One Day in Ho Chi Minh City: The Ultimate Insiders Guide

It’s exciting stuff to know you are coming to Ho Chi Minh City, a.k.a. Saigon. It’s a massive city with a lot to explore. This has been my home for over a decade and I’m still finding new things here every day! As an owner of a tour company in this city, I’ve been up close and personal with many of its major attractions and activities for many years. I think this guide to 1 Day in Ho Chi Minh City will greatly help anyone coming here for a short overnight trip.

I’m under the assumption that those of you reading this article are visiting Ho Chi Minh City with a bit of a time restraint of about a day or so. I’m going to give you a few different options to create the perfect day for yourself. It’s important, though, to point out this is my opinion, and we aren’t all the same, so I’ll list out different ways you can adjust this to fit your desires and personality a bit better.

I’ll also get the self-promotion out of the way early. Hands down, any of my food tours here in Ho Chi Minh City will be one of the best things you can do in the city quickly.

You won’t just be eating great food; you’ll also get cultural insights into the city from your driver. You’ll cover so much more of the city in four hours than you could ever do without us. Not just that, a local person will help you understand the small things you see and are curious about.

Let’s start by clearing up some questions since you’ll probably be in the preliminary stages of planning your trip! Also, some might be on layovers and have no choice but to spend a shorter amount of time in the city, and I have you covered here in my 12 hours in Ho Chi Minh City Guide.

Is One Day Enough in Ho Chi Minh City?

It’s such a hard question to answer because large urban cities can be very polarizing. Some people absolutely love the experience and can’t get enough. While others can’t stand the negative aspects of a large city like Saigon, the traffic, noise pollution, and overwhelming sensation you might feel can be too much for many. As a long-term expat here, I enjoy what this city is great at, but I also understand those who aren’t interested in it. It really is about the “vibe” of Ho Chi Minh City rather than having amazing attractions or sights.

For those who aren’t interested in bars, restaurants, street food, cafes, shopping, and cheap services like massages, 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City will be plenty. You might be more interested in a calming atmosphere and beautiful landscapes that you don’t find in Ho Chi Minh City, so it’s best not to linger here for more than necessary during your precious vacation time.

You’ll be happy with just a short amount of time in this city, which you can fill with a few attractions or some from our Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City list, a dip in your hotel pool in the afternoon, a meal or two (or my food tour), and maybe a rooftop bar drink before calling it a night. Then, you can move on with the rest of your trip to more suitable places.

If you are interested in service-oriented activities and city life, then you’ll need more than one day in Ho Chi Minh City. This can be an oasis for those looking to get value out of their vacation money!

Should I do a Day Trip to Cu Chi Tunnels or the Mekong Delta Floating Market?

No, I really don’t think you should. If you are only able to spend 1 day in Ho Chi Minh City, then I would just stay in town and experience the vibe of the city before moving on to your next destination. I understand that this opinion might throw some people through a loop, but I genuinely care how good your vacation is.

A remarkable Historical Site in Ho Chi Minh City Outskirt

This actually might be the only blog post on the internet that tells you not to visit the tunnels or floating market. But, In context, this is just for people who only have 1 day in Ho Chi Minh City. For me, it’s too much of a time suck in just 24 hours.

If you are a war buff and are fascinated by the history of the Vietnam War, then absolutely go! Please don’t let me stop you! It might also be a good destination for young kids who would be excited to crawl around the tunnels a little bit, but it’s an awfully long trip for a minute or two of crawling in short tunnels. If you aren’t interested in war history, the time it takes to get to the tunnels and back just doesn’t do it for me.

The same mindset will apply to the Floating Markets in the Mekong Delta. If you have 3-4 days in Ho Chi Minh City, you could spend a half-day on a trip to see this area of the south. But for me, it’s not even worth it.

It would be better to actually go to the Mekong Delta for a night and book a tour with a company in that area that is absolutely, 100% not going to take you on the giant group tour that most people do in the Mekong Delta.

