Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a busy, sprawling city 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 the top sights are centrally located and easy to see on a 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 the city’s 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 easily be visited on foot.
District 1 is the heart of the bustling city. 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 city walk includes many Ho Chi Minh City highlights. For each HCMC sight, we include a brief description and link to Google Maps. To help fellow travelers navigate the city, we have also included a 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 3km (1.8 miles) in length. Visitors should be able to complete the tour in less than 2 hours. However, if visiting 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 the additional recommended places to go in Ho Chi Minh City into a full day tour.
Pro Tip: If entering sights, be sure to check opening times prior to starting our HCMC Self-Guided Walking Tour. Many of the sights are closed mid-day for lunch or do not open on certain days of the week. Furthermore, to enter most sights, a ticket is required.
Tour Ho Chi Minh City
HCMC is an exhilarating city – one that we think is best discovered unhurried. Visitors should not only experience the sights but should also take in the sounds and commotion of the city. Our Ho Chi Minh Walking Tour is the perfect way to get acquainted with the city.
While our tour provides an easy-to-follow plan of where to go in Ho Chi Minh City, we encourage visitors to allow their 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 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 city walk – and it is absolutely free. That said, visitors looking for a guided free tour of Ho Chi Minh City can seek out one of the Ho Chi Minh 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. If you engage in a guide’s services, please tip accordingly.
Looking for more guided tours? We highlight a few popular guided HCMC tours at the end of the post!
Ho Chi Minh City Tour: Self-Guided HCMC Walk
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#1 Ben Thanh Market
MAP. 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.
Nearby HCMC Museum: Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts (map). 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 towering Bitexco Financial Tower.
#2 Bitexco Financial Tower and Saigon Skydeck
MAP. 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, soaring skyscraper can be seen from nearly anywhere in HCMC and is designed to resemble a Lotus flower.
The 49th floor Saigon Skydeck is a major Ho Chi Minh City attraction. Visitors can enjoy 360-degree panoramic city views. Buy Your Skip-the-Line Ticket Now!
Nearby Museum: Ho Chi Minh Museum (map). 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
MAP. The curving Saigon River has long played an important role in the city as it 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 city crowds.
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.
Walk north along the riverside a short distance, then retrace your steps to Nguyen Hue Street.
#4 Nguyen Hue Walking Street
MAP. Running a half-mile from the Saigon River to the 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)
MAP. 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
MAP. The famous Rex Hotel was built in the 1920s as a car dealership, but it 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
MAP. Standing in the center of the wide pedestrian zone in front of the 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 in 2019.
Walk behind the statue to the City Hall building.
#8 Ho Chi Minh City Hall
MAP. 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 the city’s 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
MAP. 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, visitors witnessed a tear fall down the statue’s right cheek and visitors still today check 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
MAP. 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 city’s main post office – and they also 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 with the McDonald’s on the corner.
#11 Nguyen Van Binh Book Street
MAP. A unique HCMC city center 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)
MAP. 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.
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.
More of the Best of Ho Chi Minh City
From Independence Palace, the following sights are within a short walking distance.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum
MAP. 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
MAP. With a poignant 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
MAP. 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.
Parks and green space are a welcome sanctuary in the congested and polluted city. Our favorite city park is Tao Dan Park (map), which is located behind Independence Palace. The park features walking trails, playgrounds, and manicured gardens. Another nearby park is September 23rd Park (map); although it is not as natural as Tao Dan, there are towering trees that create a nice shaded place to relax and cool down.
Ho Chi Minh Walking Tour Map
Use this link to Google Maps for our Ho Chi Minh City Attractions Map online.
More Ho Chi Minh City Tours
We have outlined where to go in Ho Chi Minh City for top sightseeing. However, visitors who would rather see the city with a Ho Chi Minh tour guide or join a themed tour have plenty of options.
Ho Chi Minh Food Tour
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!
Ho Chi Minh Bike Tour
Visit sights beyond District 1 on a guided Ho Chi Minh City Bike Tour. In addition to the city 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 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 city 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 reviews are rather unfavorable – but we are hoping the service improves for future users!
Pro Tip: Another great way to get around the city is via Grab Taxis. Download and set up the Grab App prior to your trip!
Ho Chi Minh Free Walking Tour: What You Will Need
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!
Anyone attempting a walking tour in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam needs comfortable walking shoes! Sidewalks are often cracked – or simply non-existent – however, the city is relatively flat and easy to get around. We completed our tour of Ho Chi Minh City sights wearing flip flops, but other travelers may want to wear city walking shoes.
The weather in HCMC can be hot and humid – or rainy and wet. Be prepared for the elements by wearing skin-protecting sunscreen or 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!
Petty theft is an unfortunate part of HCMC. We never encountered any troubles during our visit, but I carry a Timbuk2 Messenger Bag, which has numerous interior zippered pockets where I can safely keep my belongings. 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 the city using a DSLR Canon Rebel, but kept it tucked away in my bag while walking.
Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Map
Although we provide an online Ho Chi Minh City Center Map of Sights at the end of the post, we think it is beneficial to have a paper map, too. Navigating the city is much easier and much more relaxed when you understand the layout of the city. We recommend buying a HCMC Map – like this one on Amazon – before your trip.
We think Travel Insurance is essential! Not only can travel insurance come in handy when flights are delayed or luggage is lost, but it can also be useful if a travel falls ill or gets injured abroad. Check the coverage and rates at World Nomads.
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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