WHERE TO VISIT

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♥ NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL IN HO CHI MINH ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 – 17:00

Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 1880s by French colonists, is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Located in Paris Square, the name Notre Dame was given after the installation of the statue ‘Peaceful Notre Dame’ in 1959.
In 1962, the Vatican conferred the Cathedral status as a basilica and gave it the official name of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Measuring almost 60 metres in height, the cathedral’s distinctive neo-Romanesque features include the all-red brick façade (which were imported from Marseille), stained glass windows, two bell towers containing six bronze bells that still ring to this day, and a peaceful garden setting in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City District 1.
A Virgin Mary statue also stands in front of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, which locals claimed to have shed tears in October 2005. While this incident was refuted by the Catholic Church of Vietnam, thousands of visitors still flock to this statue in hopes of witnessing a miracle.
Aside from its status as one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most prominent attractions, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral still serves as a religious institution for the local population. The best time to visit is during Sunday mass at 09:30. As with any holy places around the world, do dress appropriately and refrain from disturbing the worshippers when you’re exploring (and photographing) Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral.
♥ REUNIFICATION PALACE ♥

Opening Hours: 8:00 – 11:00 & 13:00 – 16:00

Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Reunification Palace was the base of  Vietnamese General Ngo Dinh Diem until his death in 1963. It made its name in global history in 1975. A tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through its main gate, ending the Vietnam War. Today, it’s a must-visit for tourists in Ho Chi Minh City.
The palace is like a time capsule frozen in 1975. You can see two of the original tanks used in the capture of the palace parked in the grounds. Reunification Palace was the home and workplace of the French Governor of Cochin-China. It has lush gardens, secret rooms, antique furniture, and a command bunker. It’s still in use to host important occasions in Ho Chi Minh, including APEC summits.
The Reunification Palace has five levels. The basement features tunnels, a war room and telecommunications centre. The war command room has original maps on its walls. Period telecommunications equipment are also on display. Its adjoining basement rooms display war propaganda materials. On the third floor, there’s a card playing room while the fourth houses a casino. Reunification Palace’s rooftop terrace is fitted with a heliport.
The Reunification Palace is open from 07:30-12:00 and 13:00-16:00. You can buy tickets at the main gate, located on the east side of the palace gardens. Security will check your bags for safety reasons. Free guided tours are available in English, French, Japanese and Chinese. The palace is on Man Ky Khoi Nghia Street, close to the Ben Thanh Market.
♥ WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 07.30 – 12.00 & 13:30 – 17:00

Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City first opened to the public in 1975. Once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’, it’s a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War.  Graphic photographs and American military equipment are on display. There’s a helicopter with rocket launchers, a tank, a fighter plane, a single-seater attack aircraft. You can also see a conventional bomb that weighs at 6,800kg. American troops had used these weapons against the Vietnamese between 1945 and 1975.
The most talked-about exhibits at the War Remnants Museum are the ‘tiger cages’. The South Vietnamese government kept their political prisoners in these confinements.  Locals believe the cages imprisoned up to 14 people at a time. The museum also has a guillotine brought in by the French government. Both the French and South Vietnamese used it to execute their prisoners until 1960.
Also featured are grisly photos of victims that had suffered ‘Agent Orange’. As many as 4.8 million people were exposed to strong pesticide and chemical spray. The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs believed 500,000 children were born with birth defects.
The War Remnants Museum is in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. It’s every day from 07:30 to 17:00. A visit to this war museum can be disturbing experience for most people. Although children can enter, we highly advise against it.
♥ THE SAIGON OPERA HOUSE ♥

Opening Hours: Only open to the public during events and performances

Address: 7 Cong Truong Lam Son, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

Standing magnificently at the heart of Ho Chi Minh City is the Saigon Opera House, which is also known as the Municipal Theater. The building stands as one of the impressive sight in Saigon – both night and day.
Saigon Opera House was built in 1898 by the French architect – Eugene Ferret, following the “flamboyant” style of the French Third Republic. It was set to be two meters higher than the street surface with two door layers, in order to prevent traffic noise.
Built in parallel structure, the Opera House is located on the city’s center axis, connecting the metro station and roundabout in front of Ben Thanh market. From a distance, the Opera House looks like a beautiful gigantic city gate. The architecture boasts stone-carved ornaments and statues at the entrance, crystal chandeliers, and shiny granite floor at the lobby area – all built with materials imported from France. The oval auditorium with 468 seats offers good view from every seat. It is also echo-free and therefore preserves all the sound inside the theatre.
The theatre is now a venue for many high profile events and cultural – entertainment activities of the city. Certified as a national relic in 2012, this magnificent building stays on top of the must-visit of Ho Chi Minh City.
♥ CENTRAL POST OFFICE ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 7:00 – 19:00

