Trying to figure out what the best things to do in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City are? Don’t worry, this guide goes into the major sightseeing, museums to visit, where to eat, where to shop, and more!

When I first looked up things to do in Saigon, I realized quickly that all the major sightseeing can be done in a day or two in District 1 (or Quận 1 in Vietnamese). If you’re looking for what the “center” of the city is, I would say it’s here. Chances are if you’re just coming in for a few days, you won’t even leave this district!

Now that I’ve been here for much longer than my initial 3-day trip, I’e gotten to know the city much better. Of course, there are very cool places to visit outside of District 1 (Cholon in District 5 is a personal favorite) but I do always love returning to this area. There’s quite a bit of bustle, a cool mix of old French colonial architecture with new Vietnamese vibes, and, of course, a lot of delicious restaurants and cool cafes with even better views.

I highly recommend taking at least 2 days just for this district alone, and it’s a great place to start any Vietnam itinerary.

Quick HCMC Travel Tips

  • Don’t Forget: Most nationalities need a visa to visit Vietnam (including Americans)! I recommend using iVisa to book yours.
  • Getting in: The only airport for HCMC is Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport. From there I recommend calling a Grab to take you to your hotel. (Just keep in mind you have to go to a different area to get picked up). From District 1, it’s only 15-20 minutes tops.
  • Stay in Touch: Vietnam is yet another country that has eSIMs! You can order ahead here. If you want to go old school, you can still order a physical SIM or pocket wifi too.
  • Getting Around: There are a few different rideshare apps, but I prefer Grab. Choose between a car or motorbike (though keep in mind – Grab motorbike helmets are pretty useless, so you may want to pick up your own helmet for extra safety). While you can do some walking, honestly anything over like half a kilometer will result in pretty intense sweatiness and the traffic can be pretty annoying to deal with. Another option is to pre-book a car charter or get a ticket for the big, red hop-on, hop-off bus.

For more advice, check out my Vietnam travel tips and for all guides, check my Vietnam travel guide.

History in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Quick Little History of HCMC & District 1

The history of Saigon is quite interesting if you ever want to read into it a bit more (I still have loads of reading to do before I feel comfortable enough writing a post about it). While the very first signs of settlement were in District 3 at the Phung Son Pagoda, more of what we know of Saigon today began under the Nguyen dynasty when they sent Nguyen Huu Canh to come establish Vietnam rule in the area in 1698.

Later the city was colonized by both the French and Spanish in 1859 and then just France after the 1862 Treaty of Saigon. During the next 80+ years, the area was heavily influenced by French architecture, which you can see best in District 1 (and like 75% of the major sightseeing spots).

During the struggle for independence following WWII, Saigon was the capital of the State of Vietnam with Emperor Bao Dai as the head. Then it was capital of the Republic of Vietnam under PM Ngô Đình Diệm in 1955. Eventually it became the setting for the end of the Vietnam War on April 30th, 1975 when the city fell to Viet Cong forces.

A lot of this history occurred in and around District 1, which you’ll see in the various spots and important landmarks below!

Getting Around DISTRICT 1

In actuality, District 1 is actually quite large! There are 10 phường (or ward/neighborhoods) that make up the whole thing. It also sort of spoons District 3, so there are a lot of places in D3 that are closer to D1 landmarks depending on your neighborhood. For your sake, the main neighborhoods you’re probably going to want to focus on are Ben Nghe, Ben Thanh, and a little of Da Kao. For backpackers, Pham Ngu Lao is where Bui Vien street is so you may also want to know a bit about that ward too!

