Some of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City include eating famous street food such as pho or banh mi, trying a Vietnamese massage, visiting historical landmarks to learn about the history of the country and the city, or taking a trip to Mekong Delta areas.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is one of the two most populous cities in Vietnam along with Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh City was officially chosen in July 1976 by Vietnamese legislators after the Fall of Saigon in 1975, in honor of Ho Chi Minh.
Located in the South Of Vietnam, HCMC is the main hub of the southern region. The city is a great base to explore the beautiful Mekong Delta and Can Gio mangrove forests.
With its long history, you can see French colonial buildings, Chinese pagodas, skyscrapers, as well as some of the historical attractions such as the Independence Palace, the War Remnants Museum, and the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The city can be chaotic and overwhelming but it has a charming atmosphere and energetic nightlife, especially on Pham Ngu Lao Street and Bui Vien Street.
Ho Chi Minh City is also known for its delicious street food with a combination of French, Chinese, and local Vietnamese cuisine.
27 Best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
1. Eat pho
Pho is a famous traditional Vietnamese food. Eating a bowl of pho is one of the best things to do and see in Ho Chi Minh City. Pho is a healthy meal and is often consumed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Pho typically consists of a clear beef broth, rice noodles, slices of beef or chicken, with lime wedges, bean sprouts, and basil leaves on the side.
You can try pho at many street side restaurants, as well as popular chain such as Phở Hùng and Phở Thìn.
2. Eat Banh Mi
Banh Mi is another famous traditional Vietnamese food along with Pho. It has become increasingly popular in other countries around the world, including the United States.
Banh mi is typically made with a baguette-style bread and filled with a variety of savory ingredients. The bread is usually light and crispy on the outside, with a soft inside.
Banh Mi is often filled with grilled or roasted pork or chicken, pickled carrots and daikon radish, sliced cucumber, cilantro, and chili peppers.
A visit to Vietnam is not complete without trying Banh Mi. It can be found at many street vendors as well as banh mi chains such as Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa and Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa.
3. Eat Dumplings in Chinatown
Chinatown, also known as Cho Lon, is a vibrant area in district 5 with a large ethnic Chinese community.
It is home to bustling markets, temples, and traditional Chinese architecture such as Binh Tay Market, An Dong Market , Thien Hau Temple, Trieu Quang Phuc Pagoda.
Chinatown is also home to a variety of street food vendors and restaurants serving traditional Chinese cuisine such as dumplings.
They are typically small pieces of dough that are filled with various ingredients and then cooked by boiling, steaming, or frying. The filling can be sweet or savory and can include ingredients such as meat, vegetables, and cheese.
Some of the popular dim sum in district 5 are Baoz Dimsum, Tan Nguyen Thai, Tien Phat Dim Sum, and Hue Ky My Gia.
4. Take a cooking class
If you are interested in how to make delicious Vietnamese cuisine, you should consider taking a cooking class. It is one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
Some of the best cooking classes to look at in Ho Chi Minh City are HCM Cooking Class, GRAIN Cooking Class, and Saigon Cooking Class by Hoa Tuc.
5. Try A Vietnamese Massage
Trying a Vietnamese Massage is one of the best things to do in HCMC to relax. Vietnamese massage is a traditional form of massage that combines both Chinese and Southeast Asian techniques.
It typically involves the use of acupressure, stretching, and deep tissue massage to release tension and promote relaxation.
If you’re interested in trying a Vietnamese massage in Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to do some research beforehand and read reviews from other customers to find a reputable and high-quality spa or massage parlor.
6. Visit War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is one of the best things to do and see in Ho Chi Minh City where you can learn more about the history of the Vietnam War. It is one of the most visited museums in the city for many years.
The War Remnants Museum is centrally located in district 3, within easy walking distance from popular landmarks such as the Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Saigon Central Post Office.
The museum was opened to the public in 1975 and has undergone several renovations throughout the years.
