Vietnam is one of those countries I’ve always wanted to visit and, guess what, this year I finally had the chance to visit this almost mythical country. But just before my trip, to get myself in the mood, I asked Laura Bronner, who knows the country well, to let us know top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, the most populous in Vietnam, formerly known as Saigon.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN HO CHI MINH CITY, AKA SAIGON

1- Visit the Reunification Palace

Top Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh City Saigon

This government building turned museum is an eery place to visit. It was the home of the president (of the South) during the Vietnam war and was stormed by the North and overtaken. It is still sometimes used by the Vietnamese government, but it has been left almost exactly as it was when the president lived here. It’s a really fascinating look into the past.

2- War Remnants Museum

This is by far one of the most sobering experiences to be had in all of Vietnam. It is a vivid and sometimes gruesome look at what occurred during the Vietnam War. It’s an incredibly important place to visit and should be given a few hours to see it properly.

3- Notre Dame Cathedral

A strange site amid the rest of Ho Chi Minh City, this cathedral is a popular place for Vietnamese people to have wedding photos (or any photos for that matter). While not anywhere near the scale of the original, this cathedral is at the centre of the city and is a nice display of the French colonial era architecture.

Top Things To Do in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City

4- Central Post Office

Located right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office is another good example of the French colonial architecture that still exists in the city. The inside is even grander than the outside with beautiful murals and gilded gates. Pick up a free postcard and write home.

5- Cu Chi Tunnels

Another relic of the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi Tunnels are located just outside the city and are best visited on a tour so you can learn about what happened here.

The tunnels have been widened so most people can fit through them, but if you are the claustrophobic type, definitely stay on the surface. Even without entering the tunnels, the tour is worth it for the history lesson.

6- Ben Thanh Market

One of the most well known (and touristed) markets in the city, this is a great place to pick up some souvenirs. This market has everything from Vietnamese coffee to t-shirts and jewellery. There are fresh produce, dried teas and a whole area right in the middle where you can have a nice hot Vietnamese meal.

Top Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh City Saigon

7- Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens is a really nice park in the city. The entrance fee is the same – you have to pay for both in order to visit one. The zoo is quite small, but the gardens are lovely to stroll around.

Top Things To Do in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City

8- Museum of Vietnamese History

Another French colonial-esque building, the Museum of Vietnamese History starts as early as 2000 BC and carries on until the nearly present day. It’s a fascinating look into the country’s past and there are artefacts that are staggeringly old.

If you’re interested in learning about the history of Vietnam and the whole region (there are pieces from Angkor Wat in Cambodia!) then this museum is definitely worth a visit.

9- Jade Emperor Pagoda

This is one of the most peaceful places in the city. It’s the only place I went in Ho Chi Minh City where I couldn’t hear any honking cars or zooming motorbikes.

The temple is dedicated to the Jade Emperor, one of the most important deities of Taoism. There’s a large statue of the emperor near the back of the temple as well as a courtyard where you can simply enjoy the peace and quiet.

10- Eat All the Food

You can’t spend any amount of time in Ho Chi Minh City and not stuff your face with delicious Vietnamese food. The street food is some of the best in the world and also incredibly cheap. By all means, dig into plenty of Pho, but don’t forget to try some new things.

Top Things To Do in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City

Some of my favourite Vietnamese dishes include Banh Mi (sandwiches on French style baguettes), bun rieu (crab soup), Ban Tam Bi (tapioca noodles with pork and coconut sauce), and Bun Bo Hue (beef soup). If you see something that looks and smells good, give it a try! Vietnamese people are very kind and helpful, even if they don’t speak much English.

Laura Bronner is the blogger behind Eternal Expat. In the last seven years she has lived in Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, England, and now – Mexico. She’s out to prove that a life of travel doesn’t require a tonne of money or all that much bravery. She’s been doing it for all this time without either of them.

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