While we may strongly suggest you do a food tour in Saigon and you can read all the reasons here, you can comfortably cover six primary tourist spots in Ho Chi Minh City on foot within a short span of time. The city is divided within many districts and the main district 1 holds the key to all of these destinations and cuts down the hassle of transport. Prepare to brave the weather with adequate supply of water and sunscreen and you’re good to go!
On an average this entire DIY walking tour should take you about 6 hours give and take depending upon the number of stops you take and the crowd you encounter. We strongly suggest getting an early start as most places are open from 7:30AM. The longer you wait, the more crowded and hotter it gets. Try following this sequence to make the most of your time as each of these spots are lined along one another.
1) War remnants museum
Once known as the Chinese and American war crimes museum, this eye-opening premise laden with artefacts, pictures, documentaries and tanks opened its doors for the public in 1975 for the first time. And since then hundreds of tourists visit the museum daily to understand the impact of war in shaping modern Vietnam. After entering the grounds, you must pick up the guide present at the entrance which will guide you through the vast museum with the order of rooms you must visit. Starting right from the French invasions down to their independence, every little detail is on display including the horrors of war. Once you finish with the museum don’t forget to cover the authentic military equipment outside including tanks and fighter planes.
Entry ticket: 15,000 VND per person
Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Timing: 7:30AM – 6PM
2) Independence Palace
Once the base of a Vietnamese General, the Reunification Palace stands tall as a historic landmark of Vietnam’s independence. The two tanks used in re-establishing control and capturing the palace remains on the grounds. The five-storey palace has everything right from lavish rooms to lush garden. Built by the French, this monumental building is still used to host some important functions. You can browse through the bunk rooms, antique furniture and even secret rooms to get an insight into the war.
Entry ticket: 40,000 VND per person
Address: 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Timing: 7:30AM – 4PM
3) Notre Dame Cathedral
Once you finish the two important historic museums, you can take a break at one of the many cafes along this stretch before moving on! After grabbing a quick coffee, we stepped right ahead to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Since it was under renovation, we were unable to enter inside and were only able to admire the beauty from outside. Built in the 1880s by the French, this church too is a prominent feature of French architecture and influence in Saigon.
Address: 01 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
4) Saigon Central Post Office
Just along the Notre Dame Cathedral is the beautiful and elegant Saigon Central Post office. The yellow walled building featuring colonial architecture and the ornate details along the bright building. The interior of the building is stunning with high domed ceiling and a beautifully patterned tile floor. The post office also houses painted maps of Vietnam. After buying a couple of postcards here we decided to send one home. While there is no entrance fee to stroll around the Saigon Central Post Office there are varying charges for buying and sending parcels including post cards.
Address: 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 710009, Vietnam
Timing: Opens at 7AM – 7PM
5) Saigon Opera House
Also known as the Municipal Theatre, the Saigon Opera House is another well maintained piece of colonial architecture which is worth marvelling. You could catch a show here, but we decided to skip to walk around and explore more! You’ll find details of the shows and timing where you can even book online, check it out here. Unless you are watching a show, you cannot enter inside but we enjoyed the view from outside and honestly didn’t feel like we were missing out!
Address: 7 Lam Son Square, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
6) Ho Chi Minh City Hall
The last stop in this DIY walking tour is the Ho Chi Minh City Hall which is another beauty by the day. It is even more stunning at night with all the lighting. All along the hall are streets full of cafes, restaurants and boutique where you can retire after the long day of walking. The pastel building is extremely photogenic but be careful of the swarming traffic when you stop to click pictures. In front of the building you’ll find an iconic statue of Vietnamese hero Ho Chi Minh himself teaching a child.
Address: 86 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
While walking along each and every one of these Vietnamese monuments we felt like we were transported in some European town with delicate and well-preserved building laced with beautiful cafes and open restaurants making for the perfect breaks in the middle. We avoided the entire hassle of getting cabs or even getting a tour guide as most of the monuments offered self-explanatory pamphlets in English while the rest of the monuments didn’t require much introductions. You could also end with Ben Than Market which too is in the vicinity with an array of dishes and food that you must try! We highly recommend making the time for this DIY tour while in Saigon as it gives you a better understanding of Vietnamese history and culture.