Address: 2 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. The building was designed by Alfred Foulhoux and features arched windows and wooden shutters, just as it would have in its heyday in the late 19th Century.
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh was constructed between 1886 and 1891 and once inside, the looping arches, intricately designed marble floors and antiquated telephone boxes all serve as a reminder of the importance the post office played in days before email and mobile phones. Although the architecture is distinctly French, the large portrait of Ho Chi Minh hanging high above everyone at the far end of the building reminds everyone we are definitely in Vietnam. Painted onto walls overhead are two maps of the region; one of them showing the telegraph lines that crisscross Vietnam and Cambodia and the other displaying a map of the Saigon region in 1892.
Although the experience is a fascinating glimpse into history, the fact that this is still a functioning post office makes the experience even sweeter, and we encourage everyone to send a letter or postcard from here – it’s a piece of living history where even the old fashioned glue pots are still in use for sticking stamps to letters. There are two wings branching out from the main office, selling souvenirs, postcards and lacquerware but the prices are inflated and the same products can probably be found elsewhere for a better price.
♥ JADE EMPEROR PAGODA ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 – 17:00

Address: 73 Mai Thi Luu Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1

Emperor Jade Pagoda, also known as Tortoise Pagoda, is one of the five most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City.
Built at the turn of the 20th Century by a community of Cantonese who migrated from Guangzhou province in Southwest China, this pagoda is a fine representation of Mahayanist branch of Buddhism that is practiced widely in Vietnam.
In the main hall, the Emperor Jade Chua Ngoc Hoang or the ‘God of the Heavens’ reigns supreme. Aided by two assistants, the Emperor decides who can enter this higher realm. Those who don’t pass this gate will meet with the formidable ‘God of Hell’, on the left, who will send sinners to one of the 10 levels of hell. Life in purgatory is magnificently if somewhat gruesomely represented by the intricate carvings on the temple wall, depicting different kinds of punishments that await transgressors.
In a different hall, the goddess of fertility Kim Hua, surrounded by figures of women and small children, blesses childless couples who pray for an offspring here. The goddess of mercy Kuan Yin, who forms a very important part of any Taoist temple, has an altar in a room on the top floor.
Emperor Jade Pagoda is a living and working shrine very much in use by the locals who come here to prayer or make votive offerings of flowers, and light candles and joss sticks. With worshippers coming and going, the temple can get busy and feel a little cramped. Its dimly lit, the narrow passageways filled with smoke lend an atmospheric feel to the place, adding to its charm.
There is an overcrowded tortoise pond in front of the temple grounds and feeding the animals is considered part of the merit-making, temple-going rituals.
MUSEUM OF HO CHI MINH CITY

Opening Hours: Daily 7:00 – 18:00

Address: 65 Ly Tu Trong Street, Ben Nghe ward, District 1

Built from the French colonial period with the original purpose is Museum of Commerce, the building was used as accommodation for politicians, the work of the interim government, and so on. Until the day reunification, the building was returned to inherent function and named Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, showcasing exhibitions related to knowledge, natural geography, economy, culture, and history of the City. The building is designed in a classic-regenerate style combining Asian-Europe culture and surrounded by gardens. This is a useful place when you want to learn about the City.
♥ SAIGON ZOO ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 7:00 – 18:30

Address: 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

Phone: 028 3829 1425

Having existed for 150 years since the French colonial period, the Zoo is a large-scale flora-fauna conservation park in Ho Chi Minh city with 590 animals of 125 species, 1800 trees of 260 species, 23 species of inland orchids, 33 species of cacti, 34 bonsai species, etc. Located in the center of the city, the atmosphere here is nonetheless very clean and fresh amidst beautiful green trees, plants, and wildlife. The Zoo also plays a very important role in education, conservation and research. It is the place of not only city dwellers but also travelers from everywhere on earth.
♥ NGUYEN HUE PEDESTRSTREET ♥

