As a center of economy in Vietnam, Saigon welcomes visitors from all over the world to the city for business trips and touring. It is not difficult to explore the culture of the city since there are many kinds of attractions and activities in Saigon. Touring Saigon on a motorbike is the most convenient option for full exploration, but getting around the town on foot can also be an interesting experience. Read more in our guide for some recommended itineraries for a Saigon walking tour.
What to Expect from a Saigon Walking Tour
You can tailor your own walking tour in Saigon with the help of the map and hired transportation booking apps on your mobile. But it will require you to do a little research beforehand and can be quite difficult if it is your first time in Vietnam. The below will list out some merits and things to notes if you want to have a walking tour in Saigon.
The Good Things about a Saigon Walking Tour
Take your time. If you are not on a tight schedule, you can have a walk around the streets in Saigon, enjoy the view slowly, and get closer to the locals working and selling things in their vendors along the sidewalks.
Go your way. When you walk, it is also more easy to make stops and spend time in some places. You don’t have to worry about the traffic direction or getting in small alleys and small shortcuts if you want to travel off-the-beaten-path in Saigon.
A bonus of this tour is that it is a chance to get exercise if you want to get fit.
The Problems with a Saigon Walking Tour
The crowded sidewalks. Saigon is not a walking-friendly city as there are many motorbikes getting on the sidewalks during rush hours, motorbike parking in front of shops, and vendors on the sidewalks.
The unexpected weather. The weather in Saigon gets hot from 9 AM - 4 PM in the dry season, while showers often pour down from noon to evening in the rainy season. It is recommended to equip yourself with raincoats, hats, and sunscreen for a better touring experience.
The busy streets. Crossing the streets in Saigon also requires the skill of getting in sync with the constant traffic which won’t stop for you. You can find locals and tag along when they cross the streets but the strict is to keep the pace steady. Find out helpful tips in the video below.
The long travel time. You can spend as much time as you want and can, but normally, it should take you about 1-1.5 hours of traveling between places and 2 hours of visiting the attractions. The travel time could be longer if you lost your way.
The far distance. With a walking tour in Saigon, you cannot go very far from the city center either, because the attractions will be further apart from one another in the other districts. It may be impossible to visit all those attractions just on foot.
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Recommended Itineraries for Saigon Walking Tour
Considering the goods and bads of a Saigon walking tour, we came up with a list of itineraries in the city which would bring out the best experience for you.
Itineraries 1: Visit the French Quarter (3 - 3.5 hours)
The French Quarter is also considered the center of Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. Most of the top attractions, hotels, local restaurants, and cafes are located around the area will be really convenient for you to have it all in one tour but it can also be quite crowded and touristy for some.
You can start early in the morning, late afternoon, and evening. Each time of the day, you will find a new kind of beauty
Saigon Opera House is the magnificent white building on Cong Truong Lam Son Street. It is one of the colonial architecture still in use until today. Many musical and art performances take place here every night. Walk here if your hotel is nearby or take a cab for about VND 12,000 per kilometer.
Walking down Dong Khoi Street, you can reach the Saigon Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral in about 5-10 minutes. They are the yellow building and a red-brick cathedral that you may often see on Vietnamese postcards, which could give you great insight into the city history during French colonial times.
About 1 km away, at the crossroad of Le Duan Street and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street is the Independence Palace, the presidents’ stay and office under South Vietnam government reign, historical places marking the reunification of the North and South of Vietnam on April 30th.
Another nearby attraction to understand Vietnamese history is the War Remnants Museum on Vo Van Tan Street. Documents, articles, and weapon (or replicas of them) from Vietnam Wartime are displayed to demonstrate the damages and cruelty on Vietnam in general.
Last but not least, a few blocks from the War Remnants Museum, at the corner of Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Cach Mang Thang 8 Street is a monument for an uproar in the Buddhist Crisis in 1963. Venerable Thich Quang Duc statue is placed where he set himself on fire as a demonstration against the South Vietnam government’s discrimination toward Buddhism.
Itineraries 2: Explore the Chinatown (2.5 - 3 hours)
Chinatown in Saigon is a large area including 4 districts District 5, District 6, District 10, and District 11. District 5 is considered as the center of the Chinatown with the largest population of Chinese Vietnamese, many Chinese restaurants, and Chinese temples.
Most of the attractions like local markets, religious sites are opened from early morning to late afternoon (around 4 PM), but to see the busy lantern streets and enjoy Chinese cuisine, you should start the Saigon walking tour in Chinatown in the afternoon.