The museum has outdoor exhibitions and an exhibition building, showing documents, artifacts, and videos about the Vietnam and American War.
The outdoor exhibits display US Air Force aircraft, helicopters, and armored tanks, as well as missiles, bombs, and mines, as well as the Tiger Cage, the replica version of the Tiger Cage in Con Dao island.
In the building’s ground floor, you will have a section dedicated to victims of Agent Orange. On the top floor, you will see Vietnam War and Peace and Historical Truth exhibits.
The War Remnants Museum is open daily, tickets for an adult is 40.000 VND and discounted prices for children.
7. Tour the Reunification Palace
The Reunification Palace, also known as Independence Palace, is one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Built in 1868, it was called Norodom Palace, and first used as the mansion of the Governor of Cochinchina during French colonial rule.
It later became the workplace of the Japanese when they won over the French in 1945. In 1954, it was the residence of the Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem during the Vietnam American war.
The palace has an unique architecture with a combination of modern and traditional Vietnamese design elements. It has a large central hall, which was used for official receptions, and is surrounded by a beautiful garden.
On April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese army captured the palace, signaling the end of the Vietnam War. It is now used as a museum, where they can explore the different rooms and learn about the history of Vietnam.
Visitors can also see the war rooms, which have been preserved in their original state, and the underground bunker, which was used by the President of South Vietnam during times of war.
The palace is an important historical site in Vietnam and attracts many tourists from around the world. The Independence Palace opens daily and the entrance ticket is 40.000VND per adult.
8. Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the best things to do and see in Ho Chi Minh city as it is a symbol and one of the most famous Saigon attractions.
The cathedral attracts Catholics, tourists and the locals, who enjoy its beautiful structure and the neo-Romanesque architectural style.
The cathedral has history dating back during the French colonial period in the late 19th century. The French government built a big church for French colonialists.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a great place to take a photo, and it is also conveniently located close to attractions such as Saigon Central Post Office, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Independence Palace, and the Nguyen Van Binh Book Street.
Around the cathedral, you can sit down and try a cup of Vietnamese coffee, try a cheap and delicious local street food, or explore the city on a cyclo.
9. Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels is one of the must-see attractions in Vietnam for those who are interested in the war. They are an extensive network of underground tunnels situated 40 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, in Cu Chi district.
The tunnels were originally built during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong, the communist guerilla fighters who opposed both the government of South Vietnam and the United States military presence in the region.
The tunnels served as a base for the Viet Cong’s operations, allowing them to hide from their enemies and launch surprise attacks. The tunnels were used for a variety of purposes, including communication, transportation, storage, and living quarters.
The tunnels were an essential part of the Viet Cong’s strategy, and they played a significant role in their ultimate victory over the United States and South Vietnamese forces. Despite being heavily bombed and targeted by the U.S. military, the tunnels remained operational and effective throughout the war.
Today, the Cu Chi Tunnels are a popular tourist attraction in Vietnam, attracting visitors from around the world. Visitors can explore a portion of the tunnels and learn about the history and significance of this underground network.
The site also features exhibits and displays that showcase the various weapons and traps used by the Viet Cong during the war.
10. Visit the Sagon Central Office
Saigon Central Post Office is one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh City, located in the heart of the city in district 1. It was built during the French colonial period in the late 19th century close to the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.
The post office building is famous for its beautiful neoclassical architecture, which features arched windows and a high ceiling with a large central clock.
Inside the post office, visitors can see the original telephone booths, the old map of Saigon, and a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, who worked there as a messenger in his youth.
Today, Saigon Central Post Office is still a functioning post office, serving both locals and tourists. In addition to its postal services, the post office is also a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors who come to admire its architecture and historical significance.
11. See the Skyline from the Bitexco Tower
The Bitexco Financial Tower is a skyscraper located in the city’s business district. It is one of the city’s tallest buildings standing at 68 stories tall and 262 meters in height.
