Ho Chi Minh City Attractions A DIY HCMC Vietnam Walking Tour by JetSettingFools.com

Top Ho Chi Minh City Attractions: DIY HCMC Walking Tour

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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a busy, sprawling metropolis filled with honking scooters, pungent aromas and enthralling scenes. The staggering city – Vietnam’s largest with a population of 9 million people – is a mix of modern high-rises, classic architecture and historic enclaves. Ho Chi Minh City attractions are scattered around the chaotic city, but many of the top HCMC sights are centrally located and easy to see on our Self-Guided Ho Chi Minh City Tour.


Ho Chi Minh City Attractions in District 1

Planning what to see in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam can be a tremendous task. HCMC sights are strewn across 24 districts. However, Ho Chi Minh City sightseeing doesn’t have to be a challenge. Many of the top Ho Chi Minh City tourist attractions are in District 1 – and can be visited on foot.

District 1 is the heart of the bustling metropolis. Serving as the administrative and financial center, the district is home to numerous government entities, corporations and consulates. Tourist attractions are interspersed throughout District 1 – and we devised a DIY Ho Chi Minh Tour to the top sights.


Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour

Our self-guided walk includes many Ho Chi Minh City highlights. For each HCMC sight, we include a brief description and additional information. To help fellow travelers, we have also included a free Ho Chi Minh City Map of sights – as well as a link to an online map and walking directions.


Tour Ho Chi Minh City: How Long?

Our Ho Chi Minh Sightseeing Tour is about 1.8 miles (3km) in length. Visitors should be able to complete the tour in less than 2 hours. However, if entering any of the Ho Chi Minh City attractions (like Independence Palace or Saigon Skydeck), it will take much longer. We recommend allowing an hour at each sight you enter.

Furthermore, throughout our HCMC Walking Tour, we offer recommendations for nearby sightseeing. Travelers could include all of these additional places to go in Ho Chi Minh City and create a full day tour.

Pro Tip: Be sure to check opening times prior to starting our HCMC Self-Guided Walking Tour. Some attractions are closed mid-day for lunch or do not open on certain days of the week. 


Best Tour Ho Chi Minh City

Backpacker Street, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

HCMC is an exhilarating destination – one that we think is best discovered unhurried. Visitors should not only experience the sights but should also take in the sounds, smells and commotion of their surroundings. Our Ho Chi Minh Walking Tour is the perfect way to get acquainted with the area, especially for first time visitors to HCMC.

While our tour provides an easy-to-follow plan of where to go in Ho Chi Minh City, we encourage you to allow your senses to dictate detours. Stop at a sidewalk café for a Vietnamese coffee, wander down an intriguing street just to see where it leads or venture inside a random museum. The places to go in Ho Chi Minh City are seemingly endless – so go explore!


Ho Chi Minh Free Tour

Our Ho Chi Minh City free walking tour is designed as a self-guided journey. That said, visitors looking for a guided free tour of Ho Chi Minh City can seek out one of the many HCMC free tour guides. Just keep in mind that a Ho Chi Minh free tour guide expects – and may deserve – tips to compensate for their time and knowledge. 

Looking to book a guided tour? We highlight a few popular guided HCMC tours at the end of the article.


Ho Chi Minh City Tour: Our Self-Guided HCMC Walk

Fountain at the Independence Palace, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Use our self-guided walk to navigate your way to the Best Places To Go in Ho Chi Minh City! Use this link to Google Maps for our Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour Map with directions.  

Save, Pin or Bookmark this Ho Chi Minh Tour Guide to plan your trip to Vietnam!


#1 Ben Thanh Market HCMC

Narrow Isles with everything for sale, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Start your Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam tour at a HCMC landmark sight: Ben Thanh Market. A Ho Chi Minh City must-see, the busy market has origins that date to the 17th century. The market moved into the current building in 1912. Vendors sell a range of goods – from produce to street food to clothing and souvenirs.

Main Market Hall, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Nearby HCMC Museum: Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts. The HCMC Museum of Fine Arts is housed in a grandiose French-era building and contains a variety of art-forms, including sculptures, paintings and ceramics.

From the Ben Thanh Market, route your way east to the soaring Bitexco Financial Tower.


