Ho Chi Minh Travel Itinerary – A DIY City Walking Tour in HCM City!

Hey, check out part 3 of my South Vietnam trip! In today’s post, I’ll share my Ho Chi Minh Travel Itinerary which is basically a DIY walking tour within HCM City.

Staying within walking distance to key attractions (we stayed here) made the DIY walking tour effortless as we didn’t need to take any public transport at all. 

Saigon Central Post Office
Saigon Central Post Office

Where to stay in HCM? Stay in HCM District 1 if you like to be nearest to most tourist attractions in HCM. Though our hotel was in District 3, it was near the border of District 1 which made sight-seeing convenient too. 

Before I begin our HCM travel itinerary, check out the first two parts of our South Vietnam tour for a better story flow:

Done that already? Great. Let’s begin our Ho Chi Minh Walking Tour. 

 


Day 7: Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour (13 attractions)

We were surprised by the breakfast spread offered by our hotel – Citadines Regency Saigon – as it was quite good as compared to what we had the day before. Know why? It’s Christmas eve. :) 

After indulging in a good breakfast with log cake, pork ribs and more, I began my solo morning city tour while the man gymed and swam at the hotel.

Breakfast at Citadines Regency Saigon
Relatively decent hotel breakfast because it was Christmas eve!

1. War Remnants Museum

(10.30am)

The first stop I visited was the War Remnants Museum, just 8 mins’ walk from my hotel. I spent a good 3 hours there starting with open-air exhibitions where you would see war planes, torture chambers and prisons.

HCM War Remnants Museum
Entrance to War Remnants Museum (and Open-air exhibits)

You’ll then proceed into the building to explore another few levels of indoor exhibits. They were generous with the display of war photos, which made the visit a stimulating and educational one. The photos helped brought us back in time to when the world was cruel.

However, I was unsure if the opinions and depictions were totally unbiased. Unlike other museums that provided factual captions, War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Mih seemed to be very opinionated, with a lot of emotions thrown into the descriptions (understandably so). American visitors might feel out of place. 

HCM War Remnants Museum
Top: Torture chambers   |   Bottom: Number of prisoners in different cities

If you notice from the photo above, Phu Quoc has the highest number of war prisoners – 26k. In hindsight, I would likely have visited the Phu Quoc prison if I’d known this fact. 

>> RELATED: The things we did on Phu Quoc island

 

2. Independence Palace & Trung Nguyen Cafe

(2pm)

After a long stay at the musuem, I needed a break to rest my feet. On the way to a popular local cafe, I walked past Independence Palace, which is another key attraction in HCM. 

HCM Independence Palace
Strolled past Independence Palace

You may want to drop by if you are interested in seeing the home and workplace of the president of Vietnam as well as the site that ended the Vietnam War in 1975.

As this isn’t really an area that I’m particularly interested in (i.e. former residences), I continued my way to Trung Nguyen Cafe

HCM Trung Nguyen Cafe
Trung Nguyen Cafe in HCM (Indoor vs outdoor areas)

There are many Trung Nguyen Cafes in HCM. I’ve marked down this particular outlet as as I liked its interior design and it was along the way. Saw many people buying packets of Legend Coffee (and I did so too when I revisited the next day).

I ordered an Iced Sang Tao 5 (Arabica Culi) at 65k dong and soaked in the relaxing vibe with soothing music playing in the background. This would definitely be a good place to work, rest or read a book. Service was slow though. 

TIP: Trung Nguyen has different types of coffee, some labelled by number (e.g. 1 to 5). If you intend to load up on coffee as souvenir, you can make sure you get the one you like by trying it out at a cafe like this. I tried No. 5 and liked it and proceeded to buy it the next day. 

HCM Trung Nguyen Cafe
Vietnam coffee via phin filter

Unfortunately, the coffee was super sweet even though I’d asked for less sweet. Guess I have to adapt to local palate. :)

Coffee-drinking tip: Vietnam coffee comes in low quantity. Drink it slow to let the ice melt unless you like to finish your drink within minutes. :) 

3. Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon (HCM Travel Itinerary)

With the cathedral being so centrally located, this wasn’t the first time I’d walked past Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon. I took a quick photo of this church (again) that was constructed by French Colonists in 1863. 

