6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City

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6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City
Photo: Tron Le on Unsplash

There’s never a dull moment in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city and the main hub of the southern region. Formerly known as Saigon, the city has an energetic vibe that’s characterised by a vibrant mix of tradition and modernity.

We spotlight six must-dos when you are visiting the bustling city. 

1. Discover historical marvels and war memorials

Ho Chi Minh City is steeped in history, with landmarks that tell stories of both its colonial past and its pivotal role in Vietnam’s recent history. The War Remnants Museum offers a profound, albeit sombre, perspective on the Vietnam War with its compelling exhibits. Similarly, the Reunification Palace stands as a symbol of the country’s reunified era.

6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City
- Discover historical marvels and war memorials
Saigon Central Post Office
Photo: Nguyen Quang Ngoc Tonkin/Shutterstock

For a glimpse into the city’s colonial architecture, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and the Saigon Central Post Office, designed by French architect Marie-Alfred Foulhoux, are must-visits.

2. Indulge in the city’s local specialities and street food staples

Vietnamese cuisine is renowned worldwide and Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect place to indulge in a delicious array of local flavours. From restaurants and cafes serving contemporary Vietnamese dishes to street stalls, pushcarts and bicycle vendors offering pho, banh mi, banh xeo, banh cuon, hu tieu, com tam and more, it’s no surprise that the city is a foodie paradise.

6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City - Indulge in the city’s local specialities and street food staples
Banh cuon
Photo: Vietnamese Food

Be sure to visit the bustling Ben Thanh Market where you can enjoy a variety of local eats as well as shop for a wide range of souvenirs.

3. Enjoy the city’s lively nightlife scene through its rooftop bars

As the sun sets, the city transforms into a lively hub of entertainment. District 1, known for its rooftop bars, offers stunning city views accompanied by cocktails and music.

6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City - Enjoy the city’s lively nightlife scene through its rooftop bars
Bui Vien Street
Photo: @the_wacky_bushman/Instagram

For a more local experience, head to the famous Bui Vien Street in the Pham Ngu Lao backpacker district which is home to bars, live music venues and street food spots.

4. Go on day trips to the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels

Venture beyond the city to experience the lush landscapes of the Mekong Delta. A day trip here includes exploring floating markets, riding through canals and tasting local fruits.

6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City - Go on day trips to the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels
Photo: Scout901/Shutterstock

History enthusiasts will not want to miss the Cu Chi Tunnels, an immense network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong to evade American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War. As you’ll be exploring tight underground spaces, do dress appropriately.

5. Shop like a local for the best value

Ho Chi Minh City has its fair share of high-end malls and department stores like Vincom Center, Diamond Plaza, Hung Vuong Plaza, Saigon Centre and Van Hanh Mall, but for the best local shopping experience, visit a local market. 

6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City - Shop like a local for the best value
An Dong Market
Photo: Local Vietnam

Besides Ben Thanh Market, bustling markets like An Dong Market, Binh Tay Market and Hanh Thong Tay Market sell everything from clothing, accessories, footwear, textile and handicrafts to fresh produce, spices and local delicacies. Not only do the markets offer some of the best deals in the city, they also provide opportunities for you to interact with the locals, practise your bargaining skills and immerse in the lively atmosphere. 

6. Explore Vietnamese culture and local lifestyle

Get a peek into Vietnamese culture, a fascinating blend of old and new, by visiting the city’s temples and pagodas such as Jade Emperor Pagoda, Giac Lam Pagoda, Thien Hau Pagoda, Phu Chau Floating Temple and Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda. 

6 Ways To Experience the Best of Ho Chi Minh City - Explore Vietnamese culture and local lifestyle
Ho Thi Ky Flower Market
Photo: @visit.hochiminhcity/Instagram

One of the best ways to experience the local way of life is to go on a walking tour through the city’s historic districts. Flower fans must check out Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, one of the city’s largest flower markets, in District 10. Besides a diverse range of fresh flowers, floral products and potted plants, the flower market also has lots of food vendors offering a mouth-watering array of popular street food.