How to spend amazing 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City (2024)

With colorful markets, delicious pho, and a history going back hundreds of years, there are so many incredible ways to spend 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City. Get the top activities and sights here.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon (2)

When I spent 3 weeks traveling through Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City was my last stop. I had previously loved Hanoi and Hoi An so I was excited to see what South Vietnam would be like.

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is Vietnam’s largest city with 12 million people.

Although it’s more modern than Hanoi, it’s still historic and was called Saigon before it got its new name after the Vietnam War. You’ll hear both names used a lot.

If you’re into war history, cool cafes, authentic Vietnamese food, shopping, or art, you’ll find loads to do here in one day. It’s a city that’s got a bit of everything.

Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Saigon!

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Is 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City enough?

Well, it’s enough to see the highlights.

While it would be better with more days so you could also discover the Mekong Delta, 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City gives you time to taste the food and explore the famous churches and other landmarks.

Take a half-day tour of Ho Chi Minh City

You can walk or take taxis to all the places on this Ho Chi Minh City itinerary. But if you’d like to save some time, why not make it a more comfortable experience with a U.S. Army Jeep tour?

In 4 hours, you’ll get to see the highlights of Ho Chi Minh City in the safest and most fun way possible!

You can also join a walking tour of Saigon where a local guide will show you the best parts of town.

Book here – Ho Chi Minh City Private Half-Day City Tour by U.S Army Jeep (⭐ 5/5)

24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City itinerary

6:00 AM – 7:00 AM

Morning walk at Tao Dan Park

Start in the early morning with a walk in Tao Dan Park to see the city waking up.

Here, you can watch people practicing Tai Chi, badminton, and aerobics. It’s a peaceful way to begin the day.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Tao Dan
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM

Breakfast at Pho Phuong

Pho Phuong is a hidden gem for breakfast. Their pho is amazing, really hits the spot first thing in the morning.

And if you’re thinking: girl, I can’t eat soup for breakfast! Pho will convince you otherwise. I used to think the same, and now I practically live off fried rice, and Asian soups (and banana pancakes) when I travel in Southeast Asia.

Pho Phuong is where locals go, so it feels authentic and less touristy. Good prices, too.

Read next: 21 popular dishes in Vietnam you should taste

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Pho
Best pho in Saigon
9:00 AM – 10:30 AM

Visit the War Remnants Museum

If you’re not up to speed on the war with America and China, the War Remnants Museum will fill you in.

It’s pretty one-sided, though – it was once named the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, so that gives you an idea.

It’s a heartbreaking place, but honestly, it’s one of those must-do things in Southeast Asia. Really puts things into perspective.

Book here – War Remnants Museum & Independence Palace (⭐4.6/5)

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - ho chi minh War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is a historical site
11:00 AM – 11:30 PM

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon is a main tourist attraction. It was built between 1863 and 1880, during the French colonial era.

The cathedral is a must-visit on your Ho Chi Minh itinerary, and the Central Post Office is right next door, so you can visit both at once.

Interesting fact: In late 2005, the Virgin Mary statue out front supposedly shed a real tear, causing thousands to flock to see the mysterious phenomenon. The police eventually had to shut the area down.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Saigon Central Post Office

Visiting a post office may not be on your itinerary but it should be!

The Saigon Central Post Office is this big, sunny yellow building with pretty architecture, right up there with the City Hall and Opera House.

Definitely worth checking out when you’re in town.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon post office
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

Lunch at Ben Thanh Market

Now, it’s time for lunch.

Ben Thanh is this big indoor market where you can shop for clothes and souvenirs, but the real deal is the delicious street food.

Think pho, fresh spring rolls, banh mi, and tons of other Vietnamese classics. Just around the corner, there’s Ben Thanh Street Food Market with lots of street vendors.

It’s more hipster and Western-style, offering local dishes plus Indian and Western street food.

Book here: Ben Thanh Market Tour and Cooking Class (⭐5/5)

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Ben Thanh Market
2:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Photograph the cafe apartment building

After lunch, head to the Cafe Apartment building.

It’s always buzzing with people taking photos for a good reason – it’s one of the quirkiest spots in Ho Chi Minh City.

The vibe inside is just as cool as it looks from the outside, so make sure to go inside!

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - cafe apartment building
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM

Independence Palace

The Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace, is a key historical spot in Ho Chi Minh City.

It’s where the Vietnam War came to a dramatic end. In 1975, a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its gates while the unpopular South Vietnamese President lived there, and American diplomats were hastily evacuating.

Today, the palace stands just as it was on that pivotal day, making it an essential stop on your Ho Chi Minh itinerary.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Independence Palace
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM

Jade Emperor Pagoda

This pink temple is over 100 years old and it’s really something.

It’s more of a local spot than a tourist place because locals come here daily to pray and make offerings.

You’ll see lanterns hanging, birds flying around, and incense smoke everywhere. It’s a mix of Taoist and Buddhist influences, a nod to Vietnam’s long history with China. You can even spot Chinese script around.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Jade Emperor Pagoda
4:30 PM – 5:00 PM

The Tân Định Pink Church

Ever seen a bright pink church? Tân Định was built in 1880, during the colonial times. It wasn’t painted pink until 1949, though.

Make sure to look inside – the interior is pink, too.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - The Tân Định Pink Church
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Boat tour on the Saigon River

On a sunset cruise, you get to relax on the Saigon River. It’s super peaceful compared to the city’s buzz.

You’ll see the skyline light up, pass bridges, and watch river life go by while the sun sets, all with a free cocktail in your hand.

It’s a relaxed way to see Ho Chi Minh City from a different angle.

Book here – Sunset Cruise with Cocktail by Speed Boat (⭐ 5/5)

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Boat Tour on the Saigon River
6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Dinner at The Deck Saigon

Dining at The Deck Saigon is all about the riverside vibe.

Here, you’ll get awesome views, a chill atmosphere, and great food. It’s a bit upscale, but totally worth it for the setting alone. Perfect for a special night out or just to treat yourself.

8:00 PM – 9:30 PM

Explore Bui Vien Street (Backpacker’s Street)

Backpacker’s Street at night is a whole scene, whether you’re here to drink or not.

The place is lit with bars and clubs all cranking up the music and packed with people.

The party rolls on till late, with the streets filled with music, folks, and food stalls. Just a tip – watch your bag around here when it’s dark.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Bia hoi
10:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Drinks at the Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar

The last stop of the day is the Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar – the place for amazing views and a great atmosphere.

It’s one of the best places to see the city from above, chill with a drink, and just soak in the city vibe.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh City - Rooftop bar Saigon

FAQ – 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City

How can I spend 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City?

In 24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City, start with Vietnamese coffee in District 1. Visit Ben Thanh Market for souvenirs, then the War Remnants Museum for a dose of history.

Enjoy pho for lunch from a street stall. Afternoon sights include Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office. Evening calls for rooftop views at Saigon Saigon bar, followed by street food in District 4.

Cap off the night with a walk along the Saigon River.

Is one day enough for Ho Chi Minh City?

One day in Ho Chi Minh City is tight but manageable for major highlights like Ben Thanh Market and the War Remnants Museum. Quick street food meals help save time.

You’ll get a taste of the city’s culture and history, but a couple more days are ideal for a fuller experience.

How much time do you need in Ho Chi Minh City?

3 days in Ho Chi Minh City is ideal. Spend one day on District 1’s landmarks, another exploring street food, and a third on a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta.

Is Ho Chi Minh a walkable city?

Ho Chi Minh City is moderately walkable, especially in central areas like District 1. Key attractions are close together here.

However, traffic is hectic, and sidewalks are often crowded. For longer distances or to escape the heat, take a taxi or motorbike taxi.

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