9 Best things to do in Saigon


Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon - a modern and vibrant southern capital that full of attractions and charms. Let’s follow our list of best things to do in Saigon, in an unordinary sequel, to explore the city’s greatness.

9 Best things to do in Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon - a modern and vibrant southern capital that full of attractions and charms. Let’s follow our list of best things to do in Saigon, in an unordinary sequel, to explore the city’s greatness.

1. One of the first best things to do in Saigon: Have a sip of Saigon cafe sữa đá

All over Vietnam, it’s easy to find cafe đen đá (black coffee) and cafe sữa đá (milk cofee) every corner you go. However, many believes that cafe sữa đá in Saigon is way different. In this full of energy & charm city of Saigon, cafe sữa đá is sweeter, easy to have a sip no matter in the morning or under the afternoon heat. 

The secret hides under the thick layer of condensed milk. Many Saigonese, old and young, female and male, choose to start our new day with a cafe sữa đá to be fully charged for the day ahead. Mix it up through the strong, drip-filtered black coffee, with local condensed milk, and a full glass of ice to mesmerise the taste. 

There are many ways to enjoy Saigon cafe sữa đá. You can grab a cup from a stall along any busy streets, or take a “mobile” seat under the trees’ shade of April 30th park, or you can sit in any cafeteria in town, from casual local coffee chains to some high end international ones. 

best things to do in saigon is try saigon cafe sua da

2. Try local street food 

Local street food might not fit to everyone’s taste, however, for those willing to take themselves to higher note of local experience, local street food is a must-do thing. The food, from bánh mì to bánh xèo, from phở bò to bún bò, or dozens types of chè, often known are much better the those served in restaurants, of course, it’s much cheaper and more fun. 

The street food scene in Saigon is thriving, for anyone who love to try, look our for stalls that busy during breakfast (nornally from 7am-8.30am), lunch (from 11.30am-1pm) or dinner (from 6pm-8pm), those places with a quick turnover, oftenly the places where the food is proven delicious and the ingredients are obviously fresh.

3. Bargain & shop some souvenirs in Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh market, for centuries, has been known as Saigon’s unmissed landmark for anyone visit the city. Inside the market, along tight grids of aisles located hundreds stores, divided by types of products that sold. 

Many tourists joke that when you come to Saigon, especially Ben Thanh market, you’ll become BMW (bargained men & women). Bargain is an art, it’s a way to have upgrade your bargaining skills, whether you are looking for roasted coffee, Vietnamese tea, local souvenirs like fridge magnets, bags, shoes, lacquerware, áo dài and so on. Book your stay at Silverland Ben Thanh Hotel, which is right opposite the Western gate of Ben Thanh Market, or Silverland Yen Hotel, which is less than 2-minute on foot from the Northern gate of the market, to ease your way exploring the market and the city too. 

thing to do in hcmc

4. Admire French colonial architectures 

District 1 and 3 in Ho Chi Minh City are known as the city’s historic French area. Its wide tree-lined boulevards were planned in meticulous detail in the 19th century. Saigonese once said “Dining in District 1, Living in District 3” to express the sophistication of food haven in D1 and French colonial villas that remain until today in D3. 

If you only have time for wandering around District 1, the neighborhood wont disappoint you. French colonial architectures can be observe from afar the Central Post Office’s facade. Inside its yellow exterior, the walls are adorned with hand-painted maps of the city as it was in colonial times. The Nortre Dame cathedral, which is right opposite the Central Post Office and has been said that emulate the Parisian icon, is another example. Though for decade, the cathedral was covered for renovation, its outstanding history still can be told. 

And if you want to hand touch the similar bricks from the year of 1885 that built the city’s cathedral, make sure to pay a visit to Bason Café at the Ground floor of The Myst Dong Khoi Hotel. Not just the bricks, many items that believed from Ba Son shipyard was a storied historical site and one of Saigon’s fondest holdovers. Though the shipyard is now gone, its memory lives on at Bason Café, where recovered items pay homage to an Indochine icon. French elements – trusses from Toulon, tiles from Marseilles – recall colonial times, while maritime relics bespeak our love for the river. 

independent palace ho chi minh city

5. Walk back in time in Reunification Palace

Preserved almost exactly as it was in 1966, Reunification Palace (also known as Independence Palace) was the official residence of the president of South Vietnam during the war, is a must-do on any list of the best things to do in Saigon. On 30 April 1975, two North Vietnamese Army tanks crashed down the walls of the Independence Palace, resulting in the Republic's fall in Vietnam, the end of the Vietnam War, and the reunification of the entire country. The palace symbolizes Vietnam's victory, peace, and territorial integrity. This place has a glamorous design, hundreds of rooms equipped with luxurious furnishings and decorations, and an enormous and gorgeous exterior space.