With all that being said, you should enjoy your vacation the way that you want! If you would like to visit either the Mekong Delta or Cu Chi Tunnels I can confidently recommend you take a speed boat tour to the tunnels or speedboat to the Delta. I have done this tour before, and as a tour operator, I was impressed with the quality of these tours and can highly recommend them.

Being on the speedboat during the long journey is just 1000% better for me than being on a bus, even if it’s a nice bus. The links to the tours above are fairly expensive, though. I am a believer in spending on quality tour options(if I can), which is why the things I recommend are usually higher-end; it’s just what I enjoy personally and how I like to spend my vacation. Of course, doesn’t mean you have to 🙂

A Sample Itinerary for Spending 24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City’s best and most famous attractions are all fairly close to each other, which makes it pretty easy to see most of them in just a few hours. I think this is perfect as it opens up the door for you to do service-based things. To get around for this itinerary, you could easily walk. But the daytime in Saigon is notoriously hot, so check out my article on how to take a taxi or grab in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sample Itinerary:

8 AM – After Breakfast, let’s head out the door and start the day. If your hotel doesn’t have breakfast, check out some of my other articles on this site for breakfast recommendations!
8:15 AM – Check out Ben Thanh Market. Maybe some shopping if this is your thing, or maybe just buy a coffee from a local Vendor inside. I’ll say you might spend an hour here if you are actually shopping for souvenirs.
9:30 AM – Start at the Post Office, then the Cathedral, which is currently under construction. I’m putting this here if construction finishes before I have a chance to update it.
10:00 AM – Walk over to Reunification Palace. I wouldn’t bother buying a ticket to go inside. It’s just cool to have a photo from the outside, but I’ll go ahead and time this as if you did buy a ticket.
11:00 AM – Head North to the Turtle Lake, and then farther North until we get to the War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

A big attraction in Ho Chi Minh City for history buffs

📍Address: 28 Vo Van Tan Street, Ward 6, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City | Open: Daily from 7 AM to 6 PM. | Ticket price: 15.000 VND/person (~0.65 USD) | Estimated visiting duration: 90 minutes – 2 hours. (visiting all floors and the outside)

The first on my list of must-see attractions in Ho Chi Minh City is the War Remnants Museum. The house displays almost all you need to know about the infamous Vietnam War that shocked the world in the second half of the 20th century. Following the Fall of Saigon on the 4th of September 1975, the War Remnants Museum was first opened with the initial name known as the “Exhibition House for U.S. and Puppet Crimes”.

This museum stood as a testament to the long and brutal conflict between the two Vietnams for 21 years. 1990, the name was changed to the “Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression.” Five years later, following the normalization of the relationship with the U.S., it was officially renamed the “War Remnants Museum.”

Located in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City, this museum attracts half a million visitors annually, two-thirds of whom are foreigners. However, we highly advise against bringing children as the museum holds very graphic and gruesome depictions of the scenery of the war. To the minds who are fascinated by the past events that transpired, they’re in for a treat with all the display of American military equipment, helicopters with rocket launchers, tanks, fighter planes, and even a conventional bomb weighing almost 7 tons!

Since you only have one day in Ho Chi Minh City, I recommend visiting the 3rd floor. This floor is the most interesting to me as it comes from the perspective of Journalists covering the war. The other floors are filled with graphic information that you might find interesting, but I believe that for time’s sake, only visiting the third floor is plenty.

Post Office

One of the most attractive tourist spots in Ho Chi Minh City

📍Address: 2 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City | Opening Hours: Daily from 7 AM to 7 PM | Ticket price: Free of charge | Estimated visiting duration: 15-30 minutes

Within a few steps away, Saigon Central Post Office appears to be one of the oldest French buildings in Saigon dating back to the late 19th century. Covered with a delicate colonial appearance blending the beauty of the East and the West, the Central Post Office brings out a feeling of an old European train station instead of a regular postal service.

