Top 15 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (2023)

It would be easy to shout aroundHo Chi Minh Citylike one of the local motorcyclists - stopping at every corner but never seeing much - but Vietnam's most populous city deserves a slow paced exploration.

From world-class museums and Vietnam's tallest skyscrapers to fragrant, incense-filled temples and food stalls reminiscent of old Saigon, this former French colonial city is worth at least three or four days of your time. These are the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.

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1. War Remnants Museum

Best Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

To understand the context of the war with the US and its devastating impact on Vietnamese civilians, this remarkabledeeply moving museumIt's an essential visit. Many of the atrocities documented here have been well publicized, but Americans and Europeans rarely hear victims of military action tell their own stories. While some exhibits are one-sided, many of the most disturbing photographs illustrating the atrocities come from US sources, including those of the My Lai massacre.

The museum mainly deals with the American War, but also documents the French colonial period and conflicts with China. Outside, American armored vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons are on display. A corner of the country is dedicated to the famous French and South Vietnamese prisons on the islands of Phu Quoc and Con Son. Artifacts include France's most famous device, the guillotine, and the notoriously inhuman 'tiger cages' used to house prisoners of war. Allow at least a few hours for your visit.

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2. Jadekaiser Pagoda

Built in 1909 to honor the supreme Taoist god (the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang), this is one of the finestatmospheric templesin Ho Chi Minh City, filled with statues of ghostly deities and grotesque heroes. The pungent smoke of incense (Huong) fills the air and obscures the exquisite wood carvings. The roof is intricately tiled, and the temple's statues, which depict figures from Buddhist and Taoist folklore, are made of reinforced paper mache.

Inside, the faithful gather before the indescribable Jade Emperor, who—draped in luxurious robes and enveloped in a dense mist of incense smoke—rules the main shrine. He is flanked by his guardians, the Four Great Diamonds (Tu Dai Kim Cuong), so named because they are said to be as hard as diamonds.

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3. Eat street food in District 4

Best for foodies

Just south of the glitzy Dong Khoi neighborhood, it's a short walk across the Ben Nghe canal to the working-class District 4. Here, the vibe is much more Saigon, with little to no concessions to tourism, and narrow alleyways, street markets, and worn concrete. block of flats. Order a coffee here and expect a Vietnamese drip coffee that's more reminiscent of motor oil than a frothy cappuccino.

District 4 is the best area in town to sample authentic street food, with dozens of places in Ɖ Vinh Khanh. Try great seafood at affordable pricesPai Dao 2. HCMC is a town that loves snails and District 4 is something of a magnet for snail eaters, with plenty of good spots on busy Lo J KTT lane, includingVater Po, which is always full.

4. Pagode Giac Lam

Considered to be the oldest temple in HCMC (1744),Giac LammIt's a fantastically atmospheric place set in peaceful, garden-like grounds. The Chinese characters that make up the temple's name (覚林寺) mean "Feel the Forest Temple," and the imposing Bodhi tree (a native fig tree sacred to Buddhists) in the front yard was a gift from a Sri Lankan monk in the Year 1953. Prayers are held daily from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m., from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Beside the tree stands a glowing white statue of the compassionate Quan The Am Bo Tat (aka the Goddess of Mercy) in a lotus flower, a symbol of purity. As with many Vietnamese Buddhist temples, aspects of Taoism and Confucianism can be found here. For the sick and elderly, the pagoda is a small pilgrimage site as it contains a bronze bell which, when rung, answers prayers from supplicants. About 3 km from Cholon, Giac Lam Pagoda is best reached by taxi orand if(bicycle taxi).

For more information, see:Best Day Trips from Ho Chi Minh City

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5. Check out the craft beer scene

The best bars in Ho Chi Minh City

Happening HCMC focuses on the Dong Khoi area, with everything from scuba diving to designer bars open until 1am. Pham Ngu Lao is open until late, and NLPs Ð Bui Vien is a pedestrian street on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Discos usually start after 10pm. Amidst all the nighttime action is a burgeoning craft beer scene, including the following bars.

heart of darkness

This world-class craft brewery offers an always interesting selection of innovative beers. Selections vary as Heart of Darkness brewers are always trying something new, but the Dream Alone Pale Ale and Sacred Fire Golden Ale are great drops.


