Answers from Our Experts (1)
If you’re squeezed for time and only have one day to see Ho Chi Minh City, our Forbes Travel Guide editors feel it’s fairly easy to hit many of the highlights without feeling too rushed.
Start your day by visiting the two most important Vietnam War sites in the city. The viewable rooms at Reunification Palace, which served as the headquarters of the South Vietnamese army, still look remarkably — and eerily — similar to how they did when North Vietnamese tanks charged through the front gates, seized the palace and effectively brought the war to an end in 1975. A visit to the War Remnants Museum, which provides a compelling view into the communist regime’s side of the story through a series of sometimes jarring exhibits, is a somber but compulsory stop on any trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
After leaving the museum, take a short 15-minute walk to see the impressive Notre Dame Cathedral and to pick up some postcards at the adjacent (and beautiful) Central Post Office. There are a number of cafés and restaurants in this area where you can grab lunch, but keep your eyes peeled for street food vendors making fresh banh mi sandwiches — there’s usually one parked near the post office.
Flag down a taxi — or motorbike taxi, if you’re feeling adventurous — and head to Ben Thanh Market, the city’s famous, centrally located market where you can stock up on all sorts of housewares, clothing, fashion accessories, fabrics, jewelry, Vietnamese coffee and much, much more. This is the place to put your bargaining skills to the test: Vendors have been known to start the initial asking price as much as 50 percent higher than what they’d be happy to accept. Bargain with a smile and a sense of humor, and perhaps most importantly, settle on prices that both you and the vendor are happy with. Plan on spending an hour or two here, then refuel with a hot bowl of pho at nearby restaurant Pho 2000.
Drop your bags back at your hotel and relax for a bit before taking off for sunset cocktails at one of the city’s best rooftop bars — opt for either the Rex Hotel’s Rooftop Garden or Caravelle Hotel’s Saigon Saigon Bar to visit one of the city’s longtime institutions, or hi the stylish Chill Skybar if you’re in the mood for something a bit trendier. Wrap up your whirlwind day sightseeing with a feast of authentic Vietnamese cuisine at one of the courtyard tables at the sleek and excellent Quan An Ngon.