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Top 12 Best Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

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Going to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam? Let’s make sure you get the most out of visiting this fabulous city, previously also known as Saigon. Below, we are listing the Top 12 best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. The activities are listed in random order.

1. Admire the Saigon Central Post Office

Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office
Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh

The Saigon Central Post Office is renowned for being the biggest post office in the country. Located in District-1, the Saigon Central Post Office is built by none other than the great Gustave Eiffel. You’ve heard of the man, the architect of the famous Eiffel tower in Paris!

The Saigon Post Office has a neoclassical architecture all over it which makes it stand out – especially if you are a history, art, or architecture lover!

2. Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Min City
Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is famous for it’s French colonial architecture, best embodied by the Notre-Dame Basilica. This is especially important for both Ho Chi Minh’s architectural and historical value. It was built under the French colonial rule and perhaps because of that, all of its materials construction came straight from France.

3. Boat ride to across the Saigon River

While you’re on your tour to Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll find there is a place called Ho Chi Minh Pier. It is the starting point from where you can take a ride on a speedboat straight to the Cu Chi Tunnels across the Saigon River. While the speedboat races, you can take snaps of your journey across the beautiful river too. There are plenty of tour packages available.

4. Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels

Guide in Ho Chi Minh city coming out of Cu Chi tunnels

A guide showing the entrance to one of the Cu Chi tunnels. Photo by: Thomas Schoch [CC BY-SA 3.0]

The Cu Chi Tunnels are an elaborate underground network
A man escaping into the Cu Chi Tunnels

Located about 60km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most iconic remants of the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels are more than 120 km long and were used as hiding spots by Viet Cong guerrillas during combat with American forces. The tunnel system played a major role as communication and supply routes. Today, visitors can crawl through designated parts of the tunnel system and experience what life was like for a Vietnamese soldier. A Cu Chi tunnel tour will include a tour to one of two tunnel sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc along with captivating stories of Vietnam's war for independence. 

5. Visit the Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The Reunification Palace

When touring the historical-architectural sites in HCMC, you just can’t miss the Reunification Palace. This also has French colonial history behind it, as this palace symbolizes the unity of and independence of Vietnam after the French rulers left the country back in 1954. Originally constructed under the orders of Ngo Dinh Diem, the palace was known as the Independence Palace at first. But later on during the 70's, the name was changed to its current name.

6. Savour the Tasty Street Food

Traditional Vietnamese food
Vietnamese traditional food platter

Some tourists shy away from eating the street food of Ho Chi Minh City, but that’s a mistake. Vietnam is famous for its tasty street food. There are plenty of places in the city where you can sample delicious local street foots at little cost. Avoid the restaurants that are pricier in this case – you’ll just spend most of what’s inside your wallet for (almost) no reason. The street food is always better in HCMC and you’ll get to taste them spending only a few dollars too! If you’re searching for specific names – take the surrounding area of the Cho Benh Thanh Market.

7. Take a Sip of Vietnamese Coffee

Strong and flavorful Vietnamese coffee makes converts as quickly as it rais
Vietnamese iced coffee

Being one of the world’s biggest coffee exporter, Vietnam is a place where you must try the coffee. It tastes superb, and of course, u can get it almost everywhere, and yes, the price is reasonable as well. Beware though that the quality differs, so in order to not get the wrong impression of Vietnamese Coffee please be a bit picky to start with. Also, be aware that you will probably need to get used to the local coffee, but from then onwards, you are all into it.

If you want to refresh your mind, you can have strong, sweet, and chocolaty black coffee with ice. Local brands like Trung Nguyen is very popular. As for the price, it usually ranges from around 33 cents to USD 3 or more – rather cheap for a good coffee.

For more information about the cafe scene in Ho Chi Minh, please see this article written by Nomadic Notes.

8. Wander through the Cho Benh Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market
A local food stall inside the Cho Benh Thanh Market

The Cho Benh Thanh Market is a local tourist market adjacent to the Liberty Central Hotel (which is also a perfect place to stay!). If you are wondering what to do in Ho Chi Minh City, wander into the market where anything that you find would seem exotic. You will find almost everything there – various kinds of local food, drinks, handicrafts, clothing, souvenirs – all the things that are bound to attract most tourists. The market opens as early as at 5:00 a.m. and stays that way till about 6:00 p.m. But be ready to bargain for all prices. Language won’t be a barrier – they are used to simple English, so communication won’t be a problem.

9. Sing at a Karaoke Bar

Group of friends singing karaoke
Karaoke Bar in Ho Chi Minh City

If you’ve followed Vietnamese movies or have some knowledge regarding the favorite pastimes of the locals, you already know this. Karaoke is a national pastime of the Vietnam people, you can’t just sit it out. You got to go for karaoke experience at various karaoke bars of Ho Chi Minh City. Take the Sunrise Bar for instance – lovely environment for a karaoke experience and a nice bar.

10. Visit the Namesake Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Saigon City Hall is another excellent example of French colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City

If you are into architecture, the City Hall of Ho Chi Minh City comes highly recommended. The City Hall was established back in 1908 and it shares certain level of similarity with the City Hall of Paris. In front of the City Hall, you will find the statue of Ho Chi Minh, which is also worth a stop.

11. Get a Glass of Bia Hoi

Bia Hoi
Bia hoi a type of draft beer popular in Ho Chi Minh city

Bia hoi is the local homemade beer found in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and other cities in Vietnam. Bia hoi, which literally translates to "fresh beer" is delivered to road-side bars daily and is a light beer with only 3% alcohol content. A fun thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City, this cheap beer can be enjoyed while mingling with locals at a bia hoi bar. Make sure to visit bars that are packed with locals. This signifies that the food is good and frequent turnover of customers means fresher ingredients, decreasing the chances of getting sick. 

12. Tackle the HCMC Trail by Motorbike

This last recommendation will seem just perfect if you love some adventure! The Ho Chi Minh trail is a wartime road that connected North Vietnam to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The trail that crosses through to Cambodia and Laos was one of the most affected areas during wartime. Today, it is possible to explore parts of this trail by motorbike. Hire a bike at a local bike rental and ride through the trail while learning more about the Vietnam War and its effects on the people. 

To end it all, call it Saigon, HCMC or by its full name Ho Chi Minh City – this place is famous for a lot of things. While this city might come off as overwhelming to some travelers at first, underneath the bustling city lies a destination enriched with history and culture. 

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