When we first visited Vietnam four years prior, we only got to see the northern part of the country, so when we were scheduled to return, we thought we ought to visit the southern part – Ho Chi Minh, in particular. I had heard great things about HCMC, so needless to say, I was ecstatic to head back to Vietnam.
Where to Stay in HCMC: Norfolk Hotel, District 1
First thing I’d like to mention, however, is the best area to stay in the city: District 1. With a wide array of hotel options in this district, you surely won’t run out of choices for accommodation, as they range from several price points and amenities that any and all travellers would need. In addition to this, staying in District 1 would mean majority of the main attractions would be within walking distance. My best recommendation, however, is a hotel that’s within striking distance of Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street, and that is where Norfolk Hotel comes in. With incredibly cheap rates, spacious rooms, great service, several amenities, and the best location, you surely won’t go wrong with Norfolk Hotel; for more details, you can visit their website through this link.
11 Places to See & Things to Do in HCMC, Vietnam
Now, onto the must-dos and must-see attractions in Ho Chi Minh. With a multitude of things to do and places to see, it would be difficult to drill down the short list given that a typical trip to the city would only entail four to five days, like we had; but here are my top recommendations of places and experiences not to miss-out on.
1) Củ Chi Tunnels
On the top of my list would require a day trip from the city, but one that is surely worth it. Not only will you learn about the Vietnam War, but you’ll get to see the brilliant tactics and strategic jungle warfare that were utilized during this time. You can easily take a half-day tour, which I wrote about on: Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels Full-Day Tour with TNK Travel.
2) Half-Day City Tour of HCMC’s Landmarks
In addition to the Củ Chi Tunnels, several of the city’s landmarks can be bundled on a day-tour if you make a booking with TNK travel. Again, the details of this tour that we took can be found on this post: Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels Full-Day Tour with TNK Travel. Surely, the following landmarks are part of my top must-sees while visiting this part of Vietnam.
3) War Remnants Museum
Although the War Remnants Museum was part of the day tour with TNK travel, I thought it ought to have it’s own number on this list, as it was the landmark on this tour that struck me the most. Though we had about an hour to spend in this heart-wrenching museum, I felt like I could have easily spent an hour or two more.So if time permits, whether you’re a history buff or not, I suggest you reserve at least two to three hours to fully-digest everything presented in this museum. Though at first glance, it might not be as grand or as beautifully-designed as other big museums you have visited, its contents and the history you’ll learn about therein will definitely be worth your time.
4) Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street
Possibly the most-visited place in the city for my Dad and I during this trip was Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street, sitting between the Saigon River and Ho Chi Minh City Hall.This street was converted to a wide pedestrian walkway spanning nearly for a kilometre, where visitors and locals alike can stroll as they please. Better yet, it sits in the middle of several retails areas with shopping and dining options, making it one of the best locations in the city to relax in. I highly suggest that you visit during both day and night, to truly appreciate its dynamic vibe.
5) Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Right at the end of Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street, you’ll find the intricately designed Ho Chi Minh City Hall built in the early 1900s, exhibiting gorgeous French colonial architecture. Stunning as it is already during the day, it is even more-so by night.
6) EON51: Level 50-51-52 Bitexco Financial Tower
One of my top tips when visiting Ho Chi Minh is for you not to miss-out on getting a panoramic view of the city atop the second tallest building in HCMC.What used to be the tallest building in the Vietnam, with Landmark 72 in Hanoi taking the reins in 2011 and Landmark 81 in HCMC just this year, is the Bitexco Financial Tower standing high with its top floor at nearly 260 meters above ground. Instead of going to the Skydeck and paying nearly US$10, I suggest you go to EON51 on the 50th to the 52nd levels of the building where a Cafe, Restaurant & Lounge, and a Bar await. Not only will this experience give you a fantastic view, but great food and service but as well.
7) Bui Ven Walking Street
Yet another area in HCMC that is a must-see is Bui Ven Walking Street, otherwise known as Backpacker Street, where you’ll be treated to a bustling and dynamic area with several street vendors, bars, and restaurants to choose from. While we only visited during the day, during the night, it is likened to the famous Pub Street in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
8) Ben Thanh Market
A trip to an Asian country is never complete without a visit to one of the country’s local markets, and Ben Thanh probably tops the list of most famous markets in Vietnam.Though as previously admitted, I was never the type to enjoy scouring through small stalls and haggling for the best prices, it was interesting enough to see the local finds and more importantly, the local delicacies and fruits that you could purchase therein.
9) Shopping in HCMC: Vincom Center & Saigon Centre
Shopping centers are more of my scene, and even if the city is heavy on big, outdoor markets, there are also tons of shopping malls to choose from. With nearly all the international fashion brands and several local labels to choose from, the shopaholic in you will surely enjoy what this vibrant city has to offer in terms of retail. My top recommendations would have to be Vincom Centre and Saigon Centre, both located in the middle of bustling District 1.
10) Indulge in the Local Cuisine
I doubt I’d have to expound on this one; just as shopping is a necessity for me when travelling, indulging in the local cuisine beats it by miles; and Ho Chi Minh doesn’t fall short on the multitude of options to choose from for both foodies and non-foodies. From high-priced fancy meals to casual cheap food finds, you’ll have your cravings satisfied, as I deem Vietnam one of the best food destinations in the world.
11) Saigon River
To cap of our trip, there was one thing I loved doing on our last day in the city, and that was talking a stroll along Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street and getting to the end to be welcomed by the Saigon River. We sat by the river at the coffee shop for about an hour or two to take in the view, and relax during our last few hours in the city.If we had more time, we would have taken the Saigon River Tour that takes you through the Saigon River, seeing the city from the waterway; but not being able to do that when we were there only means we’d have to go back, right?
So in summary, there is definitely a ton of things to do in the wonderful city of Ho Chi Minh that left us wanted to see more as soon as we got back home to Manila. We’ll definitely be back in the next year or two, so if that statement in itself doesn’t entice you, then scroll up once more to see the many, many things you could do in the vibrant and exciting city of Ho Chi Minh.