The largest city in Vietnam is known for its French and Chinese influences, bustling markets and motorbike-filled boulevards.
Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as it is still often called) has a complicated history, much of which is reflected in the city today. Modern skyscrapers sit alongside 19th-century architecture, coffee next to traditional green tea, and Buddhist temples under the shadow of cathedrals.
The city is divided into districts, with the most historic being District 1 on the western bank of the Saigon River. Here, you’ll find the Reunification Palace, the Central Post Office and the Ho Chi Minh Notre Dame Cathedral. The city’s European influence, from its time as a French colony, is most pronounced here, with impressive 19th-century architecture throughout the area. You’ll also find plenty of hotels so you can stay amongst the attractions. Go for a walk through nearby Tao Dan Park or wander north to the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
Take a break from the intensity of the city and head out to Dam Sen Water Park and the Dam Sen Park Complex. Further outside the city are the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels used in the Vietnam War. The War Remnants Museum is one of the most visited museums in Vietnam, with over half a million visitors a year.
Night time in Ho Chi Minh City provides welcome relief from the heat and humidity of the day and is often the best time to explore some of the more central areas. Dodge the motorbikes and wander the streets of districts 1 and 3 for world-class pho (rice noodle soup). Wash down dinner with the local beer, Bia Hoi, brewed and delivered every day. Shoppers looking for a bargain will find Ben Thanh Night Market a great place to explore.
Ho Chi Minh City is hot and humid, but plenty of buildings are air-conditioning and there are many shaded city parks. You’ll find it cheap and easy to get around, but be careful crossing roads as motorbikes do seem to be everywhere.