What to do for weekend in Saigon?
For expats and travelers, Ho Chi Minh city is full of excitement and mystery. Weekend is a good time to explore, either alone or with family. Deciding what to do or where to go for weekend in Ho Chi Minh city, aka Saigon, seems to be a repeated yet interesting homework. Spending quality weekends with your family is important to stay happy, and it’s equally important as how you do it.
Understanding that, My Saigon Friend (MSF) would like to recommend a list of interesting locations in Saigon. We hope you could maximize your time with the list of what to do for weekends in Ho Chi Minh city.
1.Enjoy Saigon food and drinks
Eating and drinking is usually the most common activities for weekend. Especially while you are living in a food haven like Ho Chi Minh city, we highly recommend you spend much time to enjoy the diversified and unique cuisine here.
We have recommended the best dishes in Ho Chi Minh city. You can find it here.
We also listed a few places with the best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh city. Click here.
2.Visit historic tourist sites: Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post office, Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh city Opera house
The 4 most famous monuments of Ho Chi Minh city are within walking distance from one another. They all have great historical and architectural values and are worth visiting.
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
The cathedral was built from 1877 and 1883 and sits in the heart of the city. It is designed in the neo-Romanesque style and you can check out the towers here which soar to a height of 40 meters and are topped with impressive iron spires. The cathedral got its name from the Virgin Mary and the inside is covered in devotional tablets and pretty stained glass windows.
Unluckily, the cathedral is currently closed for maintenance until the year 2025, therefore tourist can only have a glimpse of it from the outside.
Saigon’s Central Post Office:
Saigon’s Central Post Office was designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame, the building has a Gothic style and dates from 1886. It sit right on the left of the Notre Dame Cathedral, adding to the historic air of the area.
Make sure that you go inside, as you will find a huge domed roof and grand walls which are adorned with maps from the colonial period. There is also a requisite portrait of Uncle Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of modern Vietnam.
This palace was the former home of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The building is also steeped in history as this is also the spot where the North Vietnamese invaded in 1975 and Saigon surrendered.
The building looks much as it would have done in 1966 and you can take a free guided tour here which will fill you in on the cultural and historical significance of this monument to the Vietnam War.
Saigon Opera House
Standing magnificently at the heart of Ho Chi Minh City is the Saigon Opera House, which is also known as the Municipal Theater. It was built in 1898 by the French architect – Eugene Ferret, following the “flamboyant” style of the French Third Republic. It was set to be two meters higher than the street surface with two door layers, in order to prevent traffic noise.
Built in parallel structure, the Opera House is located on the city’s center axis, connecting the metro station and roundabout in front of Ben Thanh market. It is now a venue for many high profile events and cultural – entertainment activities of the city. Certified as a national relic in 2012, this magnificent building stays on top of the must-visit of Ho Chi Minh City.
3. Visiting the best museums of Saigon
If you are interested in history and cultures, Ho Chi Minh city has some nice museum for you to visit.
War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is one of the most moving sights in Ho Chi Minh City and is dedicated to educating visitors about the atrocities of the Vietnam War. Established in 1975, Vietnam’s most-visited museum tells the tragic story of the war that shook the world. Some of the items on display include old military vehicles like Huey helicopters as well as attack bombers and M48 Patton tanks. Inside you will also find personal memorabilia of victims of the war as well as old photographs.
Vietnam history museum
The Vietnam History Museum is another amazing piece of architecture, clearly influenced by French colonialism when it opened in 1929. Through a varied collection of artifacts and documents, the museum explores the country’s pre-war eras, Cham and Khmer culture, and prehistoric times such as the Bronze Age (Đông Sơn civilization). Set beside the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, this makes for a great detour while on the tourist circuit.
Along with the nón lá (Vietnamese conical hat), the áo dài (the elegant Vietnamese national costume) is another prominent symbol of the country. The Áo Dài Museum is the brainchild of famous designer Lê Sĩ Hoàng, with various exhibits displaying áo dàis from the 17th century all the way to modern adaptations – effectively displaying the evolution of the traditional outfit.
South Vietnamese Women Museum
South Vietnamese Women Museum was constructed to honor Vietnamese women for their contribution to the country’s development and also to celebrate the role of women in the war as mothers, wives and fighters. The three floors and 10 display halls depict historical figures, with one outstanding exhibition highlighting women’s roles during the revolution: serving as politicians, diplomats and administrators of the country. In addition, the museum also serves as a center for organizing educational activities, scientific talks, and cultural exchanges
Fine Arts Museum
The construction was built in 1929 and inaugurated in 1934. It is a harmonious combination of Asian and European architecture, which was designed by Mr. Rivera, a French architect. At that time, the construction was the family mansion of a wealthy businessman named Hua Bon Hoa. The owners of this construction changed through different periods of time, which associated with the historical events such as The August Revolution in 1945, the partition of the North and South in 1954, the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam in 1975 and the Renovation in 1986.
Up to present, though Ho Chi Minh City has been changing in many ways, the architectural work still remains its antique appearance and embellishes the general development of Ho Chi Minh City.
Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
The building was built in 1885 – 1890, designed by the French architect Foulhoux. The architecture is a blend between the Occidental style with Oriental style. The building was originally intended for use as the Commercial museum exhibiting native artifacts, but it became the Indochina governor’s palace. Its owners changed through time, and as for today, it has again become a place for exhibition of historic artifacts just as it was meant to be built for.
4. Visit famous pagodas in Saigon
Pagodas in Ho Chi Minh are not closed spaces for religious practice, some of them are truly works of art with huge aesthetic, architectural and spiritual values. That’s why they are included in the list of places to visit in Ho Chi Minh city. Below are the most prestigious pagodas that you might be interested in paying an visit.
Jade Emperor Pagoda (In Vietnamese: Chua Ngoc Hoang)
Location: 73 Mai Thi Luu, District 3
Jade Emperor Pagoda is an ancient temple built in early 20th century. It is made in the style of Chinese temples and pagodas with a dazzling decoration motif. The pagoda was built with bricks, the roof was tiled with yin and yang, decorated the roof, roof corners with many colored ceramic statues. In the pagoda, there are many works of art: paintings, worshiping statues, gouache, incense, etc. made of materials: wood, pottery, paperboard.
The temple campus is about 2,300 m2 wide.
Buu Long pagoda
Location: 81 Nguyen Xien, District 9, Ho Chi Minh City
Buu Long Pagoda was built in 1942. In 2007, the pagoda was renovated and added a number of works. The pagoda architecture was harmoniously combined between the architecture of many cultures such as Thai culture, Indian culture and the quintessential architecture of the Nguyen Dynasty).
Behind the pagoda is a big garden you can wander around. There is also a vegetarian restaurant onsite, offering cheap Vietnamese vegetarian meals.
Thean Hou Pagoda
Currently located at 710 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City.
Thean Hou pagoda (in Vietnamese: Chua Ba Thien Hau), also known as Ba Cho Lon Pagoda, is one of the oldest historical temples of the Chinese people in Ho Chi Minh City. Lady Thien Hau pagoda was a group of Chinese people of Tue Thanh origin (ie Guangzhou in Guangdong province) who immigrated to Vietnam to contribute capital and contribute to the construction around 1760 and was restored many times. The pagoda is located in the central area of the first Chinese people to form Cholon later.
Besides the value of architectural art, sculpture, and ancient artifacts, this place also has another value: it is not only a place to meet religious needs, but also a place of gathering and mutual support. each other of the Vietnamese people of Chinese origin (Guangdong).
Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
Location: 339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia street, Vo Thi Sau ward, District 3
Vinh Nghiem literally translated means “ever solemn.” Built over a span of seven years from 1964 to 1971, this pagoda, unlike the others in Ho Chi Minh City, was constructed using concrete.
The complex has an area of around 6,000 square metres. The pagoda architecture follows the old style of North Vietnam, but with modern construction materials and techniques. The overall architecture includes the main items are the Three Senses, the central building and the Chedi.
Giac Lam Pagoda
Giac Lam Pagoda has the claim to fame of being the oldest temple in Ho Chi Minh City and dates from 1744.
The pagoda is set in a pretty garden and the name of the temple actually means ‘Feel the Woods Temple’. At the entrance of the temple you will find a graceful Bodhi tree which is sacred in Buddhism and was actually a present from a visiting monk from Sri Lanka in 1953. You can walk around the grounds and admire the picturesque architecture here and take in the serene atmosphere at the same time.
5. Visit Cu Chi tunnels
The tunnels of Cu Chi are an immense network of connecting tunnels located in the Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the base of revolutionary army’s operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by revolutionary soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters.
Cu Chi tunnels is among the most iconic attractions in the list of where to go for weekend in Saigon. You can enjoy plenty of activities during your visit. A popular option is following the narrow routes of the underground tunnel. Before entering the underground tunnels, visitors watch a short film of Chu Chi Tunnels so that they understand how the tunnel system works. Parts of Chu Chi Tunnels are also cemented and widened, so that the crawl is less harrowing than it would have been in the past.
6. Daytrip to Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve
The Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve is located in the coastal district southeast of Ho Chi Minh City and is among the top list of where to go for weekend in Saigon. The reserve provides opportunities to advance environmental protection across a continuum of habitats, ranging from coastal areas to the boundaries of Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest industrial city in Viet Nam..
Spanning over 75.7 ha, this area is divided by a network of canals and rivers. Not only is Can Gio Island a place of interest, it is also the stopover of many scientists around the world to study the biodiversity of the flora and fauna system there.
7. Take a City Boat Cruise
From Saigon river, the city looks both alive and romantic, especially at night. In Saigon, you can easily book a boat ride that includes dinner and enjoy the interesting sightseeing and elegant cruise dining.
8. Take your children to Suoi Tien Amusement Park, Dam Sen Park, Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
For families with small kids or simply adults who want some fun or a day’s walk, amusement parks or a zoo seems to be a good idea to spend your weekend. We recommend three locations that you could try as below:
- Suoi Tien amusement park. You can find their website here.
- Dam Sen amusement park. You can find their website here.
- Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. You can find their website here.
We hope the above list is helpful in your decision on what to do for weekend in Ho Chi Minh city. For more information about the Food, the People and Culture of Saigon, please click here.
In case you are looking for an apartment for rent in Saigon, please don’t hesitate to hit “contact us” for support.
For expats and travelers, Ho Chi Minh city is full of excitement and mystery. Weekend is a good time to…