The best things to see and do for free in Ho Chi Minh city

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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.

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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.

Visit the local markets

There is no better way to get a taste of local cuisine than exploring a city’s markets. While the popular Ben Thanh Market is apparently a tourist trap where everything is overpriced, other local markets will give you an insight into a poorer but more friendly and authentic side of the city. Binh Tay Market can be 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.

 

Madame Cathdral via Bệnh Viện K Trung Ương

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.

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.

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.

Ho Chi Minh city via vietravel

Contemporary art

For a taste of contemporary art, head to  San Art Laboratory. It provides a platform to engage both local and international artists in discourse through visual arts, literature, exhibitions, workshops, and residency programs. San Art’s reading room is open to public visits, so you can have a cup of coffee and enjoy reading art books on diverse topics.

Free events

Check out some local news sites such as Saigoneer, Word Vietnam or Hanoi Grapevines to find free events on while you’re in town.

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