We would like to introduce the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with most completed details. This practical information can be great visiting sites you can’t miss. Else, you can find great food to eat when traveling to this special city.
- 1 General information about what things to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
- 2 A glimpse at weather in Ho Chi Minh city
- 3 How to travel back and forth in Saigon.
- 4 Main visiting areas of Saigon Downtown.
- 5 The visiting spots that might interest you – Things to do in Ho Chi Minh city
- 6 What you need to eat – things to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
- 7 Hangout recommendations – Interesting things to do in Ho Chi Minh city
- 8 Shopping centers
- 9 Other notices you might need to know – things to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
General information about what things to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
Once being named as the “Far East Pearl”, Ho Chi Minh city is the center of commerce of Vietnam. The previous name of the city was Saigon. Both names remain to be called today for this cosmopolitan city.
The city is only 300 years old. Compared to the long history of Vietnam over 2 thousand years, Ho Chi Minh city is so young. However, it has been the capital of South Vietnam at the Vietnam War. In addition to this fact, its open-minded citizens, the great weather and fertile land make Ho Chi Minh city the great spot in Vietnam travel map.
A glimpse at weather in Ho Chi Minh city
The tropical monsoon climate builds Ho Chi Minh city into 2 different weather type: dried season and raining season. The dried season comes from Oct to Mar of the following year, and the rest is for the wet season. However, the temperature looks the same for the both weather type, from 25 to 35 decree Celsius. The wet season also witnesses the sunshine in the morning; raining bucketing down is just for a short time in the afternoon. You will find the wet season hotter because its humidity is much higher.
How to travel back and forth in Saigon.
Taxi seems to be the most convenient means of moving around. However, there are some fake taxies that might cause some annoyed afternoon. We recommend Vinasun taxi with the calling number 028 38 272727 or Mailinh taxi at 028 38383838. Watch out the fakes ones at 028.38 2727 77 or 028 54 27 27 27.
If you are familiar to Uber, in Vietnam we have Grab, Be and Go Viet. Load the apps and you will find low cost of transportation. If you love adventurous moments, try the version of bikes (Grab bikes, Be bikes or Gobike). They are a lot and everywhere in the central Saigon.
Saigon is considered rush hours all the time, so sitting behind a biker is not a bad idea as travelling here.
Main visiting areas of Saigon Downtown.
This 14 million citizen city is really big. Mekong Trails would like to give you some brief about areas so you can imagine and plan how to visit the city within your time here.
Walking along Saigon river can give you an access to numerous high-end hotels. Some restaurants can have great view to the river. You even can get dinner at some of the boats moving along Saigon river every night. Utmost, we recommend sitting down at some of the coffee here looking to Saigon river. You will find the spirit of this cosmopolitan city.
The Old French Quarter in Saigon.
The area will bring a true colonial ambiance for visitors as it will tell the history of this Indochinese land as it was under the French time. You will find the beautiful Saigon Notre Dame next to the amazing architecture style of the Post Office. The Town Hall is with great French decoration. More history will be shown at Opera House, Hotel Continental, as well as other old hotel of the town.
Nguyen Hue walking street
This is really a cool place to avoid the crazy traffic though you might be used to that after a while. The walking street is place for local inhabitants to enjoy outside ambiance. Don’t miss the musical fountain center. You also find it interesting at the coffee apartment. There are many restaurants along or near street as well. So, you will find really great time at the place
Bui Vien street.
Together with some other streets like Pham Ngu Lao street, De Tham street, this Bui Vien street is a hotspot for backpackers in Saigon. In addition to the social issues caused by some poor travelers like grass supplying, drunken or pickpocketing, this corner is with much fun. There are many restaurants and services with cheap prices. Heaps of bars which close at dawn can make a fun night out. At weekends the streets there are only for pedestrians and makes the place so excited.
Cholon China Town.
This bustling commercial quarter well reflects the local businesses and traditional handicraft jobs. The small alleys, the old temples and the street daily life are great things to see as walking around here. Especially, the quarter also provides a series of restaurants and night hangout spots for street food discoverers.
Can Gio Mangrove forest
You might be surprising as how this bustling city can include a forest in it. Yes, it does. The Mangrove Forest is a World Biosphere locating in the South of city. It is a must for any who loves to be with nature. There are several locations you can visit the area like walking trails in the middle of thick mangrove forest, bird sanctuary, bat sanctuary, crocodile pond, monkey yards, etc. The beach is full of mud from mangrove forest, but the restaurants on the beach are great with seafood and view of local fishmen. Travelers can stay overnight on the resort by the beach or bungalows in the middle of mangrove forest.