#2 Bitexco Financial Tower and Saigon Skydeck

Looking up at the Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

The 861-foot-tall Bitexco Financial Tower ranked as the tallest building in Vietnam when it was completed in 2010 (it is now the 5th tallest building in the country). The sleek skyscraper can be seen from nearly anywhere in HCMC and is designed to resemble a Lotus flower.

City View to the west from, Saigon Skydeck, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

The 49th floor Saigon Skydeck is a major Ho Chi Minh City attraction. All though there is no outdoor space, visitors can enjoy 360-degree panoramic views through the floor-to-ceiling windows, along with beverages and snacks. Buy Your Skip-the-Line Ticket Now!

Cool Tiger Beer, Skydeck, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Nearby Museum: Ho Chi Minh Museum. Built in 1863 by the French as a Customs House, the Nha Rong Dragon House has been re-purposed as a museum dedicated to President Ho Chi Minh. Displays include his personal belongings, like clothing and his glasses.

From the Bitexco Building, walk east to the Song Sai Gon River.


#3 Saigon River

Saigon River, HCMC, Vietnam

The curving Saigon River has long played an important role as the area grew from a small fishing village into a significant seaport. The river is still used today as a hub to transport goods. Although traffic buzzes along the busy boulevard that runs parallel to it, the riverside is a place to go in Ho Chi Minh City to escape the crowds.

View of the Saigon River to the north from Saigon Skydeck, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Many historic French colonial buildings line the waterfront – such as the 1887 Customs Building and the opulent Majestic Hotel. A little further north – at the Me Linh roundabout – there is a statue dedicated to Tran Hung Dao (a national hero of the 13th century) and the Bach Dang Harbor, where Saigon Riverboat tours depart.

Onboard Saigon Watertaxi, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Walk north along the riverside a short distance, then retrace your steps to Nguyen Hue Street.


#4 Nguyen Hue Walking Street

The Café Apartments, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Running a half-mile from the Saigon River to the Ho Chi Minh City Hall Building, Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street is one of the most famous boulevards in the city. Lined with boutique shops, chic cafes and high-end retailers, the street is a popular place to take a stroll both day and night.


The Café Apartments

One of the most interesting buildings along the boulevard is the Café Apartments at #42. The 1960s block apartment building has housed US military officers, shipyard workers and, now, cafes. Each café has its own theme and vibe, so visitors can explore until they find the perfect spot for a coffee with a view.

Walk northwest to Le Loi Street – about a block before the street ends at the HCMC City Hall building. Turn right (northeast) and walk one block to the Opera House.


#5 HCMC Opera House (Municipal Theater)

Opera House, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Built in 1897, the Opera House is one of the best sights in Ho Chi Minh City from the French colonial period. The 500-seat theater is still used for performances today. Flanking the Opera House are two famous HCMC hotels.

The Caravelle Hotel, on the south, opened in 1959. In addition to once housing the Australian and New Zealand Embassies – as well as top news outlets – the hotel was frequented by journalists covering the Vietnam War. The Hotel Continental, on the north side of the Opera House, was built in 1880 as a luxury hotel and was a popular social and political gather spot during the French Colonial era.

Retrace your steps on Le Loi Street back to Nguyen Hue Street. Walk to the center pedestrian zone and take in the next two sight: The Rex Hotel and the Ho Chi Minh Statue.


#6 Rex Hotel HCMC

Home Of The 5 O'Clock Follies, Rex Hotel, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

The famous Rex Hotel was built in the 1920s as a car dealership, but was transformed in the 1960s into a hotel. American troops were the first guests of the Rex Hotel (but only while their camp was being established) and the rooftop bar became a favorite watering hole for US military officials. The Rex Hotel was used for daily press briefings by the US military command, which came to be better known as the Five O’Clock Follies.


#7 Ho Chi Minh Statue

Standing in the center of the wide pedestrian zone in front of City Hall is a 24-foot-tall statue of a waving President Ho Chi Minh. Placed on the square in 2015, it is the second Ho Chi Minh Statue to stand on the spot. The current statue was under refurbishment during our visit.

Walk behind the statue to the City Hall building.


#8 Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Classic Architecture, City Hall, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

The exquisite and striking French colonial HCMC City Hall building was constructed in the early 1900s as a hotel – and was designed to resemble the Hotel de Ville in Paris. Adorned with columns and bas-reliefs, the landmark building now serves as the main office of government, Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee.

Pro Tip: At night, the building is bathed in lights, which makes it a particularly stunning sight.