I do recommend getting doing some sort of tour to get acquainted with the district. I say this even as an experienced traveler and someone who lived in Saigon for an extended time – this city can be extremely overwhelming to new eyes! The motorbikes alone can be a lot to deal with if you’ve never been to a major city in Southeast Asia before. Doing a tour with a local guide will help you get used to your surroundings pretty quickly and make the city feel a lot less intimidating. Here are some I recommend; just click on the name to go to the tour page:

  • Morning Discovery Tour via Vintage CarThis actually is quite a fun way to see the city! It looks like they’ll take you to all the major sights I’ve got below.
  • Half Day City Tour Pretty classic tour to take you through all the major landmarks and sights in District 1.
  • Saigon Motorbike TourYou know what they say… when it Rome! I highly recommend getting on a motorbike at least once while you’re in Vietnam, and a motorbike tour is a great way to safely and comfortably get used to being on one.
Where to Stay in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Where to Stay IN DIstrict 1 & Nearby

The best things about figuring out where to stay in District 1 is that it ultimately doesn’t matter – you’re going to be reaching for your phone to call a Grab for distances as little as 1km away. The humidity in Saigon is brutal and just walking outside for more than 5 minutes will have you sweating. Trust me, I tried to walk as often as I could and more of than not, I wound up getting a Grab just so I wouldn’t show up dripping in sweat.

Budget

Back when I first visited Ho Chi Minh City, I stayed in a loveliest budget hostel called Lily’s Hostel. It’s located in the main backpacker area of Bui Ven, but because it was kind of off in an alley, it felt much quieter. That was quite a while ago, and since then I’ve seen it’s gotten a bit of a makeover so it looks even newer than when I stayed. In general, you can’t go wrong looking for a hostel somewhere around Bui Ven, but I added some others below in different areas:

Hostel NameNearbyCost
Toi’s Travel Home CentralTao Dan Park (also my favorite nail salon – Privé)View Here
Meow Hotel & CafeBui Ven StreetView Here
Vy Da Central Market Hostelnear Benh Thanh MarketView Here

Mid-Range

Saigon is probably home to hundreds of mid-range boutique hotels, hostels, and apartment situations. I’m not kidding just do a search for them. These hotels usually range from maybe $50 – $130 USD depending on the season and are honestly nicer than most $200 USD hotels I’ve stayed at in the States! I’ve personally stayed at The Odys Boutique Hotel and Hammock Hotel, which are both by the Fine Arts Museum. Odys is great if you want that Indochine vibe and Hammock is super fun for the trendier, Instagrammable vibe.

Hotel NameNearbyCost
Odys Boutique Hotelacross from Fine Arts MuseumView Here
Hammock Hotelacross from Fine Arts MuseumView Here
Fusion Suites Saigonnear Tao Dan ParkView Here
La Opera Saigonnear Little JapanView Here

Luxury

Saigon is home to some seriously beautiful luxury hotels. They’re mostly centered around Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street, so you can pop right over to see most of the big sites with ease. I’m adding Hotels de Artes even though it’s technically in District 3 because it’s SO close to everything and basically in District 1 anyway. I did a staycation there and absolutely loved the decor as well as the rooftop bar and pool. Most people I know who lived in Saigon would do their big celebrations there.

Hotel NameNearbyCost
Hotel des Artes Saigonnear Independence PalaceView Here
Park Hyatt Saigonbehind Opera HouseView Here
The Reverie Saigonright on Nguyễn HuệView Here

Sightseeing Things to Do in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

1. Take in the views from Bitexco Financial Tower

  • Vietnamese Name: Tháp Bitexco Financial Tower
  • Address: Bitexco Financial Tower, 7, 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

Back when I first visited Saigon, Bitexco was the tallest tower in the city! It’s since been surpassed, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less a landmark. While you can get tickets to the observation deck on the 49th floor, you can also go to Floors 50-52 and take in the views from either EON Cafe (50), Eon 51 (51), or the EON Helibar (52). Random but there’s also a Heineken museum from Floors 58-60! When I went, I went to Eon 51 but at the time it was also a cafe. Looks like they expanded quite a bit!

Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

2. Go for a sunset cruise along the Saigon River

Saigon is truly home to some stunning sunsets and one of best ways to see it is from the river. Now I’m warning you – do NOT swim or do any sort of water sports IN the Saigon River. It’s pretty bad (like way worse than the Hudson in NYC) and you’re pretty much getting wet at your own risk. I’m shocked whenever I hear of someone doing SUP in this water. However, there are plenty of opportunities for a fun cruise. I did a speed boat tour to Go Vap with a big group of people, but I also think having dinner aboard a junk boat would be a fun experience.

