First Time in Ho Chi Minh City – What to Do?

If this is your first time in Ho Chi Minh City, knowing exactly what to do can be a challenge as this large city is filled with unique landmarks. Also called Saigon, it’s widely known as Vietnam’s business and financial hub, as well as a popular tourist destination. Travelers love its fascinating culture, classic French architecture, and sleek skyscrapers, as well as ornate temples and pagodas. You can also find plenty of rooftop bars and fantastic restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world. Check out our Ho Chi Minh survival guide to plan out your first few days of sightseeing in this vibrant city. 

Ho Chi Minh at a Glance Ho Chi Minh is divided into several neighborhoods, commonly known as districts. The city center is located in District 1, where you can visit some of its most popular landmarks. Backpackers can find affordable accommodation, restaurants, and bars at Pham Ngu Lao Street. Meanwhile, District 2 houses the city’s expat community, so expect plenty of high-quality apartments, villas, and houses if you’re staying in this neighborhood. WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT HO CHI MINH: The most modern city in Vietnam but still has a lot of history Nice mix of modern and historical landmarks Excellent for shopping Good range of restaurants suitable for all budgets WHAT IS LESS GOOD: Congested traffic – so many scooters! More expensive than most cities in Vietnam Pickpockets are known in touristy areas

Things You Can Do in Ho Chi Minh Ho Chi Minh may be known for its war museums (such as Chu Chi Tunnels), but the city area has plenty of fascinating historical sites which are suitable for all ages. The Notre Dame Cathedral and Saigon Central Post Office are prime examples of French colonial architecture, both of which require no entrance fee. There are also Buddhist temples and traditional markets that have been operating for hundreds of years.

Best Places to Shop in Ho Chi Minh Shopping in Ho Chi Minh is a mix of swanky malls housing international fashion brands to traditional markets selling authentic handicrafts and street food. Bargaining is a must-do when you’re shopping at Bin Tay and Ben Thanh Market, as initial prices stated by vendors are much higher than the goods are actually worth.

Best Places to Go at Night in Ho Chi Minh Nightlife in Ho Chi Minh means very different things depending on where you are in the city. Downtown in District 1, rooftop bars, high rolling casinos, and smooth jazz bands are the choice forms of nightlife entertainment in Saigon. But move a few kilometers west into District 3 and the backpacker street of Pham Ngu Lao, with its street bars, cheap eats, and good time vibe, is certainly the place to be when night falls. 

Great Restaurants We Like in Ho Chi Minh Restaurants in Ho Chi Minh cater to just about any regional cuisine, from French, American, and Russian, to Thai, Chinese, and, of course, Vietnamese. You can find affordable street food and snack stalls at Pham Ngu Lao and local markets such as Binh Tay and Ben Thanh. Affluent travelers can enjoy the pleasant ambiance, stunning views and diligent service at fine-dining restaurants that are mostly located in District 1.

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