If you are looking for some local experience in Vietnam, you should not miss out on the local markets where you can see the daily life and trading of many Vietnamese in a traditional way. Ben Thanh Market is one of the busiest local markets in Ho Chi Minh City that you should visit to enjoy famous Vietnamese foods and shop for lovely souvenirs. You will be definitely amazed by plenty of colorful kiosks where they sell food, gifts, clothes, and thousands of other items here.
The market is on a block surrounded by 4 streets: Le Loi, Phan Chu Trinh, Le Thanh Ton, and Phan Boi Chau. You should be able to recognize it instantly, a big yellow building at Quach Thi Trang Roundabout. It will be a 4-minute ride or 10-minute walk from the Independence Palace.
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At dawn, most of the shops inside Ben Thanh Market close, but it is time for the eateries to open and serve delicious dishes for the locals and visitors on the outside. So whether you visit the market day or night, you can still find something to treat your stomach.
Ben Thanh Market is one of the oldest markets in Ho Chi Minh City. It had appeared before the French invaded Saigon (former name of Ho Chi Minh City), built at the beginning of the 17th century for small traders to exchange their goods on Ben Nghe River’s bank, next to a harbor near Gia Dinh Citadel. The port was where many travelers or people who worked in the military were dropped off before coming into the citadel, and thus, it was called “Ben Thanh” (“ben” means “harbor,” and “thanh” means “citadel”). And the market near it is also associated with the name Ben Thanh Market.
In the year 1870, the French Government called this place Les Halles Centrales (The Central Market). Then, in 1911, the market building became old and on the edge of collapsing, so it was officially moved to a new building in the present location at Quach Thi Trang Roundabout.
Ben Thanh Market is in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, where many office buildings and trading centers are located. All sides of the market are surrounded by four big roads. The main front or Southside is on Le Loi Street/Quach Thi Trang Roundabout, the North on Le Thanh Ton, the East on Phan Boi Chau, and the West on Phan Chau Trinh.
Southside (Le Loi Street)
Locals and visitors who have come to Ho Chi Minh City are familiar with the big clock tower on top of the market. The clock tower is the iconic symbol of Ben Thanh Market because it is huge and put on the main entrance of the market where people can easily see it even when they just pass by. On the left and the right of the big entrance, there are two small gates right next to it and two others on the far end of the front side.
At first sight, when entering the big entrance, visitors are usually attracted by rows of colorful textiles and clothing. If you are looking for Ao dai materials, you are in the right place. From plain cloth to cloth with embroidery and patterns, you may get lost in the choices. But the sellers should help you choose a suitable one. Besides, there is also a wide range of clothing for you to choose from when coming to the Ben Thanh Market such as T-shirts, shirts, and pants, making lovely gifts for your Vietnam trip. The price range is commonly from VND 100,000 to VND 200,000.
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Eastside (Phan Boi Chau Street)
There are 6 gates on this side of the market. When going inside the market through these entrances, you can find a lot of packaged foods, which are usually Vietnamese specialties. They sell candied fruits, a must-try for any sweet tooth, coffee beans, tea, fish sauce, and other spices. Besides these stalls, you can also see many dried goods like roasted peanuts and dried fish, squid, and shrimp. These dried seafood are very popular in Vietnam because they can be stored for a long time and also create unique flavors to dishes.
On the left side of the East entrances, next to the ranges of clothing, there are many stores for cosmetics and shining jewelry. Cosmetics are very various; they are not only domestic products but also imported items.
Northside (Le Thanh Ton Street)
The first thing you notice when coming into Ben Thanh Market through this entrance is a variety of fish and meats. You will see many locals come here to shop for ingredients to cook their lunch and dinner. There are also places selling processed foods, flowers, Vietnamese fruits, Vietnamese herbs, and vegetables along with a range of fish and meat stalls. If you are a fan of tropical produce like mangoes, mangosteen, jackfruit, and sweetsop, you won’t be disappointed coming to Ben Thanh Market.
But perhaps in this area, the eateries are the place keeping not only visitors but also the locals the longest. They sell typical Vietnamese foods here like Pho, broken rice, Bun thit nuong, Banh beo (water fern cake), grilled seafood, and some sweet desserts like Che as well. The price is also quite reasonable.d
Westside (Phan Chu Trinh Street)
There are stalls for gifts, art, and ceramics inside this entrance. Many visitors find the handmade crafts and artworks here like statues and accessories very amusing and always take pictures of these things. They would be interesting souvenirs to remind you about your Vietnam trip years later.
You can also find in this area many shops selling shoes for men, women, and children. Besides, there are ranges of appliances and daily necessity stalls where many locals come to shop for their homes and family.
Interesting Facts About Ben Thanh Market
If you want to explore Ho Chi Minh City, you should visit Ben Thanh Market. It is a bit of a mix of modern and traditional Vietnamese local markets. Many items are sold here, from fresh produces, processed foods, eateries, to fashion, cosmetics, and even luxury goods. You will find many local shoppers here, but you also might pump in many other fellow travelers from all over the world when going around this market.
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