15 Best Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City: Top Places and Activities

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is a vibrant metropolis in Vietnam where history meets modernity and where the pulse of the country comes livelier than anywhere else. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, this city has something for every traveler.

Are you a newcomer seeking what to do in Ho Chi Minh City? Buckle up! We’re about to take you on an unforgettable adventure like never before. Here are top 15 places and things to do in Ho Chi Minh City that will captivate your heart and ensure you keep returning for more.

Practical information about Ho Chi Minh City

Before you come to the beautiful Ho Chi Minh City, there are some things to bear in mind in order to have the best traveling experience here.

  • Time zone: Indochina Time (ICT), UTC+7.
  • Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND).
  • Language: Vietnamese; English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
  • Weather: Tropical, with hot and humid weather year-round. Dry season (December to April) and rainy season (May to November).
  • Visa: Check visa requirements based on your nationality.
  • Transportation: Taxis and ride-hailing apps are widely available; Motorbike rentals are popular (international driving permit required); Public buses cover most areas.
  • Tipping: Not mandatory, but appreciated in restaurants and for good service.
  • Local SIM cards: Readily available at the airport and convenience stores.
  • Key areas to stay: District 1, District 2, District 3, District 7, Binh Thanh District, Phu Nhuan District.

Top 15 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City: From iconic to hidden gems

From strolling down busy downtown streets, sampling street food and sipping a cup of coffee, to checking-in at historical sites, Ho Chi Minh City has a plethora of nice things to do.

1. Stroll down Bến Thành Market, District 1

One of the first things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is visit Ben Thanh Market, one of the most iconic and oldest markets in the city, bustling with activity from dawn to dusk.

Built in the early 20th century in the center of District 1, Ben Thanh Market has become a symbol, attracting locals and tourists alike. It operates from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a vibrant night market taking over until 10 p.m. As both a trading hub and a tourist attraction, Ben Thanh Market welcomes over 10,000 visitors every day. Here, you’ll find all kinds of goods, from fresh produce and local delicacies to clothing, souvenirs, and handicrafts.

The market is a sensory overload, with the sights, sounds, and smells of bustling stalls and street food vendors. Whether you’re looking to shop for unique items or simply soak in the lively vibe of Saigon, a stroll down Ben Thanh Market provides an authentic glimpse that can’t be more true into the daily life and culture of the city.

  • Ben Thanh Market has free entrance. Prices of items may vary from different stores.

Ben Thanh Market is one of the most iconic and oldest markets in Ho Chi Minh City. Source: flickr.

2. Visit the War Remnants Museum, District 3

Put this place on your list of things to do in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) if you’re a true museumgoer! The War Remnants Museum is a heart-rending yet awakening site in District 3. It offers deep insights into the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War.

Each year, the museum attracts half a million visitors, with the majority being international tourists. The museum is arranged in a series of themed rooms across several buildings. Each room provides a narrative of the conflicts through photographs, artifacts, and documents. Outside, military equipment, including tanks, artillery, and aircraft that were actually used during the wars, is displayed within a walled yard.

As one of Vietnam’s best museums, the War Remnants Museum provides an emotional portrayal of the impacts of war and aims to inform visitors about the historical events that shaped the nation. A visit to the War Remnants Museum is a sobering experience that underscores the resilience and fortitude of the Vietnamese people.

  • The War Remnants Museum entrance fee: 40,000 VND (about 1,6 USD) for adults and 20,000 VND (1 USD) for children, students, and veterans.

The War Remnants Museum provides an emotional portrayal of the impacts of war. Source: flickr.

3. Check-in Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, District 1

A testament to the city’s history, the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is a must-see location in District 1. This centuries-old monument, dating back to the French colonial era, has beautiful neo-Romanesque architecture, a red brick facade, and towering twin bell towers.

The Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is not only a place of worship but also one of the best photography spots in Ho Chi Minh City, attracting both tourists and locals alike. The cathedral’s serene atmosphere and historical significance make it a perfect place to reflect and admire the blend of European architecture in a vibrant Asian city.

Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for a beautiful spot to capture memorable photos, the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is definitely worth sitting on your list of things to do and places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • The Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral has free entrance.

The Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the best photography spots in Ho Chi Minh City. Source: flickr.

4. Visit Saigon Central Post Office, District 1

Another architectural gem from the colonial era, the Saigon Central Post Office, stands proudly in District 1, just across the street from the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral. This building is a blend of European design and Asian decorative elements.

Designed by French architect Alfred Foulhoux, the post office remains a functional space but is primarily a tourist attraction today. Visitors can admire the building’s grand interior, with its high ceilings, intricate ironwork, and stunning tiled floors. While the era of letter writing has waned, the post office still operates, offering basic postal services to locals and tourists.

Today, the Saigon Central Post Office remains a place where history meets everyday life, allowing visitors to step back in time and appreciate its architectural beauty and historical significance. Whether you’re there to mail a postcard or simply to admire its design, the Saigon Central Post Office is a must-visit place in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • The Saigon Central Post Office has free entrance.

The Saigon Central Post Office remains a functional space but is primarily a tourist attraction today. Source: flickr.

5. Enjoy the buzz of Bùi Viện Street, District 1

Bui Vien Street in District 1, just a 15-minute’ walk from Ben Thanh Market, is the best place to party in Ho Chi Minh City. Known for its buzzing atmosphere spanning 850 meters, Bui Vien attracts foreigners and tourists eager to experience its bars, clubs, and nightclubs.

Bui Vien becomes much busier as night falls, with tables and seats spilling out onto the streets and the bar owners inviting passersby to come in, creating a pulsating nightlife scene in a flurry of LED lights. While it’s more relaxed early in the evening, Bui Vien Street attracts more and more people as the night advances, often continuing until midnight.

Note that drinks and food here are notably pricier than elsewhere in the city, a premium many are willing to pay for the unique ambiance and excitement. Despite the higher costs, Bui Vien Street remains a favorite nightlife hotspot for frequent clubbers, offering a dynamic experience unlike any other place in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Bui Vien Street is open to the public. Prices of food and beverages here are usually higher than in other places.

Bui Vien attracts foreigners and tourists eager to experience its bars and nightclubs. Source: flickr.

6. Stroll down Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, District 10

Ho Thi Ky Flower Market is a sensational paradise for flower lovers in District 10. It is renowned as one of Vietnam’s best flower markets.

Being in District 10 might make it sound pretty far from downtown. But it’s actually less than 3 km from Bui Vien in District 1! Located on Ho Thi Ky Street, this market is a vibrant and colorful destination, open around the clock. It offers an array of blooms imported from Da Lat, the Mekong Delta, and other regions in Southwest Vietnam. Visitors can find orchids, lotus flowers, sunflowers, and many more at reasonable prices.

Besides flowers, the market is also a foody’s favorite spot, with numerous stalls selling delicious local snacks and dishes. Walking through Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, you can immerse yourself in the fragrance of the flowers while sampling street foods. Find yourself a unique experience while blending in the vibrant display of flowers.

  • Ho Thi Ky Flower Market has free entrance. Prices of items may vary from different stores.

7. Enjoy a boat ride around Ho Chi Minh City on the Saigon River

If you’ve had enough walking on the streets, a boat ride on the Saigon River is among the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Beyond its economic significance, Saigon River offers scenic tours that provide both relaxation and a fresh perspective on the city.

Options range from affordable one-hour small boat tours, from $12.50, featuring a full bar with drinks, to luxurious experiences like the Saigon Princess Dining Cruise. Departing from Bach Dang Pier at the Saigon Water Bus Station (across Ton Duc Thang St. from Me Linh Square), the one-hour small boat tours offer quick glimpses of the city’s waterfront. Meanwhile, the Saigon Princess Dining Cruise offers fine dining, gourmet food, music shows, and events, giving you a night to remember.

Whether it’s a budget boat tour or a lavish dinner cruise, being on the Saigon River promises a serene getaway with some of the best views of Ho Chi Minh City. Find yourself with gentle breezes, stunning vistas, and tranquility from the hustle while on board.

  • Prices of a boat ride on the Saigon River may vary depending on the provider, starting from 300.000 VND to over 1.500.000 VND (about 12 - 60 USD).

The Saigon Princess Dining Cruise offers fine dining, gourmet food, music shows, and events. Source: flickr.

8. Explore Saigon Chinatown (Chợ Lớn), District 5 and 6

Saigon Chinatown, also known as Cho Lon, is a culturally rich neighborhood of many Viet of Chinese origin. This bustling town, stretching across Districts 5 and 6, began as a settlement for Chinese traders in the 18th century. Over the years, these immigrants established a distinct neighborhood, bringing their Chinese customs, businesses, and culture.

Today, Cho Lon thrives as a bustling commercial and cultural hub, renowned for its lively street markets brimming with Chinese goods, herbs, spices, and traditional crafts. The area also has famous temples like the Thien Hau and Quan De Temple.

If you’re a true food lover looking for culinary delight while strolling around, the streets in Cho Lon are filled with the tantalizing aroma of Chinese cuisine, offering a sensory feast for the taste buds. Try some of the best Chinese dishes, such as dumplings, Pha Lau (braised pork in a spiced stock), stewed herbal chicken soup, crispy roasted duck, or sweet soup. Feeling hungry enough? Visiting Cho Lon is one of the must-try things to do in Ho Chi Minh City!

  • Prices of items in Saigon Chinatown may vary from different stores.

