When visiting Vietnam you’ll no doubt work your way from north to south, or from the south up to the north. 

As such, Ho Chi Ming City (HCMC) will most likely be either you entry point or exit point from Vietnam.

It’s a great place to get your Vietnamese adventures under way, or equally to go out on a high having explored this South East Asian gem.

I won’t lie, it can be a crazy city at times, but fun all the same.  It’s great for shoppers, foodies, sports fans, plus architecture and history buffs.

Here are my top picks for things to do in HCMC.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ben Thanh Market

Now shopping is not really my thing, but the sheer size of this market has to be seen to be believed, I mean it’s huge, and therefore perfect for getting lost in.

Built in 1870 by the French, the market was initially called Les Halles Centrales before being renamed Ben Thanh Market in 1912.  The chaotic roundabout outside the front of the market is a key indicator of the mass of people who trade within the market each day.  The row upon row of stalls inside are tightly packed together and always crazy busy!

Prices here are generally higher than elsewhere, due to the popularity of the market as a tourist destination, but it’s still well worth exploring and investing in a few last minute memento’s, assuming you’re worked your way through Vietnam from north to south just as I did.

Ben Thanh Market, HCMC

Ben Thanh Market, Saigon

Norte Dame

Haven’t I seen this building somewhere before?  Paris maybe?

Well it may come as no surprise to you that #2 on my list of things to do in Ho Chi Ming City was built as a result of the French conquering Saigon (HCMC).

Officially named as the Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880, and now stands at 60 metres tall. All the materials were directly imported from France like red bricks of the outside walls.  These walls are a favoured backdrop for new wed couples and their wedding photographers.   Look out for the traditional red wedding dresses.

Located outside the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary, which in 2005 is said to have shed tears.  Whilst the miracle was never recognised by the Vatican, it did cause a huge roadblock at the time, with Police unable to clear the streets.

The mass in Vietnamese and English at the Cathedral is usually held on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

notre dame, hcmc

notre dame, saigon

City Park

I love just chilling in city parks.  There’s something about finding a little plot of green in amongst the grey of a concrete jungle.  One such spot exists just a few minutes walk from the craziness of the Ben Thanh markets and it’s moped swamped roundabout.

Công viên is a long, thing stretch of green, and the location for what I would deem my favourite afternoon spent in HCMC.  I’m sure there are other green lands in and around HCMC city which could provide just as good an experience, but I pick Công viên because it is where I first witnessed the insanely skilful sport of Jianzi (foot badminton?), and also spent a good hour or so practising English with some local school children, all of whom were very friendly and keen to improve their language skills. Very admirable.

After work ballers. Impressive skills! #pbvietnam #pbvietnammap #hcmc #saigon

A video posted by Neil Barnes (@packsandbunks) on


Not an activity I’d usually promote when travelling, but hear me out on this one.

HCMC is hot, very hot, too hot for me, especially around midday.  Such was the heat that my girlfriend and I often found ourselves diving into any bar or restaurant with aircon around this time.  Don’t get me wrong, the food and drink in HCMC is delicious (see below), but we weren’t actually hungry or thirsty, we were drinking and eating for the sake of it, simply to stay cool.

But then, the cinema.

At only £3 a ticket, and with movies in English, it just seemed a perfect fit.  I would essentially kill a couple of hours at minimal cos and while allowing us to both build up an appetite and at the same time letting us indulge in what is a predominant hobby for the both of us (we’re Orange Wednesday regulars).

Did I mentioned the seat reclined and had an incredible amount of leg room?

I probably should feel guilty about this recommendation, but I just don’t.  I loved it.

Things to do in Ho Chi Ming City – #3 -Go to the cinema.

Eat and Drink

Now (and only now) that you’ve built up an appetite, it’s time to indulge.

I’ve written previously about all the goodness and sheer joy of chomping on mountains of Vietnamese food.  The food in HCMC certainly contributed to that particular blog post!

There was no one specific food experience or restaurant that I fell for in HCMC, everywhere we ate was good.  The gf and I actually felt like we couldn’t go wrong.  The options were vast, but that said we’d always end up ordering veggy spring rolls to start.  Always!

Tuck in and enjoy!

Things to do in Ho Chi Ming City #5 – EAT!

P.s. apparently a food tour via mopeds is a great experience.  Highly recommended by our non blogging friends who visited in 2015.


beef pho vietnam

Where in the world?

things to do in HCMC / Saigon, Vietnam

Disclaimer:  The opening image used within the blog post was supplied by Vietnam travel experts Insider Journeys.