It was under major restoration and I read that entries were not allowed outside of mass times. You may want to google for the latest information (e.g. check recent reviews on Google Map).

Notre Dame Cathedral Of Saigon
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon under refurbishment (Dec 2022)

4. Ho Chi Minh City Book Street

I then strolled to a book street that seemed popular among young locals. With a few cafes, souvenir shops and many book stores, it would interesting to just stroll past and do some people-watching.  

You might not be able to enjoy browsing the books because many were in Vietnamese. 

Ho Chi Minh City Book Street
Young vibes at Ho Chi Minh City Book Street

5. Saigon Central Post Office (HCM Travel Itinerary)

Next, I found myself in an eye-catching historical building that was built in 1886. Saigon Central Post Office looked grand and held a souvenir shop and functional post-office counters within. 

If you are keen, you could send a postcard to your local home from here. :)

 

Saigon Central Post Office
Love the door design and colour

6. Diamond Plaza Shopping Mall

I was getting a bit hungry and decided to head back to meet my partner. On my way back, I decided to enter Diamond Plaza – a shopping mall with nice Christmas decor and which I’d walked past several times by now. 

This mall offered selections from many international brands, but didn’t seem popular (based on crowd size). I also wasn’t really in a shopping mood (since I can do similar shopping in Singapore) and was out of the mall quickly. 

HCM Diamond Plaza Shopping Mall
Pretty facade of Diamond Plaza in HCM

7. Turtle Lake & Dinner at Saiko Sushi

Once again, we opted for a Japanese meal in HCM and decided to give Saiko Sushi a try – it was located near the Turtle Lake.

The Turtle Lake was more of a fountain than a lake and was a place that we passed by many times too, whenever we needed to venture from our hotel to the happening part of HCM. Many youngsters would hang around the lake which is located near two universities in HCM.  

HCM Turtle Lake
Gathering spot for youngsters

The lake was also surrounded by many cafes, from right across the street. To set your expectation, this isn’t the most serene, beautiful or cleanest lake/fountain that tourists would want to spend a lot of time in.

Here’s our early dinner at Saiko Sushi, a restaurant with a classy interior. The food was okay but I preferred our first Japanese meal at Sushi Hokkaido Sachi in Vincom Center, though this restaurant offers more peace (it’s quieter).

HCM Japanese Restaurant
Japanese dinner in Ho Chi Minh

HCM Saiko Sushi

 

8. Saigon Waterbus Station & Bach Dang Wharf

(5pm)

We had wanted to take water taxi at 6pm, but the next available slot was 8pm (due to crowd on Christmas eve). Since this activity was not high on our must-try list, we decided to give it a miss. But would recommend that you go for it if you can since ticket is cheap.

TIP: One popular attraction – Saigon Skydeck – is around the vicinity. If you like to have a bird’s eye view of HCM city, you can pre-purchase ticket here to skip the hassle. 

Saigon Waterbus Station & Bach Dang Wharf

Saigon Waterbus Station & Bach Dang Wharf
Strolling along Bach Dang Wharf

9. The Cafe Apartments (Ho Chi Minh Travel Itinerary)

Another popular attraction in Ho Chi Minh city is an old building where the apartment units were converted into cafe and eateries.

The Cafe Apartments (HCM)
Eccentric Cafe Apartments in Ho Chi Minh

The staircase walls were painted or pasted with cute and colourful drawings. This made the climb really interesting. :) You can take a photo of the building facade from Quang Truong Nguyen Hue (see next attraction).

The Cafe Apartments (HCM)
Colourful and cartoonish walls along the staircases

10. Quang Truong Nguyen Hue (Bustling Promenade)

This was the most happening place we’ve visited in today’s DIY HCM Walking Tour, and it could be due to the day being a Christmas eve. 

HCM promenade
Christmas vibe was very strong in HCM

Balloons, living statues and mobile food stalls lined the promenade with ladies and kids nicely-dressed up for the occasion. The place looked really vibrant and was full of happy vibes and energy.

We decided to walk to a nearby bubble tea outlet – Chi Cha San Chen – for a sip.  Loved the interior design of this Taiwanese-originated outlet as it was clean and simple with a touch of nature.

