As the largest city in Vietnam and one of the country’s most prosperous metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is often known as the Paris of the Orient. With its rich cultural background and historical influences from France and China, Ho Chi Minh City is the most multicultural city in Vietnam. Here you can find everything from vibrant shopping districts, international cuisine, museums, pagodas, historical monuments and buildings, parks, and gardens to the liveliest nightlife and bars in the country. There is so much to see while you are in town that you will not want to miss. To make it easier, here are 8 must-see attractions in Ho Chi Minh City for your next Vietnam visit.
Cu Chui Tunnels
A visit to Ho Chi Minh City must include an excursion to the intriguing Cu Chi Tunnels, located 40 km outside the city. Guided tours take visitors through two impressive networks of tunnels, which have been used for centuries. The tunnels were famously used by Vietnamese civilians and the Viet Cong guerilla troops during the Vietnam War (also known as the Second Indochina War of 1955-1975), which is known as the American War in Vietnam. Here you can see the narrow tunnels, with their concealed entrances, underground bunk rooms, kitchens, ammunition dumps, and a system of booby traps used by the Vietcong against the enemy. Despite infrared technology, the American troops never conquered the tunnel system. These tunnels are a testament to the ingenuity of the people who built them and used them.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
The Jade Emperor Pagoda was built at the turn of the 20th century in 1909 by immigrants of the Guangzhou province in Southwest China. Also known as the Tortoise Pagoda, it was built to honor the Jade Emperor (Ngoc Huang). With its bright colors, this stunning pagoda is emblematic of the finest pagodas in Vietnam. From its elaborately tiled roof to the rich religious symbolism of the art and sculpture adorning the walls and surfaces, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is an active place of worship for the local community and a favorite attraction among tourists. The outer courtyard offers benches and tranquil ponds perfect for taking a moment of peace and reflection. It is open daily from 7 am to 5:30 pm.
Visitors to Ho Chi Minh should set aside some time to visit the Reunification Hall, also known as Independence Palace, to learn all about Vietnam’s history. This large building (rebuilt after being mostly destroyed in the early 1960s) was designed by architect Ngo Viet Thu, and was once the palace of President Van Thieu, who was overthrown by the North Vietnamese troops when tanks broke through the gates in 1975. Visitors can walk through the lavish living quarters and assembly room of the former president on the upper floors, as well as the austere military bunkers housed in the basement. After an educational tour through the past, you can take a leisurely stroll 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 in a natural paradise. One of the oldest zoos in the world and Vietnam’s largest zoo, the Saigon Zoo, known locally as Thao Cam Vien, offers a wide variety of attractions with over 100 species of animals.
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, where 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.
Mariamman Hindu Temple
This vibrant and colorful Hindu temple is utilized by the small Hindu community of Ho Chi Minh, as well as many Buddhists. Located near the Ben Thanh market, this well-maintained 19th-century temple welcomes visitors from sunup to sunset. It honors the Hindu Goddess of Strength, Shakti, and its vividly painted and elaborately carved façade cannot be missed. Both Buddhists and Hindus come here to worship and pray while holding fragrant sticks of incense. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, a visit to the Mariamman temple is like a trip to southern India.
Museum of Vietnamese History
Formerly known as the “War Crimes Museum,” the Museum of Vietnam History houses a sobering collection of documents chronicling the atrocities committed by American, French, and Chinese soldiers to Vietnam’s soldiers and civilians. Graphic photographs, captured American warplanes, and videos are all on display as a stark reminder of the bloody past.
Are you ready to explore Ho Chi Minh City? Come discover the mysteries of this vibrant, bustling metropolis and make memories that you will never forget. Before you embark, make sure you get your visa to enter the country. You can avoid the hassle and get it within a few days at Vietnam Visa. Get started early with the visa process to ensure your vacation goes off without a hitch. Visit our site to fill out your application online today, then check out our helpful Vietnam travel tips to make your trip even more enjoyable.