French colonial flair meets modern city – welcome to Saigon! Located in southern Vietnam, Saigon is the largest city in the country. A stopover in Saigon is a must when traveling through Vietnam.
If we had to describe Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, as the city is officially called) in one word, it would be Sensory overload. Believe it or not 5 million mopeds allegedly rattle all over Saigon.
In this blog article we will show you which sights await you in Saigon and which highlights you should not miss. We will also give you numerous practical tips for your trip to Saigon.
1. Saigon at a glance: First information & travel tips Saigon is located in southern Vietnam and is the largest City of the country, but not the capital, because that is Hanoi. Unlike Hanoi, however, Saigon is much more sophisticated and modern.
What can I expect in Saigon? Historic buildings on one corner, modern skyscrapers on the other. Saigon is a city of contrasts. Here, authentic market chaos meets luxurious shopping malls, beautifully renovated colonial buildings meet run-down facades, shocking relics of war meet people’s joie de vivre.
Saigon is definitely not a place for rest or relaxation. The honking scooters, the many people, the colorful markets – if you fancy Southeast Asian city chaos , you will love Saigon.
Saigon is also an exciting travel destination for all those who want to learn more about the turbulent history of Vietnam. After all, the War Remnants Museum is one of the most important war museums in Asia in Saigon.
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City? Don’t be surprised: Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City are used synonymously. But what is the correct term? Short explanation: Since 70 years (more precisely since the reunification of North and South Vietnam) the official name Ho Chi Minh City.
Nevertheless, the city is still known to many by its historical name Saigon . Locals continue to use both names – some call the city Ho Chi Minh City, others say Saigon. So you are definitely not making a mistake if you still call the city by its historical name.
How many days should I plan for Saigon? Saigon is huge, but the number of sights is limited. In our opinion, 2 days or 3 nights are enough for a visit to the most important highlights of Saigon.
But as always: the more time, the more relaxed you can make your stay. If you like big city flair and maybe want to go on one or two excursions (our tips on this follow below), then you should rather plan 4 nights or even longer for Saigon.
2 . Sights & highlights in Saigon: Our tips Reunification Palace Saigon Dive into the history of Vietnam ? Then a visit to the Independence Palace should definitely be on your schedule. The Reunification Palace is considered one of the most important tourist attractions and one of the landmarks of Saigon.
Once the Reunification Palace was the seat of government of South Vietnam. In April 1975 the first North Vietnamese tanks broke through the palace gates. Since then, this event, and with it the Reunification Palace, has been regarded as the symbolic end of the Vietnam War.
Inside the building there is a museum today accommodated. During a tour you walk through the premises such as the reception halls. However, the most exciting (and at the same time most depressing) part is waiting for you underground. The bunker with the former command center is located in the basement. The whole scenery looks like a bizarre film set and leaves a strange feeling.
War Remnants Museum Terrifying , disturbing & deeply moving. The War Remnants Museum is clearly not for the faint of heart – we can reveal that much.
The War Remnants Museum documents the horror of the Vietnam War – in all its harshness and bluntness. In concrete terms, this means that you will see photos of people injured and killed by bombs and poison attacks, among other things. And we’re honest: we skipped a few rooms because we were just too upset.
What you shouldn’t expect (as you might have guessed) is a objective confrontation with the Vietnam War. Even those who expect profound historical information and connections will probably be disappointed by the War Remnants Museum in Saigon.
Nevertheless: If you want to deal with the history of Vietnam, you can hardly avoid this museum. It is just a stone’s throw from the Independence Palace. A visit can thus be easily combined.
Ben Thanh Market: The most famous market in Saigon The most famous and at the same time most touristic market in Ho Chi Minh City is the Ben Tanh Market. It is housed in a huge market hall that is over a hundred years old.
Under their roof you will find hundreds of stalls and everything from food to jewellery, clothing and souvenirs that a market in Southeast Asia can offer . A little advance warning: You have to expect to be approached at every (really every) corner.
Nevertheless, it is worth strolling through the market hall and taking in the hustle and bustle when traveling to Saigon. Our tip: If you want to buy something, don’t forget to bargain !
Colonial Buildings in Saigon In Saigon you can find some architectural remains from the French colonial period, which are partially beautifully renovated and very ornate.
The main colonial attractions are all located on or near the fashionable Dong Khoi Street in the heart of District 1. They are only one at a time A stone’s throw away from each other, which is why it makes sense to explore the colonial buildings as part of a short walk.
Main Post Office: One of the most famous colonial buildings in Saigon is the main post office, which is still in operation. Despite the souvenir stands, the historical flair is very present. Definitely worth a visit!
Notre-Dame Cathedral: A Roman Catholic Church in Saigon? Admittedly: an unusual sight and quite a contrast. Towering just across from the main post office, Notre-Dame Cathedral is another important Saigon landmark. With its striking brick architecture, it is quite an eye-catcher.
City Hall (Ho Chi Minh City Hall): Another magnificent building from the colonial era in Saigon that is well worth seeing is the former city hall. It is now the seat of the People’s Committee and is therefore officially called the Ho Chih Minh City People’s Committee. Unfortunately, the building cannot be visited, only admired from the outside. Our tip: In the evening the building is very impressively illuminated. So if you like taking photos at night, then you’ve come to the right place.
Opera House (Ho Chi Minh City Opera House): Right around the corner from City Hall, another beautifully renovated colonial building, the Opera House, awaits you. Unfortunately, the opera house in Saigon can only be visited during events.
Cholon: Sights in Chinatown If there is anywhere in Saigon is particularly chaotic and turbulent , then in Chinatown! The contrast to the spruced up colonial buildings could not be stronger. You can look forward to a good portion of sensory overload and chaos .
