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Saigon Attractions: 20 Essential Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

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I’ll be honest. For me, there’s no better thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City than to eat. There is so much good food in Saigon. In my opinion, Hanoi is the more liveable city but Ho Chi Minh City has the best street food in Vietnam.

But as much fun as it is to eat, it isn’t the only thing to do in Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is a bustling metropolis of about nine million people with plenty of things to see and do.

If it’s your first time visiting Saigon, then I’ve put together this list of twenty of the most fun things to do to help you plan your trip.

It’s made up of a good mix of attractions, activities, day tours, and food experiences to make your trip to Ho Chi Minh City as well-rounded as possible.

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Citroen 2CV tour and a bowl of pho


1. Eat Pho

You can’t visit Vietnam without eating pho. It’s a Vietnamese national dish and one of the most recognizable foods in Vietnamese cuisine.

Variations exist between regions but at its core, pho is a noodle soup made with four basic ingredients – a clear stock, rice noodles, meat (typically beef or chicken), and herbs. The Vietnamese like to have it for breakfast but you can enjoy it at any time of the day.

I’ve had pho in many cities throughout Vietnam but the pho in Ho Chi Minh City is my favorite. I suggest trying it at Pho Le (Nguyen Trai branch | Vo Van Tan branch) or Pho Mien Ga Ky Dong.

Bowl of pho at Pho Mien Ga Ky Dong in Ho Chi Minh City

Where to Eat Pho: Pho Le, Pho Mien Ga Ky Dong
Expect to Spend: About VND 50,000-80,000 per bowl

2. Go on a City Tour

I don’t find Ho Chi Minh City to be as walkable as Hanoi so it’s a little harder to tour the city on your own. Grab Bike is a great and inexpensive way to go from one tourist attraction to the next.

If it’s your first time in Saigon, then an easier way would be to book a guided tour. You won’t have to worry about getting from one place to the next and you’ll have the benefit of a guide explaining everything to you. You can book a Saigon city tour through Klook (Option 1 | Option 2) or Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2).

Saigon Central Post Office

Tour Cost: Starts at USD 11
Length of Tour: At least half a day

3. Explore Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is the most famous market in Ho Chi Minh City and a great place to buy handicrafts and local souvenirs. It’s one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and a key symbol of the city.

Being as popular as it is, Ben Thanh Market can get pretty crowded but it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if it’s your first time in Ho Chi Minh City. It has over 1,500 stalls selling everything from lacquerware, textiles, crafts, bags, spices, and shoes.

If you get hungry while exploring the market, then you may want to check out the Ben Thanh Street Food Market as well. It’s trendy food hall about a block away from Ben Thanh Market.

Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City

Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

4. Feast on Snails at Vinh Khanh Street

This is one of my favorite things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Oc or snails are a popular delicacy in Vietnam and Vinh Khanh Street may be the best place to have them.

Nicknamed “Seafood Street”, Vinh Khanh Street is a strip in District 4 with street food stalls on either side selling all kinds of fresh seafood. It’s a lively environment with loads of people enjoying seafood and beer by the side of a busy road. For me, a meal at Vinh Khanh Street is one of the best Asian food experiences you can have in Saigon.

There are many restaurants to choose from but we highly recommend Oc Oanh. It’s one of the best and most popular restaurants along Vinh Khanh Street.

Snails at Oc Oanh along Vinh Khanh Street in Ho Chi Minh City

Where to Eat Snails: Oc Oanh
Expect to Spend: About VND 150,000-200,000 per person for a seafood feast

5. Have Vietnamese Coffee at a Cafe Apartment

You can have great coffee all throughout Vietnam, but only in Ho Chi Minh City will you find these quirky and super cool apartment block cafes.

Popularized by the Cafe Apartments on 42 Nguyen Hue Street, apartment block cafes are old and perhaps partially abandoned buildings that have been repurposed to house the most interesting cafes and boutiques.

I went to a few of these buildings and some of them don’t have any signs from the street clueing you in to what’s inside. It added to their appeal because it felt like you were privy to something secret in Saigon, almost like a speakeasy.

