Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is a living city. It pulsates, buzzes and moves like an organism, immediately drawing you in with its rapid pace of life. With one foot in Vietnam’s traditional past and one in its exciting future, there’s no other place quite like it in the country.

It’s this frenetic atmosphere that makes it such an incredible place to visit on a multi-centre holiday, even if you only have a short space of time to play with. Here’s a few things we suggest you get up to during your 48 hours in the city.

Day 1

Perk up with a coffee

The Vietnamese brew their coffee strong, perfect for an eye opener upon arrival. As with any hub of commerce, there’s no shortage of places to grab a brew on your first morning, with the city centre being lined with little coffee shops. Ask for café sua da (dark filter coffee with ice and condensed milk) and start your day like a local.

History and the sights

Take in a few city centre sights and get your bearings in the HCMC. First, head to the hustle and bustle of the Benh Thanh market to soak up the busy atmosphere. It’s much cooler in the morning and you can find everything from traditional street food to hand-made clothing.

Next, stroll on to the Hotel Continental and Saigon Opera House, for a look at two of the city’s most magnificent buildings. The former is one of the oldest hotels in Saigon while the latter is one of the grandest theatres in Vietnam – both are fantastic examples of the city’s French Colonial past.

After this, head to the Reunification Palace, a site used by the US during the Vietnam War. The building has stood largely untouched since the end of the conflict in 1975 and you can still find American equipment within.

Famous street food

Arrange to take the Saigon Pho Trail with Saigon Street Eats to experience a real, authentic journey through the country’s remarkable dining culture. Set up by an Australian\Vietnamese couple, this tour helps you get right into the heart of Ho Chi Minh City without the hassle. It’s the best way to eat in Vietnam, and you know you’ll be in safe hands. The tour can be taken on foot or on the back of a motorcycle – depending on your preference!

An afternoon at the museum

No trip to HCMC can be considered complete without a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, a place dedicated to the man who helped stabilize the country after years of foreign meddling and unrest. Afterwards, visit the Vietnam History Museum for a much wider view of this fascinating nation’s vast and rich history.

Now entering District 1

In the evening, make your way over to the ominously named District 1 area of town where the majority of HCMC’s nightlife is located. The city’s vibrant nightlife caters to all tastes, from cocktail fiends to all-night ravers. HCMC is known for its trendy rooftop bars and live music venues. For the former, head to Sky Bar, for the latter, don’t miss out on Sax n’ Art Jazz Club.

Day 2

A stroll in the garden

HCMC is home to a stunning Botanical Garden which still stands as a throwback from the days of French rule. Its verdant lawns and tropical foliage have been open since 1864 and it’s a great place to spend an hour, walking off the hangover and escaping the hectic traffic of the city. It’s open from 7 until 7 every day and is located just outside the city’s centre.

Splash out

Filled with fine tailors and stylish boutiques, Dong Khoi Street is the fashion centre of the city. It’s here you’ll be able to pick up an incredible suit without breaking the bank (well, not completely anyway). As well as custom clothing, you’ll find an amazing array of Vietnamese fabrics and lavish shops to spend a few hours gazing at.

Temple spotting in Chinatown

End your stay in the city with a little cultural fusion down in Chinatown. This fascinating part of HCMC is full of temples, with the pick of the bunch being the Quan Am Pagoda. This oasis of calm is the ideal place to take a moment and reflect on your hectic 48 hours in the city before heading off for one last portion of street food, Chinese style.

It has to be a Multi Centre Trip…

It’s a long way to travel for just 48 hours I hear you say and we’d have to agree. As part of a longer itinerary however it’s ideal. Take a look at our Vietnam Multi Centre Holidays page which features our most popular itineraries, which will give you some great ideas of where else to combine with your trip to Ho Chi Minh!

Kadie Ryan Personal Travel Consultant

Kadie started as an apprentice here at eShores in August 2007 and is now one of the most experienced members of the team. She has grown with the business and pretty much knows everything there is to know about eShores and the travel industry. She loves to travel to places of culture, to chat and to know all the latest gossip.