Reunification Palace is also located in District 1 and open from Monday to Sunday, including holidays and Tet, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The ticker office is opened from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. You’ll need an hour at the very least to explore the opulent state rooms at your leisure. Alternatively, opt for one of the free guided tours that run every 15 minutes.

6. Visiting Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden 

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is Vietnam's largest Zoo and Botanical Garden until now, which was opened to the public in 1869, making it one of the world's oldest continuously operating zoos.

The main enatrance locates at the far eastern end of Le Duan Boulevard, opposite of the Reunification Palace. The gardens’ social function has remained unchanged for almost 160 years now, and their tree-shaded paths still attract many courting couples and promenaders. 

In its day, the gardens harboured an impressive collection of tropical flora, including many species of orchid, cactus and bonsai. The hectic life and traffic dust stop outside once you enter the garden, there only remains the smell of newly cut grass and the frangipani blooms. 

Thao cam vien saigon zoo

7. Watch A O show - the Vietnamese “Cirque du Soleil”  

In the middle of the Dong Khoi street, located the historic Saigon Opera House. The place hosts cultural performances & events all year round, we recommend the most frequent one - A O show. The famous bamboo circus show tells the stories of Vietnamese farmers, their culture and lifestyle. In the show, artists perform with bamboo which is used as more than just a prop for fascinating circus acts. This 1-hour performance tells the tale of urbanisation through dancing and acrobatics. The performers will play Vietnamese folk music with traditional instruments. 

The name ‘A O’ derives from ‘Làng Phố’, which means ‘village and city’. These simple letters tell us in a nutshell about this version of Vietnam that went through an exciting transitional period. A O Show may be the only show that presents our beloved Vietnam in an exciting transitional period. There is perfect harmony within chaos. There are vivid and romantic moments of life in the countryside versus the happening noise and funny discordance of urbanization. A beautiful contrasting portrait of Vietnam today, painted through the poetic lens of a soulful observer, full of love for this land.

8. Enjoy Saigon skyline from observation decks 

For a truly unique thing to do in Saigon, ascend to the dizzying heights of the city's observation decks and witness Saigon's breathtaking panorama from above.

One of Vietnam’s tallest buildings, the Bitexco Financial Tower dominates Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline. Its unusual tapering structure pierced by a circular observation deck and helipad. Designed by the American architect Carlos Zapata, the 68-floor building offers sweeping views across the city. Saigon Skydeck, a rounded, glass-wrapped observation deck 584 feet (178 meters) and 49 stories above ground offers notable views. The Saigon Skydeck is open from morning until after dark seven days a week. Sunset is an ideal time to visit, ideally early in the week to beat the crowds.

highest observation deck

Honored as the highest observation deck in Vietnam, Landmark 81 Skyview attracts many tourists to Saigon because of the breathtaking view from above. Stepping up to Landmark 81 Skyview, the first thing that overwhelms you is the magnificent panorama of Saigon that appears before your eyes. From a height of 461.3m, the Saigon river is like a soft silk strip, the high-rise buildings are simply right under your foot. The modern telescope system is arranged along the sightseeing area to help you explore the famous landmarks of Saigon in detail. Whether it is the ancient beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral or the majesty of Reunification Palace, everything becomes more vivid and closer than ever.

9. Cruise along Saigon river

Cruising along Saigon river is one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, offering scenic views of the city skyline and the bustling activity along the riverbanks. You can make a choice of cruises on the river, range from short day trips to longer evening dinner cruises. Among the main popular highlights of the river are Saigon Harbour, Nha Rong Wharf and Thu Thiem Bridge.

Alternatively, you can experience the Saigon waterbus. Launched as a public waterway transport in late 2017, the Saigon Waterbus route is being used by locals and tourists as a way to explore and see the sights of Ho Chi Minh City from the river.

saigon river at night

Departing from Bach Dang waterway station, the river bus takes passengers to Thu Duc city via 4 wharves with a total route of about 10.8 km. There are 4 outbound and 4 return trips every day, with additional trips on weekends and holidays to serve visitors. The ticket is just slightly above USD1 for a round-trip, therefore donot expect any luxurities, but rather a great way to enjoy the city & its locals’ life in a daily basis. 

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, offers a captivating blend of modern energy and rich history. This vibrant southern city has unveiled its best experiences for you to explore, promising an unforgettable adventure. From indulging in the city's signature cafe sua da to cruising along the Saigon River, this guide has equipped you to discover the essence of Saigon.

So, pack your bags and embark on a journey to uncover the magic of Saigon.  Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, or a culture enthusiast, Saigon has something special waiting for you around every corner. Remember, this list just scratches the surface of the many best things to do in Saigon.  So go forth, explore, and create your own unforgettable memories in this captivating city!

What else?

Top 10 things to do in District 1 Ho Chi Minh City

Top 10 things to do in District 1 Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City's District 1 is the beating heart of the city, a vibrant tapestry of historical landmarks, bustling...

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