You may desire to explore every unique facet of Vietnam if you have all the time in the world. However, many tourists have limited time and try to make use of it to experience the country in the fullest way. Imagine that you just can have one day to visit each well-known city in Vietnam. Let’s get started with Ho Chi Minh City known as Saigon. There are many famous tourist attractions or cultural activities in this city but you may find hard to enjoy everything if you just have one day in Ho Chi Minh City. To help you maximize your time here, we offer you a helpful itinerary including what to do when visiting Sai Gon.
Have breakfast as Vietnamese people when visiting Sai Gon
Breakfast provides you good nutrition to be ready for a trip in one day in Ho Chi Minh City. It is convenient to have typical hotel breakfast but you may miss the chance to enjoy dishes that cannot be easy to find at other times. Vietnamese people often start their day with noodle soup dishes and besides Pho, other noodle soups such as Bún Bò Huế, Bún Mọc, Bánh Canh….. can make you devour a bowl of a range of meats, veggies and noodles. Additionally, Bánh Mì, one of the most delicious sandwiches in the world, may help you have a new day in ease. You can read our beginner’s guide to Saigon street food for more morning dishes in Saigon.
Visit Ben Thanh Market
Your trip will be uncompleted once you skip seeing this market. Ben Thanh market has become a popular symbol of the city for many years. This place is believed to be a one stop shop because you can find a lot of things sold here from souvenirs to groceries or food. The market is not equipped with air conditioner, which may make you feel hot and quite muggy during the trip Particularly, you realize the nature of this market that the sellers may behave in a quite aggressive way toward both tourists and local people. The more important is to offer this market an opportunity. At least, you can consider Ben Thanh market as a great place to people watch or more than just a tourist grab. Regardless of some annoyances here, there are things in the market that you hardly find otherwise. Keep in mind that the seller can mark the price up very high so ensure to have a negotiation before purchasing things. If the sellers hesitant to change their mind with “fixed price” items, it can be likely that another stall sells the same ones. Or if you are a fan of shopping or prefer a less touristic place to shop, visit our complete guide to shopping in Saigon to explore your suitable places.
Explore the French colonial buildings
This is the next thing you must do when visiting Sai Gon. When French started to dominate Vietnam in the late 19 th century, Saigon became the heart of French colonial culture and commerce of Indochina. Nowadays, many colonial buildings still have remained its character and history even when French left this country in 1954.You may sigh with relief to know that they are quite close together so only a short walk can help you enjoy the beauty of old buildings in the center of Ho Chi Minh city.
It takes about 9 minutes from Ben Thanh Market to Ho Chi Minh City Hall. Go ahead Le Loi Street, turn left on Pasteur Street. You continue to turn right on Le Thanh Ton street and follow it until reach Ho Chi Minh City Hall. Notre Dame Cathedral faces the front side of the City Hall. Turn left on Dong Khoi Street and walk straight for about two blocks to reach Notre Dame Cathedral. Do not miss Saigon Central Post Office because it stands right next to the Cathedral. Walk to the backside of Notre Dame Cathedral. If you have more time, you can visit The Reunification at the end of Le Duan Street.
Enjoy Vietnamese coffee.
After wandering around the center of the city during the morning, you may need a break from Ho Chi Minh’s hustle and bustle. Having the lunch and sipping a cup of coffee may be a good option for one day in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnamese are addicted to coffee and proud of it so drinking coffee becomes the especial culture, not just a normal habit here. There are countless coffee shops in Saigon, particularly, most of them serve delicious dishes. Read our beginner’s guide to Saigon street food to understand more about this famous specialty.
There is a great coffee shop named L’Usine near your spot now. It is located at 151/1 Dong Khoi Street. Go through an alleyway and up to some stairs to enter this coffee shop.
Visit Jade Emperor Pagoda
Jade Emperor Pagoda (also known as Tortoise Pagoda) is such a great place to explore after the break. The community of Cantonese built the pagoda in the 20 th century and Jade Emperor Pagoda becomes a place of worship for all people who practice Buddhism and Taoism. Additionally, local people still consider it as one of the most spectacular and important shrines in Ho Chi Minh. Keep in mind to dress properly when visiting this shrine. Do not wear too short and take off hats when entering halls and rooms. It is good for you to express the respect to the culture and beliefs.
Be careful with the burning of joss sticks making a pungent smoke and causing the discomfort to some people. The ominously carved panels can scare kids so you should consider it before taking children to the pagoda. You do not need to buy an entrance ticket to get the gate but can make donations!
The pagoda is located at 73 Mai Thi Luu Street, District 1. It is about 3 km from L’Usine to Jade Emperor Pagoda so you can take a taxi or walk to get the pagoda.
Get lost in Saigon’s streets by motorbike
If you are wondering what to do in Saigon, experience the city on a motorbike may be worth trying. With the traffic situation of Ho Chi Minh City, the motorbike becomes the best choice of vehicle. On the way around the city through several districts, you will also have a chance to enjoy the best street food. Our beginner’s guide to Saigon street food may give you some tips to find your favorite dishes.
If you do not dare to ride a bike, you can book a motorbike tours at popular travel agencies or use the Grab bike app to find a drive.
Immersed in Backpackers’ Area
The backpacker street of Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien is well-known for its boisterous street bars and pubs, colorful restaurant, reasonable price and casual style. Even if you do not tend to travel as a backpacker, it is still worthy of a try. A lot of people sit on child sized plastic stools, drink beer and chat with each other. This is a great choice for people who love mingling with fun-loving locals.
Experience the city view
There are few tall buildings in the city so you can get on the top of these building to enjoy the spectacular view of the city. Especially, you can watch the movement of the city and have a drink simultaneously from rooftop bars on high floors. Great services, dance tunes, noisy atmosphere, ostentatious crowds or views of the brilliant city make a strong impression on you.
The highest viewing point is Heli Bar in Bitexco Tower (52 nd Floor, No 2 Hai Trieu, District 1) but Chill Skybar (AB Tower, 76 Le Lai Street) has a better perspective. Remember to dress well as these bars regulate a dress code and shoe policy.
We hope that these suggestions may give you valuable information and help you make use of your time once you just have one day in visiting Sai Gon.
- Ben Thanh Market
- Ho Chi Minh City Hall
- Notre Dame Catheral
- Saigon Central Post Office
- The Renunification
- L’uisine Dong Khoi
- Jade Emperor Pagoda
- Backpackers’ Area
- Heli Bar
- Chill Sky Bar
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I'm Minh. 23 years old. I can speak both English and Japanese. I love meeting new friends, sharing my passion of traveling, daily stories as well as true local experiences.…Learn more