Since the 17th century, Ho Chi Minh City has witnessed and experienced the ruling of the Nguyen Dynasty, the come and go of the French colonization, the establishment of the Republic of Vietnam, and the world-shaking Fall of Saigon in 1975. The city has a lot to tell, and what’s a better way to listen to it than by visiting historical sights in Ho Chi Minh in-person?
Originally a port used for commerce purposes, the once busy wharf is now a place of education functions: the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The name comes from the departure of Nguyen Tat Thanh (alternative name of President Ho Chi Minh) in 1911 when he who was then a young man left the country to seek ways to liberate his country through this port.
Constructed under the government of Southern Vietnam during the French colonization period, the building is an architectural harmony of the East and the West. Based on the roof are two dragons facing the moon, hence the name “Nha Rong Wharf” (Dragon Wharf). There are 3 exhibition areas: outdoors area, the first floor, and the second floor, all depicting the life of the late president and his legacies.
A broad view of the building then and now
There is no entrance fee for those who are intrigued by the life of the great Uncle of the nation. Come to the museum to see for yourself the pictures, artifacts, and documentaries at 1 Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, District 4.
If you want to spend a whole day at historical sights in Ho Chi Minh city, then Cu Chi Tunnels is your place! Cu Chi Tunnels is a complex underground construction that contributed greatly to our victories. Our soldiers (as well as patriotic citizens) lived and fought in these tunnels throughout the Indochina War and the Vietnam War.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are divided into 2 areas: Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. For detailed information regarding two locations, please visit this article. In general, you will experience climbing inside the tunnels, watch documentaries, observe simplified models of the tunnels, seeing the living areas, meeting rooms, and bobby traps.
A visitor exploring the underground passageway
Since the historical site is on the outskirts of the city, it’s best if you dedicated half or a day to explore. Check out our Cu Chi Tunnels Tour to get the best experience!
Check out our private motorbike tours with professional local guides
Xa Loi Pagoda is one of the historical sights in Ho Chi Minh that strongly represents our history through the religious lens. Buddhism has taken its root in Vietnam since the 300s BC. Therefore, when Ngo Dinh Diem (former president of Vietnam Republic) passed a law restricting the practice of Buddhism outside of religious places, controversies sparked, and citizens enraged. These conflicts ultimately created the Buddhist Crisis, climaxing in the Xa Loi Pagoda Raid in 1963.
“Immortal Buddhism!” raid and the tranquility at Xa Loi Pagoda present day
The pagoda became the venue for several self-immolations of monks and nuns who followed the steps of the Venerable Thich Quang Duc and eventually the place for rallies and protests against Ngo Dinh Diem regime. Thousands of Buddhist practitioners were captured and killed during the chaotic Xa Loi Pagoda Raid.
The statue of Thich Quang Duc
The building itself is not a spectacular architectural construction, but it is nice to drop by to get a closer look at Vietnamese Buddhism practices and its role in our path to peace and liberation. Remember to dress appropriately if you wish to pay a visit at 89 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, District 3. If time allows, spare 15 minutes at Thich Quang Duc Monument (corner of Cach Mang Thang 8 Street and Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street) which is 900 meters away to pay tribute to the great humanitarian.
Or more specifically, the roof of 22 Ly Tu Trong Apartment. This building marks the last military operation affiliated with the US in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The rooftop of this building was a makeshift landing and takeoff field for the last helicopter carrying US officials and soldiers out of Saigon, right before the Fall of Saigon on 30th April 1975.
A moment immortalized by a Dutch photographer and the roof in present days
The building today is administered by the Vietnam National Chemical Group. The rooftop is not open to visitors because this is a private residential apartment, not a tourist attraction, but you can give a little coffee money to the guard if you really want to see this rooftop.
Otherwise known as Reunification Palace, the Independence Palace is one historical attraction in Ho Chi Minh that you cannot miss. The building used to be the Palace of Indochina Governor General back when Vietnam was a French colony, and the Presidential Palace during the Vietnam War. Its post-1975 name was changed to Independence Palace to honor the victory of the country as a whole.
The legendary tank crashed the gate of Independence Palace on The Fall of Saigon day
Prepared to witness a series of rooms and artifacts from the Republic of Vietnam once you stepped inside the building. There are 3 floors, a basement, and other war remnants lying around the palace to provide you with everything you may find interesting about the city former government such as The Presidential Office and The First Lady’s Reception Room.
Located in the heart of the city at 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1, the building is easy to spot. Entrance fee for adults is VND 40,000/person.
War Remnants Museum is the oldest and perhaps the most popular museum in Ho Chi Minh city. It contains remnants from both the Vietnam War and the French colonization period. Therefore, you can have a closer glimpse of the agonizing struggles Vietnam went through to become the nation we are today. Obviously, the story is told through a Vietnamese perspective, so it’s best to visit with an open mind.
There are lots of artifacts to see and learn
There are 3 exhibition areas in total: the ground floor, first floor, and second floor, so you can spend a good 1.5 to 2 hours here, strolling around and looking at the tanks, planes, weapons, haunting photographs that speak the spirits of Vietnamese people at wars. Besides, there are temporary exhibitions being held occasionally, so check that out to plan your trip accordingly.
It’s okay to dress casually when you visit the museum at 28 Vo Van Tan, District 3. The museum opens all year round. The entrance fee is VND 40,000/person.
Historical sights in Ho Chi Minh city are not all about the wars. There are aspects of everyday Vietnam in the 20th century that are reflected in some old buildings, such as this Opium Factory on Hai Ba Trung Street.
The legalization of narcotic substances generated great revenues
The building is now an alley that hosts restaurants called The Refinery - a name that is somewhat linked to its original use in the past: an opium refinery. “La Manufacture d’Opium” was built as a consequence of the contemporary government’s control over opium’s trades.
The narcotic lifestyle was really popular among the upper-class of 20th-century Vietnam society. Although the opium days are far behind us now, some traces from that age could still be seen at the alley. Drop by 74 Hai Ba Trung, District 1 for a decent meal and an interesting trip to the addictive aspects of modern Vietnam.
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History is an indispensable part of every culture. We hope our list of the best historical sights in Ho Chi Minh City satisfy your historical curiosity and help you better understand our city and country as a whole. If you want to get more insights into the city, there are so many tours to choose from such as Day Tour or Night Adventure organized by us!
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© Written by Chau Tran for itourvn.com