Ho Chi Minh City Attractions
What to See in Ho Chi Minh City
One factor that makes Ho Chi Minh City exceptional is the contrast between the old and the new. This is the country’s business centre, and there are many areas under development, but there are also many places and buildings from earlier eras that are well preserved and well worth visiting to see the French colonial influences as well as ancient Buddhist sites.
From fine art (Mariamman Hindu Temple) to war memorabilia (Cu Chi Tunnels, War Remnants Museum), the list of things to see in Ho Chi Minh City is seemingly endless.
Other Attractions in Ho Chi Minh City
Bink Quoi Tourist Village
As the name suggests, this village is tailor-made for package holidaymakers, but nonetheless offers a pleasant choice of activities including water puppet shows, boat rides, and river cruises. It was built in 1994 by the Sai Gon Tourist Corporation on the banks of the Sai Gon River in Binh Thanh District, eight kilometres from the centre of Saigon. Generally considered the largest tourist attraction in Ho Chi Minh City, it has an evening dinner cruise with cultural show.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Bitexco Financial Tower stands 262 metres high at the centre of the city’s business district and offers visitors an unparalleled city view from its Sky Deck.
Designed by renowned American Architect Carlos Zapata, this 68-storey tower houses offices, shops, restaurants, and a helipad. CNNGo recently ranked the building fifth in their listing of the world’s 20 most iconic skyscrapers. Read More...
- Opening Hours: The Sky Deck is open daily from 09:30-21:30
- Location: 36 Ho Tung Mau Street in District 1
The Cao Dai Temple was finished in 1955 when the Cao Dai Army was formed following the Japanese occupation of Indochina. Caodaists believe that all religions are ultimately the same and seek to promote tolerance throughout the world.
The Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Confucius, in addition to Joan of Arc and Julius Cesar are all honoured at this temple. Read More...
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. The building was designed by Gustave Eiffel – the renowned engineer who also designed the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower – and features arched windows and wooden shutters, just as it would have in its heyday in the late 19th Century. Read More...
Ho Chi Minh City’s Cholon is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown with roots dating back to 1778; it’s also a place of great historical and cultural importance. Chinese minorities hid here from the Tay Son and subsequently had to rebuild the area twice following attack with as many as 70% estimated to have died trying to escape on boats. Those who survived settled and began selling a variety of Chinese products. During the Vietnam War Cholon was a thriving black market for US soldiers trading in American Army issue supplies.
The area today is a popular site for those on the tourist trail and also attracts many Taiwanese and Chinese visitors. Cholon is an interesting place to see classical Chinese architecture reminiscent of years gone by with plenty of Chinese restaurants.
The Binh Tay market at the centre is busy, crowded and messy with small aisles selling all manner of goods. This market sometimes disappoints tourists when compared to other markets in Ho Chi Minh as the products are not that varied, but the main draw to Cholon is not to shop but to enjoy the authentic Chinese atmosphere that has existed here for hundreds of years. It’s a wonderful place to experience at night. Read More...
Cong Vien Van Hoa Park
Formerly a club for the French colonists, this elegant tree-shaded sports club has numerous tennis courts and a swimming pool which are open to the public for a reasonable fee. There is also a gym and table tennis facilities. In the early morning, there are usually groups of locals practicing the art of thai cuc quyen (slow-motion shadow boxing).
- Address: 115 Nguyen Du St, District 1
The Cu Chi Tunnels are basically a huge war museum offering visitors a sneak peak at the underground life of Viet Cong-era soldiers. Comprising more than 120km of tunnels, they were first started around 1948 when the Viet Cong were fighting the French.
Nowadays, the restored tunnels are one of Vietnam’s top attractions and are especially popular with non-Vietnamese tourists. People follow the routes of the underground army and before entering the tunnels visitors will have the chance to watch a short movie and get to understand beforehand how this unusual tunnel system actually works. Read More...
- Opening Hours: All year round
- Location: 70km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City
- Tel: +84 (08) 3794 8820
Giac Lam Pagoda, built in 1744, is the oldest Buddhist temple in Ho Chi Minh City and as such was listed as an important historical site by the Vietnamese Department of Culture in 1988.
Situated in Binh Than District, the pagoda is surrounded by spacious, walled garden and fronted by statues of mythical dragons, the protective guardians to many temples here. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 05:00 – 12:00 and 14:00 – 20:00 daily
- Location: 118 Lac Long Quan, District 3
The History Museum was built in 1929. It was expanded and thoroughly renovated in 1975, when it was renamed the Ho Chi Minh City History Museum. It houses a good collection of displays and illustrations depicting the cultural evolution of the country from ancient times plus valuable artifacts from Angkor Wat and household implements, clothing, ceramics and weaponry from Vietnam’s past.
- Location: 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1.
The Opera House in Ho Chi Minh is an elegant, colonial building at the intersection of Le Loi and Dong Khoi Street in District 1, very close to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and the classic Central Post Office. The restored three-storey 800-seat Opera House was built in 1897 and is used for staging not only opera but also a wide range of performing arts including ballet, musical concerts, Vietnamese traditional dance and plays. Performances are advertised around the building and information can be found in the state-operated tourist information centre Saigontravel close by. Read More...