The temple of whale is cool place for children to visit. Moreover, if you are here at 16th Aug in lunar calendar, this is a stunning opportunity to see an amazing festival with great decoration, boat gathering and sea rituals from local fishmen.
The visiting spots that might interest you – Things to do in Ho Chi Minh city
You might see somewhere it is called Independent Palace. The name Reunification Palace was made after the North comes to the South and made the country united into one. The palace was once the living and working place for South Vietnam Government. Then, it can tell a page in the history book of the war in Vietnam.
Saigon Notre Dame.
The cathedral was located right in the middle of the town and is becoming one of the symbols of the city. The architecture of the cathedral is a combination of Roman and Gothic styles. In the front of the church, there is a park with the Virgin Mary Statue with its own historical story. The mass for foreigners is on Sunday at 16:00, 17:00 and 18:30 at the address of 1 Cong Xa Paris Square, district 1.
The restoration made from 2017 has stopped travelers to visit the insides.
Ben Thanh market.
The market was built in the early days of 19th century. Then, it really gets great values from architecture, prosperous outlooking, to the spiritual taste of Vietnamese market. This market has four entrances opening to the bustling roads of downtown Saigon. It is simple and easy to find clothes, souvenirs, gifts, etc. Don’t forget the food corner in the middle of the market that you will find the best authentic food of South of Vietnam. If you want to see the Vietnamese daily life, just visit the back at the wet market section. Great shots of local life are even better in the morning.
That is the scene at daytime. At nighttime, they close the day section and open stalls at the left and right wings of the market. You can find interesting souvenirs as well as picking the best street food of Vietnam with its amazing local beers.
Binh Tay Market
This whole sales market is not a place for shopping. However, this is a must-visit for travelers who loves local culture. In addition to the beautiful architecture of the market, the noisy ambiance, the way of stall arrangement and the exchange in the market could be best description for Vietnamese culture. Those can create a lot of opportunities for you to capture scenes that can amaze your friends.
Thien Hau temple
This temple is in the China Town. The temple is used to worship the Goddess of the Sea who brings peace at oceans when trade men or fishmen are on the boats. Nowadays the temple is a place where local people comes for wishing the regular expectations in life, like business, marriage life, children and even lottery. Then, the temple is not only attracted by the beautiful designs, ancient values of Asia, but also the true reflection of local belief and spiritual life.
Jade Emperor temple.
The function of this temple today is the same to the Thien Hau temple mentioned above. However, this temple is to worship the Jade Emperor who is the top God in the Heaven. Travelers will be amazed by the system of statues made by papier marche’, as well as its exposure of local cultural features of Vietnamese people.
Vietnam history museum.
This museum was set up since 1929 from a private collection under French colonization. This place is a full story of Vietnamese history from days of 4 thousand years ago. It also includes a picture of ethnic people in Vietnam. This museum has a lunch break of 2 hours from 11:30 AM to 13:30 PM. You might find it inconvenient as the museum has a thick content to digest. So, try not to come so late.
War Remnants Museum.
Visitors will find the true close-up to the fierce Vietnam war at this museum. There are many artifacts of weapons, vehicles, bombs and war accessories used by US army and its allies. Other special displays can be a prison, the Angent Orrange impact, the war with China, etc. Those can consume your tissues to clean tears after the museum, as crying for this nation.
Hochiminh City Museum.
The museum has a poor display on the city development. However, the building itself is a great place to visit and enjoy another masterpiece of French architecture. The Vietnam war history scholars can find this building interested as this was the living place of Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem just before his assassination in 1963. That time marked a turning point in the Vietnam war history.
Fine Art Museum.
This museum is the display of priceless artworks at different art schools across times. If you are an art adorer, you can’t skip this museum. The building itself also makes a great story, as it has been the private house of the richest man in Vietnam under French time.
This site is around 70 km North of Hochiminh City. There was a system of tunnels dug by solders for hiding themselves from US army trooping and fight against them when they found it necessary. The place is definitely a historical page of guerrilla warfare in Vietnam. It can tell you a very different war solders face at such a battlefield.
Walking is the main way of visiting insides the tunnel area. Nevertheless, visitors can have a section of crawling under the tiny tunnel for the true experience of solders at the war time.