Walk to the northeast end of City Hall to Dong Khoi Street (the same street that the Opera House is on) and turn left (northwest) and walk to the HCMC Cathedral.


#9 Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon

Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Constructed in the late 1800s, the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception (as it is formally called) is another remarkable vestige of the French Colonial times. The HCMC Notre Dame Cathedral was built entirely from French imported materials and, although it has undergone significant renovations, it has retained it original splendor. The double bell towers – each topped with a cross – rise to the height of 200 feet.

Pro Tip: Don’t miss the Our Lady of Peace statue that stands in the garden in front of the church. In 2005, people claim to have witnessed a tear fall down the statue’s right cheek and visitors still check today to see if the statue is crying.

Next to the Saigon Cathedral – to the east – is the yellow Ho Chi Minh City Post Office.


#10 Saigon Central Post Office

Central Post Office, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

The main HCMC Post Office is another French colonial era structure built in the late 1800s – and it is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s top attractions. The elegant and ornate building features a bright yellow façade with green shutters and the interior domed hall is reminiscent of an old European train station. The building still functions as the main post office – and they sell postcards on-site for visitors to mail home an inexpensive souvenir.

Walk to the pedestrian street on the northwest side of the post office.


#11 Nguyen Van Binh Book Street

People reading and drinking coffee on Book Street, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

A unique HCMC street, Nguyen Van Binh is better known as Book Street. The short 150-meter-long lane is lined with bookshops, magazine kiosks, open-air cafes and literary memorabilia and statues.

Walk northwest to the back of the Cathedral and turn left (southwest) and walk to the front gates of Independence Palace.


#12 Independence Palace (Reunification Hall HCMC)

Independence Palace from the front, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

An iconic building with a storied past, Independence Palace is the most popular Ho Chi Minh City attraction. The Norodom Palace was the first structure on the site. From the 1870s until 1962, it served as the residence and office of numerous officials (including the French Governor of Cochinchina, Japanese officials, the Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam and by President Ngo Dinh Diem of the Republic of Vietnam).

During a 1962 assassination attempt on President Diem, the Norodom Palace was bombed beyond repair (although the president escaped). A modern design concept was used to construct the new Independence Palace and it took four years to complete (during which time the president was killed). Upon completion, General Nguyen Van Thieu, the last president of South Vietnam, used the palace as his home and office – until he fled the country in 1975.

Famous Tank 390 at Independence Palace, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

In late April 1975, during the Fall of Saigon (or the Liberation of Saigon, depending on which side is telling the story), the North Vietnamese overtook the city. As the final act to ending the war, they drove a tank through the front gates of Independence Palace and raised a People’s Army of Vietnam flag from the building.

After the war, the palace was renamed Reunification Hall. Today, it is open to visitors (ticket required) who are interested in learning more about the history of the palace and its significance during the Vietnam War.


This concludes our Highlights of Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour! However, there are more nearby Ho Chi Minh City attractions for visitors who want to continue their sightseeing adventure.

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More Ho Chi Minh City Sights

Fruit Vendor, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

From Independence Palace, the following sights are within a short walking distance.


Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Housed in a neoclassical building that dates to 1885 (and formerly known as Gia Long Palace), the HCMC Museum details the history of the city and their struggle against foreign powers.


War Remnants Museum

US Military Planes at the War Remnants Museum, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

With a collection of photographs and a display of military equipment, the HCMC War Remnants Museum presents Vietnam’s version of the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War.


Thich Quang Duc Monument

Statue of burning Monk, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

In 1963, Thich Quang Duc – a Buddhist monk – burned himself in protest to the ill treatment of Vietnamese Buddhists. The Thich Quang Duc Monument was opened in 2010 on the very corner of the intersection where he perished.


HCMC Parks

Turtle Lake, HCMC, Saigon, Vietnam

Parks and green space are a welcome sanctuary in the congested and polluted city. Our favorite city park is Tao Dan Park, which is located behind Independence Palace. The park features walking trails, playgrounds, and manicured gardens. Another nearby park is September 23rd Park; although it is not as natural as Tao Dan, there are towering trees that create a nice shaded place to relax and cool down. Turtle Lake Park sits in the middle of a roundabout surrounded by cafes and features a pond with benches (but no turtles).


Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour Map

Always busy, Bui Vien Street Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Use this link to Google Maps for our Ho Chi Minh City Attractions Map online. 


