Top Destinations Must See in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s commercial hub and largest city, and it’s a place where old meets new with striking contrast. Temples huddle amid skyscrapers and designer shops as locals cast bamboo fishing rods into the languorous Saigon River. In places, the city feels almost European, with its elegant French colonial architecture and wide and tree-lined avenues. However, adding to the fascinating cultural jolt is a clutch of intriguing tourist attractions, from the poignant War Remnants Museum and captivating water puppet shows to colorful markets and the time warp of the Reunification Palace. Not far from the city, the famous Củ Chi tunnels are a must-see attraction, and the lush waterscapes and small villages of the Mekong Delta provide a fascinating glimpse of rural life. In this blog, we would like to give some famous destinations in Ho Chi Minh City.
1. Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts.
You can get a glimpse of what the local art scene looks like and what local artists are up to at HCMC Museum of Fine Arts. This dauntingly huge complex with an appealing mix of French and Chinese architectural styles was owned by a Chinese-born businessman who was known as one of the city’s richest men at the time it was constructed.
Address: 97 Pho Duc Chinh Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
2. Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and the Post Office.
An interesting example of Neo-Romanesque architecture, the red-brick Notre Dame Cathedral is a distinctive landmark in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. Especially, its twin square towers that rise almost 60 meters above the city, capped by iron spires. Built from 1877 to around 1883, the cathedral was intended to be a place for the colonial missions to worship and a symbol of the power of the French colony.
The exterior consists of red bricks from Marseilles and the clock between the two bell towers was built in Switzerland in 1887. In addition, notable features of the interior include 56 squares of stained glass by Lorin from Chartres, France. The 12 pillars representing the 12 apostles, and one of Vietnam’s oldest organs. To see the interior, try visiting in the morning or attending a Sunday mass.
Across the street you will find the French colonial-style post office, completed in 1891. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the French architect of the Eiffel Tower. Today, the post office is still in use and is a popular meeting place for locals.
Address: Notre Dame Basilica, 1, Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
3. Saigon Opera House
Also known as The Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh, the elegant Saigon Opera House. At the start of the famous tree-lined Le Loi Avenue, is eye-candy for architecture buffs – especially fans of the French colonial style. It was built as Opėra de Saigon in 1897 by Eugene Ferret, a French architect. After 1956, the building was used as the home of the Lower House assembly of South Vietnam. It again became a theater in 1975, after the fall of Saigon.
Both the Ho Chi Minh Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera perform here. Tickets are available at the box office or local travel agents. In the area around the opera house are some of the city’s new shopping malls and exclusive hotels. Thus, you can also combine a visit here with the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace.
Address: 7 Lam Son Square, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
4. Reunification Palace
A visit to the Reunification Palace, once known as Independence Palace, is more about the historic events that took place here than any pomp and grandeur. In fact, this 1960s-style building, with its large, airy rooms and dated furnishings, seems frozen in time since April 30, 1975. This was when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through the iron gates here, bringing an end to the Vietnam War. For locals, the palace represents this historic event and the reunification of the country.
The palace was built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, which was bombed by fighter jets in 1962 in an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. However, the war command room with large maps, antiquated communications equipment and the maze of basement tunnels was not damaged. Additionally, you’ll also see military vehicles outside, including the fighter jet that destroyed the Norodom Palace and tank 843, which rammed through the palace gate on that fateful day in April more than four decades ago.
Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
5. Ben Thanh Market & Saigon Square
For sightseers, the hot and hectic Ben Thanh Market is almost an obligatory stop. Even if only to witness the cramped stalls and market chaos. Besides, the stalls are piled high with everything from local delicacies, fish, flowers, and tropical fruits to shoes, clothes, colorful candy, and souvenirs.
Nevertheless, the markets are also notorious for pickpockets, so make sure any valuables are secure and out of sight. After soaking up all the ambiance, head to Saigon Square, about a three-minute stroll away. For a slightly less frenetic shopping experience with the added bonus of air conditioning. Here, you’ll find fantastic deals on everything from clothing and backpacks to jewelry and shoes.
Address: Ben Thanh Market 32-30, 36-34-32-30 Phan Boi Chau, Ben Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City
6. Jade Emperor Pagoda
Built in the early 20th century, the evocative Jade Emperor Pagoda (Chua Phuoc Hai) sits in an unassuming neighborhood a few blocks away from the Botanical Gardens. The temple was built in honor of the Taoist god, the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang. Within its dimly lit interior, you’ll see many representations of both Buddhist and Taoist deities. As you step inside, incense shrouds the many local worshipers, and candles illuminate altars brimming with offerings.
At the temple’s entrance, masses of turtles swim in a pond, some with inscriptions on their shells. This is the main reason the temple is often called the tortoise pagoda. Locals come here frequently to worship, so it’s important to be respectful when you visit.
Address: Da Kao Vietnam, 73 Mai Thi Luu, Dai Kao District, Ho Chi Minh City
“Ho Chi Minh City – Must see Destinations” – Written by My Anh
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