Chinatown is a good distance away from all the sights listed so far – more precisely in District 5. For a walk through the Chinese-influenced district you should you take a few hours. You should not miss the following sights during your visit.
Binh Tay Market: Cholon’s largest market is extremely bustling. Pure sensory overload awaits you here – you can get ready for that. A must visit!
Thien Hau Pagoda: Incense sticks, red lanterns and kitschy decorations – the Thien Hau Pagoda fulfills every cliché that come to mind when you think of a Chinese temple. The temple is a must-see when visiting Saigon’s Chinatown.
More pagodas: You like the mystical flair in Chinese temples? Good news: there are many more of them in Chinatown. Worth seeing are, for example, the Khanh Van Nam Pagoda or the Ha Chuong Hoi Quan Pagoda.
3. Viewpoints & Rooftop Bars: Discover Saigon from above See a big city like Saigon from a bird’s eye view ? Yes, please! We can only warmly recommend that you change your perspective and look at Saigon’s sea of houses from above.
The most famous viewing platform in Saigon is the so-called Saigon Skydeck in the Bitexco Financial Tower. It is located in 49. Floor, directly below the gigantic helipad. From up here, Ho Chi Minh City is literally at your feet. Admission is currently 12.000 VND per person.
A little tip: Instead of the Skydeck you can also visit the bar of the Bitexco Financial Tower, which is a few floors higher t. There is no entrance fee, you simply consume a coffee or a drink.
The (in our opinion) biggest disadvantage of the Skydeck (which also applies to the bar): It is indoors behind thick glass panes. Taking photos is therefore often not easy due to the reflection.
An alternative to the Skydeck are the numerous Rooftop Bars in Saigon, many of which also have outdoor areas. Our personal favorite is the Chill Skybar, where you can enjoy a fantastic view of Saigon. You can find even more tips in our detailed article: Rooftop Bars in Saigon.
4. Tips for Excursions from Saigon Tunnels of Cu Chi Perhaps you have heard of the giant tunnel system which the Vietcong served as a hideout during the Vietnam War? Incredible 250 This sophisticated system of underground secret passages was kilometers long.
Today, the Cu Chi tunnels are mostly buried. However, you can visit some remains as part of a day trip from Saigon. The tunnels are about 11 Kilometers from Saigon.
Our personal experience: Is it worth visiting the tunnels? Very important note: As impressive as the tunnel itself and the story behind it are, we personally found the on-site staging so disappointing. In other words, you could make so much more out of this place steeped in history.
First of all, you have to be prepared for the fact that there is no objective discussion of the Vietnam War taking place here. We still find that per se understandable in a certain way. We would have also expected more historical background information. We could overlook that too.
Where it ends for us: On site there is the opportunity to “try out” a wide variety of weapons on a kind of “shooting range”. You can hear the shots from afar as you walk around. Absolutely incomprehensible and irreverent for us!
Our tip: If you want to visit the Cu Chi tunnels, then definitely book a Tour in a small group. We made the mistake of going to a 0815 group tour. That spoiled the experience quite a bit and we wouldn’t recommend it.
You can book your tour here: Small Group Tour to Cu Chi Tunnels
Mekong Delta Our personal highlight in Vietnam! The fascinating river delta in the south of the country with its lush vegetation shaped by water immediately cast its spell on us.
The best thing to do is to spend several days in the Mekong Delta – there is so much to discover there. Your time in Vietnam is short and you would rather “just” take a day trip to the Mekong Delta? Don’t worry: that’s also possible, of course.
In this article we have summarized the highlights that await you in this fascinating region: Tips for the Mekong Delta.
You can book your excursion here: Tour to the Mekong Delta
5. More travel tips for Saigon: Transport, Security & Co Transport in Saigon: How do I get from A to B? A subway is currently being built in Saigon that however, is not finished yet. Until then, you have the following options to get around Saigon:
On foot: Within a neighborhood (e.g. Chinatown) you can easily cover the distances on foot. As with any big city tour, you will have collected a few kilometers by the end of the day.
Taxi/Grab: Recommend for longer distances we advise you to use a taxi. A great way to book a taxi is the Grab app, which is similar to Uber. You simply enter your desired destination in the app and a driver in your area will accept the order. You can book both a regular car taxi and a scooter taxi with the app. You will usually be picked up within a few minutes. It couldn’t be more comfortable and the prices are absolutely fine – highly recommended! We would also personally use Grab to travel from the airport to the city.
Security: Is Saigon dangerous? First of all, the good news: We ourselves never felt unsafe or uncomfortable in Saigon and haven’t had any negative experiences.
Nevertheless important to mention that (pickpocket) thefts are the order of the day. A very well-known scam in Saigon is that tourists have their bags (or smartphones) stolen from the passing scooter. (And unfortunately that’s not a myth, because it actually happened to Romeo’s sister.) You can’t see that the perpetrator disappeared in the crowd of scooters that quickly.
Therefore our tip: It is best to carry a shoulder bag or a backpack. (Here it is of course important that no one can steal something from a zip compartment without you noticing.)
6. Our hotel tip for Saigon Are you still looking for great accommodation for your stay in Saigon? Then we can warmly recommend the Fusion Suites Saigon. You will definitely feel at home in this stylish boutique hotel.
The rooms are furnished in a modern style. Lots of wood makes it really cosy. From some rooms you can also enjoy a wonderful view.
The hotel is located on a side street in District 1, which is the heart of Saigon. For example, the Reunification Palace and the Ben Thanh Market are very close by, which you can reach on foot. The location is ideal for sightseeing. Our conclusion: Great hotel with great value for money!
You can book the hotel here: Fusion Suites Saigon
Transparency: Affiliate Links 27733 This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
Have you ever been to Saigon? How did you like it? Do you have any other tips? We look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments!