Saigon: What to Do in 24 Hours?

activities - Saigon/HCMC: Aug. 18, 2014

You are traveling to Saigon for less than 24 hours and you want to know what to do in just 1 day? Luckily for you, most of the major attractions, spas, hotels and restaurants of Ho Chi Minh City are located in the district 1, which is small enough to be crossed by foot in 1 hour. If you manage your time well, you can have a really crazy day trying new dishes, bargaining great deals at a traditional market, visiting colonial buildings, museums and pagodas, and finally sampling the nightlife. Here is our little guide of what to see and what to do in 24 hours in Saigon.

Best ways to go around Ho Chi Minh City

Once you reach the city center from the airport (45 minutes), you will need to decide how to go from one activity to the other.

If you can stand the heat and if you are in good shape, you can probably just walk. Unlike many other cities in Southeast Asia, there are large sidewalks in Ho Chi Minh City and the streets are rather clean and safe so it is rather pleasant to walk. You may want to be careful with the cars though: Read on our blog 5 Tips for Crossing the Street in Saigon.

If you prefer a more comfortable way to go around, you can hire taxis for a very affordable price (usually 1 dollar for a 5 minute ride). Vinasun is the most famous company. Note that large taxis that can accommodate 6 people are more expensive than the smaller ones.

Another option is to rent a motorbike. We wrote extensively about it in our blog Top 5 Tips for Renting a Motorbike, Top 5 Tips for Choosing Motorbike, Traffic Fines and Penalties in Vietnam. Basically, it is cheap but dangerous. Finding a parking spot can also be difficult so you may prefer using a moto-taxi instead, also called xe-om. It's a bit tricky to recognize them because they don't always have a distinctive sign. A way to proceed is to approach any middle aged man sitting on a bike at an intersection. A better way is to download the mobile app GrabTaxi, which allows you to order moto-taxis.

Eating a Pho

First things first in your 24-hour visit: find a plastic stool on a busy street and slurp up some tasty pho. To fight the jetlag, couple it with some Vietnamese ice coffee. Seriously strong, cafe sua da will put you in a good place.

Cafe sua da in Ho Chi Minh City

Cafe sua da


Once you’re well caffeinated, make your way to Chinatown to see old Saigon. Wander the streets and alleyways until you end up at Cho Lon Market. Sure, Ben Thanh Market is mentioned in every guidebook, but you can’t beat the hidden gems at local prices at Cho Lon.

Cholon in D5 - HCMC

Binh Tay Market, also known as Cho Lon Market

War Remnants Museum

After you’ve navigated your way through the market, hop in a cab to the War Remnants Museum. Once known as the Museum of Chinese and American War crimes, this museum documents the brutality of war. Make sure you don’t miss the photography collection upstairs. Photos by famous photojournalists Henri Huet and Robert Capa are included.

French Colonial City Center

From the museum, head to District 1. Here you’ll find great examples of French colonial architecture. Grab a croissant as you people-watch in the park across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, where enterprising individuals will take your orders in what is touted as the biggest coffee shop in the world. While you’re at it, don’t miss the Opera House, the People’s Committee Building (the former City Hall) and the Central Post Office.

Saigon Central Post Office

City Central Post Office

1-Hour Massage in a Day Spa

By this time, your feet will be singing. Drop into any of the nearby spas and relax with a foot massage. They’re cheap and well worth the time to sit back and take refuge from the heat. You can read on CityPassGuide: The Best Spas and Beauty Salons in Saigon.

Fine Vietnamese Dining

Now hunger has started to set in, so head over to Quan Bui restaurant for a range of traditional dishes from around Vietnam. Be sure to climb up to the rooftop garden for a pre-dinner drink.

Experience Saigon Nightlife

After dinner, see Saigon from one of many rooftop bars. Chill Sky Bar offers the see-and-be-seen cocktail crowd, while Broma is much more relaxed. Take in the sounds of Saigon as the sun sets over the city. You can read our complete review of the best bars and clubs here: Saigon nightlife.

Chill Skybar Saigon

Chill Skybar

If you still have a lot of energy, you can finish your 24-hour visit early morning the next day in clubs like Go2 bar or Apocalypse. From then, why don't you try one of Saigon's best late night eateries?

If you are travelling in Saigon for 3 days, you can read: 72 hours in Saigon, and if you don' want to miss the taste of home (or internationality for that matter), check out the best pizza of Saigon!

Post By: Lee Starnes

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