With nearly 40 taps, BiaCraft is an unmissable destination for thirsty souls. Complementing their own creations are beers and ciders from craft breweries in Saigon and Hanoi; it is possible to take freshly sealed cans of all available beers. Pair a tasting paddle with probably the best bar food in town, with quirky offerings like Drunken Potato Chips and Nashville Warm Quail.

Villain Saigon

Live music and Vietnamese craft beer meet at Rogue's rooftop terrace in a sombre building on District 1's riverfront. Saturdays feature DJ sessions, jams, and quiz nights.

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6. Architecture

Ho Chi Minh City is filled with faded, centuries-old buildings from when it was still under French colonial rule. Dozens of historic buildings are scattered throughout the city, mostly in Districts 1 and 3. Here are some of the most historically intriguing.

Building of the People's Committee

one of the citythe most prominent landmarksIt is the headquarters of the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City. Built between 1901 and 1908, the former Hôtel de Ville graces the northwest end of ÐL Nguyen Hue, but unfortunately the ornate interior isn't open to the public.

Central Post

landmark of the cityFrench era post officeis a historic classic, designed by Marie-Alfred Foulhoux (although often attributed to Gustave Eiffel) and built between 1886 and 1891. Fascinating historical maps of South Vietnam, Saigon and Cholon are painted on the walls of the grand lobby, while a mosaic from Ho Chi Minh takes pride of place at the end of its vaulted hall. Inside, note the rich tiled floor and richly green-painted wrought iron.

Municipal Theater (Saigon Opera House)

This magnificent colonial building with a sweeping staircase at the intersection of Ð Dong Khoi and ÐL Le Loi was built in 1897 and is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. Officially known as theMunicipal Theater, the Opera House captures France's Belle Epoque extravagance. Performances range from ballet and opera to modern dance and musicals.

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7. Explore the Dong Khoi area

This affluent area just west of the Saigon River packs the heart of old Saigon into a bustling enclave of designer shops and skyscrapers. Leading from the river via the Opera House (Municipal Theatre) to the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral, the elegant Ð Dong Khoi is the main shopping district and lends its name to the surrounding civic center and central business district.

However, it's the wide, tree-lined avenues of ÐL Le Loi and ÐL Nguyen Hue, perpetually packed with motorbikes, that make the biggest impression – especially if you've survived crossing them on foot. French colonial elegance and urban modernity form an attractive mixture on these boulevards.

For more information, see:The 20 Best Free Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

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8. Cathedral of Our Lady

Built between 1877 and 1883,Cathedral of Notre-Damelivens up the heart of Ho Chi Minh City's government district, across from Ð Dong Khoi. A neo-Romanesque red brick church with twin bell towers topped by battlements and crosses 60m high. Named after the Virgin Mary, this Catholic cathedral includes some beautiful stained glass windows and interior walls inlaid with devotional plaques. Its red bricks were imported from Toulouse, France.

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9. Historical Museum

Built in 1929, this is remarkableSino-French MuseumIt houses a worthwhile collection of artifacts that illustrate the development of Vietnamese cultures, from the Bronze Age Dong Son Civilization (which arose in 2000 BC) and the Funan Civilization (1st to 6th centuries AD) to the Cham, Khmer and Vietnamese. Highlights include priceless relics from Angkor Wat in Cambodia and a fine collection of Buddha statues. There is good information in English.

There is also a perfectly preserved mummy of a local woman who died in 1869 and was unearthed at Xom Cai in District 5; and some exquisite stylized mother-of-pearl Chinese characters inlaid in panels. It is located next to the botanical garden.

10. Botanical Garden

One of the first projects of the French after establishing Cochinchina as a colony was the founding of this fantastic,lush gardens. Once one of the best gardens of its kind in Asia, it is very pleasant to walk under huge tropical trees. However, ignore the wretched zoo.

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11. Cholon (Chinatown)

comb throughCholon(District 5) and discover a treasure trove of historic temples and Chinese flavors. Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh City is less Chinese than it used to be, largely due to the anti-capitalist and anti-Chinese campaign of 1978-79, when many ethnic Chinese fled the country, taking their money and entrepreneurial skills with them.

Many of these refugees have returned (with foreign passports) to explore investment opportunities. Fully written Chinese characters (as opposed to the simplified system used in mainland China) adorn shop fronts and temples in abundance, reinforcing the feeling that you're lost in a forgotten corner of China.

Cholon means "big market" and was home to a thriving black market during the American War. Like many of HCMC, Cholon's historic storefronts quickly disappear under billboards or succumb to developers' bulldozers, but some traditional architecture has survived, and an atmospheric strip of traditional herbal shops thrives between Ð Luong Nhu Hoc and Ð Trieu Quang Phuc, providing a visual and olfactory effect provides reminiscence of ancient Chinese city.

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12. Museum of Fine Arts

With its airy hallways and balconies, this elegant colonial building dates from 1929yellow and white buildingit's packed with period details; It is lavishly tiled and houses some beautiful (albeit dilapidated) stained glass and one of Saigon's oldest elevators. An impressive array of artworks hangs on the walls, including thoughtful modernist pieces. Alongside contemporary art, much of which is (unsurprisingly) inspired by the war, the museum features pieces dating back to the 4th century.

These include elegant Funan-era sculptures of Vishnu, Buddha and other worshiped figures (carved in wood and stone) and Cham art from the 7th to the 14th centuries. ). A selection of beautiful prints is available for sale in the shop (from 150,000 d). Building #2 next door houses lesser-known works and houses exhibitions.

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13. Reunification Palace

Surrounded by royal palms, the dissonant architecture of the 1960s appearshistoric government buildingand the somber ambiance of its deserted halls make it a fascinating sight to behold. The first communist tanks to arrive in Saigon thundered here on April 30, 1975, and time seems to have stood still since then. The building is closely linked to the city's downfall in 1975, but it's the kitschy details and historical motifs that steal the show. It is also known as the Palace of Independence.

The ground floor is organized with meeting rooms while the upper floor has a large number of reception rooms where foreign and national dignitaries have been received. At the rear of the building are the President's Quarters; Check out the models of boats, horsetails and severed elephant feet. Perhaps most intriguing is the basement, with its telecommunications center, war room, and labyrinth of tunnels where giant old fans cut the air and old radio stations stand undisturbed. At the end are the rooms where videos rate the palace and its history in Vietnamese, English, French, Chinese and Japanese. The national anthem will be played at the end of the tape and you will be expected to stand up - it would be rude not to do so.

14. Rooftop-Bars

Best to do at night

Enjoy the frenetic energy of Ho Chi Minh City from a perch high above the chaos below.Saigon Saigon-Barnot historicalHotel Caravelait was a favorite haunt of war journalists, who reported from the ninth-floor vantage point, cold beer in hand. Today the same beer with the same great view is available at The Caravelle Terrace Draft.

For cocktails that are as artistic as they are alcoholic,tops the list. On the 23rd floor, enjoy innovative cocktails inspired by different neighborhoods, such as the lychee and ginger Ben Thanh, found in the city's most famous market, or the Thao Cam Vien, with hints of cucumber and elderflower, inspired by the botanical gardens.

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15. Skyscraper Observation Towers

Ho Chi Minh City looks incredibly chaotic from the street, but the city has a quiet beauty when viewed from above. Several skyscrapers have observation towers (or bars) that offer views of the city's tree-lined avenues and meandering Saigon River.

Bitexco Financial Tower

From the 68 floorsBitexco Financial Tower- or chicEON Helibaron the 52nd floor - Visitors can sip a coffee while watching the world go by.

Markus 81

With 81 floors, theTetris-like Landmark 81 is the tallest building in Vietnam. In their 76-story Blank Lounge, they share the view of the sprawling metropolis with the public.

You might like:
Vietnam Tips: A Beginner's Guide
The best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City in 2020
The best rooftop bars in Ho Chi Minh City

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