Dubbed as the Pearl of the Orient, Ho Chi Minh City, or more popularly called by its former name Saigon, is not only Vietnam’s biggest center of economy, education, science, and technology, but also one of the best tourist destinations that keeps the country’s ancient culture and traditions alive in every corner.
Located in southeastern Vietnam, this populous metropolis covers a large area of about 2,061 square kilometres (796 square miles) and surrounds the Saigon River, making it a bustling commercial and passenger port, typically for Mekong River Cruises. Most cruises, from deluxe to luxury vessels, from private to multi-cabin ships, occupy the city as an important port of call in the cruising route among various destinations in Southern Vietnam and Cambodia, including Cai Be, Can Tho, the Mekong Delta, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Visitors can choose to either enjoy a sightseeing day trip in Saigon or expand to a multi-day tour around the city’s famous neighborhoods, both are great ideas.
As Vietnam’s second most visited city, Saigon boasts a multitude of timeless tourist attractions and captivating travel experiences that cater to every visitor’s desire. If you are history buffs, a variety of historical spots related to periods of French colonization and the Vietnam War will surely make you fancy when in the city. Among the most popular sites are the Reunification Palace, Municipal Theatre (also known as the Opera House), City Post Office, and City Hall, mainly situated in District 1 within a short distance from each other. While the Reunification Palace is a must-visit place for those wanting to see how the formerly South Vietnam's Presidential Palace looks like, the Saigon Central Post Office is an excellent example of the French colonial style constructed at the end of 19th century by the famous French architect Gustave Eiffel. Not far from this prominent feature lies one of the symbolic landmarks of Saigon, the Notre Dame Cathedral. Built between 1863 and 1880, this magnificent structure is best known for its neo-Romanesque style architecture, which attracts large numbers of tourists to visit and makes it an unbeatable photogenic attraction in the city center. Another option to satisfy your curiousness is various museums scattered throughout the area, including the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, the War Remnants Museum, Revolutionary Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History, and the Museum of south-eastern Armed Forces. For visitors who want to avoid the crowds of tourists in the busy center, the impressive Cu Chi tunnels in north-west of the city makes for a perfect day tour with plenty of outside activities like crawling through the narrow routes of the underground tunnel or experience a shooting range.
At the first sight, Saigon delivers an impression of a vibrant and dynamic megacity, yet a whirlwind exploration will give you an insightful glimpse on the city’s intriguing mixture of modern and traditional elements that co-exists in an incredible harmony. It’s very easy to encounter some faded, ancient colonial buildings juxtaposed with modern skyscrapers. Any visitors to Ho Chi Minh City are recommended to pay a visit to numerous Chinese style pagodas and cultural spots, such as Thien Hau Pagoda - a place dedicated to Lady Thien Hau, the sea goddess, the enchanting China Town or Ben Thanh Market - one of the most recognizable images of the city as well as an ideal place to witness the local life.
Last but not less, for those traveling with family, Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Dam Sen Tourist and Cultural Park, Suoi Tien Amusement and Culture Park, and Can Gio Mangrove Reserve are unrivaled options for fun-filled day trips with kids. For backpacking travelers, the "Backpackers’ Quarter" on Pham Ngu Lao Street and Bui Vien Street in District 1 are busy every night with a series of local and western bars and cafes. Meanwhile, foodies can easily sample a ton of delicacies from Vietnamese regional specialties to international cuisine inside a marketplace, on street’s sidewalk around open-air kitchens or hidden alleys’ eateries.