5 unexpected things you have to do in Ho Chi Minh City

Scenes in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Scenes in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. /

When it comes to planning a trip to somewhere outstanding, Ho Chi Minh City has to be on the top of your list. This legendary city is still better known to some as Saigon, but the name was changed in 1976. Saigon is still used locally to refer to the central business regions

Founded in 1698, Ho Chi Minh City has gone through incredible periods of upheaval and transition. And a variety of cultural influences can be seen throughout the city. It’s the experience of a lifetime to spend any amount of time in such a special place.

Browse Ho Chi Minh’s Book Street

Book Street
TOPSHOT – A woman looks at books at Mao’s bookstore, one of the oldest bookstores in Hanoi, on February 22, 2021. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP) (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images) /

You might be able to forgive literary tourists for not including Ho Chi Minh City on their itinerary. To some, it’s not an obvious choice. But they are missing out on one of the world’s truly great experiences for book lovers.

Nguyen Van Binh book street starts at Notre Dame Cathedral, another superb sight to see. There are 20 or more bookstores on the street, each one boasting a unique selection of authors and titles. For anyone who is into books, this is an immersive experience.

Experience the Jade Emperor Pagoda

Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of pagodas, all of which have their own important place in the culture and history of the area. But the Jade Emperor Pagoda ranks as one of the best of them all in Ho Chi Minh, which is saying a lot.

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Stunning and ornate both inside and out, the Jade Emperor Pagoda was built in 1909 for the the supreme Taoist god. It is overflowing with statues depicting various gods, heroes and more. If you only have time for one pagoda in Ho Chi Minh, this is a good choice.

Check out The Cafe Apartment

HANOI, VIETNAM – JULY 31: Motorbike riders with protective face masks travel during the afternoon peak hour on July 31, 2020 in Hanoi, Vietnam. As of July 31, community transmissions have spread from Da Nang city to five other cities including Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City. With the 45 new cases, the largest number of domestic infections reported in one day in Vietnam ever since the first cases were detected in the country in February, the nation now has 509 Covid-19 patients. Of these, 369 have recovered and no deaths. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images) /

Located on Nguyen Hue Walking Street in Ho Chi Minh, the  Cafe Apartment is about as unique an experience as you’re going to find in any city. It has gone through a great number of changes over the years. Now, the apartment block is something quite special.

Each apartment contains a different business, both retail and restaurant. Some tourists go, while others stay away. Technically, every business in the building is illegal so the threat of a permanent shut down perpetually looms. If you’re interested, don’t sleep on this one.

Visit Le Cong Kieu, aka Antique Street

Much like book street, Ho Chi Minh also has an antique street. Located close to Ben Thanh Market, which is incredibly popular with tourists, this street is a great spot to browse a seemingly endless array of beautiful items.

Now, a good percentage of these “antiques” are likely forgeries but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. Plus, you’re not going to get the kind of deals you find on antique street on any authentic antiques, especially ones the shop has 50 of.

Hit up a rooftop bar

Ho Chi Minh is a city of of 21 million people in its greater metropolitan area. The city proper as approximately nine million people in it at this point. It can be a lot to take in, particularly for first time visitors. That’s where the rooftop bars come in.

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The city has a huge number of rooftop bars to choose from. Some are better than others but most of them offer an incomparable view of the city. Chill Sky Bar Saigon, Glow Skybar Saigon, and The View Rooftop Bar at Duc Vuong Hotel are just a few that are on many ‘best of’ lists.