You can check out our Saigon coffee guide to learn where to find these apartment block cafes in Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnamese coffee in Ho Chi Minh City

Where to Go: The Cafe Apartments, 14 Ton That Dam Building

6. Crawl Through the Cu Chi Tunnels

A visit to Cu Chi District is perhaps the most popular day trip you can make from Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll be taken on a tour of the jungle and be shown what life was like for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

Having studied in the west, I always heard the American side of the story so it was nice to learn about it from a different perspective. It was fascinating to see the elaborate tunnel system the Viet Cong had built during the war. Crawling through the very tight Cu Chi Tunnels was definitely a highlight.

You can book a Cu Chi Tunnels tour through Klook or Get Your Guide.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Tour Cost: Start at USD 12
Length of Tour: At least half a day

7. Have a Banh Mi at “Lesbian Banh Mi”

Like pho, banh mi is a national dish and one of the most beloved foods in Vietnamese cuisine. You can find it pretty much anywhere in the country but the best banh mi I’ve had are in Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City.

Strictly speaking, “banh mi” refers to bread but people use it to describe the sandwich made with a personal-sized baguette filled with a variety of ingredients like liver pate, cold cuts, pickled vegetables, cucumber slices, and cilantro. I love it. For me, it’s one of the best sandwiches in the world.

Many shops serve great banh mi in Saigon but one of the best and most popular is Banh Mi Huynh Hoa. It’s owned by a lesbian couple and often referred to as Banh Mi O Moi, meaning “lesbian banh mi”.

They serve the fattest banh mis I’ve had anywhere in Vietnam. They put so many ingredients in there it almost feels like you’re eating a fully loaded hoagie.

Banh mi in Ho Chi Minh City

Address: 26 Lê Thị Riêng, P, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 2:30-11PM, daily
Expect to Spend: About VND 35,000 per banh mi

8. Go on a Motorbike Tour

Motorbikes are a way of life in Vietnam. The Vietnamese learn to ride motorbikes at a young age so it’s second nature to them. They’re by far the best way of getting around Ho Chi Minh City.

Grab Bike is our preferred means of transport in Saigon but motorbikes are also great for tours. I went on this motorbike tour and was amazed by how deftly my driver and tour guide would give me his monologue while weaving through Ho Chi Minh City’s crazy traffic. It was insane!

Motorbikes are such an important part of Saigon city life that I think going on a motorbike tour is one of the best and most fun ways of experiencing the city. Klook and Get Your Guide offer a good range of motorbike tours to choose from.

Motorbike tour in Ho Chi Minh City

Tour Cost: Around USD 25-30
Length of Tour: About 4 hrs

9. Take a Day Trip to the Mekong Delta

Aside from the Cu Chi Tunnels, a Mekong Delta tour is one of the most popular day trips you can make from Ho Chi Minh City. Known as Vietnam’s “rice bowl”, it’s a fertile agricultural area that produces over a third of the country’s annual food crop.

I spent a few days exploring the various towns along the Mekong River but you can easily visit the area on a day tour. Most if not all will take you to Ben Tre which is one of the closest Mekong Delta cities from Saigon.

Klook and Get Your Guide offer a few Mekong Delta tours from Ho Chi Minh City. Highlights include a sampan boat ride through the river’s murky channels.

Riding a boat on the Mekong River

Tour Cost: Starts at USD 16
Length of Tour: Full day

10. Take a Cooking Class

Food tours are a great way of experiencing the local food but if you really want to learn about Vietnamese cuisine, then there’s no better way to do that than by taking a cooking class. It’s like looking under the cuisine’s hood.

Cookly is a booking platform that offers hundreds of one-day cooking classes around the world. Follow the link to check out their list of cooking classes in Ho Chi Minh City.

Cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City

Cooking Class Cost: Around USD 30
Length of Class: About 3-5 hrs

11. Ride a Cyclo

If you aren’t comfortable going on a motorbike tour, then perhaps a cyclo tour is a good alternative. Cyclos are three-wheeled bicycle taxis that became popular in Vietnam during the French colonial period.

With the rise in popularity of motorbikes, cyclos have all but vanished as a viable means of transportation in Ho Chi Minh City. Today, they’re pretty much used only by tourists as a more relaxed way of seeing the city.