Saigon Central Post Office, Vietnam

3. Send a postcard from Saigon Central Post Office

  • Vietnamese Name: Bưu Điện Trung Tâm Thành Phố
  • Other Name: Poste Centrale de Saïgon
  • Address: 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

Literally, right next door to the cathedral is the Saigon Central Post Office, built between 1886 and 1891. It’s a mixture of French, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture. I’m not sure why but sometimes the design is accredited to Gustave Eiffel, but it was actually designed by Alfred Foulhoux.

Inside is spacious and lovely, and it’s still functioning! I actually had to use it to send a package to Hallie in Korea, and it was super easy. Just go straight back to the stands. First a man who speaks English will assess what you’re sending (no liquids), pack everything for you, and then hand you a bill to pay at another counter.

4. Get a look at the Ho Chi Minh City Supreme People’s Court

  • Vietnamese Name: Tòa án Nhân dân Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
  • Address: 131 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1

Back on my first visit, I walked by this beautiful yellow building so many times without really knowing what it was. Later when I was flipping through my photos, I actually had to go into Google Maps’ street view to try to re-find it and get some kind of name. Even after I did discover it was called HCMC Supreme People’s Court, I couldn’t find really any information besides an article, that’s now no longer online, about how the city is in the midst of restoring it!

Well, luckily nowadays it’s fully restored, though as it’s used for government purposes, I don’t think you can really go in and walk around. I also managed to find this info on their website as well as some old photos! It sounds like Foulhoux was also behind this building, and construction occurred between 1881 and 1885.

Nguyen Hue Walking Street, HCMC, Vietnam

5. People-watch along Nguyen Hue Walking Street

  • Vietnamese Name: Phố đi bộ Nguyễn Huệ Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
  • Address: 22 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

Nguyễn Huệ is easily the main street of Ho Chi Minh City. It basically stretches from Lê Thánh Tôn street and the People’s Committee of HCMC all the way to the river. Lots of cool buildings, nice restaurants, souvenir shops, and popular franchise shops. The big thing to visit is the Cafe Apartments at 42 Nguyen Hue (more on them below). Funny enough when I first went, it really did look like quite a decrepit building with a sketchy entrance, but now it’s very clearly marked as a cool place to visit!

If you’re here on Tet (Lunar New Year), definitely make your way over. While the whole street is normally quite bare with plenty of room for kids to run around and skateboard, during Tet, it’s filled with flowers and decorations and women in their prettiest ao dais taking photos. This is how I saw it on my first visit, and I just thought it was so fun and cheerful, especially when I saw it from above at Saigon Oi’s balcony.

HCMC Opera House, Vietnam

6. Check out a show at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House

  • Vietnamese Name: Nhà hát Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
  • Other Names: Saigon Opera House, Municipal Theatre of HCMC, and Opėra Municipal de Saigon
  • Address: 07 Đồng Khởi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

A few blocks down and past the swanky hotels, you’ll find the Opera House nestled in the midst. Built at the turn of the 20th century, its majestic, Beaux-Arts style is similar to Le Petit Palais and Opéra Garnier found in Paris. It still does function as an opera house, and you can visit its site for performances!

People's Committee Hall, District 1, HCMC, Vietnam

7. Snap a pic at the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City

  • Vietnamese Name: UBND Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
  • Other Name: Ho Chi Minh City Hall or Hôtel de ville de Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville
  • Address: Số 86 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

At the front end of Nguyễn Huệ is the People’s Committee of HCMC. It’s a massive French colonial structure that was built between 1902-1908. Believe it or not, it was once meant to be a hotel! While the interior is not open to the public, you can still enjoy the outside as there’s a nice plaza right in front. I do remember getting some good banh mi nearby as well if you see a lady selling the the sandwiches.