Thien Hau Temple is one of the most famous temples in Cho Lon. Source: flickr.

9. Get on a motorbike food tour around central Ho Chi Minh City

Sampling local street food is one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Apart from Chinatown, the city has many other must-go locations with diverse and delicious street food, offering dishes that tantalize the taste buds with bold flavors and fresh ingredients.

Start with Banh Mi, a French-inspired baguette sandwich filled with meats, pickled vegetables, and herbs. Pho, the iconic Vietnamese noodle soup, is a must-try, with its fragrant broth and tender beef or chicken. Goi Cuon (spring rolls) is a fresh and light option, packed with shrimp, pork, and vegetables and wrapped in rice paper. For something heartier, try Banh Xeo, a crispy pancake stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts.

While these delectable dishes can be found at any street stalls and local markets in the city, navigating the culinary landscape can be challenging. However, with the convenience of guided food tours, you can savor the street food while accompanied by someone who knows the city well, ensuring a memorable and stress-free experience.

XO Tours is Vietnam’s first all-female motorbike tour company, offering the most authentic and well-regarded food tours. Experience Vietnam’s food, culture, and people while sightseeing on two-wheelers, with each bite offering a unique taste.

  • A food tour organized by XO Tours starts from 1,461,600 VND - about 57 USD

Explore the heart of Ho Chi Minh City and savor delicious Vietnamese cuisine on a motorbike tour.

10. Exploring Landmark 81: An Iconic Places in Ho Chi Minh City

As the tallest building in Vietnam, Landmark 81 is a must-visit in Ho Chi Minh City. Located in Binh Thanh District, Landmark 81 is a haven for dining, shopping, and entertaining.

On the top of the building at the height of 461 meters, the SkyView Observation Deck offers breathtaking panoramic views of the bustling cityscape below, providing a perfect backdrop for stunning photos and private events both during the day and at night. For an elevated dining experience, head to the Oriental Pearl Restaurant on floor 66. Here, an array of delectable, high-quality, and luxurious cuisine awaits, offering fine dining in a welcoming atmosphere accompanied by a mesmerizing city view.

The Vincom Center on the ground floor is a shopper’s paradise, featuring a wide selection of high-end and popular retail stores. After a shopping spree, visitors can relax in one of the many cafes or enjoy a variety of entertainment options available throughout the building.

Meanwhile, once the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City before Landmark 81, the Bitexco Financial Tower in District 1 remains an icon across the city’s skyline. With 68 floors at 262 meters and in the shape of a lotus bud, Bitexco is evidence of the city’s prosperity.

Like Landmark 81, Bitexco is also a paradise for shopping enthusiasts, as it has the Icon68 Shopping Center. Here, visitors are surrounded by a wide variety of reputable brands, from clothing to jewelry, allowing them to delight not only their carts but also their eyes. The Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor offers a 360-degree view of the city, making it another prime spot to take in the urban landscape from above. Dining at Bitexco is an experience in itself, with various restaurants and cafes that are ideal spots for family gatherings.

  • Landmark 81 and Bitexco have free entrance. The SkyView Observation Deck starts from 420.000 VND (about 16.5 USD). The Saigon Skydeck starts from 220.000 VND (about 9 USD).

As the tallest building in Vietnam, Landmark 81 is a haven for dining, shopping, and entertaining. Source: flickr.

11. Visit the Reunification Palace, District 1

The Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace, is a site of profound historical importance in District 1. It is famously associated with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through its gates.

Today, the palace serves as a major tourist attraction, offering a glimpse into the country’s tumultuous past. Visitors can explore the ground floor, which is arranged with meeting rooms, and the upper floors, which feature grand reception rooms used for welcoming dignitaries. The back of the structure houses the former president’s living quarters.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the Reunification Palace is the basement, where a whole telecommunications center, war room, and a network of tunnels remain. Therefore, visiting the Reunification Palace is seeking a powerful reminder of Vietnam’s history and resilience, providing an educational and immersive experience for all visitors.

  • The Reunification Palace entrance fee: 65.000 VND for adults, 45.000 VND for university students, and 15.000 VND for children.

The Reunification Palace is famously associated with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Source: flickr.

12. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, District 1

The Fine Arts Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is a treasure trove of Vietnamese art, second only in significance to the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts in Hanoi.

Located in a beautiful colonial building in District 1, the museum houses an impressive collection of artworks, including sculptures, oil, silk, and lacquer paintings. It also features traditional woodcut paintings, Vietnamese ceramics, and ancient Buddhist art. The museum’s galleries are filled with works that span various styles and periods, offering a comprehensive view of Vietnam’s rich artistic heritage.

Visitors can admire the intricate details and vibrant colors of the artworks, each telling a unique story of the country’s cultural and historical journey. The Fine Arts Museum is a haven for art lovers and provides a serene and inspiring environment to appreciate the creativity and talent of Vietnamese artists.

