From an instagrammable apartment building filled with cafes to rowing across a mangrove reserve, and even cultural theme parks, there’s plenty of hidden gems in this city. Check out our not-so-basic guide to Ho Chi Minh City!
Craving a bowl of hot piping pho and flavourful banh mi? Then Ho Chi Minh is exactly the place to be. Formerly known as Saigon, the dizzying city of Ho Chi Minh is widely celebrated for its colourful commerce and culture. In fact, it’s the largest economic centre and cultural capital of Vietnam! Featuring an array of architectural structures that to date, still display roots in French colonial architecture, fall in love with this bustling city’s blend of modernized street life and traditional aesthetics. If you’re looking to be immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of Vietnamese historical and cultural elements, look no further than Ho Chi Minh City!
1. Ho Chi Minh City Book Street
Image Credits: Vnitourist.com
Located in central Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be surprised to find this tranquil little street amidst this charming metropolis’ bustling city life. Stretching 100 meters from Hai Ba Trung Street to Notre Dame Cathedral, this street provides a change of pace if you’re looking for the perfect place to just sit back and relax. Quiet and serene, Ho Chi Minh City Book Street is home to many cafes and bookstores that sell books of all genres, both second-hand and brand-new. Though most of the books that you’ll find here are in Vietnamese, there are a couple of stores dedicated to selling English books. Some can even be found in large piles of old books! Who knows? If you look hard enough, maybe you’ll find a gem or two.
Location: Đường Nguyễn Văn Bình, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Open daily, 8 AM – 10 PM
Admission Fee: FREE
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Ho Chi Minh City Book Street here
2. The Café Apartments
Image Credits: Golden Emperor
Nestled in the popular Nguyen Hue Walking Street, this old apartment building hosts nine levels of cafes and shops. Get ready to be spoilt for choice as this unassuming apartment building is in fact home to a whole host of different cafes — each with varying aesthetics so we’re sure that you’ll be able to find one that’s just your type. Giving off a quirky vibe, this building hides many “Instagrammable” spots owing to its rustic yet vibrant corridors.
Take note that there’s a small fee charged for the use of the elevator! We recommend taking the stairs instead. When you finally settle down in your café of choice, why not reward yourself for the climb up with some sweet desserts? Or sip on some fragrant iconic Vietnamese coffee while enjoying the view of the bustling streets from the balcony. After all, you’ve earned it!
Location: 42 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Saturdays to Thursdays, 7 AM – 10 PM. Fridays, 7 AM – 11 PM.
*Individual cafés may have differing operational hours
Admission Fee: Entrance is free but usage of the lift costs 5,000 VND / per pax
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about The Café Apartments here
3. Bitexco Financial Tower & Saigon Skydeck
Image Credits: TripAdvisor
This towering skyscraper is located in the central urban district of Ho Chi Minh. Once holding the title of the tallest building in Vietnam for a year (from 2010 to 2011), the tower stands at 262 metres with 68 floors and three additional basement levels. Its highlight lies in its unique design, shaping the tower like a lotus bud — the national flower of Vietnam.
While you’re there, be sure to head to the 49th floor of the building! There you’ll find the Saigon Skydeck, an observational deck where you’ll be wowed by the spectacle of the sprawling cityscape of Ho Chi Minh City. Not forgetting the view of the winding Saigon River that you’ll be able to spot through binoculars that line the huge glass panels of the deck. What a view.
Location: 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 8 AM – 11 PM. Sundays, 9.30 AM – 11 PM.
Admission Fee: Entrance into the building is free. Saigon Skydeck — Adult (200,000 VND), Child (130,000 VND)
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Bitexco Financial Tower & Saigon Skydeck here
4. Bui Vien Walking Street
Image Credits: YouTube — Travel Fun
By day, Bui Vien Walking Street looks no different from your average Vietnamese roadside street. But take a stroll down the pedestrian walkways at night and you’ll be treated to a splendour of bright lights that line the paths of busy roads.
Known colloquially as the “Western Street” or “Pho Tay”, this walking street stretches 1,400 meters and hosts a myriad of entertainment activities, restaurants, massage parlours, and street art performances. One of the most crowded streets of Ho Chi Minh City, today, this stretch is popular among foreigners, especially Westerners.
It even earned itself the nickname, “Backpacker District”, owing to its many temporary accommodations, food, and service facilities that attract backpackers. So if you’re a backpacker travelling to this beautiful city, don’t miss out on this spot!
Location: Bùi Viện, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Open daily, 24hrs
Admission Fee: FREE
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more on Bui Vien Walking Street here
5. Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens
Image Credits: Thrillophillia
Travelling with kids and looking for something more exciting? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Located in District 1 of Ho Cho Minh City, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens spans 49 acres of land making it Vietnam’s largest zoo and is home to over a hundred species of mammals, reptiles and birds, as well as many rare orchids and ornamental plants. The zoo also hosts a wide range of activities from live circus shows to a water playground, and even carnival rides located in the amusement park section of the attraction! Talk about reliving your childhood days.