8. See one of Saigon’s Only Hindu Temples

  • Vietnamese Name: Đền Nữ thần Mariamman
  • Address: 45 Trương Định, Phường Bến Thành

Temple Goddess Mariamma is a colorful temple right in the middle of Bến Thành and one of the only Hindu temples in the city. Its name comes from the goddess, Mariamman, and was built in the 1800s by traders coming from India. Definitely reminds me of the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur. While the inside is interesting, the outside is really the main attraction.

9. Visit Independence Palace

  • Vietnamese Name: Dinh Độc Lập
  • Other Names: Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhấ), Reunification Hall (Hội trường Thống Nhất)
  • Address: 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Bến Thành

You know what’s funny? This palace has become so oddly familiar while I’ve been here! When I stayed at my Airbnb in District 3, I used to be able to run around it to get my 5k in, so I was always there at night. Then when I moved to Binh Thanh, it’s how I knew I’m coming into D1 on the motorbike! It weirdly feels a bit homey now, even though it’s definitely not!

Anyway, enough about me. Independence Palace was designed by Ngô Viết Thụ on the grounds of the former Norodom Palace. Norodom was used by the French until they surrendered to the Viet Minh in 1954 (and minus the brief period Japan had control in 1945). Then from 1954 to 1962 it was used by Ngô Đình Diệm, who was first the prime minister of Vietnam and then the president of the South Vietnam.

In 1962, the left wing was destroyed by the Viet Cong as they attempted to assassinate Diem. While he survived, the palace did not, so he had it completely demolished to make way for the current Independence Palace. Although Diem commissioned the palace, he was successfully assassinated in 1963 so he never actually saw the completed building. Instead it went to General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu who led the military junta until the North Vietnamese took over in 1975. On April 30th, 1975, the building lay witness to the Fall of Saigon when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the main gate and ended the war.

Today it’s mainly used as a tourist site and for important occasions. Weirdly I have not been inside to visit! I think I thought it wasn’t possible for the longest time, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a matter of purchasing tickets and going in.

10. DO a day tour.

Now because most tourists stay in District 1, most day tours will leave from here and drop you off. There are a few popular ones, and I, myself, did a Mekong day trip on my very first day ever in Vietnam.

  • Mekong Delta – This is like THE most popular day trip to do for good reason. It can be tricky to figure out visiting the Mekong Delta if you’re a new visitor and because of the distance, you’d want to go for more than just a day. The day trips tend to take you to this area called Mỹ Tho and you’ll visit a few different islands. While I do think the Mekong is worth visiting for longer (and I LOVE areas like Can Tho and Vinh Long more than Mỹ Tho), this is a great introduction to southern Vietnam and good if you’re on a time crunch.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels – The tunnels are another popular day tour from the city especially for anyone interested in the Vietnamese War (or as they called it Vietnam – Kháng chiến chống Mỹ or Resistance War against America). From what I’ve heard, they show you what like was like for Vietnamese soldiers and the types of tunnels they often crawled through. Book a half-day tour here.
  • Vung Tau – Vung Tau is the closest “beachy” escape from Ho Chi Minh City. I’ve never been actually and from what I’ve heard it’s fine. You’re better off waiting to get to the coast for your beach fix. But if you’re curious and want to see Vietnam’s mini-Brazil Jesus statue, you can do this tour.
  • Nui Ba Den – Ba Den has always been the “closest” mountain to Saigon and a nice spot for anyone who wants to go for a hike. When I went, they were re-doing the whole top to have an amusement park and we took cable cars up as high as we could go. (We still had quite a bit hiking even with the help). While we tried doing all public transport; I’d save myself the hassle and just book a guide for the next time. They’ll also take you to the famous Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh which is still one of the coolest places I’ve seen in Vietnam.
  • Nui Dinh – Nui Dinh is another hike you can do from HCMC. I’ve done it in rainy weather, and it’s one of my top most miserable experiences ever. However, if you want to try, book a guide here.

Churches to Visit in District 1

Given the French colonization back in the day, there are quite a number of Catholic churches in Saigon. Three of the most famous are in District 1.

