6 Iconic Historic Sites to Visit in Saigon

Historical Sites of Saigon

Famously known as Saigon in the past, Ho Chi Minh City is one of Indochina’s most energetic metropolises.

Considered Vietnam’s largest city with its population of 14 million people, modern-day Ho Chi Minh City is a lively dance of regal colonial French buildings, chaotic traffic, bustling markets, and mouth-watering food stalls offering pho (beef noodles in soup), bánh mì (baguette sandwich flavoured with pickles and sausage), and plenty more street eats.

Uncover the city’s dramatic and convoluted history by exploring these historic and sacred landmarks of Saigon.

1. Relive Wartime Intrigue at The Independence Palace

Address
135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam                                               
Phone Number +84 8 3822 3652
Opening Hours 8:00am to 11:00am, 1:00pm to 4:00pm daily                                                                      

Formerly known as Independence Palace, Reunification Palace (Dinh Độc Lập) is characterised by two of the original North Vietnamese tanks which stormed its gates during the Vietnam War.

Made famous in 1975 press photos at the end of the Vietnam War, it was once the site of Norodom Palace (Palais Norodom) where the former French Governor of Cochinchina lived and worked before it was taken by the North Vietnamese.

With a VND40,000 admission ticket purchasable at the main entrance, you can explore the palace’s sprawling and intriguing compound. Venture deep within to uncover secret rooms with retro telecommunication devices, basement tunnels, a casino, and a rooftop heliport.

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2. Experience Military Relics Up Close at the War Remnants Museum

Address
28 Đường Võ Văn Tần, 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (corner of Vo Van Tan St. and Le Quy Don St.)
Phone Number +84 8 3930 5587
Opening Hours 7:30am to noon, 1:30pm to 5:00pm daily                                                    

Learn about the tragedy of the My Lai Massacre at the War Remnants Museum (Bảo tàng chứng tích chiến tranh). Not for the faint-hearted, the unvarnished tale of US military action on civilian Vietnamese victims is documented in graphic photos and videos.

On display too are US military relics, vehicles, and weapons—some of which are planted as life-sized artefacts around the museum’s garden. At various galleries in the museum, once named "The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government", you will come face-to-face with exhibits of weapons used in the Vietnam War, as well as the works of news photographers who lived and died during the tumultuous era.

Captions in English are available, and admission tickets are VND15,000 each.

Get directions to the War Remnants Museum

3. Immerse in High Culture at Saigon Opera House

Address
7 Lam Son Square, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Phone Number +84 8 3823 7419
Opening Hours Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:30pm
Saturday and Sunday, 9:00am to 11:30am

The brainchild of renowned French architect Eugene Ferret, the magnificent Saigon Opera House (or the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater/Nhà hát lớn Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh) dates back to 1898. Close to Ben Thanh market, the structure is resplendent in stone statues and chandelier lighting made with materials imported from faraway France.

Classified as a national relic in 2012, the 3,200,000 sq m theatre in Saigon's District 1 is a popular venue for high-profile events and cultural performances. Its 468-seat auditorium is notable for its clear acoustics—the best way to experience it is to buy a ticket to a live musical or performance.

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 | Buy tickets

4. Encounter Sacred Hindu Deities at Mariamman Temple

Address
45 Truong Đinh, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City                                                                                       
Opening Hours 7.30am to 7.30pm daily

Saigon's only Hindu place of worship, Mariamman Temple was constructed by Indian traders during the late 1800s. Considered sacred by local Vietnamese and Sino-Vietnamese residents, the beautifully ornate temple offers visitors a unique glimpse into the religious life of the Hindu minority in Ho Chi Minh City.

Spot Hindu deities such as Mariamman, Ganesha, and Vishnu on the outer walls, as well as a 12-metre-tall statue of Mariamman in the inner hall. Joss sticks and jasmine garlands are sold at the entrance for those who wish to place offerings while entry to the temple is complimentary. Do remember to leave your footwear outside before entering.

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5. Pay Homage to “Uncle Ho” at Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Address
86 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam                                                                                   
Phone Number +84 8 3829 6052
Opening Hours Interior is not open to the public; viewable from outside

Pay your respects to the founder of modern-day Vietnam at this regal building named in his honour. Completed in 1908, colonial-style Ho Chi Minh City Hall (Trụ sở Ủy ban Nhân dân Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh) was modelled after the original Hôtel de Ville in Paris and renamed Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee Building in 1975.

Lending itself well to day or night photography, its exterior features a 7.2 metre bronze sculpture of Ho Chi Minh installed in 2015. Though entry is prohibited, you can take photos from neighbouring Union Square. Come in the afternoon when the sky is bright blue to provide a nice contrast with the pastel beige exterior of the building. A park sculpture of the national hero with a small child is a popular gathering spot across the road, and you can stop for food or souvenirs in nearby shopping outlets such as Lucky Plaza.

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6. Contemplate the Splendour of Tay Ninh’s Cao Dai Temple

Address
Cao Dai Temple, Ninh Thạnh, Tp. Tây Ninh, Tây Ninh, Vietnam                                                                                       
Phone Number +84 6 6384 1193
Opening Hours 24 hours daily

You’ll never find any religious ceremony quite like that of a Cao Dai (Đạo Cao Đài) temple.

Founded as recently as 1926, active congregations of the unique monotheistic religion born in Vietnam can be found in Tay Ninh. Two hours away from Saigon by car, Tay Ninh is home to a particularly magnificent temple.

Completed in 1955 after the Japanese occupation, the structure hosts noontime worship sessions daily to symbolise the religion's belief in nonviolence, union with God, the salvation of living beings, and universal harmony. Adorned with multi-coloured sculptures and images of saints and dragons, the Tay Ninh temple bears many architectural similarities to Christian churches.

Lay followers of Caodaism pray in long white robes while priests and bishops are bedecked in coloured robes denoting their status. Cao Dai services are held every six hours throughout the day and night, and visitors are requested to dress modestly and watch from the upper galleries.

Get directions to the Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh