Things to Do in Saigon: Exploring the City's Highlights

Posted On: 10/05/2024

Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, stands as a dynamic metropolis rich in history and culture. This vibrant city is a tapestry of French colonial architecture, interwoven with the colorful chaos of bustling markets. Visitors are enticed by the tantalizing flavors of its diverse and delicious cuisine, capturing the essence of Vietnam's culinary heritage. Saigon's unique blend of the old and the new creates a compelling destination that offers an array of unforgettable experiences.

1. Exploring Saigon

Things to do in Saigon

1.1. Immerse in History

Independence Palace (Reunification Palace): Also known as the Reunification Palace, this iconic site served as the residence and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It's famously known for the image of a North Vietnamese tank crashing through its gates in 1975, which marked the end of the war. 

War Remnants Museum: A profound narrative of Vietnam's struggle for independence. It's a powerful and sobering place that illustrates the brutal impacts of the war, particularly through its extensive display of war-related photographs, artifacts, and unexploded ordnance.

French Colonial Influence: Saigon's architecture vividly reflects its French colonial past, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the Notre Dame Cathedral and the adjacent Central Post Office.

1.2. Local Culture

Ben Thanh Market: Ben Thanh Market is the beating heart of Saigon, bustling from dawn until long after dusk. This market is a hotspot for tourists seeking souvenirs, local crafts, and an authentic street food experience. Whether you're looking for traditional Vietnamese garments, local handicrafts, or just a taste of everyday Vietnamese life

Nguyen Hue Walking Street: A vibrant, pedestrian-friendly avenue in the heart of Saigon. By day, it's a leisurely spot for a stroll, but as night falls, it transforms into a lively hub of activity. Street performers, live music, and interactive art installations create a festive atmosphere.

Chinatown District (Cho Lon): Cho Lon, also known as Chinatown in Saigon, is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. It is a fascinating area brimming with traditional Chinese temples, bustling markets, and shops. 

1.3. Beyond the City

Cu Chi Tunnels: Just outside Saigon, the Cu Chi Tunnels are an extensive network of underground tunnels that were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during the Vietnam War. Today, visitors can crawl through some of the safer sections of the tunnels to get a feel for what life might have been like for the soldiers who lived and fought here. 

Mekong Delta: A day trip to the Mekong Delta is an escape into the rural beauty of Vietnam. This region is a sprawling tapestry of waterways, lush islands, and floating markets. Exploring the delta by boat gives visitors a unique perspective on daily life here, where communities thrive along the water's edges, engaging in traditional fishing and agriculture.

2. Culinary Delights

Things to do in Saigon culinary

Saigon, the bustling heart of Vietnam, offers a vibrant tapestry of flavors that vividly reflect its cultural influences. The city's cuisine is a delectable fusion of Chinese, French, and Southeast Asian traditions, making it a paradise for food lovers. Every dish tells a story of historical convergence, local ingredients, and the inventive spirit of the Saigonese.

2.1. Must-Try Dishes

  • Pho: This iconic Vietnamese noodle soup is a must-try in Saigon. It typically features a clear broth, rice noodles (known as banh pho), herbs, and meat, usually beef or chicken. The magic of pho lies in its broth, simmered for hours to achieve a rich and complex flavor.

  • Banh Mi: Influenced by French baguettes, banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that is both affordable and satisfying. Crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, the bread is filled with a variety of ingredients such as seasoned pork, pâté, fresh vegetables, and a splash of chili sauce or mayonnaise.

  • Goi Cuon: Often referred to as fresh spring rolls, goi cuon are wrapped in rice paper and packed with greens, minced pork, shrimp, and vermicelli. These rolls are served chilled and are perfect for a light, refreshing snack. Dipping them in a bowl of hoisin sauce mixed with peanuts enhances their flavor.

2.2. Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Saigon’s food scene is also incredibly accommodating to vegetarian and vegan diets, reflecting the city’s cosmopolitan nature. Vegetarian versions of most dishes are readily available, often featuring tofu, mushrooms, and a bounty of local vegetables. From vegan pho to banh mi filled with savory plant-based ingredients, the options are plentiful and cater to every palate.

3. Tips for a Smooth Trip

Things to do in Saigon Tips

When visiting Saigon, a little preparation can go a long way in enhancing your travel experience. Here are some tips to help ensure a smooth trip:

3.1. Weather and Suitable Clothing

Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, is known for its tropical climate, which means it is generally hot and humid year-round. There are two main seasons: the rainy season from May to November, and the dry season from December to April. During the rainy season, expect frequent showers which can be quite heavy but usually brief. For this season, lightweight and breathable clothing, along with a sturdy umbrella or a raincoat, is advisable. During the dry season, the city remains warm, and dressing in light fabrics will keep you comfortable. Always carry a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, regardless of the season, to protect against the strong sun.

3.2. Local Currency and Cash Exchange

The local currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). While many places in Saigon accept credit cards, cash is king in local markets and smaller establishments. It’s advisable to exchange some money to VND before arriving or at the airport for better exchange rates compared to city centers. Having small denominations can also be handy for smaller purchases and makes bargaining easier.

3.3. Bargaining Etiquette

Bargaining is a common practice in the markets of Saigon. It's an integral part of the shopping experience but should be done respectfully. Start by offering about half the initial asking price and negotiate from there. It’s important to keep the interaction friendly and light-hearted; a smile goes a long way! Remember, the goal is to arrive at a price that is fair for both you and the vendor.

3.4. Language Barrier

Vietnamese is the primary language spoken in Saigon, and English proficiency can vary among locals. To help overcome the language barrier, downloading a reliable translation app can be very useful. Apps like Google Translate or Microsoft Translator offer offline features, allowing you to communicate and understand basic phrases even without an internet connection. This can be particularly helpful for reading menus, navigating the city, or asking for directions.

4. Capturing Saigon's Spirit

Things to do in Saigon Capturing

As we've explored throughout this article, Saigon is a city bursting with life and endless opportunities for discovery. From its vibrant street food scene to the tranquil beauty of its historical sites, Saigon offers a blend of old-world charm and modern vibrancy that's hard to find elsewhere. We've journeyed through bustling markets, taken serene boat rides on the Saigon River, and stepped back in time in the War Remnants Museum, each activity offering a unique perspective of this dynamic city.

Saigon's unique charm lies in its ability to embrace its rich history while rapidly moving towards the future. Whether you're savoring a bowl of phở at dawn or exploring the city's burgeoning art scene, the energy of Saigon is palpable. For anyone seeking an unforgettable travel experience, Saigon promises not just memories but a fresh view of what a city can be. As you plan your visit, remember that the true spirit of Saigon isn't just in its places but in its people and the vibrant stories they share.

Embarking on a journey to Saigon means readying yourself for an adventure of a lifetime, where each corner offers a new discovery, and every moment is a building block of an unforgettable narrative. So pack your bags, bring your curiosity, and prepare to be enchanted by the soul of Saigon.

Enjoyed the vibrant energy of Saigon?  Discover more of Vietnam's captivating cities and diverse landscapes with our Highlights of Vietnam tour. Explore the essence of Vietnam through our tailored tour packages. Each private tour is carefully designed to match your individual tastes, providing a unique and personal journey through Vietnam's secret wonders and cultural riches.



Years Experiences


Tour Packages


Happy Customers


Award Winning


For unique travel ideas and an insider's eye on all things
Southeast Asia, subscribe to our Asia Mystika e-Newsletter.

Follow Us

Cookie Consent

button cookies

We use cookies to improve your experience. You consent to the use of our cookies if you proceed. For more information, please visit Cookie Policy

Leave An Email
Customize Your Trip