The tower was designed by architect Carlos Zapata and constructed between 2005 and 2010. It is home to many offices, restaurants, and observation decks, including the Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor. The Skydeck offers a panoramic view of the city.
The Bitexco Financial Tower is also an architectural landmark in the city. Its unique design, which features a lotus bud-shaped top, was inspired by Vietnam’s national flower. The building’s exterior is clad in glass and steel, giving it a modern and sleek appearance.
Overall, the Bitexco Financial Tower is a significant symbol of Ho Chi Minh City’s economic growth and development.
12. Shopping in Ben Thanh market
Ben Thanh Market is a large marketplace located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, within walking distance to popular tourist attractions such as the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and the Central Post Office.
Ben Thanh Market is one of the city’s oldest and most famous markets, and has been in operation since the 19th century.
The market is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike, and offers a wide range of goods for sale, including clothing, accessories, souvenirs, handicrafts, fresh produce, and street food. It is particularly known for its textiles, such as silk, linen, and cotton, as well as its selection of local spices and herbs.
Ben Thanh Market has played an important role in the history and development of Ho Chi Minh City.Visitors to the market are advised to be prepared for crowds and haggling, as prices are often negotiable and vendors can be quite persistent.
Overall, however, Ben Thanh Market is a vibrant and exciting destination that offers a unique glimpse into the local culture and way of life in Ho Chi Minh City.
13. Have a drink in Pham Ngu Lao Street
Pham Ngu Lao is a bustling street located in the heart of District 1. It is a very popular street among budget travelers.
Pham Ngu Lao Street is lined with a wide variety of accommodations ranging from hostels and budget hotels to mid-range and luxury hotels. The area is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants catering to tourists and locals alike.
Pham Ngu Lao Street is also conveniently located near many of Ho Chi Minh City’s top tourist attractions, including the Ben Thanh Market, the War Remnants Museum, and the Reunification Palace.
Overall, Pham Ngu Lao Street is a popular destination for travelers looking for affordable accommodations, lively nightlife, and easy access to the city’s main attractions.
14. Visit Bui Vien backpacker street
Bui Vien Street is a popular tourist destination for anyone looking to experience the vibrant culture and nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City.
Located in District 1, it is a lively street filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and budget hostels that cater to both local and foreign travelers.
Bui Vien Street is known for its vibrant nightlife, with live music, karaoke, and cheap drinks available throughout the night. It is a popular spot for backpackers to hang out, socialize, and meet new people.
Bui Vien Street is also home to many street food vendors, serving up a variety of local dishes such as banh mi, pho, and com tam. Visitors can also find souvenir shops selling traditional Vietnamese handicrafts and textiles.
15. Binh Quoi tourist village
Binh Quoi tourist village is a popular destination located in Binh Thanh district, on the outskirts of the city, and it offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Vietnamese village life.
The village is set along the Saigon River and features a range of activities and attractions, including traditional music and dance performances, boat rides along the river, and an array of local dishes served in a buffet-style setting.
Visitors can also participate in a range of traditional activities, such as rice paper making, pottery, and fishing.
Binh Quoi tourist village is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and experience a more relaxed and traditional way of life in Vietnam.
Whether you’re looking to try traditional Vietnamese food, learn more about the local culture, or simply enjoy a peaceful day by the river, Binh Quoi tourist village is definitely worth a visit.
16. Suoi Tien and Dam Sen theme park
Suoi Tien and Dam Sen are both popular theme parks in Ho Chi Minh City.
Suoi Tien is located in District 9 and is a large park with a water park, zoo, amusement rides, and cultural attractions based on Vietnamese mythology and folklore. The park is known for its elaborate sculptures and statues depicting dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures.
Dam Sen is located in District 11 and is a smaller park than Suoi Tien but still offers a range of attractions including amusement rides, a water park, and a musical fountain show. The park also has a man-made lake where visitors can rent paddle boats and go fishing.