Location: 2 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Open daily, 7 AM – 5.30 PM (*Showtimes and areas/activities have varying operational times)
Admission Fee: Child, 1m – 1.3m tall (40,000 VND). Adult, 1.3m and above (60,000 VND)
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens here
6. Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History
Image Credits: Expedia
Speaking of the Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History is also located on the premises of the sprawling attraction! The museum is home to artefacts from the prehistoric age all the way up till the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).
Visitors of the museum will be able to learn about Vietnam’s expansive history through the various exhibition areas and view traditional art pieces that display the unique art styles of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities. As the museum only exhibits artefacts leading up to the formation of Vietnam’s Communist Party in the 1930s, there are no artefacts related to the often featured, Vietnam-US War displayed here. To all you history buffs, it’s time to go all out!
Location: 2 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Open daily *except Mondays, 8 AM – 11.30 AM & 1.30 PM – 5 PM
Admission Fee: 30,000 VND / per pax
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History here
7. Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve
Image Credits: Road Affair
If you’re looking to get in touch with nature while on your trip to Ho Chi Minh City, the Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve is for you! This UNESCO-designated reserve is often referred to as Monkey Island due to the 2000 or more monkeys that call this reserve their home. Hosting a wide biodiversity of mangrove plant species, mangrove-dwelling invertebrates, and mangrove-associated fish & shellfish species, there’s no shortage of nature here.
Exploring the wilderness of the reserve can really work up an appetite, so why not check out the fresh seafood restaurant located on the reserve while you’re here?
Location: Tăng Hòa, Gò Công Đông District, Tien Giang, Vietnam
Operating Hours: Open daily, 7 AM – 5 PM
Admission Fee: Varying prices depending on tour provider
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve here
8. Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
Image Credits: Get Your Guide
Looking to appreciate Vietnamese history and culture from the comfort of your seat? Immerse yourself in the traditional art form of water puppetry when you catch a show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre.
Water puppetry is an old form of theatre performance that originated from the rice paddies of Vietnam. The craft has been preserved through the times to aid storytellers in conveying fantastical scenarios and fairy tales. Though the puppet shows are almost entirely in Vietnamese, the stories portrayed during the shows are relatively easy to understand with the delicate ornamental figures dancing across the water, accompanied by traditional music featuring drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes, and cymbals. Sounds magical.
Location: 55B Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Showtime on Tuesdays and Fridays only at 6.30 PM
Admission Fee: 300,000 VND / per pax
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre here
9. Buu Long Buddhist Temple & Pagoda
Image Credits: Vietnam Times
Located on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City in District 9, the Buu Long Buddhist Temple is home to the unique Buu Long Pagoda that features architectural elements from Thailand, Myanmar, and India. Voted by the US’s prestigious magazine, National Geographic, this pagoda is one of the top 20 most stunning pagodas in the world! Though the temple is not crowded most of the time due to its location, it’s known for its stunning architecture and attracts tourists who are not too shy from travelling off the beaten path to look for picturesque locations for some amateur photoshoots.
Location: 81 Nguyễn Xiển, Long Bình, Quận 9, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating Hours: Open daily, 8 AM – 6 PM
Admission Fee: FREE
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Buu Long Buddhist Temple & Pagoda here
10. Dam Sen Cultural Park
Image Credits: Saigon
Ending off our list is a thrilling amusement park, Dam Sen Cultural Park. Located on the complex of Dam Sen, this massive 123-acre amusement park comprises a multitude of zones and is connected to the Dam Sen Water Park — another fun-filled addition to the Dam Sen complex.
The amusement park features attractions like an aquarium, the “Rune Raider”, and even a snow zone dubbed “Bang Dang”! Apart from all the attractions located in the park, there are also numerous locations that provide visitors with beautiful scenery as well.
Location: 262 Lạc Long Quân, Phường 5, Quận 11, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Operating hours: Mondays to Fridays, 8 AM – 6 PM. Weekends, 8 AM – 9 PM.
Admission Fee: Child entrance, 1m – 1.4m tall (130,000 VND). Adult entrance, 1.4m and above (200,000 VND). *Rides and activities chargeable as add-ons
YouTrip’s Not-So-Basic Guide To Ho Chi Minh City: Find out more about Dam Sen Cultural Park here
Ready To Explore Ho Chi Minh On A Whole New Level?
And there you have it! Now that you’re equipped with a not-so-basic guide on this fabulous city, you’re ready to explore Ho Chi Minh like you never have before. Whether you’re investing all your money on Banh Xeo or hauling back souvenirs for your loved ones, don’t forget to make use of your YouTrip Card to lock in those wholesale exchange rates and skip those pesky bank fees.
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