Opening Hours: All day

Address:  Nguyen Hue Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

The Pedestrian street, a remarkable city construction, was built along Nguyen Hue boulevard and officially went into operation on April 30, 2015. The Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street is 670 meters in length, 64 meters in width, extending from the front office of the people’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City to the area along the bank of the Saigon River. Sprinkler system combined lighting, fog, lighting, and cameras are controlled by the control room below the street. Every day, the street welcomes thousands of visitors in the country and abroad. Along the street is the mixture of modern and antique architecture or new and historic values. Although the Pedestrian has been in operation recently, it becomes a new cultural and attractive symbol of Saigon
♥ BITEXCO FINANCIAL TOWER ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 9:30 – 21:30

Address: Hai Trieu Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

The Bitexco Finacial Tower, inspired by the charming and attractive image of lotus, Vietnam’s cultural icon, is one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam and a new icon for the era of prosperity and integration of HCMC. Most of the building area is used to place the transaction site by the leading financial enterprises in the world. The top area of the building is decorated and lit at night to create stunning scenery as the lighthouse of the city. This is also a recreation center that is appealing to young people.
♥ BINH TAY MARKET ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 – 17:00

Address: 57A Thap Moui, District 6, Ho Chi Minh City

Binh Tay Market, constructed by the French in the 1880s, is located in the centre of Vietnam’s largest Chinatown district. Unlike Ben Thanh Market in District 1, this market mainly serves the local population with its extensive range of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, meat and seafood from regions across Vietnam.
Also known as Cholon Chinatown Market, Binh Tay Market occupies a two-storey building along Thap Moui Street. Travellers can also find an assortment of handicrafts, lacquerware, and textiles that are sold in bulk, though goods are not varied compared to other (more touristy) markets in downtown Hanoi. Along with the interesting historical and cultural aspect of Cholon, Binh Tay Market is great for experiencing the local lifestyle and sampling unique Vietnamese-Chinese delicacies.
A popular breakfast spot amongst locals, there are plenty of food stalls selling Vietnamese staples in the market including pho noodles, goi cuon (spring rolls), and com tam (broken rice) as well as Chinese-influenced delicacies such as banh bao, which are steamed buns filled with pork or chicken, onions, eggs, mushrooms, and vegetables. A courtyard is set the middle of the marketplace, where you can find a stone altar commemorating Guangdong-born philanthropist Quach Dam.
Binh Tay Market is accessible within a 15-minute xe om (motorcycle taxi) ride from downtown Ho Chi Minh City. The best time to visit is in the morning as that’s when the locals come for breakfast and shop for fresh produce and household supplies.
♥ HO CHI MINH CITY MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 – 18:00

Address: 97 Pho Duc Chinh St. , Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1

You can get a glimpse of what the local art scene looks like and what local artists are up to at HCMC Museum of Fine Arts. This dauntingly huge complex with an appealing mix of French and Chinese architectural styles was owned by a Chinese-born businessman who was known as one of the city’s richest men at the time it was constructed.
♥ SAIGON CENTRAL MOSQUE ♥

Address: 66 Dong Du Str. , Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC

To get a glimpse of the Muslim scene in Vietnam, head to Saigon Central Mosque, the lime-green building constructed by Muslims from South India in 1935.
♥ CAFE – APARTMENTS ♥

Opening Hours: Daily 9:00 – 22:00

Address: 42 Nguyen Hue St. , Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

The cafe-apartments at No.42 Nguyen Hue St or No. 14 Ton That Dam St are a fine example of the antithesis of planned and efficient architecture. Originally serving as a residence of high-ranking government officials, they are now home to retro-style coffee shops, co-working offices, fashion boutiques and tattoo studios.
GIÁC LÂM PAGODA

Address: 565 Lac Long Quan, ward 10, Tan Binh District, HCMC

Tel: 028 3865 3933

This is one of the oldest historic Buddhist pagodas in the city which is built in 1744. Upon your arrival, you will be amazed immediately by a poetic garden and a giant ancient bodhi tree. The pagoda consists of the seven-storied stupa whose height is 32m, the main pagoda which holds more than 100 historic statues and handicraft relics and stupas of abbots who have presided over the temple. With such solemn, calm, and quiet atmosphere, this place is either to heal your soul or where to learn the art of peacefulness.