Both parks offer a variety of entertainment options for visitors of all ages and are popular destinations for families and tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
17. Walk on Nguyen Hue Walking Street
Nguyen Hue Walking Street is a popular pedestrian area, located in the heart of the city and spans from the Ho Chi Minh City Hall to the Saigon River.
The walking street is lined with trees and benches, making it a great spot for people watching and enjoying the city atmosphere. There are also several notable landmarks along Nguyen Hue Walking Street, such as the statue of Ho Chi Minh and the Saigon Opera House.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street is also a popular destination for shopping and dining. There are many shops, cafes, and restaurants located along the street, offering a wide range of options for visitors.
The street is particularly lively in the evenings, when the lights come on and street performers and vendors set up shop. It’s a great place to take a stroll, enjoy the scenery, and soak up the vibrant energy of Ho Chi Minh City.
18. Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens is one of the best things to do and see in HCMC for families and kids. The zoo was first established in 1865 during French colonial rule.
The zoo covers an area of 20 hectares and is home to over 550 animals, including tigers, lions, elephants, monkeys, and various species of birds and reptiles.
The zoo also features a botanical garden with a variety of plant species, including fruit trees, medicinal plants, and ornamental plants.
Visitors to the zoo can enjoy a range of activities, such as animal shows, elephant rides, and boat rides on the lake. There are also various restaurants and cafes located within the zoo where visitors can grab a bite to eat.
19. Travel to the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta where the Mekong River empties into the sea. The region is known for its lush rice paddies, fruit orchards, and charming river towns. A Mekong Delta tour is a great way to experience the beauty and culture of this region.
You can explore the Mekong Delta by taking boat rides, visiting floating markets, cycling tours, visiting local villages, and trying local cuisine.
The Mekong Delta tour is a great way to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of this region.
20. Visit the Giac Lam Pagoda
Giac Lam Pagoda is a Buddhist temple and is one of the oldest and most significant temples in the city, and is recognized as a national historical and cultural site by the Vietnamese government.
The pagoda was originally built in the 18th century, but has undergone several renovations and expansions over the years. Its architecture is a blend of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Khmer styles, and the pagoda is home to many beautiful statues, carvings, and other works of art.
Visitors to Giac Lam Pagoda can explore the various halls, shrines, and courtyards of the temple, and may also participate in Buddhist rituals and ceremonies. The pagoda is open daily to the public, and admission is free.
Giac Lam Pagoda is located in District 11, and can be easily reached by public transportation or taxi. It is a popular tourist attraction and a significant religious site for Buddhists in Vietnam.
21. Take a Bonsai River Cruise
Bonsai Dinner Cruise offers guests a unique dining experience aboard a beautifully decorated boat while cruising along the Saigon River.
During the cruise, you can enjoy a delicious Vietnamese dinner, live music, and admire the city’s stunning skyline from the river.
To book a Bonsai Dinner Cruise, you can contact a local travel agency or search online for tour companies that offer this service.
22. Grab a coffee in Tao Dan Park
Tao Dan Park is a popular public park located in the heart of District 1. It covers an area of approximately 10 hectares and is known for its lush greenery, tranquil atmosphere, and a variety of recreational activities.
The park features several walking paths, gardens, a children’s playground, a soccer field, and a bird café where visitors can enjoy coffee or tea while observing various bird species.
If you’re looking for a place to grab a coffee in or near Tao Dan Park, there are several cafes and coffee shops in the surrounding area. Some popular options include Shin Coffee, The Coffee House, and Highlands Coffee, which are all within walking distance from the park.
23. Museum of Vietnamese History
The Museum of Vietnam History is dedicated to showcasing the country’s history, culture, and traditions, with a particular focus on the periods of Vietnamese dynasties, from the ancient to the modern era.
