Vietnam

What to do in Ho Chi Minh City Over 3 Days

Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko Ntombela

November 29, 2019

If you’re thinking of teaching English in Vietnam, there’s a big chance you could be placed in its capital – Ho Chi Minh City! Some of the main tourist attractions including the War Remnants Museum and Ben Duc Tunnels will not be in the blog as we visit them during the cultural orientation week of our TEFL course in Vietnam.

Below we’ll be looking at all the exciting things you can do in Ho Chi Minh over 3 days.

Interested in teaching English in Vietnam? We’ll send you more info!

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Day one

Skydeck View

Bitexco Financial towers - Ho Chi Minh City

Was the tallest building in Vietnam until 2011 when it was surpassed by the Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower.

The Bitexco Financial building is the tallest tower in the whole of Ho Chi Minh City and the view you get of the city from up there is absolutely breathtaking. Although not much of a culture stop, it’s one way to get to see Saigon in its entirety! Ho Chi Minh is a relatively flat city, so when you’re at the top of the Skydeck you get an unrivaled 360-degree view of the city. Five of the 68 floors have been converted into shops and restaurants, with the main attraction being the Sky Deck where visitors can enjoy dramatic views across the bustling city below.

Opening Hours: The Sky Deck is open daily from 09:30-21:30

Fee: $10 (at the date of publication) You pay to use one of it’s 16 elevators which can get you to any floor with 35 seconds.

Tao Đàn Park

Tao Dan Park - Ho Chi Minh City

A majestic park in the middle of Ho Chi Minh that’s filled people jogging, meditating and relaxing at any given time.

Tao Dan Park, built over a century ago by the French, is arguably the city’s most attractive green space with its 10 hectares of bench-filled walkways and stunning tropical trees. The best time to visit the park is in the early morning or late afternoons when the city-folk flock in to exercise and meditate. Another common scene here is the elderly birdwatchers who come out in their numbers every day.

When to go: Early mornings to catch the early-risers doing their exercises and meditation. Another time popular among locals is the evening where you can catch a lot of people doing their martial arts classes.

Take a stroll on Bui Vien

Bui Vien street - Ho Chi Minh City

The mecca for backpacker lovers in Vietnam.

During the day this street is just a mere 10-minute walk through ordinary infrastructure that houses bars, weird massage parlors, hostels, hotels, karaoke bars, and travel agencies. As the sun starts to set, this place turns into a frenzy of organized chaos. You can expect to see many shops hiding behind metal gates, tourists sitting in tiny plastic chairs and party-goers looking for their next bar. Be sure to keep your phones and cameras safe as this also a hotspot for Vietnam petty crime.

Top spots: Minh Ahn Art Gallery, Rocky Spa, Thi Bar Sagon & Republic Club.

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market - Ho Chi Minh City Guide

After a long day exploring Ho Chi Minh, everybody needs a bit of food and where better to get this than a street food market? This market is a very popular market among locals and tourists looking for delicious street food and a bargain for fresh goods.

Honorable mention: A popular eating spot among tourists is The Lunch Lady (Nguyen Thi Thanh) where Anthony Bourdain ate on one of his many visits to Vietnam – not exactly at Ben Thanh, but worth hopping on a Grab Bike and checking it out!

Day Two

Day trip to Vũng Tàu

Vung Tau - Ho Chi Minh City

Vung Tau is a stunning coastal city, southeast of Ho Chi Minh, about 3 hours ways from the former South Vietnamese capital. This town used to be a french-colonial town, it now has a reputation for being a getaway resort town for those residing in or visiting Ho Chi Minh City. The town has an incredible peninsula, surrounded by ocean on three sides, it’s everything you can possibly want in a seaside resort town.

Tips to getting there: There are a few ways to getting to this stunning beach town, including renting a motorbike and taking a luxury bus, but the best and fastest is undoubtedly taking a ferry. You can find many ferry tours online and they usually leave every hour starting from 8 am to 4 pm. Costs vary depending on the type of ferry.

Saigon’s Incredible Cafe Apartment

Cafe Apartment - Ho Chi Minh City

A building that has been converted into cafes, a must-see for all visiting Ho Chi Minh.

This is one of the most fascinating places in the city. A definite highlight for anyone visiting. One thing that you will notice when walking around Ho Chi Minh is the coffee shop culture, there’s literally one on every corner. Cafe Apartment is an old building where each apartment has been converted into a cafe or shop. What makes this place so special is that you can never see all the cafes in a single visit, so you can come back multiple times during your stay in the city and check out all the different shops which each possess a unique and authentic atmosphere for all coffee lovers.

