A walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is a fantastic way to explore the city’s vibrant culture, history and architecture. This walking tour itinerary covers some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
How to get to Central Ho Chi Minh City
To get to central Ho Chi Minh City from the airport, you can take a normal taxi waiting at the exits, or take a Grab/Gojek (both like Uber). Alternatively, you can easily reserve a private transfer from the airport to your hotel* in advance.
If you opt for Grab or Gojek, make sure to download these apps in advance. To use these you’ll need your phone to work as soon as you arrive in Vietnam. You can easily get a Vietnamese SIM at the airport, but you’ll need to have a working card or cash. There are several ATMs at the airport, but make sure you know your pin!
Ho Chi Minh Walking Tour Route Map
Tips for Ho Chi Minh Walking Tour
- Download the Grab or Gojek apps before you arrive in Vietnam to easily get a taxi.
- Download the Maps.Me app and the area around Ho Chi Minh City so you’re never lost.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, drink lots of water, and take care crossing the roads!
- Many of the small street food places don’t accept card, so make sure to have cash (get a Wise Card* for cheap money conversion and cash withdrawals).
- For other city tours, hikes and bike rides in Vietnam, see our Vietnam page.
Attractions on the Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour
On this walking tour you’ll see the main sights and attractions of Ho Chi Minh City. You should plan to spend at least two days in Ho Chi Minh City to see all the top sights, or much longer if you also want to visit all the museums. This is a free, self-guided walking tour. If you prefer to be accompanied, there are great half-day guided tour* and full-day guided tour* options. Another really cool tour option is the Street Food Tour By Motorbike* where you get to taste delicious local Vietnamese dishes.
- Ho Chi Minh Square
- Saigon Opera House
- Dong Khoi Street
- Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
- Central Post Office
- War Remnants Museum
- Independence Palace
- Ben Nghe Street Food Market
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum
- Ben Thanh Market
- Nguyen Hue Walking Street
- Bitexco Tower Viewing Deck
- Saigon Riverfront
When you only have one day in Ho Chi Minh City, the top sights to visit are Ho Chi Minh Square, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, the War Remnants Museum, and the Independence Palace. The simplest way to visit the top sights if you’re limited in time is to take a guided full-day tour of Ho Chi Minh City*.
Ho Chi Minh Walking Tour Route
This walking tour starts from Ho Chi Minh Square in the centre of Saigon city. There are many places to stay nearby*, ranging from cheap to luxurious. There are also many cafes and restaurants all the way along this walking tour if you want a drink or a bite to eat.
1. Ho Chi Minh Square
Ho Chi Minh Square* is a historic square and rather peaceful area in the middle of the busy city. It’s the main central square of the city and is especially lovely in the evening. One side of the square is dominated by the huge People’s Committee Building, a French colonial city hall from the 1900s. The rest of the square is lined by the grand Rex Hotel* and several upmarket shops and restaurants. There’s also some greenery, fountains and a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the square.
Directions: Head a short distance down Nguyen Hue Street (where you’ll return later) and take the first left to the opera house.
2. Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House* is an iconic building in the French colonial style. Concerts, operas and acrobatics shows still go on here. There’s a very popular Vietnamese Bamboo Circus called the À Ố Show that takes place here several evenings per week. Through acting and acrobatics, it tells the story of how southern Vietnam transitioned from a peaceful backwater to a booming metropolis. Get tickets in advance*.
Directions: Turn left in front of the opera house on Dong Khoi Street.
3. Dong Khoi Street
Dong Khoi Street is a great street to walk down. It’s famous from the novel The Quiet American* by Graham Greene, when it was called the Rue Catinat. Despite the name change, it’s still lined by elegant French buildings, colonial-era hotels such as the Hotel Continental* from the novel, and high-end boutiques. The Hotel Continental is actually the oldest hotel in Vietnam, from 1880, and named after the one in Paris. In both the First Indochina War during the Colonial Period and the later Vietnam War, this hotel was a meeting place for journalists and politicians.
Directions: Continue up the street until you reach the cathedral square.
4. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral* is a wonderful old church built by the French. It looks a very little bit like Notre Dame in Paris, but made from bricks instead of stone. It feels quite large inside, with a high ceiling and nice stained-glass windows. The construction materials for this iconic cathedral were brought over all the way from France!
Directions: To the right is the grand post office building.
5. Central Post Office
The Central Post Office* is in a large, elegant old French colonial building. There are marble floors, high arched ceilings, and it’s still a functioning post office inside! There are also several souvenir shops.
Extension to the History Museum and Jade Emporer Pagoda
If you have the energy, you can extend this walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City by also visiting the History Museum and Jade Emporer Pagoda (see below). Alternatively, you can take a taxi to these sights.