11. People’s Committee Building (HCM Travel Itinerary)

Strolling towards the northern part of the promenade, we were presented with an excellent angle to capture a shot of the People’s Committee Building

HCM People’s Committee Building
Attention-grabbing building in HCM

We had walked past it the other day and was captivated by the colonial design and night lighting of the building. You can also walk along an uniquely-paved street – Nguyen Hue Walking Street – that would be closed to traffic on weekend nights. 

12. Vincom Centre Shopping Mall

(8.20pm)

Nearing the end of the day, we visited Vincom Centre again to get some sheet masks from Watsons and food souvenirs from Winmart

TIP: If shopping is your thing, you can also visit Takashimaya HCM City which seemed like another popular mall among the locals. We were there the previous night. 

13. Street Food & Great Vibe near The Box Market

Finally, we were ready to head back to our hotel. On our way back, we chanced upon a happening street that sold “international food” via makeshift stalls.

Food near Box Market (HCM)
Street food near The Box Market (HCM)

We randomly ordered Korean fried chicken and some fish cakes and sat on the low stools to enjoy our food with the locals. This place wasn’t mark on Google Map, but was located next to The Box Market. 

Since we were there, we took a quick walk through The Box Market and stalls selling apparels and street food. 

And…Ta-da, we’re done with the 13 attractions visited today by foot. Continue to Day 8 and check out other things we did in HCM before departing the country.

Map Locations For Day 7 (HCM Itinerary)

AM

Hotel in HCM >>  War Remnants Museum >> Independence Palace >> Trung Nguyen Cafe >> Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon >> Ho Chi Minh Book Street >> Saigon Central Post Office >> Diamond Plaza >> Turtle Lake >> Saiko Suhi for dinner

PM

Saigon Waterbus Station >> Bach Dang Wharf >> Saigon Skydeck >> The Cafe Apartments >> Quang Truong Nguyen Hue (Promenade) >> Chi Cha San Chen >> People’s Committee Building >> Vincom Centre Shopping Mall  >> Box Market

 


Day 8: Last Day in Ho Chi Minh

Today, we would bid adieus to HCM and head back to Singapore. Since our flight was in the evening, we could squeeze in more local experience in HCM. 

I headed to Nguyen Dinh Chieu Coop Supermarket, located near my hotel to load up on things I wanted to bring back to Singapore, such as coffee and instant noodles. :) 

What to buy in Vietnam
Coffee in supermarket (HCM)

Steak Lunch at Topping Beef

(1.30pm)

After we’ve checked out of our hotel, we decided to splurge on a good lunch at a popular restaurant – Topping Beef.

HCM Steak restaurant
Pretty decent steak at Topping Beef

Ordered a tenderloin and drink for about 500k VND (per pax) which was on the high side for locals, but cheap as compared to Singapore prices. 

The steak was decent – not the best I’ve tried – but good enough. I liked the interior design, but the place where I sat (near the window) was really hot, with the afternoon sun beaming on my face. 

HCM Food to try

Tea at Cin Hu Tang Cafe (Near Turtle Lake)

Our last activity in HCM was at a cafe located near the Turtle Lake. We randomly walked into one of the many cafes – Cin Hu Tang – that was filled with youngsters.

Ordered a coconut milk tea that was too sweet even though I’d asked for zero sugar. Ha Ha…not easy to find drinks that are not sweet in Vietnam. 

HCM Food to try
Oh…so sweet!

At Tan Son Nhat International Airport

(4pm)

Finally, we were at HCM Airport. If you can, try to grab sandwich and drink in the city as things in the airport were almost double the price. 

Why weren’t we surprised when we saw our flight being delayed for half an hour. Having lived through an 8 hours delay during the first leg of our trip, this was nothing and something worth celebrating. :P 

Map Locations For Day 8 (Ho Chi Minh Travel Itinerary)

Hotel in HCM >>  Coop Supermarket >> Topping Beef  >> Turtle Lake >> Cin Hu Tang Cafe >> Tan Son Nhat International Airport

 


That’s all to our 8-day South Vietnam trip where we spent our time equally between Phu Quoc Island and Ho Chi Minh City. 

Thanks for reading and hope we’ve given you some ideas on where to head to for your next holiday. Before you leave, don’t miss these earlier posts: 

Essential Info (HCM):

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