Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Street Food Market is one of our favourite places to tour upon first arrival in HCMC. It’s a great way to get oriented with the city, pick up some light snacks, and enjoy a bubbling cultural centre.
Food stalls flow one into the next as you walk through this giant market, and each one offers something equally fresh and delicious. While you can come here to shop for souvenirs and other everyday items, the food is the real draw; It’s a bit higher priced than outlying food stalls, your options are endless, and the people watching is pretty great, too. (6-12am daily; free)
War Remnants Museum
For all the history buffs out there, you’ll enjoy a visit to the War Remnants Museum. While this trip will be quite sombering, it reveals a wealth of information about the American-Vietnam war and sheds light on the country’s brutal past. The museum displays artifacts like images from the war, vehicles and weapons used, and replicas of war-like conditions. The space isn’t too large, but it’s worth a visit, as it sees more foot traffic than any other museum in the country. (7.30am–12pm and 1.30–5pm daily; VND15,000)
Another spot for history lovers, but a great visit no matter your level of attraction to museums, is the Reunification Palace. This sprawling building was where South Vietnam’s president called home during the American-Vietnam War. Most visitors to Vietnam are familiar with the jarring footage of the overtaking of the Reunification Palace during the war and can connect with the memory upon standing outside the gates looking in. The same tank that crashed the entrance sits inside the grounds now, and visitors are allowed to tour the entire area in and outside of the palace. (7.30–11am and 1–4pm daily; VND40,000)
If you’re looking for a bit of nightlife fun, head to Pham Ngu Lao, which can be compared to backpacker haven, Khao San Road, in Bangkok. Bars galore are spread all throughout the area, many with rooftop seating areas or decks overlooking the city lights. Expect to find everything from cheap drinks at budget guesthouses to pricey cocktails from swanky hotel bars. It won’t take long to find DJs and other live music if that’s your scene; it’s equally as easy to stumble into a laid back lounge with groups of expats chatting about their most recent travels. To catch up with life back home, we suggest grabbing a cold beer in the area. (open daily; free, but drink prices vary)
While you might be tired of pagodas by the time you reach HCMC, if you still want to enjoy time spent wandering in and around these beautiful structures, this city offers some astounding options. Buddhism is highly prevalent in Ho Chi Minh City, so it’s no wonder the temples are such a huge focus here. Built in 1909, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most popular, and we highly recommend spending an hour exploring it. This colourful building is both tranquil and serene - the perfect place to relax when the traffic outside starts to become overwhelming. (7am–6pm daily; free)