As the largest city in Vietnam and one of the most prosperous areas of the country, Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) is often known as the Paris of the Orient. With rich cultural influences from France and China, Ho Chi Minh City is the most multicultural city in Vietnam. Here you can find vibrant shopping districts, international cuisine, museums, pagodas, historical monuments and buildings, parks and gardens, and the liveliest nightlife and bars in the country. Here are 8 must-see attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Located in the center of a square reminiscent of provincial French cities, the Notre Dame Cathedral Catholic was completed in 1880 and served as a community center for French colonialists.
Known colloquially as the “Paris Square”, the architecture of the building features tall double spires and a Virgin Mary statue in the foreground. Inside, you’ll find stained glass windows and high ceilings in the prayer hall. On the other side of the square opposite of the cathedral is an equally postcard-perfect colonial post office. On the flip side, there are several modern buildings nearby that help to emphasize the difference between Ho Chi Minh City’s cosmopolitan modernity and its colonial past.
Sai Gon Center Post Office
One shouldn’t-be-missed building is the Center Post Office. Be in awe with this yellow, colonial post office that still works! Sending an email or commenting on a Facebook post may be the norm nowadays, but nothing beats the good old hand written letters and postcards. While here, you also have a chance to meet Saigon’s oldest letter-writer, Mr. Duong Van Ngo who has been working at the post office since he was 18 years old.
Reunification Hall (also known as Independence Palace) in Ho Chi Minh City.
Visitors can tour this large building to learn about Vietnam’s history. This building (largely rebuilt after being mostly destroyed in the early 1960s) was once the palace of President Van Thieu, who was overthrown by the North Vietnamese troops when tanks broke through the gates. Visitors can walk through lavish living quarters and assembly room of the former president in the upper floors, as well as the austere military bunkers housed in the basement. After the tour, you can walk through the adjoining grounds and gardens.
Botanical Gardens and Zoo
Who can resist spending a few minutes admiring a group of elephants in a beautiful setting? At the Saigon Botanical Gardens and Zoo, you can escape from the hectic traffic and fast pace of the bustling city and relax. As one of the oldest zoos in the world, the Saigon Zoo (also known locally as Thao Cam Vien) offers a wide variety of animals and is Vietnam’s largest zoo (with over 100 species of animals).
War Remnants Museum
Formerly known as the “War Crimes Museum,” this sobering collection documents atrocities committed by American, French, and Chinese soldiers to Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Graphic photographs, captured American warplanes, and videos are on display.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market was constructed in 1912 by the Brossard et Maupin Construction Company, but it wasn’t until 1957 that it garnered it’s current name. There are four main entrances to the market, each facing one of the main streets in the District 1: Quach Thi Trang, Phan Boi Chau, Le Thanh Ton, and Phan Chu Trinh. In 1985, Ben Thanh Market underwent a major renovation yet its iconic clock tower still remained, designed to withstand Saigon’s tropical climate with its concrete awnings.The market is over 13,000 square meters large, has around 1,500 stalls selling a variety of items ranging from food to cosmetic products.
Markets of Cholon
The Markets of Cholon are the largest indoor and outdoor market areas in Vietnam. This is the city’s huge China Town, and here you can find anything from electronics to silk to fish to coconuts. A trip to Ho Chi Minh must include a bit of shopping, and there is nowhere better than in the legendary shopping district of Cholon.
Museum of Vietnamese History
Located up the street from the Reunification Hall, this important history museum showcases artifacts from all eras of the country’s history, spanning back to the Dong Son culture over 2000 years ago. Collections are housed by era, so you can walk through and gain a thorough understanding of this area’s history up to the present day. Water puppet shows run daily in the nearby local theater.