Best Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City - PARKROYAL Saigon

Saigon Holidays: Top Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh City

What are the best non-touristy things to do in Ho Chi Minh City—better known to some travellers as Saigon?


There are so many ways to experience this exuberant Vietnamese city, where a young population keeps the energy flowing around the clock. 

Culture buffs can admire French colonial architecture, while shopaholics will love meandering through markets. For foodies, local foods such as banh xeo (crispy rice pancakes) and bun cha (noodles with grilled pork) will prove immensely satisfying. Urbanites too can live it up, as Ho Chi Minh City now boasts its own cafe and restaurant culture, as well as a lively nightlife scene.

Need help to navigate Vietnam’s bustling southern city as a first-time traveller? Below are the top 20 things that you can do in Ho Chi Minh City, as recommended by the PARKROYAL Saigon team. On the list are:

  1. The best places to take Saigon photos
  2. Saigon’s best historic sites
  3. The most interesting Saigon local tours
  4. The top places to eat and drink in Saigon

For guests at PARKROYAL Saigon, our hotel offers comfort and convenience, with easy access to renowned Saigon places of interest such as the Ben Thanh Market and the Reunification Palace. We look forward to welcoming you to Saigon!


The Best Places to Take Saigon Photos

Start your Saigon sojourn with our guide to the best spots to take memorable and breathtaking holiday photos.


Celebrate Greatness at the Saigon Central Post Office


Some believe this is the grandest post office in Southeast Asia, and they could well be right. Local guides and internet websites have mistakenly credited the Saigon Central Post Office’s design to Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower fame), but the building’s design was actually the final work of Saigon’s first chief architect, fellow Frenchman Marie-Alfred Foulhoux. Responsible for designing civic buildings in Saigon during the late 19th century, Foulhoux’s artistic swansong was also regarded as his finest. With its classically elegant yellow facade and window plaques bearing the name of philosophers and scientists such as Descartes, Morse, and Ampere, the Saigon Central Post Office was intended to represent the human potential for stunning achievement.


Marvel at an Architectural Icon


Just across from the Saigon Central Post Office sits the regal Notre Dame Cathedral, another iconic structure built during the French colonial occupation of Vietnam. The cathedral’s walls were constructed using bricks imported from the French port city of Marseilles. These precious walls, along with the cathedral’s bell towers, are trademarks of the neo-Romanesque style of architecture that became popular in the mid-19th century. The cathedral is currently undergoing extensive restoration work, targeted for completion in 2023. You can still explore the grounds in the meantime, and challenge yourself to capture a unique shot for posterity.


Snap a Pink Selfie at the Tan Dinh Church


A pink church is a rare sight to behold, which is why you should visit the Tan Dinh Church. The iconic Roman Catholic church was built during the French colonial period in the 1870s, likely with a much more sedate exterior. It was only in the late 1950s that the church was given its distinctive pink look—today, the religious monument has become a hotspot for Instagram photo hunters.


Take Snapshots of Daily Life in Cho Lon


Looking to observe everyday life in Saigon? Head to Cho Lon, which spans three districts in Saigon and is said to be the world's largest Chinatown. Here, you'll find crowded alleys and markets that are bursting with local flavour—residents in traditional garb going about their day, ethnic Chinese street foods, and makeshift stalls jostling for space to display everyday items and curios. Begin at the lively (and very local) Binh Tay Market, which is usually the first stop for visitors to Cho Lon. If you’re shopping for souvenirs, head to the Ben Thanh Market, which has more tourist-friendly items and is a great place for shopping in Ho Chi Minh City.


Have a Blast at the Suoi Tien Theme Park


This amusement park promises thrills and spills—bring along a swimsuit—served up with a splash of Vietnamese culture and Buddhist mythology. Here, you can even experience a journey through Buddhist hell.! Despite the occasionally grim reminder about morality and the afterlife, the Suoi Tien Theme Park is the perfect place to capture smiles in Saigon. For keepsake photos, choose from a variety of whimsical backdrops, including a man-made mountain bearing the head of an ancient emperor, or a serene Buddha statue perched atop a brightly coloured globe. 