Notre Dame of HCMC, Vietnam

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

  • Vietnamese Names: Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn
  • Other Names: Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saigon, Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, Church of Saigon,  l’Eglise de Saïgon
  • Address: 01 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

This Roman Catholic church was built in 1880 under French rule in Saigon. All the materials were imported from France, the bricks specifically coming from Toulouse. (Seems like quite a mission considering they had sources right in the Mekong Delta to find the perfect red bricks.) Right now the Notre-Dame is under construction and it seems like the front is totally covered in scaffolding. I swear it’s been like this for a few years now, and they keep changing when it should be done.

If you’d like to attend English service here, check the Facebook page Catholics in Saigon for dates.

Huyen Si Church

  • Vietnamese Name: Giáo xứ Chợ Đũi – Nhà thờ Huyện Sĩ
  • Other Name: St. Philip Apostolic Church, Cho Don Church
  • Address: 1 Đường Tôn Thất Tùng, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão

Nearby Dabao Concept cafe is this pretty church called Huyện Sĩ. It was first established in 1859, though the current church was built between 1902-1905 in the Gothic-style. One cool fact is that this church used marble from Bien Hoa (if my internet research is correct). Don’t miss the shrine to Ave Maria on the same grounds.

Tan Dinh Church

  • Vietnamese Name: Nhà thờ Tân Định
  • Other Names: Pink Cathedral, Pink Church, Tan Dinh Church, Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • Address: 289 Hai Bà Trưng, Phường 8, Quận 3

Okay, Tân Định Cathedral isn’t technically in District 1, but it’s literally at the border. Like if you cross the street to the Cong Caphe on the other side, you’ll be back in D1. This pretty pink church is another relic of French colonization, having been built in the 1870s. The bright pink color, though, has only been around since 1957.

Museums to Visit in District 1

Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum

  • Vietnamese Name: Bảo tàng Mỹ thuật Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
  • Other Names: Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, HCMC Fine Arts Museum
  • Address: 97A Phó Đức Chính, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình

The Fine Arts Museum is in a really gorgeous French colonial building from the early 1900s. I love that they turned it into a museum featuring some Vietnamese art from traditional pieces to more modern exhibits. There are even some archaeological exhibits on the 3rd floor from Champa and Óc Eo.

Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City Museum

  • Vietnamese Name: Bảo tàng Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
  • Other Names: Gia Long palace, Dinh Gia Long
  • Address: 65 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

The Ho Chi Minh City Museum was originally constructed between 1885-1890 in the Baroque-style, and eventually became a residence for governors, whether it was of Cochinchina or Imperial Japan.

Originally this museum was known as Gia Long Palace, and Ngô Đình Diệm moved in in 1954. If you go down, you can see one of the tunnels Diệm had commissioned in case they needed to escape.

Today, the museum is all about the city’s history from its ancient times through Vietnam’s independence. There are a lot of cool exhibits to give you an overview. I personally loved seeing the one exhibit on the different cultures that live in the city!

Museum of Vietnamese History

  • Vietnamese Name: Bảo tàng Lịch sử Việt Nam
  • Other Names: Musée Blanchard de la Brosse, The National Museum of Viet Nam in Sai Gon
  • Address: 2 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé

For an overview of Vietnamese history from the prehistoric era through Nguyen Dynasty, pop over to this museum! The building it’s in was originally created under the French to be a museum on Indochinese studies and to display exhibits of Asian countries in general.

Just so you know, it’s on the same grounds as the Saigon Zoo and Botanic Gardens but the entrance fee is separate. Given what I’ve heard and seen form other bloggers and expats about the state of the zoo, I strongly do not recommend including it in your itinerary.

Bonus #1: Ho Chi Minh Museum

  • Vietnamese Name: Bến Nhà Rồng
  • Address: Số 01 Nguyễn Tất Thành, Phường 12, Quận 4

Okay, technically, the Ho Chi Minh Museum is over the bridge from District 1 in District 4, but it’s so close, it could easily be included. The museum is located in a building known as the Dragon Wharf on the Saigon River and was originally constructed between 1862-1863 for a French shipping company.

It’s significant in Vietnam’s history because this is where Ho Chi Minh departed in 1911. He would actually be gone until 1943 when he returned to lead the Viet Minh independence movement.