Recommended Ho Chi Minh City Tours

Always a line at Banh Mi 37, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

We have outlined where to go in Ho Chi Minh City for top sightseeing. However, visitors who would rather discover with a Ho Chi Minh tour guide or join a themed tour have plenty of options.


Ho Chi Minh Food Tour

Dinner at Den Long Restaurant, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Learn about the epic local cuisine on a private Ho Chi Minh City food tour. The Evening Street Food Tour includes 9 tastings of Vietnamese specialties, plus local drinks! Book it Now!

Pro Tip: Want to discover more of the local fare? Use our guide to the Top Ho Chi Minh Restaurants and wash it down with great Saigon Craft Beers!


Ho Chi Minh Bike Tour

Family on a scooter, Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Visit sights beyond District 1 on a guided Ho Chi Minh City Bike Tour. In addition to the highlights, participants get to peek into everyday Vietnamese life. Find out more!

Pro Tip: Combine motorbike sightseeing with local food specialties on the popular and highly-rated HCMC Food Tour by Motorbike. Reserve your spot!


Ho Chi Minh Private Tour

One of the benefits of hiring a Ho Chi Minh City Private Tour Guide is the incredible wealth of local knowledge they share. Tour the top sights with a guide to get a local’s perspective and insider tips! Get the details!


Bus Tour Ho Chi Minh City

Walking around the hot and humid city can be exhausting. Visitors who would rather ride from one sight to the next can use the Hop On Hop Off Ho Chi Minh City Bus Tour. Buy your ticket! Note: Some of the recent reviews are rather unfavorable – but we are hoping the service improves soon!

Pro Tip: Another great way to get around is via Grab Taxis. Download and set up the Grab App prior to your trip to Vietnam.


Ho Chi Minh Free Walking Tour: What You Will Need

walking the crazy Streets of Saigon, HCMC, Vietnam

Visitors who use our Ho Chi Minh City Free Walking Tour don’t need much – but having the following items will make for a more pleasant walk.


Comfortable Shoes

Anyone attempting a walking tour in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam needs comfortable travel shoes! Sidewalks are often cracked – or simply non-existent – but relatively flat. We completed our tour of Ho Chi Minh City sights wearing flip flops, but other travelers may want to wear proper walking shoes.


Vietnam Weather Gear

The weather in HCMC can be hot and humid – or rainy and wet. Be prepared for the elements by wearing skin-protecting sunscreen and a wide-brimmed travel hat. In the case of rain, bring along a lightweight raincoat or travel umbrella. And, don’t forget the insect repellent!


Anti-Theft Bag for Vietnam

Petty theft is an unfortunate part of HCMC. I (Sarah) carry a Timbuk2 Messenger Bag, which has numerous interior zippered pockets where I can safely keep my everyday travel items. Protect your valuables by using a specifically designed anti-theft travel bag – like the stylish bags by Travelon.

Pro Tip: Some visitors have reported phones being snatched right out of their hands – and tourists who take pictures with their phone camera are an easy target. Rather than risk having your phone stolen, we recommend taking photos with a pocket-sized camera that has a wrist strap – like the Canon Powershot. We also toured HCMC using our go-to travel camera, the DSLR Canon Rebel, but kept it tucked away while walking.


Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Map, WiFi and Trip Planner

Although we provided an online Ho Chi Minh City Center Map of Sights, we think it is beneficial to have a paper map, too. Navigating is much easier and more relaxed when you understand the layout of the city. We recommend buying a HCMC Map – like this one – before your trip. Staying connected during your HCMC visit is essential; find out why we carry a personal WiFi Hotspot at all times!

Finally, get and stay organized for your vacation to Vietnam by using a trip planner. Our Printable Travel Planners are ideal templates for starting any big trip!

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Vietnam Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance may come in handy when flights are delayed or luggage is lost, but it could also be useful if a traveler falls ill or gets injured abroad. Check the coverage and rates at World Nomads.


Start planning your trip to Vietnam! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!


Visiting More Destinations in Vietnam? We’ve got you covered with our detailed Hanoi Itinerary, along with tips for Cruising on Halong Bay, and our guides to the Best Things To Do in Da Nang, Ninh BinhHoi An, Da Lat, and Phu Quoc!


We Want To Know: What are your Favorite Ho Chi Minh City Attractions? What sights would you add to our Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below! 


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