Many of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City centre around the events of 20th-century war and conquest. It sounds sombre, and in parts it is, but there are some truly fascinating historical activities suitable for all ages. 

    From classic French architecture to perfectly maintained American warplanes, walking around the city is like seeing the past come to life. Of course, as Vietnam’s biggest city and business capital, times have changed over the years. Modern skyscrapers punctuate the sky combining the new and old in a uniquely Vietnamese way.

    1

    Binh Tay Market

    19th-century market in Chinatown

    Binh Tay Market, constructed by the French in the 1880s, is located in the centre of Vietnam’s largest Chinatown district. This market mainly serves the local population with its extensive range of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, meat and seafood from regions across Vietnam.

    Location: 57A Tháp Mười, Phường 2, Quận 6, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700900, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm

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    2

    War Remnants Museum

    A sobering reminder of the Vietnam War

    • Photo
    • History

    The War Remnants Museum is a sobering and unforgettable museum that details the effects of the 30 year-long war between the US and Vietnam. There are immaculately preserved tanks, planes and other war machines outside the museum, but the really hard-hitting information is found inside. 

    Photographs, exhibits and written documentation show the horrific lengths that the American Army have taken in order to try and defeat the North Vietnamese Army.

    Location: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 7.30 am to 11.30 am and from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +84 (0)28 3930 5587

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    3

    Cu Chi Tunnels

    A prominent landmark northwest of Ho Chi Minh City

    • History

    The Chu Chi Tunnels is a marvellous tourist attraction that lets you experience what it must have been like during the Vietnam War. Vietnamese soldiers used an extensive network of tunnels to move around undetected by their enemies. 

    There is an informative movie to watch, followed by a guided tour of some mock recreations of daily life for the Viet Cong hiding in the jungle. Burnt out tanks make for a great photo prop. You can even crawl through a small section that has been widened and supported with concrete.

    Location: Đ. Tỉnh Lộ 15, Phú Hiệp, Củ Chi, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 733814, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +84 (0)28 3794 8830

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    4

    Cao Dai Temple

    A unique shrine dedicated to the Cao Dai faith

    Cao Dai Temple is the centre of the Cao Dai faith, a religion that has taken bits of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Confucianism. Tourists are welcome to visit the temple and learn more about this faith, which is practised by a few dedicated followers. 

    Each Cao Dai practitioner wears a white robe to enter the temple with an additional sash to signify their previous religion. The temple itself is very bright and colourful, with dragons flying up bannisters and a cloud mural decorating the ceiling.

    Location: 891 Đ. Trần Hưng Đạo, Phường 1, Quận 5, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

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    5

    Jade Emperor Pagoda

    Taoist temple in District 1

    Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most revered temples in Ho Chi Minh City. Originally built in 1909 by Chinese immigrants, this Taoist temple also welcomes Buddhist worshippers looking to pay their respects. 

    It's incredibly atmospheric, with incense smoke hanging heavy in the air. Intricate architecture, carvings, statues of Gods and Goddesses and Chinese characters create an exotic and timeless ambience.

    Location: 73 Đường Mai Thị Lựu, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 5 .30 pm

    Phone: +84 (0)28 3820 3102

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    6

    Bitexco Financial Tower

    Modern skyscraper with an observation deck

    • Photo

    The Bitexco Financial Tower is an ultra-modern office tower in Ho Chi Minh City, with a characteristic oval extension that acts as a helicopter landing pad. Standing at 262 metres tall, this 68-storey building is the highest in all of Vietnam with a sky deck offering 360-degree views of the city and surrounding area. 

    The Bitexco Financial Tower also has a fantastic sky bar called Alto, where you can see all of Ho Chi Minh City while enjoying a cocktail and some tapas-style international dishes. Head up here for sunset with your camera.

    Location: 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 8 am to 11 pm, Sunday from 9.30 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +84 (0)28 3915 6161

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    7

    Reunification Palace

    The Reunification Palace has played its part in some incredible scenes in Ho Chi Minh City. It's known as the centre of the allied command and the place where the North Vietnamese claimed victory in the Vietnam War. 

    This ageing palace has essentially been frozen in time since a North Vietnamese Army tank smashed through its gates in 1975. You will get to discover secret rooms, grand reception halls and the command bunker where General Ngo Dinh Diem conducted his war strategies.

    Location: 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 8 am to noon

    Phone: +84 (0)28 3822 3652

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    8

    Saigon Central Post Office

    Well-preserved example of French colonial architecture

    The Saigon Central Post Office in central Ho Chi Minh City is a glorious example of French colonial architecture. It's perfectly preserved with as much style as when it first opened in 1891. The building still functions as the city’s main post office, so sending a letter or postcard home is highly recommended for a taste of living history. 

    Beautiful from any angle, this building was designed by Alfred Foulhoux, who also designed several other majestic buildings in Saigon. 

    Location: 02 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000, Vietnam

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    9

    Goddess Mariamman Temple

    The only active Hindu temple in Ho Chi Minh City

    The Goddess Mariamman Temple is a beautiful example of the bright and vibrant architecture of Hindu places of worship. As the only active Hindu temple in Ho Chi Minh City, it acts as a community base for the small community of Hindus living in the city. 

    Open every day, non-Hindus are welcome to visit the Goddess Mariamman Temple. Just remember to dress conservatively and take off your shoes before entering the inner temple.

    Location: 45 Trương Định, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000, Vietnam

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    10

    Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon

    An impressive Catholic church in Paris Square

    The Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in largely Buddhist Vietnam. Located in Paris Square, it was built in the late 1880s by French colonists. Its name was given after the installation of the Peaceful Notre Dame statue in 1959. 

    A figure of the Virgin Mary statue stands in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon. Locals claimed to have seen it shedding tears in October 2005. While this incident was refuted by the Catholic Church of Vietnam, thousands of visitors still flock to this statue in hopes of witnessing a miracle.

    Location: 01 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +84 (0)91 412 22 29

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    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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