Saigon, which was changed Ho Chi Minh City since 1976, is the most well-known city in Vietnam due to the pivotal role it played during the Vietnam War, it’s also the country’s largest city by population. Ever since the war ended, Saigon is always a whirlwind of historical attractions, with historical and cultural sites at every turn and never enough time to see them all. Below is our list of the 5 best places to see in Saigon, you don’t want to miss them!
1. War Remnants Museum
The first thing on our list of the best 5 places to see in Saigon is War Remnants Museum, which shows the effects of the 21 years long war between America and Vietnam – the “Vietnam War”.
Opened to public since 1975, the museum has been offering a shocking reminder of the long and brutal war that killed about 3 million Vietnamese.
You’ll see many photographs and American military equipment’s on display in the museum, including a helicopter with rocket launchers, a fighter plane, a single-seater attack aircraft, a tank.... And the most talked-about “tiger cages”, which was used by the South Vietnamese government to keep their political prisoners. The cages are just about 2.7m x 3m each, but they were sometimes used to keep up to 14 prisoners.
2. Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace, also known as Independent Palace, is a must see historical place in Saigon. It’s the city’s iconic landmark not to be missed by any tourist visiting Saigon. This was where the North Vietnam’s tank #843 of North Vietnam crashed through the palace gates and ended the Vietnam war in 1975.
The landmark was first built by the French in 1868, and became home and workplace to the South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem when the French left in 1955. In 1962, Diem’s air force bombed the palace in an unsuccessful attempt to kill him. He then ordered a new palace to be built on the same site, but with a sizeable bomb shelter in the basement.
The work was completed in 1966, but president Ngo Dinh Diem had been assassinated in 1963, giving the opportunity to live in the house to his succeeding Nguyen Van Thieu.
Beside the historical value, the palace is an outstanding example of 1960s architecture, with an airy and open atmosphere. You’ll get to discover secret rooms, grand reception halls, and the command bunker.
3. Cu Chi Tunnels
This is one of the most amazing legacy from the war, and one of the country’s prime tourist attractions. Cu Chi tunnels are 250 km tunnels underground - connecting houses and villages within a dense forest, where thousands of fighters and villagers could hide and fight during the Vietnam War.
Locating about 60 km Northwest of Saigon, Cu Chi tunnels were dug with bare hands and very simple since the end of the 1940s, then it served as a hideaway for Vietcong leaders, villagers during their resistance war against the American between 1954 and 1975.
Today, a visit to Cu Chi tunnels give you a fascinating glimpse into what life was like during the war, learn about how they ate, slept, cooked, planned attacks, healed sickness, and taught their young in chambers meters underground.
4. Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is an important symbol of Saigon, and very popular with tourists seeking for local handicrafts and local cuisines.
Developed from informal markets in early 17th century, where street vendors were gathering together near the Saigon River. The market was then established by the French colonial powers after taking over Saigon in 1859. After the fire in 1870, the market was rebuilt to become Saigon’s largest market.
Locating in the center of the city, Ben Thanh Market and its surrounding streets comprise one of Saigon’s liveliest areas, it forms the heart of downtown District 1, bustling with activity from early morning until late at night.
Keep in mind that shopping in Ben Thanh market requires bargaining, and the vendors at the market are pros. Their common practice is to inflate the prices to double or triple their actual value, meaning you must work the price down to get a reasonable deal.
5. Jade Emperor Pagoda
Rank number 5 on our list of the 5 best places to see in Saigon, Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most five important shrines in Saigon.
The pagoda was built in the early 20th century by the Cantonese community, who migrated from China, to worship Jade of Emperor. This pagoda is a fine representation of Mahayanist branch of Buddhism, which widely practiced by Vietnamese.
Emperor Jade Pagoda is one of a favorite place for locals, who come to pray and make votive offerings including flowers. With its dimly lit, the narrow passageways which is often filled with smoke, the incense aroma, the atmosphere make the pagoda a charming and solemn place to end your active day visiting Saigon.