Vietnam is more than just markets and street food. These 10 fascinating museums in Ho Chi Minh City are bound to make you fall in love with the country’s culture and people.
Be it exhibitions displaying historical artifacts, memories of war, or modern art, these museums are the absolute best in Ho Chi Minh City. Spend a day or two exploring these gems to gain some insight into how Vietnam came to be the country it is today.
Established in 1975, Vietnam’s most-visited museum tells the tragic story of the war that shook the world. The War Remnants Museum examines the scars of the Vietnam War through well-arranged exhibits of pictures, documents, and artifacts. The experience can be gruesome enough to leave a lasting memory – especially Monsanto’s Agent Orange section. You’ll leave the museum thinking one thing: war is hell.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum, not to be confused with the Ho Chi Minh Museum, depicts the resistance of Vietnam against the French and the Americans using photographic material and artifacts. Established in 1975, this museum is full of other interesting pieces of Vietnamese history and culture, such as ceramics, old maps of the city and displays of traditional marriages between ethnic minorities. The garden outside is popular for wedding photographs or as a break for tired tourists.
South Vietnamese Women Museum was constructed to honor Vietnamese women for their contribution to the country’s development and also to celebrate the role of women in the war as mothers, wives and fighters. The three floors and 10 display halls depict historical figures, with one outstanding exhibition highlighting women’s roles during the revolution: serving as politicians, diplomats and administrators of the country. In addition, the museum also serves as a center for organizing educational activities, scientific talks, and cultural exchanges.
The Vietnam History Museum is another amazing piece of architecture, clearly influenced by French colonialism when it opened in 1929. Through a varied collection of artifacts and documents, the museum explores the country’s pre-war eras, Cham and Khmer culture, and prehistoric times such as the Bronze Age (Đông Sơn civilization). Set beside the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, this makes for a great detour while on the tourist circuit.
Along with the nón lá (Vietnamese conical hat), the áo dài (the elegant Vietnamese national costume) is another prominent symbol of the country. The Áo Dài Museum is the brainchild of famous designer Lê Sĩ Hoàng, with various exhibits displaying áo dàis from the 17th century all the way to modern adaptations – effectively displaying the evolution of the dress.
The FITO Museum (Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine) in Ho Chi Minh City is dedicated to the history of Vietnamese medicine. It provides visitors with an in-depth look at the interesting world of East Asian traditional medicine, which is heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy. Over 3,000 items of medical purpose such as medicinal herbs, decorative containers, medicinal charts and journals (some dating back to the Stone Age) are displayed here. You can even dress up in áo dài and have your photo taken behind a medicine counter as a cheesy souvenir.
The Fine Arts Museum once belonged to one of the city’s richest men and is one of the largest galleries in the city. With three floors dedicated to contemporary Vietnamese and international art, displays are arranged in a way that allows you to walk through the evolution of Vietnamese art through modern history. A new addition in 1987, the museum is housed in a yellow and white colonial mansion that never fails to impress.
The Artinus 3D art museum is one for families. The concept is interesting: all the images are optical illusions designed to trick and entertain your mind. Stand on the indicated spot and you will no longer be a passive observer, but a participant of the 3D painting the artist has created. The museum is located a little out of town but it is well worth the visit, as you will easily spend a couple of hours here. There is an entrance fee of VND $200,000 (USD $10.00).
Opened in 1988, this museum depicts the Vietnamese resistance to the numerous wars the country has faced, from the Chinese occupation to the Indochina War with France and the Vietnam War against American forces. There are over 17,000 items on display here ranging from documents to relics used in the wars, including artillery and battle tanks.
A true hidden gem, The Couleurs d’Asie is an enchanting little place and offers insight into Vietnamese culture through beautiful pictures taken by renowned photographer Réhahn. The photographs are nothing short of beautiful and truly capture the human spirit at its very essence. If you’re lucky you’ll catch Réhahn himself inside the gallery, who is more than willing to explain the stories behind the pictures. You can buy postcard replicas, photo books and framed pieces which will make a beautiful addition to your wall.