Get directions to Saigon Central Post Office

Get directions to Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon

Get directions to Tan Dinh Church

Get directions to Cho Lon

Get directions to Suoi Tien Theme Park


Saigon’s Best Historic Sights


For much of his life, North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh fought passionately for Vietnamese independence and unity, through the country’s bitter struggles with France and the US. Affectionately known as Uncle Ho, he also served as president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1945 until his death in 1969. You can pay your respects to this national icon at the Ho Chi Minh City Hall, which was renamed in his honour in 1975. As entry to the building is prohibited, photos of the impressive building should be captured at the neighbouring Union Square, which provides a better vantage point. Across the road, a park sculpture of Ho Chi Minh with a small child marks a popular gathering spot.


Travel Back in Time at the Reunification Palace


It’s been hailed as a time capsule of the moment when the Vietnam War was officially declared over. In 1975, a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through the gates of the Reunification Palace (formerly known as the “Independence Palace”)—an event that signalled the capture of Saigon by North Vietnamese forces. The US was forced to withdraw from Vietnam then, and this kickstarted the process of reunifying a divided nation under communist rule. Purchase an admission ticket at the palace’s main entrance, and you can explore its sprawling and intriguing compound. Highlights include secret rooms with retro telecommunication devices, basement tunnels, a casino, and a rooftop heliport.


View Military Relics at the War Remnants Museum


The War Remnants Museum is not for the faint-hearted, as it depicts the horrific tale of the My Lai Massacre, during which Vietnamese civilians were tortured and slain by the US army. On display too are US military vehicles and weapons, some of which have been installed as artefacts around the museum’s garden. The museum was once named "The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government," and time has done little to ease its pain.


Experience High Culture at the Saigon Opera House


Designed by distinguished French architects, the regal Saigon Opera House dates back to 1897. Its facade is a more modest version of the Petit Palais art museum in Paris, which was built in the same year. Today, the Saigon Opera House is a popular venue for high-profile events and cultural performances. The best way to experience the grandeur of this building is to buy a ticket to a “live” musical or performance.


Crawl Through the Evocative Cu Chi Tunnels

It will take a 1.5-hour drive from the city to reach the Cu Chi Tunnels, but this is a day trip not to be missed. During the Vietnam War (1955–1975), Communist guerrilla troops known as the Viet Cong needed innovative ways to evade the American and South Vietnamese forces that they were up against. Beneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, the Viet Cong developed an extensive network of tunnels used for housing troops, transporting communications and supplies, and laying booby traps for the enemy. These tunnels even grew to house the populations of entire villages, with built-in kitchens, schools, theatres, and hospitals! Get a taste of what life was like during those trying times, and be awed by the grit and ingenuity of the Vietnamese. Check with your hotel concierge to arrange transport or a guided tour to the tunnels.

Get directions to Ho Chi Minh City Hall (People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City)

Get directions to Reunification Palace (Independence Palace)

Get directions to War Remnants Museum

Get directions to Saigon Opera House

Get directions to Cu Chi Tunnels


The Most Interesting Saigon Local Tours

Wish to be guided on your Ho Chi Minh city holiday by an expert? Here are some of our recommendations.



Too busy to plan your own photography trek around Saigon? This Saigon photo tour will take you to Saigon’s best photography spots, including the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, the Mong Bridge (one of the oldest bridges in Saigon), and the Thu Thiem Bridge (a popular spot for sundown shots).


Find the Hidden Treasures of Saigon

To better understand Saigonese culture, join this tour of secret things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. The tour lets you experience local life by taking a public bus to Saigon’s Chinatown, where you can explore a fruit market patronised by locals, and visit a unique wedding accessories market, to discover how the art of romance is conducted in the city. You will also visit a little-known market for creative supplies, frequented by local artists. Along the way, you will get to see many of the area’s iconic architectural structures, and enjoy traditional coffee at a cafe with an interesting history.


