Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is well-known for its vibrant and hectic culture compared to the other more laidback Vietnamese cities like Hanoi or Danang. Most of HCMC’s attractions are located within District 1, though there are certainly many lesser-known and underrated attractions situated on the outskirts of District 1. In this post, discover lesser-known, hidden and underrated places in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There is no need to book a tour in HCMC because ride hailing transports such as Grab or Gojek are plenty and cheap. We stayed in the following HCMC hotels during our visit in July 2022:
- The Hammock Hotel Fine Arts Museum (Base room from USD 40 per night with breakfast). This is a good hostel/hotel for backpackers as it has a free/unlimited snacks and drinks policy and a rooftop lounge but rooms are quite basic/small. Less suited for family travellers.
- Winsuites Saigon Hotel (Base room from USD 70 per night with breakfast). Clean and luxurious but the rooftop pool was closed when we stayed there. Suited for family travellers and next to Ben Thanh Market.
Saigon Central Post Office
The instagrammable Saigon Central Post Office is housed in a neo-classical European building and located next to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Built in the late 1800s, the post office is one of the oldest French colonial buildings in the city.
Ho Chi Minh City Book Street
Just lurking around the corner of the Saigon Central Post Office is the unique HCMC Book Street. The street is not just filled with bookstores (selling mostly Vietnamese books), there are also cafes, playgrounds and kids’ attractions. Tourists can also get respite from the heat along this street as it is lined with trees and covered installations.
The Box Market
Just a few blocks from HCMC Book Street, lies the Box Market – basically a flea market with clothing stalls. The market is only open from Friday to Sunday. There is a yellow cafe located next to the Box Market.
Central Market is basically an underground shopping mall located at the famous backpackers’ area of Pham Ngu Lao. The place is open from 10 am to 22:30 pm and features traditional and modern markets.
Bui Vien Walking Street
Bui Vien Walking Street is arguably the most famous/infamous party street in HCM City which is packed with backpackers (think Bourbon Street on steroids or the infamous Bangla Road in Phuket). A stroll along the street is basically an attack on the senses – street peddlers, party-goers, pole dancers and loud music can be found along this street.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street
Nguyen Hue Walking Street is actually a well-known walking street but I included it in this post simply because it is close to other attractions. In my opinion, the street resembles typical walking thoroughfares in Europe such as La Rambla in Barcelona or a more vibrant version of Explanada de Espana in Alicante, Spain.
The Café Apartment
The Cafe’ Apartment, located along Nguyen Hue Walking Street is basically a rundown apartment block refurbished into hipster cafes and restaurants. There is a staircase to each floor but no one will use it to reach upper floor levels. Strangely, there is a lift service on a dingy (creepy) alleyway on the ground floor that costs 5,000 VND.
The Waterbus service in HCMC is really an underrated attraction among tourists as it is very cheap and offers scenic transport (especially at night) along the Saigon River. A one-way ticket costs 15,000 VND per person which can be booked online or via the ticket office at the Waterbus station at Bach Dang at the south end of Nguyen Hue Walking Street. Be sure to take a one-way trip from Bach Dang to Binh An station to catch a glimpse of Landmark 81, a famous skyscraper in HCMC.
Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market is a major market and attraction in Cholon, HCMC’s Chinatown in District 5. There are plenty of stalls within the market that sell clothes, handicrafts, lacquerware and food stuff. Surrounding the market are shops selling Chinese delicacies such as roast pork and salted duck eggs.
Quan Am Pagoda
Quan Am Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda located in Cho Lon (District 5). It is purportedly built by Fujian settlers in the 19th Century and dedicated to Guanyin, the Ancient Chinese Goddess of Mercy (also worshipped in other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia).