You can’t come to HCMC and not see the Cu Chi Tunnels. Forego the usual hours on a tourist bus in favour of a much more upmarket and convenient option: arriving by speedboat with Les Rives Authentic River Experience. As you cruise by you’ll see life on the riverbanks and, bonus, you’ll arrive before most other tourists. After a guided tour through the tunnels and lunch by the river, you’ll be whisked back to HCMC for an afternoon exploring the city.
While HCMC doesn’t offer the same atmospheric shopping as Hanoi’s Old Quarter or Hoi An’s character-filled streets, a visit to Ben Thanh Market in the centre of District 1 is a must. You’ll find cheap clothing, trinkets and souvenirs, and plenty of street food stalls. Grab a Vietnamese coffee (ca phe su da), before heading to Taka Plaza. This market-style mall offers what seem to be genuine branded goods – although some are questionable. You’ll need to rummage to find the gems.
Take a wander past the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral. Finished in 1880 by the French (who brought all of the building materials from their homeland), back in the day it was one of the most beautiful sacral buildings in all of the French colonies – today it remains one of the top tourist sites in HCMC. Not far from here is the Saigon Central Post Office, an architectural jewel built between 1886 and 1891 by architect Villedieu and his assistant Foulhoux. If you get there before 5pm you can enter and even send a postcard from this iconic landmark.
A restaurant named after Shakespeare’s epic romance, Romeo and Juliet, has to be on the itinerary of any couple visiting HCMC, so book a table atR&J Italian Lounge & Restaurant for what will be one of the most memorable nights of your Vietnam holiday. A dress code applies, and it’s a little pricey, but with slick service and a comprehensive fine wine list to accompany the divine food (and a no-kids policy), it’s worth every cent.
Since opening in late 2011, Chill Skybar has been one of the city’s most highly rated venues for views and stylish cocktails. Located on the 26th floor of the AB Tower, you will get an amazing view of Ho Chi Minh City. Chill was the city’s first real rooftop bar and remains popular with local high-rollers and expats alike.