Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, was the last stop on our 10 day Vietnam trip. We were exhausted by this time, but still wanted to enjoy ourselves. We created this short Ho Chi Minh City itinerary as a guide, as we didn’t quite manage to tick off all of these activities.
However, if you find yourself with more energy than we did, they are well worth doing!
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and certainly felt a lot more modern and cosmopolitan than the other places we had stopped off at during our Vietnam itinerary.
Being completely honest, it wasn’t our favourite place on our route. We think this is down to us being tired (like we said) but also because we aren’t really city kids. If we had started here, and did our ten-day Vietnam route in reverse, it may have been more enjoyable for us.
Nonetheless, let’s check out some of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
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A Short Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary
How to get to Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh airport, Tan Son Nhat International Airport, is the largest airport in Vietnam. That should give you some guidance for what to expect for the size of Ho Chi Minh City itself.
It’s easy to get from the airport to the city, but be prepared for the usual city traffic causing tailbacks at rush hour, so allow extra time on your return journey.
What to do in Ho Chi Minh City
Go sightseeing around the French Colonial buildings
Ho Chi Minh is an interesting place. From starting in the north, and ending in the south, we moved from the higgledy-piggledy streets of Hanoi and Hoi An to the sprawling metropolitan city of Ho Chi Minh.
If we’re being completely honest, we didn’t enjoy HCMC as much as we did the other places on our travels backpacking from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
That said, HCMC has some amazing French Colonial buildings to enjoy. We spent the morning wandering around the streets near our hotel, but it soon got too hot to keep going. The south of Vietnam is warmer than the north, so we’d been getting warmer the further along our trip we went.
Some buildings to take a look at include the ‘pink church’, or Tan Dinh Church as it is actually called, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Opera House, and Saigon Central Post Office.
Ben Thanh Market
This huge, undercover marketplace in the centre of the city can be intimidating. We wandered in, walked down a few of the stall rows, and quickly exited. It was just a bit much for us!
If you’re more of a market-person than we are though, make sure to check out the textiles and crafts, as well as the food stalls. And keep your wits about you, as with any market it’s a hotspot for pickpocketing.
There are a LOT of museums in HCMC. Not being big museum people ourselves, we skipped these all. But if you love nothing more than a good museum stroll, head to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, and the War Remnants Museum.
Cu Chi Tunnels
These iconic tunnels are just outside of the city. However, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to get out to see them.
The tunnels were used extensively during the Vietnam War as hiding spots during battle for the Viet Cong soldiers. They also served as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon stores and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters.
Head to Backpacker Street for some nightlife
We were staying just on the other side of Backpacker Street, which is essentially a long road filled with neon lights and bars offering cheap drinks.
Drinks in Vietnam are pretty cheap anyway, so we explored here for a bit before heading to a cool Vietnamese restaurant for some cheap eats.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon Cozy Hotel
Located in District 1, just around the corner from Backpacker Street, Saigon Cozy Hotel is where we based ourselves during our stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
It is a bit tricky to find! It’s tucked away down a very narrow alleyway that we were convinced was going to lead us to our doom when trying to find the hotel at 11 pm, but it was such a great hotel. Incredibly cheap, with a great a la carte breakfast included, the owner was so accommodating and friendly.
Caravelle Saigon 5*
Oh my goodness, this hotel! We came here one evening to have posh cocktails in the rooftop bar, Saigon Saigon, and we fell in love.
It’s super swanky, with very attentive staff members and beautiful decor. PLUS, they do a great happy hour. We had cocktails for about £6 each watching the sun sink below the city skyline.
The Hut Boutique Hotel-Notre Dame 3*
This cute boutique hotel offers beautifully decorated rooms as well as a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge and garden. It gets good reviews, and offers cheap airport shuttle service.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City
So there you have it! HCMC is a city of amazing culture, history, and architecture. There is plenty to do for all budgets; you can spend only a few days there and see so much.
If you’re a history buff, you’d benefit from spending a few more days in Ho Chi Minh. That way, you’ll get to see all of the museums and artefacts spread across the city.
That said, we reckon visiting Ho Chi Minh City in 48 hours is totally doable. If you aren’t much of a city lover like us, 2 days is enough. Plus, when it’s hot, the city can be a lot more stifling than places further north in Vietnam. Just keep that in mind when packing!
If you’re heading to Vietnam, check out our complete 10 day North to South travel itinerary!