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24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City

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It’s thrilling to know you’re coming to or considering visiting Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon.

This vibrant city is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be explored. With over a decade of living here and running a tour company, I’ve had the pleasure of immersing myself in the city’s charm and uncovering its hidden gems.

If you’re gearing up for a quick 24-hour visit, my guide to spending a day in Ho Chi Minh City is just what you need.

If you’re pressed for time and looking to make the most of your day, I’ve got you covered with a range of options to tailor your experience to suit your preferences. While I’ll share my personal favorites, remember that everyone’s tastes vary, so feel free to customize this guide to match your vibe.

Before we dive into the details, let’s address some burning questions you might have as you plan your trip. Whether you’re on a layover or have limited time in the city, this guide to 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City is here to help.

In a hurry?

Here are our favorite food tours in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon:

Street Food Motorcycle Tour in Ho Chi Minh City: Experience Saigon the way the locals do, on a motorbike! Taste 8 of the best street food in the city, including a drink, Saigon beer and dessert – BOOK NOW!

Walking Street Food Tour in Ho Chi Minh City: Stroll the back alleys and visit old apartments built in 1968 while tasting 10 dishes, including a drink and Saigon beer – BOOK NOW!

Vegan Food Motorbike Tour in Ho Chi Minh City: Experience Ho Chi Minh City by night from the back of a motorcycle while enjoying delicious vegan dishes prepared by some of the best vegan kitchens in the city – BOOK NOW!

Here is an overview:

Wondering whether a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels or the Mekong Delta Floating Market is worth it?

In my opinion, if you’ve only got 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s best to soak up the city’s unique energy before venturing out. While some might find this advice surprising, I genuinely want you to have a memorable vacation.

While many guides might recommend visiting these iconic spots, I believe that with just 24 hours, it’s a bit rushed. However, if you’re a history buff or have a keen interest in the Vietnam War, go ahead and explore! The Cu Chi Tunnels can be intriguing, especially for those fascinated by war history. But if it’s not your cup of tea, the long journey might not be worth the limited time you have.

The same goes for the Mekong Delta Floating Markets – they’re a fantastic experience but might be better enjoyed with a bit more time on hand. For a deeper dive into this region, consider staying overnight and booking a personalized tour with a local company for a more immersive adventure.

If you do decide to visit these spots, I recommend opting for a speedboat tour for a more enjoyable journey. While these tours might be pricier, the quality experience is worth the investment. Remember, it’s all about making the most of your vacation in a way that suits you best.

Is 24 hours enough to explore Ho Chi Minh City?

Navigating this bustling metropolis can be a whirlwind, with its vibrant streets and diverse offerings. Some may find the city’s energy invigorating, while others might feel overwhelmed by its hustle and bustle.

As seasoned expats, we’ve grown to love Saigon‘s unique charm, but we respect differing opinions.

For those looking to dip their toes into the city’s essence, a day in Ho Chi Minh City can be just right. Make the most of your time by exploring a few key attractions from our curated list or simply unwind by the pool at your hotel.

And don’t forget to savor a delicious meal – consider joining a food tour for an authentic culinary experience. Wrap up your day with a drink at a rooftop bar and bid farewell to the city as you embark on your next adventure.

However, if you’re a city enthusiast craving myriad experiences, one day won’t be enough to uncover all that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer. Extend your stay to dive deeper into the city’s rich tapestry of adventures and experiences.

Best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 24 hours

Okay, let’s kick off your day in Ho Chi Minh City!

Morning

7 am: Breakfast

Start your day with breakfast at Bánh mì chảo Hoà Mã
Address
: 3 Cao Thang Street, Ward 3, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Not your typical Vietnamese banh mi, Mi Chao Hoa Ma has been around for 50 years. Cooked on a sizzling hot pan with eggs, pate, and sausage, this dish is a true delight for your taste buds.

But wait, there’s more! Diners have a variety of fillings to choose from, making each meal unique. Always served fresh and piping hot, ensuring you savor the best flavors and textures. Just before you indulge, a flavorful mix of chili and soy sauce drizzles on top for that extra zing. The rich egg yolk combined with the tasty sauce creates a deliciously indulgent dip for your crispy bread.