Check out Klook and Get Your Guide for a list of cyclo tours in Saigon.

Cyclo in Ho Chi Minh City

Tour Cost: Starts at USD 12
Length of Tour: About 2-3 hrs

12. Find the Snail Lady

There are snail street food stalls everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City. But if you’re a fan of Street Food on Netflix, then you’ll probably want to go to this one.

Affectionately called the “Snail Lady”, Mrs. Truoc was the street food vendor featured on the Vietnam episode of Street Food. In fact, she was the episode’s main storyline.

We enjoyed her story so much that we made it a point to find her stall on our most recent trip to Saigon. It wasn’t easy so you can refer to this map for the exact location.

We had a snail feast with about four or five different types of snail. It was delicious. You can check out our YouTube video on Saigon’s Snail Lady for more information.

Snail lady in Ho Chi Minh City

Tour Cost: Starts at USD 12
Length of Tour: About 2-3 hrs

Address: 169 Cô Bắc, Phường Cô Giang, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (map)
Operating Hours: 10AM-2PM, Mon-Fri (closed Sat-Sun)
Expect to Spend: VND 25,000 per snail dish

13. Visit a Viet Cong Cafe

This was one of the coolest cafes I visited in Ho Chi Minh City. It was cool not because it was trendy or hip. It was cool because of its history.

To the casual observer, Ca Phe Do Phu just looks like an old cafe with vintage memorabilia but look closer and you’ll find something extraordinary.

Ca Phe Do Phu in Ho Chi Minh City

I visited Ca Phe Do Phu as part of a motorbike tour and my guide explained that it used to be the home of a Viet Cong supporter. Through the trap door pictured below is a bunker with a cache of old weapons and uniforms. Pretty interesting right? But it doesn’t end there.

My guide took me through ladders that opened under sinks and secret passageways that served as escape routes in case the Viet Cong’s meetings were discovered by the Americans. It’s a fascinating space that isn’t as well known to tourists visiting Saigon.

If you have a keen interest in the Vietnam War, then I highly recommend enjoying a cup of coffee at Ca Phe Do Phu. They’re known for their com tam suon nuong as well which is a dish of broken rice served with a grilled pork chop.

Trap door at Ca Phe Do Phu in Ho Chi Minh City

Address: 72 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Phường 5, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 7AM-10PM, daily
Expect to Spend: About VND 25,000 for Vietnamese coffee

14. Eat Your Way Through Saigon in a Vintage Citroen 2CV

We’ve been on many food tours in different cities around the world but this was one of the coolest we’ve experienced so far. You’ll be driven from food stop to food stop in Ho Chi Minh City in an open-top vintage Citroen 2CV.

If you’d like a fun and unique way of experiencing Saigon, then we highly recommend booking this tour. You can check out my article and video on this Citroen 2CV food tour for more information.

You can also check out Klook for other food tour options in Ho Chi Minh City.

Citroen 2CV in Ho Chi Minh City

Tour Cost: VND 1,400,000 (plus VAT)
Length of Tour: About 3 hrs

15. Have Breakfast in an Alley

This is another of our favorite experiences in Ho Chi Minh City and something we look forward to on every return visit. Banh Mi Hoa Ma is a street food stall that serves breakfast in an alley.

Open daily from 6-11AM, Banh Mi Hoa Ma specializes in banh mi op la which is a breakfast dish consisting of a baguette, two fried eggs, liver pate, an assortment of meats, and a side of pickled vegetables. It’s a delicious plate of food that exemplifies the Vietnamese street food experience.

Banh mi op la in Ho Chi Minh City

Here’s a shot of Ren eagerly digging into her banh mi. It’s such a terrific experience eating breakfast in an alley like this at eight in the morning.

Try getting here as early as you can because they’ve been known to run out of food. Banh Mi Hoa Ma is popular among locals so you’ll find plastic tables and stools all along either side of the alley.

Ren eating banh mi in Ho Ch Minh City

Address: 53 Cao Thắng, Phường 3, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 6-11AM, daily
Expect to Spend: About VND 52,000 for banh mi op la

16. Enjoy the View from Saigon Skydeck at Bitexco Financial Tower

If you like lofty views, then you’re going to enjoy Saigon Skydeck. It’s an observations deck that offers 360° panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City from the 49th floor of Bitexco Financial Tower.