What you need to eat – things to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
Ho Chi Minh city is truly the cosmopolitan city of Vietnam. People from anywhere around the country come and live here, to look for their promised land. They bring their culture and cuisine characteristics too. This brings a diversity of food supply for Saigon citizen. Eating local food is a must and best among things to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
Bun mam, lau mam
It is a disaster to translate this word into English. Readers will absolutely have a wrong imagination about this dish. Literately “bun” is noodle and “lau” is hotpot. “mam” is then a kind of fermented seafood in a local technique. This is a kind of noodle with special taste made by the broth from that fermented seafood. The initial feeling might be weird, but it is really the typical course of South of Vietnam, as this dish is originally a delicacy of Mekong people.
In addition to the unique broth and the seafood at the dish, the taste of bum mam or lau mam can come from a variety of vegetables that you never try before. Those can be morning glory, sawah lettuce, nymphaea lotus (both flowers and stem), lotus root, okra, Indian taro, banana flower, water mimosa, Prostrate knotweed. etc. Some restaurant even can provide dipping sauce of fish sauce with tamarind.
Hue beef noodle
Vietnam is a kingdom of many kind of food made from noodle. Apart from pho noodle which can be considered the typical food of the North of Vietnam, this Hue beef noodle is also a nationwide famous dish. This kind of noodle is so different from Pho in the taste of noodle, the shape of noodle, the processing of broth, and the cooking way of beef. One of the special features to create unique broth is the utility of prawn paste made in Hue region. Others can be the spicy cooking, the adding of porks, the herbs at the top of the dish, and the additional dish of vegetable o eat with this dish.
Hotpot of elongated mudskipper
This is another truly dish of South of Vietnam. The hotpot is cooked with live elongated mudskipper, with Aganonerion. That special herb makes the amazing tart and sour taste of this dish. Other vegetables used additionally in the hotpot are morning glory, water mimosa, prostrate knotweed, beansprout, sliced banana flower. All will make great smell and taste of the hotpot.
This is another kind of noodle that the noodle itself is made from pure rice flower without any fermented process. The dish is brought here by the Chinese people as they immigrated to Hochiminh Ciity, as you know there is a China town in this city. However, the dish has become the famous one of Saigon people, as it is a very popular dish that can be found at every single alley of this city. The local people can have it anytime, anywhere even at midnight. This dish includes noodle, pock slices, pork balls and some steamed beansprouts.
Trang Bang rice paper rolls.
This course derives from Tay Ninh, a province next to Hochiminh City. However, that having the dish looks like a feast makes this very popular among eat-out people. The rice paper was made from along process of rice paper molding, rice paper barbecuing, rice paper softening by night dews, and again and again. The local people use this type of rice paper to roll pork with a bunch of fresh vegetables that no one can name all of them. The dipping sauce is made from some kind of fermented fish paste.
Vietnamese rice crepe
This kind of crape is with yellow body outside (made from rice flower) and the inner parts. The very inner parts make different flavors of the crepes. Those can be pork, prawn with pork, fish, chicken, mushroom, top of coconut trees, young bamboo, seaweeds, etc. Eaters will pick the pieces, put into leaves of chilly cabbage, and roll into cold rolls. The dipping sauce is light fish sauce with pickle carrot and garlic. And that is just yummy.
The material to make a good cold roll should be a full list of vegetables, soft noodle, prawn, pork, and of course rice paper. Nevertheless, the key point to make a great cold roll is the dipping sauce recipes. The Southern Vietnamese often use soya paste because it brings a sweet feeling, in addition to the flavor of peanut and pickle carrot and young papaya. This simple course has been acknowledged as one of the best dishes in the world by CNN Travel. You can find this cold rolls everywhere from street vendors, pavement stalls, wet markets and even at supermarkets.
Broken rice has been occupied in the mind of Saigon people as “delicacy”. The broken rice is the dish for Saigonese from breakfast, lunch, dinner to supper. The most common version should be broken rice with BBQ rib slides, pork skin and rare eggs. Additives to make more flavors for the dish are fried onion, pickle carrot and young papaya, and a bow of sweetened fish sauce.
The French people have imported into Vietnam the baguette. However, the derivable versions are much better and more worldwide famous. Banh My is of many versions in Saigon. The popular ones are breads with pork, bread with pate, or bread with chicken. The special treatment can be bread with fish paste, bread with roasted pork, bread with duck, bread with special BBQ pork, etc. All of those bread types are with vegetables. Therefore, Banh My is very nutritious, healthy and delicious.
