The 6 Best Free Experiences in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City | © jo.sau/Flickr
Dung Phan

Traveling to Ho Chi Minh City on a budget? Fortunately, the Vietnamese city has a surprising number of famous tourist attractions and activities that can be enjoyed for free. Check out our run-down of the best things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City without spending a dime.

The colonial-era architecture

Among the most popular attractions in HCMC, the Saigon Central Post Office and Notre-Dame Dame Basilica dominate Paris Commune Street. Both embody the striking architectural styles of the French colonial period. Saigon Notre Dame, a miniature of Notre Dame de Paris, features an elegant mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles. The Saigon Central Post Office, an expansive hall with prominent wrought iron beams and columns, always draws a crowd.

Saigon Central Post Office, 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam, +84 8 3822 1677
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, 1, Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam, +84 8 3822 0477

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

There is no better way to get a taste of local cuisine than exploring Ho Chi Minh City’s markets. While the popular Ben Thanh Market is known for being a little on the overpriced side, other local markets will give you an insight into a more authentic side of the city. Binh Tay Market is a good start, with its amazing food stalls and architecture, which is an exotic blend of French and Chinese styles. Xom Chieu Market is also worth a visit for its colourful fresh stalls and its food.

Binh Tay Market, 22 đường Trần Bình, phường 2, Quận 6, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Xom Chieu Market, Lê Quốc Hưng, phường 12, Quận 4, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Binh Tay Market

Local parks and open green spaces

In a city that could easily drive you crazy from the heat, the traffic, and the crowds, there’s always a need to get away from the concrete and head to tranquil green spaces. The popular Tao Dan Park is, of course, unmissable, but there are other smaller “secret gardens” that offer a chance to escape. Hoang Van Thu Park, a well-maintained oasis, is home to many different types of flora and perfect for a quiet relaxation.

Tao Dan Park, Trương Định, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Tao Dan Park

Tour the public library

Go and get lost in the General Sciences Library, a windowless 1960s three-story building with a large front yard and two other small rear courtyards. The current complex — a post-war reconstruction — was previously named “Maison Centrale de Saigon” (Saigon Central Prison), and was used to house the city’s overflow of prisoners.

HCMC’s General Sciences Library, 69 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

HCMC’s General Sciences Library

Take a free walking tour

Saigon Free Walking Tours are guided by local students, and offer something more energetic, passionate and thought-provoking than dry facts. Travelers can enjoy hearing about the city in detail as they stroll through the city’s landmarks without a fixed itinerary. It’s fascinating to learn about local culture through a young local’s lens.

Appreciate Vietnam’s contemporary arts scene

Vietnam’s economic hub is also it’s arts capital, with several contemporary art galleries blossoming in recent years. Galleries are crucial to promoting local artists and are often responsible for organizing events outside of classic exhibits to bring the artistic community together. Take your pick and delve into a beautiful world of Vietnamese expression.

San Art Laboratory, 7 ward 19, 48 Mê Linh, Vietnam, +84 8 6294 7059

Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts
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