More than just a historical landmark, Saigon Central Post Office bears a significant architectural value. This can be seen through a harmony of the looping arches facing the delicate marble floor down below, as well as 14 ancient phone booths arranged symmetrically on both sides.

Whereas, on the outside, a large carved Hermes portrait up above the facade is perfectly highlighted in between a collection of European inventors in science, math, and postal services carved on the pillars.
Apart from the architectural value itself, what makes a trip to the Post Office a sweeter experience is the postal function preserved up to now. Many tourists decide to send a postcard back home right in this very landmark after looking around. Meanwhile, the local Saigonese frequently pass through to make a call abroad, send their parcels, or receive letters.

Before leaving for the next destination, don’t forget to take a look at the two wings branching out from the main hall for some souvenirs, postcards, or coffee packages to bring back home.

Notre Dame Basilica (Under Renovation)

Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

📍Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City | Opening hours: Daily from 5 AM – 5 PM | Ticket price: Free of charge | Estimated visiting duration: 15-30 minutes

Right next to the Post Office, towering magnificently, is Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. The official name is the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Being one of the most iconic landmarks in Saigon, it was constructed by the French colonists in the late 1800s and conferred the Cathedral status as a basilica by the Vatican in 1962. Its distinguishing features are the two bell towers reaching 61 meters high in its facade and built from bricks imported from Marseille that surprisingly retain all of their former glory. The entrance is also home to Regina Pacis (“Our Lady of Peace”), the granite effigy of the Virgin Mary, which was made to order in 1959 in Rome.

This location is ideal for an awesome panoramic shot of the whole cathedral and is also favored by couples as a backdrop for their nuptial photos. Services are held on Sunday mornings in Vietnamese and English. The church is open to visitors for the rest of the week from 8 AM to 11 AM and 2 PM to 4 PM.

The majestic grandeur of the Cathedral is complemented by its neighboring landmarks,, such as the Saigon Post Office and the Reunification Palace. Diamond Plaza and April 30th Park are also nearby, granting travelers a cool respite from touring these exceptional locations. It’s a perfect location to catch your breath, take a bitter sip of coffee, and bask in the busy lifestyle that can only be found in Saigon.

Ben Thanh Market

The biggest local market in Saigon

📍Address: Le Loi street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City | Opening hours: 7 AM – 7 PM | Estimated visiting duration: 1 hour

One of the iconic representations of Saigon, Ben Thanh Market is a dynamic trading center that should not be missed by any first-time travelers. Visitors will be delighted to find most of the sought-after goods, such as local handicrafts, food, clothes, footwear, and many other kinds of souvenirs, just to name a few.

Being a hotspot for tourism, this brings thousands of visitors to Ben Than Market yet locals also flock here daily to seek the freshest ingredients for their homemade meals. If you thrive to experience an authentic ambiance like this, make sure to check it out early in the morning before the heat hits the city at noon.

For foodies and people with a hefty appetite, rejoice! Ben Thanh is definitely a real heaven on Earth. A small section at the back of the building is where many hawker-style food stalls are lined up, serving a variety of Vietnamese food you never knew existed. Noodles, rice, spring rolls, pancakes, desserts, and drinks—you name it, they’ve got it!

“What is the best thing to take home from Saigon?” No worries—you’re not alone. Most tourists ponder the same question! Make sure to have a look at some of the nuts, local sweets, and fruits that fill the air with their delicate aroma. Tourists who frequent Saigon love these delicacies since they represent the authentic taste that can only be found in Vietnam.

To thrifty ladies looking to strike a bargain, the central area of the market might be a noteworthy place to look out for. Kiosks gathered in the middle sell clothes, shoes, lacquer art, and other apparel that you could haggle with. Meanwhile, the gazebos that surround the market have their offers with a fixed but fair price. If bargaining is not your strongest suit, this is probably the place for you.

Ben Thanh market is huge and sneaking through the jam-packed alleys is a bit rough sometimes. With hungry pedestrians huddled here and bustling crowds over there, make sure to pay good attention to your own belongings! Speaking of hungry pedestrians, most of the famished swarm the market around 7 AM in the evening, as over 20 sidewalk eateries open their doors to treat tourists looking for dinner with their mouth-watering dishes. Some of the best foods recommended by patrons are wok-fried noodles, grilled BBQ, seafood hotpot, crispy rice pancakes, and many more.

Bitexco Financial Tower

The second tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City

📍Address: 2 Hai Trieu Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City | Opening hours: Daily from 8:30 AM – 11 PM | Estimated visiting duration: 1 hour.

One of the highest buildings in Saigon, Bitexco Financial Tower, is dedicated to fans of skyscrapers and its breathtaking vista. The tower, which rises about 265 meters above the ground, is visible from Ben Thanh Market, a 10-minute walk away.

Bitexco Financial Tower serves two purposes. One houses luxurious shops and several commercial offices inside. The second is the entrance to the Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor. Visitors hunting for a magnificent view up there are ushered to the place by signs directing them. To reach the Skydeck, visitors will be required to pay 200,000 VND (~8.62 USD) for the entrance ticket.

Tip: Travellers can choose to visit EON Heli Bar or Heli Coffee instead on the 50th and 52nd floors, respectively, to enjoy the view without paying for the entrance fee. You’ll have to order a drink or so, but it still sounds much more welcoming than spending 200,000 VND for the entrance tickets only. One thing that you need to be aware of is that the Skydeck is actually panned. Tourists won’t be allowed to reach out to the deck in the open air, and you can only take pictures through the windows.

Overall, Bitexco is worth a visit. You can admire the panorama of the city center spotted with the landmarks through a binocular. From there, you can see the Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the City Hall hidden at the back of the century-old trees.

Other Popular Attraction Options to Choose from

Reunification Palace—This is a time capsule into the 1970s era of Ho Chi Minh City. While interesting to look at from the outside, I don’t include it in a must-see experience if you only have 24 hours.

Water Puppet Theater—This experience is easy to get to in Ho Chi Minh City and probably enjoyable for those with kids! However, the tickets can be a bit difficult to obtain and are usually just standing seats. So, I didn’t put this on a must-do list if you only have 24 hours.

Rebound with the Best Massage in Saigon When the Sun is Setting

There’s no better way to refresh yourself after a long day of exploring than with a skillful massage. When the Sun is setting, it’s time to seek a trusted spot to treat tired and weary feet.

Vietnamese know that a massage is a great way to relax after a day of hustle and bustle. That’s why Ho Chi Minh City has so many great massage options.

Sa Spa

📍Address: 40B Pham Ngoc Thach street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City | Telephone: (+84)2835210670 | Price Range: 150.000 VND – 2.100.000 VND (~6.45 USD – 90.33 USD) | Operating Hours: Daily from 9 AM to 9 PM

The blend of tropical garden, vintage wooden furniture, charming lace, and silk curtains truly makes a cozy Saigon house and reflects the nature of true Saigonese. Sounds charming? Indulge yourself in Sả Spa! Located in the heart of Saigon, Sả Spa’s 6 treatment rooms, a spacious sauna, and a steam bath are set up to detoxify your stress away. In addition, a nail and hair salon, a full range of skincare treatments, and a variety of massage therapy techniques are nicely designed for a well-pampering time.

Customers can rest easy knowing that the establishment avoids synthetic chemicals and only uses the most natural ingredients. With all of the features above, Sả Spa is one of Saigon’s best massages for a long-traveling day.

Chase the Hunger away with a Night Food Tour

The nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City is the best time of day that everyone looks forward to. For the locals, Saigon by night is when they meet up with their besties for some BBQ and beer or a sip of coffee after a hard-working day. Meanwhile, many foreign visitors dedicate it to a night food tour on the back of a motorbike. If you’re about to leave Saigon behind tomorrow, why not take advantage of your time by meeting up with the native guides and letting them show you the best food in town?