Places not to miss: There are well over 30 businesses in the building as well as apartments for longtime residents, we’ve chosen a couple of spots that we would recommend: Chickbae21, The Maker, Naunau D.I.Y Studio and Partea.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

Notre Dame Bascilla - Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica was constructed from 1863-1880 during the French colonial occupation of Vietnam.

New tourists from all over the world flock to come to see this colonial grandeur that is the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica in Ho Chi Minh City. In between the thousands of tourists marveling at this iconic site, you will find locals selling crafts and treats to keep you entertained. Irrespective of the time you choose to visit the site, its beauty and magnificence shine through from dawn to sunset, and at night the yellow lights give its red-brick facade a glow that any iconic church would be proud of.

Weekday Mass: 5.30 AM and 5.30 PM.

There are 7 Masses every Sunday, including 5.30 AM; 6.45 AM; 8 AM; 9.30 AM; 4.00 PM; 5.30 PM; as well as 6.30 PM. Particularly, the Sunday Mass which takes place at 9.30 AM is in English.

Motorbike Tour

Riding a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City

Riding a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City is one way of filing your adrenaline hunger.

Something different to freshen your mind and really get your adrenaline flowing on a high is to get on two wheels. Vietnam is known as a motorbike nation, even though there’s been an influx of new cars, there’s still no better way of experiencing the organized chaos of the Ho Chi Minh City than on a motorbike.

If it’s your first time, there are hundreds of English speaking motorbike tours that take you around the city for relatively cheap. Riding a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh is not for the faint-hearted, as the western road rules we are accustomed to, do not apply here. So until you’re familiar with the flow of traffic, we suggest letting the pros do it for you.

Best tour agencies: Vietnam Vespa Adventures, Onetrip, and XO Tours ( the first all-female motorbike tour company in Vietnam.)

Day Three

Giac Lam Pagoda

Giac Lam Pagoda - HO Chi Minh City

About 3km from the city center, Giac Lam Pagoda is best reached by taxi or xe om (motorbike taxi).

Believed by many to be the oldest temple in HCMC, built in 1744, Giac Lam is a majestic temple set in peaceful, garden-like grounds just outside the city. The temple itself is a minor pilgrimage site for those that are sick and of old age, as it houses a bronze bell, that when rung, is believed to answer the prayers of those who’ve made the journey to it.

Prayer times: 4am to 5am, 10am to noon, 4pm to 5pm and 7pm to 9 pm.

Cholon – Saigon’s Chinatown

Cholon - Ho chi minh city's Chinatown

Cholon used to be a city in itself until it was merged with Saigon in the 1930s.

Most people who visit HCMC will probably stay in the popular areas between district 1 and 3, and that’s understandable, but if you have enough time be sure to checkout Cholon in district 5. Cholon is not like many Chinatowns around the world, it’s nothing like Bangkok’s Chinatown for instance, where as soon as you enter you can see the massive sign in Chinese and this goes on throughout the whole town. In Cholon, you’re not quite sure where it starts or where it ends, many of it’s monuments and iconic sites are spread out by quite a far distance. The best way to explore this district is to take half a day to really see all the interesting places it has to offer.

Popular sites: Joan of Arc Church, Ha Chuong Hoi Quan Pagoda and Chua On Lang.

Nguyen Hue Walking street

There is no street that captures the essence of Vietnam more than this one, ultra-modern skyscrapers stand side by side with French-colonial buildings in the most authentic way. When you walk down this mega street, you can see the past, the present and the future all mixed into one breathtaking aura of peace and excitement. You can expect to see families enjoying themselves, young couples chatting away and almost all of them are taking selfies.

Popular spots: Bitexco Tower, the wall of cafes at 42 Nguyen Hue, the statue of Ho Chi Minh and the old colonial city hall.

Wine & dine along the Saigon River

Dining along the Saigon River

A perfect way to spend your evening eating delicious food and marveling at the majestic Saigon river.

One of the things you’ll notice by your third day in this city is, during lunchtime, everybody does everything they can to escape the midday sun. It’s scorching and it’ll burn you and leave you rather miserable. That’s why everybody saves everything for dusk when the sun is fading and the sky looks like an Instagram filter. During this time, the best place to head for an unforgettable dining experience is to District 2 in Thao Dein ward, where you can indulge in the finest food while looking over the Saigon river.

Best restaurants: The Deck, The Boathouse and Villa Song Saigon. These will not disappoint!

Interested in teaching English in Vietnam? We’ll send you more info!

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