Bitexco Financial Tower is a unique lotus-shaped skyscraper in District 1 that was once recognized as Vietnam’s tallest building. You can purchase tickets to the observation deck at the gate or in advance through Klook or Get Your Guide.

View from Bitexco Financial Tower

Operating Hours: 9:30AM-9:30PM, daily
Admission: VND 200,000
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

17. Watch a Show at Saigon Opera House

If you’d like to see a cultural performance in Saigon, then you may want to catch a show at The Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh City. Also known as the Saigon Opera House, it’s a lovely 500-seat theater that hosts ballets, concerts, and other artistic performances.

You can visit the Saigon Opera House website for a schedule of upcoming performances. You can also purchase tickets to shows at the opera house on Klook or Get Your Guide.

View from Bitexco Financial Tower

18. Eat Waterfall Chicken

This is one of our favorite dishes to eat in Ho Chi Minh City and something we look forward to on every return visit. “Waterfall chicken” refers to a crispy fried chicken dish served at Com Ga Xoi Mo Su Su.

The owner of Com Ga Xoi Mo Su Su is some type of mad tinkering genius that built this machine himself. What it does is send a stream of hot oil (around 180°C) showering down onto poached chicken and into a pool below before being sent up again.

The chicken’s already cooked so it’s left under the waterfall of oil for just a few minutes to crisp up the skin.

Cooking waterfall chicken

The result is this supremely crispy chicken served with red rice and the most delicious secret dark sauce. It’s so damn good.

Waterfall chicken in Ho Chi Minh City

Address: 1067 Hoàng Sa, phường 11, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 10:30AM-9:30PM, daily
Expect to Spend: About VND 42,000 per order of com ga (chicken rice)

19. Go Bird Watching at Tao Dan Park

We learned about Tao Dan Park on the Ho Chi Minh City episode of Somebody Feed Phil. It’s a green space in District 1 with gardens, a Buddhist temple, and a bird cafe.

We learned on the show that bird keeping is a popular hobby among men in Saigon. They like to bring their pet birds to this cafe every morning to chat over Vietnamese coffee.

Even if you don’t have an interest in birds, it’s an interesting place to have coffee and mingle with the locals. You can go on your own or visit the bird cafe on a guided tour (Klook | Get Your Guide).

Tao Dan Park in Ho Chi Minh City

Park Hours: 7AM-10PM, daily
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr

20. Try Elevated Vietnamese Food at Vietnam House Restaurant

We’re fans of Luke Nguyen. He’s a Vietnamese-Australian chef and restaurateur who had a television series called Street Food Asia. We learned about many of the places we visited in Ho Chi Minh City from him, including Banh Mi Huynh Hoa, Banh Mi Hoa Ma, and Com Ga Xoi Mo Su Su.

Vietnam House Restaurant is Luke’s upscale restaurant in District 1 which serves elevated interpretations of classic Vietnamese street food dishes like banh xeo, goi cuon, and cha gio. If you’re interested in having a special meal in Ho Chi Minh City, then Vietnam House Restaurant is a good place to go.

Pictured below is Luke’s version of banh xeo made with crab and Iberico pork.

Banh xeo at Vietnam House Restaurant

Address: 93-95, 97 Đồng Khởi, Street, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-3PM, 5:30-11PM, daily
What We Paid: VND 1,500,000 for two people


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Tuesday 24th of March 2020

Bookmarked and saved your blog so I can visit these places when I visit ho Chi Minh city. Thank you so much for sharing this man! I want to try that cyclo. It looks exciting!

JB & Renée Macatulad

Wednesday 25th of March 2020

@myline: Thanks!


Monday 23rd of March 2020

AMAZING article. Thank you. I loved reading that. Great photos too! It's really got my wanderlust juices going, and my mouth-watering too. I was lucky enough to visit Hanoi and can't wait to go back to Vietnam. Your article really took me back again. I've bookmarked this for future reference.

JB & Renée Macatulad

Wednesday 25th of March 2020

Thanks Martin! Vietnam is wonderful indeed.