The tour usually starts at 6 PM as the darkness falls, and simultaneously, when Saigon is lit up by its bright city lights where everything starts to come alive! People rush to the streets after work and hunt for the street vendors at the back of the alleys. During 4 hours on the streets, hungry travelers will learn about the secret behind each smoky Vietnamese dish and indulge in a feast with our experienced local guides.

One of the most recommended options is the “Taste of Vietnam” package with Back of the Bike Tours. The trip includes five stops in different areas of Ho Chi Minh City, where you will explore a whole new culture of Vietnamese cuisine that will surely be a pleasing sensory experience.
A typical night tour itinerary starts as you pass by a sidewalk vendor down the street for a portion of Banh Uot. It’s a lesser-known light snack made of steamed rice sheets, but delicious enough to wake your taste buds! Then, a treat of a smoky and savory grilled BBQ comes your way, coupled with a few hearty laughs as you enjoy an adult beverage as our team grills up your skewers.

The night is just starting, and a rich hot bowl of Banh Canh Ghe will soon be served. This dish may surprise some as it is filled to the brim with noodles in a creamy broth topped off with a huge serving of sea crab. Moving towards the end of the tour there are still a lot more authentic Vietnamese cuisines to discover that many tourists aren’t familiar with. Lastly, there’s always room for dessert, right? At the final stop for the tour, you’ll be treated to some fried pancakes, locally known as Banh Xeo, and coconut ice cream topped with dried fruits and peanuts.

The Must-Visit Rooftop Bars

If you only have 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City, you want to end the night with a drink high up at one of the great rooftop bars around town. Owning a perfect blend of traditional and quirky, cheap and expensive, this young and vibrant Southeast Asian city has a lot to offer when it comes to bars. Our food tour ends when the night is still young, so wrapping up with a cocktail or beer is a perfect nightcap before going back to your hotel. If you’re looking for the best rooftop bar in town to make a farewell to Saigon, here are two of the best for your consideration.

Social Club Rooftop Bar

📍Address: 24th floor, 76 – 78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D3 | Phone number: (+84)2839898888 | Price range: 140.000 VND – 20.000.000 VND (~6 USD – 861.63 USD) | Opening hours: 9 AM -1 AM.

Located above the classic Hôtel des Arts Saigon in the city center, Social Club Restaurant & Rooftop Bar brings you a flashy setting of European cuisine while overlooking the city at night. Other than just being a classy dining space, it’s also a rooftop bar for visitors to sip a fancy taste of mocktail by the swimming pool.

Broma: Not a Bar

Ho Chi Minh City Nightlife

📍Address: Floor 4, 41 Nguyen Hue Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City | Phone number: (+84)902788848 | Price range: 50.000 VND – 3.700.000 VND (~2.15 USD – 159.4 USD) | Opening hours: 6 PM – 2 AM (Fri – Sat) | 6 PM – 2 AM (Sun – Thu)

Granted with an inventive name, Broma: Not A Bar Saigon takes over the whole of a hidden space on the top of an old French building downtown. Reaching it through a decrepit stairway, customers will be left amazed at this hidden rooftop bar that most tourists are not aware of. Prominent with nightly live music and dance parties, Broma: Not A Bar Saigon is where the native DJs liven up the dance floor under the darkest night with their favorite minimal, deep house and techno music until late at night.

Ho Chi Minh City is big. If you have more than a day to explore, visit other parts of Saigon, like Chinatown, and spend more time at traditional shows like the A O Show or Water Puppet Show. Otherwise, visit the Mekong Delta for a different perspective on the South of Vietnam.

I hope my 1 Day in Ho Chi Minh City article helps you cut through and see the best during your trip. Don’t forget to share the article with your friends who are about to pass through Saigon and seeking local insights!