Each destination is only about 5 minutes walk from another
Your first location is the Binh Tay Market is, one of the oldest markets in Saigon, built by one of the richest Chinese men in the city in the early 20th century. It will be best to take a taxi to get to the market and walk from here.
Walk along Thap Muoi and turn left at the corner with Hoc Lac Street, you should find Cha Tam Church on your left. The cathedral is a special architecture of Catholics in Vietnam, mixing the Chinese and Western design.
A few meters down Tran Hung Dao Street is Soai Kinh Lam Market. You will be charmed by the biggest fabric wholesale market in Saigon. Everything you need, from luxury from chiffon, buckram, to simple cotton, can be found in this market.
Straight to Luong Nhu Hoc Street, you can find Pho Long Den or Lantern Streets. You should visit this place during the Mid-autumn festival days as there are many colorful paper and electronic lanterns of different shapes and sizes that are selling around the block of Luong Nhu Hoc, Nguyen Trai, Nguyen An, and Tran Hung Dao Streets.
Move to Nguyen Trai Street is the famous Thien Hau Temple. This is a typical Chinese temple with signature features in architecture, a temple to worship Mazu, the goddess who is the closest to the heart of many Chinese immigrants.
Chinese cuisine eateries are everywhere across Chinatown, and so are around the blocks of Tran Hung Dao, Nguyen Trai, Trieu Quang Phuc, Phu Dong Thien Vuong Streets as well.
Itineraries 3: Go shopping in Saigon’s malls and boutiques (3-3.5 hours)
As one of the most developed cities in Vietnam, Saigon is never short of attractions and activities for a luxury tour. Many department stores are gathered in the streets in District 1, housing glamorous brand names, movie theatres, and eatery chains.
Most of the malls and the eateries open from 9 AM to 9 PM. After dawn (6 PM) and on weekends, these places will be packed with people hanging out, window shopping, and shopping.
You can choose whether you prefer the crowd or the quiet more when visiting a department store
You should start from either Parkson Le Thanh Ton or Vincom Center as they are across one another on Le Thanh Ton Street. Like the French Quarter, you can walk here from hotels you stay at like New World, Intercontinental, and REX, or hail a cab here. While Parkson is the symbol of a typical shopping center, Vincom Center is a complex building of shopping malls, offices, and resident stay, in which 5 floors are dedicated to restaurants and shopping.
Walking down to Nguyen Hue Street, you can find the Union Square or the locals are used to call Vincom A. This building stands out with its beautiful Baroque architecture.
If you want to look for a bit indie style shopping, take a little detour to Apartment 42 on Nguyen Hue Street. This apartment is very popular among the youth of Saigon with hidden cafes and fashion boutiques.
The next destination is about 5 minutes away, the glamorous Takashimaya, newly established in 2016, but it brought a huge sensation and became a wide phenomenon among the shopping lovers, especially the youth because of its brand name.
Opposite Takashimaya, on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street is the local favorite place to shop for fashionable at a low price. Saigon Square has been opened for almost 20 years, located in a busy street, blending among the fancy department stores, bringing new options for the shoppers.
The last stop is a bit more local, but you can still feel the excitement of shopping. About 10-15 minutes walk from Saigon Square is Ben Thanh Market. It is one of the biggest local markets in Saigon but also a colonial architecture from French government time. Clothing, souvenirs, and foods are lined up waiting for you.
Vietnamese street food is a wonder that you need to explore. While there are many eateries around the city, but on a Saigon walking tour, you can try these places we suggest.
Starting from late afternoon to evening, you can try many foods from Vietnamese cuisine to that of from all over the world.
To pick one favorite dish from hundreds of foods seems like an impossible task
On Thu Khoa Huan Street, the newly opened Ben Thanh Street Foods Market is the place to go if you don’t know food from which country to try, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, Italy, and many other countries.
Following Thu Khoa Huan Street, you will get to the North entrance of Ben Thanh Market on Le Thanh Ton Street. The eating area in the market is full of Vietnamese foods from main meals like broken rice, banh beo to desserts and drink like sugarcane juice.
About a 15-minute walk from Ben Thanh Market, get to Bui Vien Walking Street, the backpackers or red-light district, you can find many bars, clubs to enjoy beer and exotic seafood.
The French Quarter and Chinatown are two ideal places for a Saigon walking tour because many attractions and restaurants are located near one another. The streets in these areas are also more walking-friendly for first-time travelers to Vietnam.