Breakfast at Bánh mì chảo Hoà Mã in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

8 am: Explore Ho Chi Minh City’s top tourist sites

  • Independence Palace (Reunification Palace): This awesome spot used to be the old presidential palace of South Vietnam and carries major significance from the Vietnam War. Guests can check out its nicely maintained rooms and dive into the country’s fascinating history.
  • War Remnants Museum: The museum does a great job of telling the story of the Vietnam War. It’s filled with powerful photos, artifacts, and displays from the Vietnamese point of view. It really gives you a deep understanding of how the war affected people.
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon: This cathedral is a stunning showcase of French colonial architecture, serving as a standout symbol in the city. Its unique red bricks and twin bell towers create a truly mesmerizing view.
  • Saigon Central Post Office: Next to Notre-Dame Cathedral, this old-school building has a stunning interior and actual post office services. You can soak in its architectural charm while mailing postcards or delving into its past.

Related read: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City: A Guide for Travelers

Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
  • Ben Thanh Market: This lively hotspot is where you can find all sorts of goodies, from trendy clothes and cute souvenirs to delicious street food. It’s a fantastic chance to really get a feel for the local vibe.
Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
  • Saigon Opera House (Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater): This fancy French colonial building puts on all kinds of cultural shows, like ballet, opera, and classical music concerts. Make sure to look up the schedule for events happening when you’re in town.
Saigon Opera House (Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Saigon Opera House (Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
  • Jade Emperor Pagoda: This Taoist temple is famous for its detailed carvings and statues, creating a tranquil atmosphere that’s made even more special by the soothing aroma of burning incense. It’s the perfect place to relax and ponder, offering a peaceful retreat for spiritual contemplation.
Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
  • Museum of Vietnamese History: Housing a vast array of artifacts that tell the story of Vietnam’s rich history and culture, this museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the country’s journey from ancient times to the present day.

Exploring all these attractions could easily fill up your entire day in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a good idea to prioritize based on your interests and consider checking out other activities and places beyond these popular landmarks.

Afternoon

12 pm: Enjoy a delicious lunch at Com Tam Tran Qui Cap

Address: 260 Võ Văn Tần, phường 5, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Operating Hours: 10AM-9PM, daily

Must-try dish: Com tam suon nuong

Everyone adores com tam suon nuong, from locals to tourists, young to old, wealthy to budget-conscious. Its widespread appeal comes as no shock, thanks to its ease of access and mouthwatering taste. Yet, what truly sets it apart is the enchanting vibe that accompanies both its making and savoring. There’s an undeniable charm that simply lures people in.

Off the Beaten Path in Ho Chi Minh

1 pm: Following your meal, you can continue exploring well-known tourist spots or venture off the beaten path:

  • The Venerable Thich Quang Duc Monument: This monument pays tribute to Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who made a bold statement in 1963 by self-immolating in protest against the South Vietnamese government. It stands as a moving reminder of the city’s history and strength. Surprisingly, many visitors near the War Remnants Museum are unaware of its presence.
The Venerable Thich Quang Duc Monument in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The Venerable Thich Quang Duc Monument in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
  • The Secret Weapon Bunker: Did you know that amidst the bustling historical sites in Ho Chi Minh City, there’s a hidden gem not many tourists have discovered? Tucked away in the heart of Saigon lies a secret weapon bunker, once a vital hub for soldiers to transport weapons during the war.
The Secret Weapon Bunker in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The Secret Weapon Bunker in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
  • Oldest Coffee Shops in Saigon: Vietnamese coffee is famous globally, and Saigon has some of the oldest coffee shops that still make coffee using traditional methods. Coffee enthusiasts shouldn’t skip visiting these iconic spots on their one-day Vietnam travel plan.
  • Local Wet Markets: To get a taste of Vietnamese culture, swing by a nearby wet market stocked with a variety of items at budget-friendly rates. Just keep in mind that while these markets provide an authentic vibe, don’t expect all vendors to speak fluent English.
  • Old Apartments: Saigon’s old apartments are full of historical and cultural significance, unlike the modern high-rises. It’s a shame that many tourists miss out on exploring these architectural treasures during their visits. Don’t forget to check out the Nguyen Thien Thuat apartment on the food tour!
Old Apartments in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Old Apartments in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Nighttime in Saigon

One great way to experience the flavors of Vietnam is by going on a food tour.

