It wasn’t difficult to find things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam once we decided to stay. To be honest, we assumed we wouldn’t like the city after experiencing other popular, crowded cities in Southeast Asia. So, we planned for just a quick stopover before moving on to Cambodia.
However, quickly after arriving, we felt surprisingly charmed by the modern feel of the city that perfectly balanced with traditional culture. We enjoyed the clean streets, the ability to walk everywhere, and the delicious food and lively nightlife.
We loved Ho Chi Minh City so much that our short stay turned into a couple of days, in fact, some of my favorite memories of my entire two month trip to Southeast Asia actually came from there.
So, here are a few fun things to do in Ho Chi Minh City if you find yourself extending your own trip there one day.
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1. Take a Street Food Tour
We tried not to plan too many of the activities and excursions of our two-month-long Southeast Asia trip, as we wanted to have low expectations and open itineraries.
However, a friend highly recommended a motorbike street food tour, so we prioritized it while we were there. It ended up being one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip!
Related: Pai, Thailand City Guide
Using the app Get Your Guide, we came across tons of different descriptions, prices, and services. We knew we wanted to try the motorbike experience (don’t worry – your guide drives you!), but there were a variety of walking and driving tours as well.
In the end, we went with two young guides from Street Food Man after reading great reviews. They picked us up at our hostel, and for three hours weaved us in and out of intense traffic to stop at local “hole in the walls” that would have been impossible to find otherwise.
The experience felt totally authentic. Aside from our guide’s verbal translations, we didn’t see or hear English, nor were burger-and-fries an option on this tour. Real coconut ice cream, Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepes), Pho, Bun Cha, and so many other dishes delighted our tastebuds.
Fun Fact: Ho Chi Minh City officially changed in the ’70s from Saigon, though many locals still use the names interchangeably.
2. Try Local Vietnamese Beer
It’s no secret that options for beer connoisseurs are pretty sparse in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, it was lager-style beers like Singha, and it was similar in Vietnam with beers like 333 (Ba Ba Ba).
So, imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon East West Brewing Company. Ho Chi Minh’s first in house craft brewery is pulsing with San Diego vibes and has a wide variety of brewers from IPAs to reds to witbiers.
The craft beer industry is booming (and still growing) in HCMC and is well received by travelers and locals alike. Many restaurants have local bottled beer, as we saw Heart of Darkness beers at a couple of different spots.
3. Learn the History of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is jam-packed with opportunities to immerse yourself in history. For instance, the War Remnants Museum is a must for all travelers. Even if you’re not a “museum person,” you’ll be moved and captivated by this one, dedicated to remembering and honoring those who fought in the Vietnam War.
Another nearby historical site that’s important to experience is the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground network of tunnels used during the war. You can book a full-day tour to see both the War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels in one.
You can go on your own independent historical walk, too. There are many historic buildings with stunning French Colonial architecture, such as the Ho Chi Minh City Post Office, built in the 1800s, and the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon. No matter where you turn, you’re bound to come across a monument, museum, or beautiful park with its own great story.
4. Enjoy Nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City
The nightlife is bumpin’ in Ho Chi Minh City and brings together locals and travelers from all over. There’s a surplus of trendy restaurants with spirits and live music, as well as dance clubs.
Our favorite part of “going out” in this city was the rooftop bars, which were very popular, so we had tons of options from which to choose. There’s often live music, themed dance parties, and “ladies night” and happy hour drink specials. We had an absolute blast at the View Rooftop Bar.
Karaoke is also huge in Vietnam! You’ll see locals doing it everywhere – even just with a machine randomly set up in the street, surrounded by a small group of friends. Singing a popular song in front of an audience in Vietnam is definitely something you’ll want to add (and cross off!) your bucket list.