Saigon Vegan Food Tour

Vegans: don’t worry about missing out on Saigon’s delicious food culture, as there is a vegan tour specially curated for you! You’ll get to try Vietnamese hot pot, spring rolls, and sweet soup, as well as sample great coffee and local cakes.


Get a Taste of the Night in Saigon


What are the best eats in Saigon by night? Join the “Taste of the Night” tour to discover Saigon’s nocturnal culinary secrets, such as the best places to try Vietnamese noodles, pancakes, barbequed meats, and of course, desserts and drinks.


See the Highlights of Saigon at Night

Need a guide to unveil the highlights of Ho Chi Minh City nightlife? On this “Highlights and Hidden Gems” night tour, you’ll get to admire some of Saigon’s architectural icons by night. Your guide will take you to a hip cafe, as well as some of the liveliest streets in the city centre, including a backpacker street where the fun never stops! 


Book a tour with Saigon Photo Tour

Book a tour with The Hidden Treasures of Ho Chi Minh City

Book a tour with Saigon Vegan Food Tour

Book a tour with Taste of the Night

Book a tour with Highlights & Hidden Gems of Ho Chi Minh City at Night


The Top Places to Eat and Drink in Saigon

Looking for the best cafes, eateries, restaurants, and bars in Saigon? These places come highly recommended.



A crunchy baguette stuffed with layers of luncheon meat, and topped with mayonnaise and herbs—this is banh mi, the local Vietnamese sandwich. Banh Mi Huynh Hoa is one of the more expensive sandwich shops in Saigon, but it’s said to serve the best sandwiches in the city, and continues to draw crowds day and night.


Have Traditional Coffee All Day and Night

A quintessentially local coffee shop, the “racket coffee shop” (listed on Google by its Vietnamese name, Cà Phê Vợt) has been operating for over 50 years with a simple set-up consisting of a trolley and a smattering of plastic chairs and tables along an alley. What’s special here is the way that coffee is filtered with a racket, instead of a conventional filter. This method is thought to create a stronger and more fragrant brew. What’s more, you can enjoy your coffee at any time, as they are open 24/7!


Choose your Favourite Cafe at the Cafe Apartment


If you fancy variety, you’ll love the collection of coffee shops in this historic apartment. Each cafe at The Cafe Apartment has its own unique decor, and a balcony overlooking Walking Street, downtown Saigon, and the Saigon River. Wander from floor to floor, up the spiral stone staircase and along the tiled corridors, and duck into any cafe that catches your fancy. Trendy and fuelled by the spirit of Vietnamese youth, this is one of the best places in Saigon to get your caffeine fix.


Chill Out at the Shri Restaurant & Lounge

Wondering where to relax in Ho Chi Minh City? The Shri Restaurant & Lounge at Centec Tower overlooks some of Ho Chi Minh City’s top attractions, such as the Reunification Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s the place to hold a business dinner or enjoy a quiet night out with friends and loved ones, while taking in the lovely evening view.


Dine at one of Saigon’s Most Exciting Restaurants

Yes, there are celebrity chefs in Saigon! One notable personality is Peter Cuong Franklin, who was born in Vietnam, raised in America, and has won numerous awards while working in prestigious restaurants—as well as running his own. Franklin has returned to his birth country to set up Anan (which means “eat eat” in Vietnamese), specialising in street food-inspired dishes. There’s also a sister bar in the same building named “Nhau Nhau,” which means “drink drink,” where you can adjourn to for post-dinner drinks.


Get directions to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa

Get directions to The Racket Coffee Shop

Get directions to The Cafe Apartment

Get directions to Shri Restaurant & Lounge

Get directions to Anan Saigon



Welcome to Saigon! Need more travel advice for your trip to Ho Chi Minh City? Read our Destination Insights, or view our room offers at PARKROYAL Saigon. You can also send us an enquiry, and we’ll be in touch soon!


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