On our tour around the epicenter of Ho Chi Minh City, where motorbikes whizz by and horns blare in the shadows of high-rises, we’ll dive into 200 years of a still visible, turbulent history – through two major wars and to a thriving present. We’ll visit places where the course of history has been profoundly changed, and look into how international influences have shaped this city. Along the way, we’ll keep an eye on the things that make modern day Ho Chi Minh City tick, and of course, we’ll take care crossing the road!
Sean is a freelance writer, journalist and editor from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. A former student of Queen’s University, Sean is now a part time resident of Belfast, splitting his…Read More Bio »
Avoid the Crowds
Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group
Created by an exceptional travel writer
Written by a travel writer, who lived in Vietnam for six years
Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour
Ben Thanh Market, The Independence Palace and Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica
Remote Tour Included
As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home
Essential Ho Chi Minh City
- Ben Thanh Market - One of the oldest and most famous markets in Ho Chi Minh City makes the perfect start to our tour. Ben Thanh Market, with all its energy, sound and color, sums up the liveliness of this a city that is rich in history and culture, and yet is itching to throw itself into the future. Here we’ll hear about the past and present of a city icon.
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum - This museum now commemorates the country’s 20th century wars against France and the USA. But its history runs much deeper – we’ll hear how the Baroque styled mansion has housed governments, governors and presidents, and is even believed to connect to a secret network of tunnels underneath the city. Since the museum depicts the wars against France and the USA, we’ll take this opportunity to learn a little about Vietnam’s almost perpetual state of occupation, from France’s colonization to America’s invasion.
- The Independence Palace (Reunification Palace) - The one time home of a hugely controversial historical figure -- Ngo Dinh Diem, the former president of South Vietnam. We’ll learn of how the infamous leader led the south, and survived numerous assassination attempts before finally meeting a sticky end in 1963. As well as being a wonderfully preserved masterpiece of Modernist Architecture, the Reunification Palace is the place where in 1975, the 20 year long Vietnam War came to a dramatic conclusion.
- Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica - The Home of Christianity in Ho Chi Minh City. While we associate Vietnam with Buddhism, Catholics make up around 7% of the population, and the church has had an influential role in Vietnam’s history. We’ll learn of how Catholicism spread in Vietnam, and led to the construction of this magnificent cathedral. We’ll also hear of a so-called “miracle” that occurred here in 2005.
- Central Post Office - Another visible reminder of France’s colonization of Vietnam, the Central Post Office is arguably the grandest and most impressive of its kind in Southeast Asia.
- The Pittman Apartment Building & the Catinat Building - From our spot on the pavement outside the Vincom Center Shopping Mall, we can see the rooftop from where the last US helicopter left Vietnam upon the fall of Saigon in 1975. We’ll hear more about the fall of Saigon, and the rush to rescue as many people as possible from the tiny rooftop. We’ll also point out the Catinat Building, one of a small number of well known “café apartment buildings” in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. In blocks such as this, young entrepreneurs have embraced the vintage aesthetic as opened up chic boutiques and cafes.
- Saigon Opera House, The Hotel Continental & The Hotel Caravelle - Just like the Post Office and the Cathedral, The Ho Chi Minh City Municipal Theater is yet another example of the French attempt to turn Saigon into a “Petit Paris”. We’ll hear how the opera house came into being, and how it’s still thriving to this day in the hands of the Vietnamese. The Hotels Continental and Caravelle, located on either side of the Opera House, are two of the most well-documented and historically rich hotels in Vietnam. We’ll hear tales of how military officials, spies, and journalists drank cocktails and smoked cigars in the hotel bars during the war years, while trading information every evening during the war years
- Nguyen Hue Walking Street - Since a remodeling in 2015, Nguyen Hue has given Ho Chi Minh City a certified “City Centre”. Running from the breezy banks of the Saigon River up to City Hall, we’ll point out some of the highlights, including Ho Chi Minh’s statue, Bitexco Tower and another café apartment block – the most famous of them all. We’ll end out tour off by learning all about the incredible life of Ho Chi Minh, the grandfather figure of modern day Vietnam.