The museum’s collection includes over 40,000 artifacts, ranging from prehistoric times to the modern era. Some of the highlights of the collection include objects from the Cham, Khmer, and Dai Viet cultures, ancient ceramics, bronze objects, and traditional costumes.
The museum also has a significant collection of artifacts from the Cham Kingdom, which flourished in central Vietnam from the 2nd to the 15th century.
The museum is housed in a French colonial-style building, which was originally constructed in the early 20th century as the Museum of Indochina. The building was later converted into the Museum of Vietnam History in the 1950s.
24. The Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple is a stunning temple that represents a fascinating blend of different religions including Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity.
The Cao Dai religion was founded in the early 20th century in Vietnam and emphasizes the importance of peace, love, and compassion. The religion believes in the existence of one supreme being, known as the “Cao Dai” or “Great Tower,” who governs the universe.
The temple in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most significant Cao Dai temples in Vietnam, and it is open to visitors who are interested in learning about the religion and its customs. Visitors can witness the colorful ceremonies held at the temple, which involve chanting, music, and prayer.
The temple’s architecture is a unique blend of different styles, reflecting the diverse influences of the Cao Dai religion. The main entrance features a large gate with Chinese characters and a statue of the religion’s founder, while the interior is adorned with colorful murals, sculptures, and other decorative elements.
Visitors to the Cao Dai Temple are required to dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering the temple. The temple is located about 40 km from Ho Chi Minh City and can be reached by car or bus. It is open daily from early morning until late afternoon.
25. Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market is a popular market located in the Chinatown area of the city, which is also known as Cho Lon.
Binh Tay Market is a large indoor market that sells a variety of goods, including textiles, clothing, accessories, housewares, and food. The market is particularly known for its selection of dried goods, such as dried fruits, nuts, and spices.
The market is open daily from early morning until late afternoon. It can get quite crowded, so it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings.
If you’re planning to visit Binh Tay Market, it’s a good idea to bring cash, as many of the vendors do not accept credit cards. Bargaining is also common at the market, so be prepared to negotiate prices with the vendors.
26. Jade Emperor Pagoda
Jade Emperor Pagoda is a Taoist temple and one of the most important and popular temples in the city.
The Jade Emperor Pagoda was built in 1909 by a community of Cantonese Chinese immigrants who settled in the area. The temple is dedicated to the Jade Emperor, the Taoist god of heaven, and other deities from the Chinese pantheon.
The pagoda’s architecture is a blend of Chinese and Vietnamese styles, with intricate carvings and colorful murals depicting scenes from Taoist mythology. The temple’s interior is dimly lit and filled with burning incense, creating a mystical atmosphere.
Visitors can explore the temple’s various rooms, each dedicated to a different deity, and observe devotees praying and making offerings. The temple is also home to a large number of turtles, which are considered sacred in Taoism.
The Jade Emperor Pagoda is open to visitors daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and is located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. It is easily accessible by taxi or motorbike, and admission is free. However, visitors are expected to dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering the temple.
27. The Fine Arts Museum
The Fine Arts Museum is a museum dedicated to showcasing the development of Vietnam’s art scene. The museum houses a vast collection of works, including traditional and contemporary Vietnamese art, as well as art from other countries and cultures.
The building itself is a beautiful example of French colonial architecture and was originally built in the early 20th century as a villa for a wealthy Chinese businessman. The building was later acquired by the French colonial government and used as the headquarters of the Ministry of Information.
After the end of the Vietnam War, the building was renovated and converted into the museum that exists today.
The museum’s collection includes works of art in various forms such as sculpture, ceramics, lacquer, and paintings from different periods, including ancient Vietnamese art and modern works of contemporary artists. Some of the notable pieces in the collection include works by renowned Vietnamese artists such as Nguyen Gia Tri and Bui Xuan Phai.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year, featuring both local and international artists. Visitors can also take part in various workshops and activities, including calligraphy, painting, and pottery classes.
See more: Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City First Time
So there you have it, the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.