Founded more than 100 years ago, Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens (aka Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens) are listed as one of the oldest zoos in the world, opened in 1865 by French botanist JB Louis Pierre. There are currently more than 550 animals exhibited in the zoo and more than 1,830 trees and 260 plant species in the botanical gardens with some dating back over 100 years.
There are a number of different sections to explore including the animal conservation area, orchid garden and plant conservation centre and a children’s amusement area. Lakes brimming with tropical fish form part of the zoo and botanical gardens which is also home to a monument dedicated to Vietnamese killed in World War I. The Ho Chi Minh Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a popular place to while away an afternoon and is visited by locals and tourists who are often surprised by the fact that you can get up close and personal to some of the animals and feed them. Read More...
Situated close to the Ben Thanh market, the Mariamman Hindu temple serves the small community of 100 or so Chinese and Vietnamese Tamil Hindus living in Ho Chi Minh City.
It is the only Hindu temple that is still open in the city and is considered sacred by Hindu and non-Hindu Vietnamese. The temple is rumoured to have miraculous powers giving luck and wealth to those who worship within its walls. Read More...
Emperor Jade Pagoda, also known as Tortoise Pagoda, is one of the five most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City. Built at the turn of the 20th Century by a community of Cantonese who migrated from Guangzhou province in Southwest China, this pagoda is a fine representation of Mahayanist branch of Buddhism that is practiced widely in Vietnam. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00
- Location: 73 Mai Thi Luu, District 3
- Remarks: There is no entrance fee but visitors can make donations
The Pham Ngu Lao area of District 1 is where most backpacking travelers first land in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a similar scene to Southeast Asia's most famous backpacking centre, Khao San Road in Bangkok, but on a smaller scale. The main thoroughfares (with lots of lanes and back alleys) that make up the popular area include Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, Bui Vien and Do Quang Dao streets. These are where tourists can find Western-style eateries and bars, countless travel agencies, cheap guesthouses (as well as many of the so-called ‘mini-hotel’ buildings usually with six to seven floors, rarely offering an elevator), internet shops, pharmacies and souvenir-and-craft shops. Read More...
The many interesting exhibits inside this beautiful white neo-classical building illustrate the Communist-inspired struggle for independence from French and then American dominance. Construction of the museum began in 1885 and was completed in 1890 under the eye of French architect Alfred Foulhoux. It was put to a variety of uses over the next 90 years before becoming the Ho Chi Minh City Revolutionary Museum in 1978.
- Location: 65 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1.
A boat tour round Ho Chi Minh City on the Saigon River offers the chance to see the varied lifestyles surrounding this busy metropolis. The Saigon River flows from Cambodia through South Vietnam before merging into the South China Sea close to the Mekong Delta. In Ho Chi Minh City the river is also joined by the Dong Nai River and the Ben Cat River. Along the riverbanks are villages, underground passages dating back to the Vietnam War, city skyscrapers and ancient houses. Read More...
Xa Loi Pagoda
This pagoda, the largest in Saigon, was built in 1956 to contain fragments of bone from The Buddha – Xa Loi means “sacred bones”. The pagoda was a centre of political protest against the regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem and in August 1963 it hit headlines around the world when troops attacked monks and nuns barricaded inside at the start of a campaign that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Buddhists around the country.
- Location: 89 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street in District 3
The Fine Art Museum
The 16-room Fine Art Museum exhibits a broad spectrum of exhibits including contemporary paintings, some of which are for sale, along with older, fascinating works of art, including some valuable Cham, Indian and Khmer pieces. The museum is at 97A Duc Chinh street, District 1, just a few blocks from the traffic circle in front of Ben Thanh Market.
- Address: 97A Duc Chinh street, District 1
The Quoc Tu Pagoda
The pagoda is next to a children’s amusement park. Built in 1962, is has seven storeys, though usually only the first two are open. Visitors are welcome to view the beautiful shrine and Buddha statues inside. Around it are lakes and gardens.
- Location: 244 Ba Thang Hai Street, in District 10
The War Remnants Museum once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’ first opened to the public in 1975.
It’s a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War with many graphic photographs and American military equipment on display, including a helicopter with rocket launchers, a tank, a fighter plane, a single-seater attack aircraft and a 6,800kg conventional bomb.
All these weapons were used by America against the Vietnamese at some point during the infamous war that lasted from 1945-1975. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily from 07.30 - 12.00 and 13:30 – 17:00
- Location: 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet Shows remain one of the cultural draws for most travellers to Ho Chi Minh City. Originating in the sodden rice paddies of the Red River Delta in North Vietnam, the two most popular places to see a water puppet show in Ho Chi Minh are at The Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theatre and at the Villa Song Saigon (formerly Thao Dien Village). Depicting the culture, traditions and folklore of Vietnamese life, visitors are entertained by puppets acting on a ‘stage’ of water accompanied by live old-fashioned music played on authentic instruments.
Shows are performed entirely in Vietnamese which is not a problem for the visiting tourist as the puppet gestures are obvious enough to keep the audience enthralled. The musicians are often positioned to one side of the stage adding in sound effects and songs as the people-styled puppets, dragons, fairies and other ornamental figures dance across the stage. Read More...