War Remnants Museum, HCMC, Vietnam

Bonus #2: The War Remnants Museum

  • Vietnamese Name: Bảo tàng chứng tích chiến tranh
  • Address: 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3

In District 3 but very close to District 1, this museum is definitely going to be a difficult one to visit, so I recommend setting aside a morning or afternoon to go. It covers both the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War and is located in the former US Information Agency building.

Where to Eat & Drink in District 1

Since there are a lot of cool restaurants, bars, and cafes in District 1, I divided this up by the neighborhoods they’re in so you can plan more easily.

Dabao Concept

Benh Thanh Restaurants & Cafes

Ben Thanh Street Food Market

I always reccomend eating at Ben Thanh Market for anyone who’s new to Vietnam and Vietnamese food. The food is pretty good, and because they’re so used to tourists, they have photos and English translations for everything each stall serves. I’m partial to the bún mắm here.

Ben Thanh Pizza 4Ps

Had to throw it in here that there’s a Pizza 4Ps in this neighborhood if you’re craving pizza or Italian ;)

Dabao Concept

Dabao Concept is a super hipster-y cafe with that unfinished look, like part of the walls have been simply pulled out to make way. It’s on the 3rd floor of an otherwise residential building, so be careful you don’t accidentally go into someone’s home.

Scott’s Kitchen HCMC

Okay, so since I’ve last been, it looks like Scott’s Kitchen switched locations to a place in the Benh Thanh neighborhood. I’m not sure if it’s still hidden in a Mexican Restaurant called La Fiesta, but if you go and are confused that you don’t see a sign, it’s basically one in the same restaurant with two different menus. SUCH a good spot if you’re craving mac and cheese – I always get the buffalo mac and cheese and walkaway with leftovers.

Soo Kafe

Formerly Hidden Elephant Cafe, this is a super cute place who’s entrance really is quite hidden! Go up about two flights and you’ll find this calm cafe filled with books and, uncommon for District 1, silence. It’s got a library-vibe, so great if you want to read in peace.

Le 91 Bistro & Bar

Fun spot that emulates a Parisian cafe and bistro.

Okkio Caffe

Cute cafe nearby Hidden Elephant. When I originally went to Hidden Elephant, it was too crowded to find a seat! Okkio also has a bit of a hidden entrance and never ending spiral staircase until you finally reach it. But the egg coffee is good and when I went it was quite peaceful as well, though I’ve heard it can get a bit busy.

Au Parc, HCMC, Vietnam
Salads at Au Parc

Ben Nghe Restaurants & Cafes

42 Nguyen Hue Cafes

Ahhh the famous cafe apartments! In this one building you’ll find Orientea, The Letter Coffee, Partea, and Saigon Oi. The building may look both festive and a bit decrepit, but I promise once you’re in, you’ll see all its fun charm.

Au Parc Restaurant

If you want a good, heart salad, this is the place to go. They are massive and absolutely delicious. I’ve been twice now and got a salad both time, which says a lot because usually I want to eat everything but salads!

Cafe Den Da

I stopped into Cafe Den Da for a bit before meeting Justine for lunch at Au Parc and was surprised by how cute the interior was. I fully just planned on finding a random cafe to plug in and work for an hour or so, but this place was full of cool, sort of industrial-rustic-vintage (I suck at descriptions clearly) designs. Must go back!

Propaganda

Propaganda is a super cute restaurant right next to Au Parc that’s got, you guessed it, a Vietnam-propaganda-themed-decor. Super colorful, and the food is insanely delicious as well. We got the fried spring rolls, beef salad, and duck curry.

Secret Garden 131 Calmette

Ahhh this restaurant is so nice. They serve Vietnamese food with a few twists in a setting that very much fits their name. I don’t even remember all that we got, but when Alyshia, Steph, and I went, we got a bunch of dishes and split them all. Seriously, you’re definitely going to need a minute with the menu!

The Running Bean

I stopped here randomly when I was in the area because I wanted a smoothie bowl, and the Running Bean came up as the closest option. It’s a nice, spacious spot with good food options and plenty of spots to set yourself up to work. My smoothie bowl was also quite good!