Directions: Turn right up the street past the post office, known as Ho Chi Minh City Book Street. It’s an interesting street to wander along, absolutely full of booksellers. At the end, turn left and left again. Then take the first right to the turtle roundabout. Turn left from here and you’ll reach the museum.
6. War Remnants Museum
Key Information: Open every day 7:30am to 5:30pm. Tickets cost 40,000 VND per person. Spend 1-3 hours here.
The War Remnants Museum (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is one of the top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s well organised and there’s plenty of English, you’ll learn a lot about the Vietnam War. It’s perhaps biased against the Americans, but the museums of many countries tend to be a little biased. There are some rather graphic images which are not suitable for younger children. On the grounds, there are many tanks and planes. Overall, it’s very moving and a must-see when in Ho Chi Minh City.
Directions: Head to the large park area of the Independence Palace and left to reach the entrance.
More Optional Sights to Visit in Saigon
If you aren’t too pressed for time, you should also check out a large pagoda complex, a lovely park and an interesting Hindu temple:
Xa Loi Pagoda is a Buddhist Temple with a tall pagoda, temples and several large statues within a peaceful complex.
Tao Dan Park is a pleasant green area with large trees and several interesting sculptures.
Mariamman Hindu Temple is a lovely temple from the 19th century, dedicated to the goddess of weather, Mariamman. You can go inside (take your shoes off) and look around – there are several explanations in English around the walls describing all the little statues.
7. Independence Palace
Key Information: Open 8 am–3:30 pm every day. Tickets are 40,000/10,000 or 65,000/15,000 VND per adult/child without or with the additional exhibition. Optional audio guide. Spend 1.5-3 hours here.
The Independence Palace (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is a large palace complex. There are often also exhibitions on the grounds to do with Vietnamese independence and history – ask where they are as they can be difficult to find. You may be too tired after walking around the large palace to cope with visiting the exhibition as well.
Within the palace, there are several floors, from the underground bunkers to a lavish bar-type area on the top floor. It’s generally quite 60’s inside, so a bit of a time warp, and some rooms are very over the top. There are information boards to read in every room, but get the audio guide if you want additional information.
Directions: Head to the exit and turn right. The food market is on your left.
8. Ben Nghe Street Food Market
As its name suggests, Ben Nghe Street Food Market* is a market selling street food. It’s quite small but there’s a wide variety of choice. Although not the most authentic market and slightly overpriced, the food’s good, it’s clean and there are cooling ceiling fans.
Directions: Continue down the road and at the second junction you’ll see the museum complex on your left.
9. Ho Chi Minh City Museum
Key Information: Open Tue-Sun, 8-11:30am and 1-5:30pm. Tickets are 30,000VND per person.
The Ho Chi Minh City Museum (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is in a nice neoclassical building, but the exhibits are a bit random and not too informative with a few highlights as exceptions. There is a fun bunker – it’s slightly hard to find but just keep heading downwards! The similarly named History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, near the Botanic Gardens and Zoo, is much better.
Directions: Turn right, left and right again to wind your way through the streets to the bustling market.
10. Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market* is a huge market in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City selling a wide variety of goods. You can buy food, souvenirs, clothes and coffee, and much more in between. It can be busy, and you might get slightly pestered to buy stuff. Haggling is expected.
Directions: Head towards the large Le Loi Boulevard and continue to the large pedestrianised street.
11. Nguyen Hue Walking Street
Nguyen Hue Walking Street is a broad street with a narrow park running its length. It’s pedestrianized, so a great street to walk down. Iconic skyscrapers and posh shops line the street, but nighttime is when it really comes alive with the city lights and street food stands.
Directions: As you walk down the street, you can’t miss the iconic Bitexco Tower on the right. Head here for great views over the city.
12. Bitexco Tower Viewing Deck
Key Information: Open every day 09:30-21:30.
From the top of the striking Bitexco Financial Tower, you have great views over the entire city of Saigon. Get tickets to the viewing deck! You can see all the new skyscrapers, as well as the older buildings such as the opera house and the river. Don’t go on hazy days, the best time of day to visit is when the sunsets around 5-6 pm and all the city lights come on.
Directions: Head back to the main street and to the waterfront.
13. Saigon Riverfront
Take a leisurely stroll along the Saigon River promenade and enjoy the city’s skyline. You can also take a boat cruise from here, particularly popular are the evening boat cruises with dinner*.
