Vietnam’s vibrant Ho Chi Minh City is rich in history and culture. The city, originally known as Saigon, is dotted with French colonial landmarks, street food, bikes, coffee houses and poignant reminders of the Vietnam War.

It’s easy to have a wonderful time in Vietnam’s largest city, just as long as you remember the golden rule of never stopping when crossing the roads. In a city of 9 million people with 7 million registered motorbikes, the roads are chaotic and unless you keep walking, no one will stop for you.

Once you learn how to navigate those crazy streets, it’s time to check out all the city has to offer. Here are six things you must experience.
 

1. Book Street

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This place is a sanctuary for book-lovers, a moment’s peace in the middle of the city. The 100-metre pedestrian street is lined with an assortment of bookshops. It’s also filled with large, leafy trees for shade and lots of places to sit to enjoy a good book, including inside one of the beautiful bookshop cafes where you can sip on a fresh juice or Vietnamese coffee. See more here.
 

2. See a show at Saigon Opera House

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This French-designed Opera House built in the late 1800s is stunning to look at from the outside, while equally spectacular shows are performed inside.  One show not to miss is the AO show, a unique mix of bamboo cirque, acrobatics and contemporary dance. Scenes show the contrast between traditional Vietnamese life in the countryside and fast urbanisation in the city, set to the backdrop of live Vietnamese music. See more here.
 

3. Ben Thanh Market

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The bustling Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is a great place to buy handicrafts, clothes, accessories and art. Fresh produce is also sold here and it is fascinating to watch the locals prepare and present it. By night you can try street-style Vietnamese food here at one of the many eateries set up around the marketplace. Watch as noodles, rice pancakes and steamed cakes are made fresh in front of you. See more here.
 

4. Eat a meal at Vietnam House

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Australia-born Vietnamese celebrity chef Luke Nguyen opened Vietnam House last year. The elegant restaurant is in the heart of the city, set in an old colonial building constructed by the French in 1910 and thoughtfully redecorated inside by Luke and his team. Here, Luke serves up modern Vietnamese favourites in a casual-fine dining setting. The set dinner menu with matching wines is impeccable. See more here.
 

5. Cu Chi Tunnels

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Experience the elaborate 250km network of underground tunnels that were used as hideouts and living quarters for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Take one look down these tight, complex mazes and you’ll be amazed by the dexterity and tenacity of the Cu Chi people. You’ll also get to take a look at the crazy booby traps around entrances to the tunnels that the soldiers set up to avoid being found by American troops above ground. And if you’re up for it, there is also a chance to take to the shooting range after your tour. See more here.

 

6. War Remnants Museum

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This place is not for the faint-hearted but it’s well worth a look. Nothing is sugar coated with three floors detailing the atrocities suffered during the Vietnam War. The images and accompanying stories depicting the longterm effects of Agent Orange are particularly poignant. You can also see the ‘tiger cages’ that the South Vietnamese government kept their political prisoners in during the war along with a selection of American military equipment. See more here.

Did we miss any highlights? Let us know below.