
War Remnants Museum
A trip to Vietnam isn’t complete without a visit to the War Remnants Museum. It details the effects of the war between Vietnam and the United States, a 30-year long event.
The best collection is the tanks, planes, bombs and other war machinery in the court yard. Inside you’ll find detailed information about the war and the extent to which the American Army went to. Some sections can be hard to see and the entire museum is as much propaganda as it is history but it is well worth a visit.
The Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace is another landmark in the city. It is where the Vietnamese claimed victory in the Vietnamese War (in Vietnam they call it the American War).
The building is preserved in time and walking through the grand reception halls take you back to the 1970s. Inside you can see secret rooms and even the bunker where war strategies were conducted.
Emperor Jade Pagoda
Built by Chinese immigrants in 1909, this pagoda is one of the most impressive in Vietnam. There are intricate carvings that depict the deities. The incense hangs heavy in the air at this Taoist pagoda but it welcomes worshipping Buddhists.
Notre Dame Cathedral
One of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is to admire the colonial architecture. Built in the 1880s by French colonialists, this church is one of the few remaining Catholic sites in a mainly Buddhist country.
Located in Paris Square, the towers on each side stand 58 metres tall made of red brick. Standing in front is a statue of the Virgin Mary. It is said that in October 2015 she shed tears and visitors flock here to see if they can witness a miracle.
Dong Khoi Street
If you’re not sure what to do in Ho Chi Minh City first start on Dong Khoi Street. It used to be the centre of all things glamorous during the French occupation. It was originally named Rue Catinat but was renamed to Tu Do (Freedom Street) during the war and renamed again to Dong Khoi Street which means Total Revolution when the communists took over.
Today the street is the best place to spot French colonial architecture, shop and enjoy coffee or a meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House is another example of French architecture, again in the 1880s. It is one of the main sites in Ho Chi Minh and a prominent landmark. The street its on is wide and lined with trees, a very European look. Unfortunately, it is only open to the public during a performance so you must purchase tickets if you wish to see inside.
Cao Dai Temple
The Cao Dai Temple is the main temple for the relatively new Cao Dai religion. The religion itself takes pieces of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Confucianism. The temple itself is very colourful and practitioners wear white robes to enter with a sash that identifies their previous religion.
Bixetco Tower and Skydeck
There are so many places to visit in Ho Chi Minh but this is one you can’t miss. For epic views of Ho Chi Minh City check out the 360° views of the city in the city’s tallest building. The tower is 68 storeys high and you can enjoy the views on the 49th floor at the skybar, Alto. Enjoy a cocktail, watch sunset and try some of the international tapas style dishes.
Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
Another stunning example of French architecture is the Central Post Office which still acts as the main post office to this day and as one of the most beautiful Ho Chi Minh City attractions. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the man who also designed the Eiffel Tower. If you’re thinking of sending a post card home, this is certainly the place to do it!
Mariamman Hindu Temple
This is the only Hindu temple in the city and offers a gathering place for the community of Hindus in Ho Chi Minh. It showcases the beautiful, bright and colourful architecture of Hindu worshipping sites. Non-Hindus are welcome to visit but remember to dress appropriately!
Now that you know the top things to do in Ho Chi Minh you can explore the city with confidence. Try not to be too overwhelmed at first, especially if this is your first city in Vietnam, it only gets easier!
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh
Check out my detailed guide on Ho Chi Minh accommodation for all budgets.