Don’t mix this with the smail dish from France. The snails for cooking here are mostly from the sea, which is very clean and with strong flavor. Some can come from rivers, but the sea bring more taste. There might be hundreds of dishes at a snail restaurant. Together with snails, clam, shell, scallop, blood cockle, mussels can be on the dishes at the same delicacy at those restaurants. Cooking style can be with steaming, boiling, sautéed, fry, BBQ, etc. Additives to make the fame of the dish are garlic, onion, spring onion, pepper, chili, laksa leaves, coriander, lemon grass, ginger, mint, cheese, butter, etc.
Are those enough additives for you?
In Vietnamese we call this ‘che”. This is a dessert soup made from several kinds of beans, seeds, fruits and even vegetables. We have it at the end of a meal, or just use it as a snack in between the meals.
If you are wandering in the Ben Thanh market food corner, and you see some stalls with things colored at glasses, it must be sweet soups. At some local restaurants, you can find this at the later parts of the menus. This kind of snack is also served at night at street vendors. It is really an amazing display of visibility, in addition to the great aroma and stunning taste of this dishes.
Hangout recommendations – Interesting things to do in Ho Chi Minh city
The first kind of bars we would like to recommend is the classic ones right in the middle of Saigon downtown. These are with cozy ambiance, Western-oriented, with great view to central Old French quarters, and closed by your hotels. You can think of the bars at the highend hotels like Saigon Saigon (Caravell hotel), Rooftop Garden (Rex hotel), or bars at some other locations like Carmen, The Gin House, Rabbit Hole, Qui Lounge, etc. These bars can be with some music bands at weekend so it can bring an exciting experience.
Bars with great view to the city can be Level 23 Wine Bar (Sheraton hotel), Chill Skybar, Air 360 Sky Lounge, etc.
If you want a younger place with loud music and dancing stimulators, think of Canalis Club, Republic Club, Lush Bar, Home Pub, Barocco, etc
And how about backpackers’ destination? The bars here are just by walking streets, loud music, open air. Sitting there, enjoy music and beer, seeing people passing by are great points. You can think of Boheme, Sahara, Donkey.
Saigon is heaven for coffee shops. You can find one at any corner of Saigon. And it is hard to review and recommend the best ones among millions. However, we strongly recommend to come to the coffee apartment in the Nguyen Hue walking street. Choose one at any coffee here or have a memory photo with the front of the apartment to see how Vietnamese love a coffee place to hang out.
There are also chains of local brands that you can call at any of them. Those can be Trung Nguyen, Phuc Long, Highland, in addition to the world brands that you know like Star Bucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.
Saigon has a range of modern cinema that can have films at the same time with the same quality of visibility and sound to the ones at other big cities of the world. You can think of MegaStar Hung Vương Galaxy Cinema, Diamond Cinema, CGV Liberty Citypoint, Cinebox, etc.
Other night activities
- Have a night cruise on a boat along saigon river with dinner. Most of dinners there just have average food, but the experience on the river by night is beautiful.
- Attend a circus show at Opera House. It can be AO show or Teh Dar.
- Visit Binh Quoi 1 resort, enjoy a walking around, a giant buffet dinner outdoor, and join local for a folk music entertainment at weekend.
There are several destinations you can think of as shopping time is in your plan. Buying luxurious stuff with brands can be done top-end malls like Diamond Plaza, Vincom Le Thanh Ton, Parkson Le Thanh Ton or Parson Hung Vuong, Takashimaya. A walk thru the Dong Khoi street can help to visit the vintage, private brands and handmade shops
If you find elegant clothes with modest prices, or the branded ones with little mistakes, you can come to Saigon Square, Taka, Lucky Plaza or Russian market.
At the places like Ben Thanh market, it is recommended just for looking and enjoying the culture. Shopping souvenirs here is fine. Nevertheless, you will face challenges of bargain here. In case you love this cultural interference, it is a good chance to practice.
Other notices you might need to know – things to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
- Saigon is a bustling city. There might be some negative points that might decrease the excitement of your visit. We can have some following notices.
- Not all taxies are fine. Some have shorter meters and some are with cheating driver.
- Wifi are everywhere and most of them are free. Try to Google or use online maps to be more confident in going out.
- Bag snatchers can be around in the center. Watch our your bags, cameras, phones and youru passport.
- Pick pockets are skillful and can be from other countries. If some one accidentally crashes to you, it is is high possibility that your wallet is picked at that moment.
We hope some of this line of things to do in Ho Chi Minh city can help you to have better preparation for your trip in Vietnam, especially in Hochiminh City. If you need any more updated concerns, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or even send us a message at +84918111357. We are excited to help you to making a best travel experience in Asia.