Exploring the culinary scene in Ho Chi Minh City through a food tour is an amazing way to immerse yourself in the city’s unique culture and bond with its friendly locals over delicious dishes.

You not only get to enjoy the mouthwatering Vietnamese cuisine but also benefit from the knowledge and insights of a local expert who is ready to answer all your food-related questions.

Crazy Buffalo in Saigon, Vietnam.
Crazy Buffalo in Saigon, Vietnam.
  • Diverse Cuisine: Saigon offers a delicious variety of flavors, mixing classic Vietnamese cuisine with global influences to create a diverse dining adventure.
  • Street Food Culture: Immerse yourself in the lively world of street food and savor local delights such as pho, banh mi, and fresh seafood, all at budget-friendly prices.
  • Farm-to-Table Freshness: Discover the vibrant markets of Saigon, brimming with top-notch ingredients that guarantee each meal is packed with incredible flavors.

Related read: Top 10 Best Street Food In Ho Chi Minh City

Delicious food in Saigon, Vietnam.
Delicious food in Saigon, Vietnam.
  • Cultural Insight: Explore Saigon’s vibrant food scene to uncover the flavors of Vietnamese culture and the city’s fascinating past. Make unforgettable memories and gain a deeper appreciation for the local way of life.

Join a Food Tour in Cho Chi Minh City

Many visitors love exploring Ho Chi Minh City through street food tours, considering them a must-do experience. These tours provide a fantastic way to discover the city while indulging in a diverse array of delicious local dishes.

The street food on offer truly captures the essence of Vietnamese flavors, making it a delightful culinary adventure. The guides leading these tours are friendly and approachable and proficient in English, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable experience for all guests.

With their in-depth knowledge of the city and its food culture, the guides offer an informative journey, shedding light on the culinary wonders and various neighborhoods of Ho Chi Minh City.

While these tours may involve walking or riding on a motorbike, safety and comfort are always prioritized, along with the opportunity to engage with the guides and fellow travelers.

For those considering joining a street food tour, it’s recommended to arrive with a hearty appetite to savor the diverse gastronomic delights on offer.

Overall, these tours provide a fun and hassle-free way for visitors to immerse themselves in and appreciate the vibrant street food scene of Ho Chi Minh City.

Super delicious street food in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Super delicious street food in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Choose between the following tour options:

  • Walking Street Food Tour: Experience genuine local dining and conversation while sampling the city’s finest street food, including ten dishes, drinks, and Saigon beer. Explore back alleys and visit historic apartments dating back to 1968, built during the Tet Offensive. Tours can be customized to accommodate dietary restrictions.
  • Street Food Motorbike Tour: Hop on a motorbike tour through four lively districts, including Chinatown, accompanied by a friendly student companions for a truly immersive journey. Enjoy a tantalizing selection of 8 top street foods, paired with a cool Saigon beer and a sweet treat. Explore secret alleyways and off-the-beaten-path locations for an authentic local experience.
  • Vegan Food Motorbike Tour: Savor a delectable selection of vegan dishes expertly prepared by talented local chefs. Embark on a thrilling motorbike tour through its bustling streets at night. Prepare for an unforgettable vegan food adventure in Vietnam.

Book these tours directly with the operator

Ho Chi Minh City is massive!

If you’ve got some spare time, make sure to explore places like Chinatown, catch a traditional performance such as the A O Show or Water Puppet Show, or venture to the Mekong Delta for a unique experience of southern Vietnam.

I trust that my one-day guide to Ho Chi Minh City will assist you in maximizing your trip. Don’t forget to pass it along to friends planning a visit to Saigon and seeking insider advice!

  • SaigonVibes

    Welcome to Saigon, a bustling and exciting city just waiting to be discovered! Let’s arrange your vacation together! For an amazing adventure, explore its colorful streets, rich culture, and must-see sights. Sample the most amazing dishes that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.



    View all posts


    Welcome to Saigon, a bustling and exciting city just waiting to be discovered! Let’s arrange your vacation together! For an amazing adventure, explore its colorful streets, rich culture, and must-see sights. Sample the most amazing dishes that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.





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