Further Afield Attractions in Saigon
These sights in Ho Chi Minh City are slightly further from the centre. You can walk to the first two, but to get to Giac Lam Pagoda or Cholon you’ll need to take a taxi or catch a bus.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
The Jade Emperor Pagoda* is one of the most significant temples in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a Taoist temple built in 1909 to honour the supreme Taoist god, i.e. the Jade Emperor. Inside there are slightly eerie large paper mache statues, lots of incense, Buddhist elements, lots of colour and lovely architecture.
History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
Key Information: Open Tue-Sun, 8-11:30am and 1-5:30pm. Tickets are 30,000VND per person.
The Vietnamese National Museum of History (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is a well-laid-out museum where you can learn about the history of the country. It goes from the Bronze Age, through the Nguyen dynasty and almost up to the present day. There are many artefacts, sculptures and helpful English explanations which really bring history to life. Watch out for the opening times – they do make you leave at 11:30am before reopening again at 1pm.
Giac Lam Pagoda
Giac Lam Pagoda* is the largest and one of the oldest pagodas in Saigon. In the large, peaceful complex you’ll find elaborate tombs, huge rare trees and other religious buildings and statues.
Cholon is the Chinatown District of Ho Chi Minh City and the largest Chinatown in Vietnam. Read our separate article to discover the culture and many temples on a Walking Tour of Cholon.
Best Day Trips from Ho Chi Minh City
The two best day trips from Ho Chi Minh City are to explore the Mekong Delta* or visit the Cu Chi Tunnels*. These places can be visited independently, but it’s much easier and saves time to visit on a guided tour. If you are pressed for time, you can take a one-day tour that explores both the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels*.
The Mekong Delta is about two-hour’s drive away but has a completely different atmosphere. It’s very rural, and famous for its watery world of floating markets, rice paddies and rivers. The Cu Chi Tunnels are closer, one hour away, and are a section of interconnecting tunnels built by the Viet Cong during the Vietnamese War to shelter from and evade the Americans. On the tour, you can explore the tunnels, though some are not for the claustrophobic!
Best Evening Activities in Ho Chi Minh City
There are plenty of things to do in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City, from theatre to pubs and clubs, to viewing decks and river cruises.
- Check out the À Ố Show*, a very popular Vietnamese Bamboo Circus. Through acting and acrobatics, it tells the story of how southern Vietnam transitioned from a peaceful backwater to a booming metropolis.
- See the Golden Water Puppet Show*. Water Puppets are a traditional form of Vietnamese theatre, and this show is both informative and entertaining. The show is every evening at 6:30pm and lasts around 45 minutes.
- An Evening Street Food Tour* is a great way to sample the local cuisine. Alternatively, head to Ben Nghe Street Food Market, which is open till 1am.
- Bitexco Tower Viewing Deck* is an iconic skyscraper and sunset is the best time to visit the viewing deck for great views.
- Landmark 81 is the newest, tallest skyscraper in town, though it’s slightly out of the town centre. It’s designed to look a bit like a stick of bamboo, with fabulous views from the top. Get tickets to the sky deck!*
- Saigon River Dinner Cruise*: Cruise along the Saigon River for a few hours, past the lit-up waterfront, while enjoying a 3,4, or 5-course meal.
- Hit Pham Ngo Lao and Bui Vien Backpacker Streets are the top nightspots in Ho Chi Minh City, with bars and nightclubs blasting out music of all kinds. Warning – it’s loud!
- For a calmer, perhaps more sophisticated night, head to Nguyen Hue walking street. Here you’ll find fancy rooftop bars, stylish cafes and plenty of street food. The street is closed to traffic at nighttime on weekends. You’ll find many street food stalls and even live music performances.
Guidebooks to explore more of Vietnam
After the Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour, explore the historic suburb of Cholon, or why not visit Hanoi, Ninh Binh, or the Imperial City of Hue? For other city tours, hikes and bike rides in Vietnam, see our Vietnam page.
Useful things for a holiday in Vietnam
- Travel Insurance: we use SafetyWing*, it’s simple to buy online and they have a downloadable letter proving you have travel insurance which includes Covid-related issues
- Travel Debit Card: we have Wise Cards* which allow you to cheaply convert most currencies into Vietnamese Dong. You can then pay by card within the country for no extra fees, or withdraw cash from an ATM.
- We booked train travel in Vietnam through 12GoAsia*. They charge a few extra dollars in commission, but to book directly on the official website you must have a Vietnamese credit card.
FAQS – Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour
The main attractions of Ho Chi Minh City are Ho Chi Minh Square, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, the War Remnants Museum, and the Independence Palace.
You should spend at least two days in Ho Chi Minh City to see the main sights and experience the bustling lanes and culture of the city. If you want to visit the sights in-depth, look around the museums, and go on a day trip, allow at least 4 days to explore Ho Chi Minh City.