  • The Museum of Fine Arts entrance fee: 30.000 VND for adults, 15.000 VND for students, and free for children under 6 and adults over 60.

The Fine Arts Museum has an impressive collection of artworks, including sculptures, oil, silk, and lacquer paintings. Source: Klook.

13. Relax your mind at the hidden cafes in Ho Chi Minh City

Did you know that Vietnam is the second-largest coffee exporter in the world, just after Brazil? Like any other city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is a haven for coffee lovers. One more line on your ‘things to do in Ho Chi Minh City’ list!

Vietnamese coffee is famous for its strong flavor, thick texture, and refreshing aroma. The most common choice is robusta beans, roasted until dark and often enhanced with salt, butter, and fillers like soybeans, red beans, and roasted corn. The best coffee in Ho Chi Minh City is perhaps the Vietnamese Egg Coffee, made with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and robusta coffee. How does it taste? Creamy, sweet, and addictive!

Vietnamese coffee has a taste you won’t be able to resist.

Another must-try Vietnamese coffee is Bac Xiu, a lighter variation of the Vietnamese iced coffee (Ca Phe Sua Da). The distinction is that Bac Xiu has more milk than coffee, and Ca Phe Sua Da is the other way around. Also, both fresh milk and condensed milk are used in Bac Xiu, but only condensed milk in Ca Phe Sua Da. Curious how good it is? Give it a try!

However, the coffee experience in Ho Chi Minh City is not just about the brew; it’s about the setting. The city is dotted with hidden cafes tucked away in small alleyways. These charming spots, a contrast to the city’s bustling streets, provide a tranquil escape. Imagine sipping a cup of coffee in one of these hidden gems, a moment of relaxation in the heart of the city.

  • Prices of desserts and beverages at cafes in Ho Chi Minh City may vary. A typical Vietnamese coffee starts from 20.000 VND to 30.000 VND (about 1 USD).

Ho Chi Minh City is dotted with hidden cafes, providing a tranquil escape. Source: flickr.

14. Take a trip to Cu Chi Tunnels, Northwest of Ho Chi Minh City

One of the last things you must do in Ho Chi Minh City is visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, a popular tourist attraction located about 60 kilometers northwest of the city. These tunnels are an immense network of connecting tunnels that played a major role during the Vietnam War.

Spanning nearly 250 kilometers in total length, around 120 kilometers of the Cu Chi Tunnels have been preserved and are open for public visits today. Through guided tours to Cu Chi, visitors can experience crawling through the safer parts of the tunnel system, gaining a firsthand glimpse into the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers during the war.

Cu Chi Tunnels complex also features displays of various types of booby traps used during combat, providing insight into the strategies employed. Exploring the Cu Chi Tunnels is both an educational and mind-blowing experience, as it showcases the ingenuity and resilience of the Vietnamese people during the war. If you’re looking for a fascinating journey into the past, sparing a day and taking a trip to Cu Chi Tunnels is a good choice.

  • Cu Chi Tunnels entrance fee: 70.000 VND (2 USD) for expats and 35.000 VND for Vietnamese people.

A guide showing tourists how to enter a tunnel through a small entrance. Source: flickr.

15. Explore Can Gio Mangrove Forest, Southeast of Ho Chi Minh City

If you’re a nature lover looking for a serene landscape to relax your mind, this place is for you. Can Gio Mangrove Forest, located 50 kilometers southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, is a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve and an essential wildlife sanctuary in Vietnam.

This wetland ecosystem is dominated by mangroves and is home to many rare species, making it a vital area for conservation and ecotourism. Visitors to Can Gio can explore the Sac Forest Tourism Area and the popular monkey islands, where they can observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Coming to Can Gio, you seek a serene getaway from the city, allowing you to enjoy nature and local cuisine.

Similar to Cu Chi Tunnels, travel options to Can Gio include motorbike and bus, making it accessible for a day trip. You can also rent a taxi or other ride-hailing services like Grab. Don’t forget you can totally book guided tours to Can Gio that may take you there from where you live. While you’re in Can Gio, the forest’s lush greenery and tranquil waterways will give you a peaceful setting for bird-watching, hiking, and boat rides.

  • A full-day guided tour to Can Gio Mangrove Forest starts from 500.000 VND (20 USD).

Tourists in Can Gio can take a boat tour along the mangrove forest to observe many rare species. Source: flickr.

Which of these things to do in Ho Chi Minh City above will you experience first? Oxalis Adventure believes that Ho Chi Minh is a diverse metropolis with lots of awesome places to explore, each offering something for everyone who travels to Vietnam. Set out on your next trip to Ho Chi Minh City and find yourself the most unforgettable memories here!

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