10 Cool Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh in One Day

From a street market breakfast to drinks at a rooftop bar.

(SPOT.ph) As the capital city of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh has seen a lot of changes over the past few years. From being a war-torn city, it’s quickly transformed into a major commercial hub with tons of high-rise buildings. But it’s also managed to retain some its old-school charm, thanks to the preservation of grand colonial buildings and old temples. 

It’s safe to say that Ho Chi Minh is the perfect blend of new and old. And if you’re someone who’s new to the city, there are plenty of things to do—whether you’re looking to soak up some culture or just enjoy Vietnam’s famous cuisine. 

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Check out the best things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam if you only have one day: 

Grab breakfast at Ben Thanh Market

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Hit the ground running by starting your day in one of Ho Chi Minh’s liveliest areas, Ben Thanh Market. Almost everything can be found here, whether it’s food, clothes, or daily household items.  

Pull up a stool and grab a hearty breakfast at any of the food stalls—you can choose from a bowl of hot herby pho, a plate of com ga or chicken rice, or some bun thit nuong or cold vermicelli noodles topped with grilled pork. Wash your breakfast down with a cup of ca phe sua da or iced coffee with milk! 

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Ben Thanh Market is at Cho, Duong Le Loi, Phuong Ben Thanh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Get artsy at the Fine Arts Museum

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After getting breakfast, it’s time to explore Ho Chi Minh’s art scene. Pay a visit to the city’s Fine Arts Museum to gawk at all the elegant works of art displayed, whether it’s old pieces from the 7th century or more contemporary art inspired by the war. The building is also a work of art in itself, being decorated with stained glass. 

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The Fine Arts Museum is at 97A Pho Duc Chinh, Phuong Nguyen Thai Binh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fee is at 10,000 Vietnamese dong (roughly P22).

Explore old Saigon at Dong Khoi

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After exploring the city’s art scene, it’s time to learn more about Ho Chi Minh’s rich history. Check out Dong Khoi district, which is home to some of the Ho Chi Minh’s most famous landmarks. There’s the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is one of the few remaining Catholic cathedrals in Vietnam. Just a few steps away from that is the Saigon Central Post Office, a bright, yellow building that was built back in the 19th century, and the Independence Palace, which was the site of the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War. 

Go for a temple run at the Jade Emperor Pagoda

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Ho Chi Minh also has one hidden treasure that’s worth exploring—the Jade Emperor Pagoda. This Taoist temple was built in the early 1900s with remains perfectly preserved up to today. The temple itself is also filled with dozens of rooms that display all sorts of intricate, handmade statues. 

Jade Emperor Pagoda is at 73 Durong Mai Thi Luu, Da Kao, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Grab lunch at Banh Mi Huynh Hoa

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For lunch, grab something that’s purely a Ho Chi Minh invention. The banh mi is said to have originated right in this city, so it should come as no surprise that you’ll see hundreds of carts selling the sandwich. 

Banh Mi Huynh Hoa is said to be the most famous among them, with locals lining up day and night to get these sandwiches. Banh Mi Huynh Hoa stuffs theirs with all kinds of pork, pâté, mayonnaise, and a mountain of veggies like pickled radish, carrot, cucumber, and cilantro. If you’re a self-proclaimed banh mi aficionado, then this stall is a must-visit. 

Banh Mi Huynh Hoa is at 26 Le Thi Rieng, Ben Thanh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is open daily from 2:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Enjoy Vietnamese coffee at i.d. Saigon Café

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After gobbling down your sandwich, why not grab a cup of coffee? Vietnam is known to be second largest producer of coffee in the world, so it’s not surprising that Ho Chi Minh is dotted with all kinds of coffee shops and cafes. 

If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, head on over to i.d. Saigon Café. This cozy café is a favorite among locals, thanks to its comfortable couches and outdoor seating area, where you can people watch. Don't forget to order a cup of Vietnamese coffee, which costs at least 40,000 Vietnamese dong (roughly P87), and pair it with their signature sticky rice.

i.d. Saigon Café is at 61B Tu Xuong, Phuong 7, Quan 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Learn more about Saigon’s history at the War Remnants Museum

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Ho Chi Minh has a pretty complicated history. Not only was it occupied by the French, it also saw a lot of damage during the Vietnam War. If you want to learn more about the city’s role during the war, consider heading over to the War Remnants Museum. This museum helps visitors get a better understanding of the war through its display of posters and photographs. Make sure to head upstairs to see the Requiem Exhibition, a striking display of images taken by legendary war photographers. 

The War Remnants Museum is at 28 Vo Van Tan, Phuong 6, QUan 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is at 15,000 Vietnamese dong (roughly P33). 

Go for quiet contemplation at 30/4 Park

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After learning more about the city’s complicated history, it might be time for some quiet contemplation. Head on over to 30/4 Park, a small and shady area just near the museum. The park takes its name from the date April 30, which was when Saigon fell. This site is a place full of lush greenery, making it the ideal place to relax after a long day of exploring the city. 

30/4 Park is at Hem 30/4 Nguyen Van Thuong, Phuong 25, Binh Than, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 

Dine like Bourdain at Banh Xeo 46

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For dinner, head on over to Banh Xeo 46 to check out one of Vietnam’s most famous dishes. The banh xeo, much like the banh mi, was invented during the French occupation of Vietnam. It’s sort of like a savory crepe, being stuffed with all sorts of ingredients from pork belly to shrimp to herbs and vegetables. 

Banh Xeo 46 is one of the most famous places to get this dish, as the late Anthony Bourdain considered it to be one of his favorite restaurants in the city. You can even watch the banh xeo being made right before your eyes as the restaurant has an open air kitchen. 

Banh Xeo 46 is at 46 Dinh Cong Trang, Tan Dinh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Have a nightcap at Chill Sky Bar

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After a busy day of exploring and eating, sipping cocktails while enjoying a view sounds like the best way to end your day in Ho Chi Minh. The Chill Sky Bar is considered to be one of the best spots to catch a glimpse of the city’s skyline. You can treat yourself to the stunning view, all while dancing the night away. 

Chill Sky Bar is at AB Tower, Tang 26, 76A Le Lai, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is open daily from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

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