Godmother Bake & Brunch

Ahhh one of the first places I visited and always a favorite. If you want good brunch, come here! I’ve tried most of their menu at this rate and can recommend all of it, especially the eggs Benedict.

Layla’s

Steph, Alyshia, and I met up here to try their disco brunch before Steph left us to go home. It’s quite a trendy little spot. Unfortunately, no disco-dancing was to be had, but the brunch food was yummy and the service lovely.

Little Japan Restaurants

So within Ben Nghe is a little alleyway area called Little Japan. There are so many good Japanese restaurants there, especially if you’re craving some ramen! Currently working on a post on Little Japan with more details. For now, I’ll have to say I loved Tokyo Moon cafe and Mutahiro. Tokyo Moon is actually owned by a really lovely couple from Seoul and they were selling omijacha, one of my favorite Korean drinks. Mutahiro has really good ramen and I actually heard from two people it was on par with Japan. Given my limited experience in Kyoto and Fukuoka, I’d have to agree!

Octo Tapas Restobar

If you fancy some tapas, head over to Octo Tapas Restobar. We popped in here to try during one of their busier nights and somehow spent 1mil VND each in how many tapas we had… WHOOPS! But worth it, the food was so good.

The Workshop Coffee

A fun place to work or maybe meet someone for coffee because the chairs aren’t that comfortable. This one also has a bit of a hard-to-find entrance!

Still on my List in Ben Nghe:

  • Ca phe Co ba
  • L’Usine Le Thanh Ton
  • The Old Compass Cafe and Bar
food - things to do in district 1 ho chi minh city

Co Giang Restaurants

Bun Thit Nuong Kieu Bao

Super good bun thit nuong place near to Bui Vien street.

Lola’s

If you want a nice girls’ night for drinks, Lola’s is a nice spot in Co Giang.

Trung Cafe & Dessert

Da Kao Restaurants & Cafes

Cafe Luia

Cafe Luia is a super cute, Korean-inspired cafe. Lots of minimalistic mixed with vintage interior designs and a good place to meet with friends. I worked from here once, but I think it’d be nicer for a chat vs. trying to set-up a laptop for a few hours.

Danshari Coffee

Danshari is another cafe that’s switched locations, and I’ve only ever been to their old location on Ly Tu Trong. This is a nice cafe that has one of those more calming, minimalist aesthetics.

Drift Bar

Drift Bar is a nice little spot on the river with indoor and outdoor seating! Check their Facebook page for their events, including a biweekly open mic night.

Indika Saigon

Indika is a fun bar with cool decor. You can also check their Facebook page for events; when I went they were having a huge free flow night.

Old English Cafe

I randomly found this cafe on Facebook and wanted to pop by with Steph and Alyshia after we got brunch at Lola’s. Such a random place but quite cute! Another spot to get afternoon tea. You can pick out your teacup once you decide on your tea.

Trung Cafe & Dessert

Trung Cafe is a super cute spot that opened up in 2020! They feature sandwiches, deserts made without syrups, and yummy drinks. You can even get afternoon tea here now as well.

Vintage Emporium

Okay, I will say the Vintage Emporium in Thao Dien is much nicer simply because it’s a lot bigger! But the one in Da Kao is lovely as well and a good spot for brunch and to work from.

Still on My List in Da Kao:

Nguyen Thai Binh Restaurants

Ba Ba Bun Bo Nambo

I think this is one of the only places in Saigon I’ve seen my favorite dish, bún bò nam bộ, offered! It’s so, so good and if I’m in the area I always eat there and drag whoever’s with me to try it too.

Quan che Lam Vinh Mau

Need a late night che? This stand does yummy Chinese deserts. I literally have no clue what I ate or ordered, but the vendor picked it for me and it was nice and refreshing!

Tomatito Saigon Tapas Bar

I know, another tapas recommendation! I think I’ve had more tapas in Saigon than in Madrid. We went here for a little belated birthday dinner and pretty much went ham on all the tapas we wanted.

Still on my List in Nguyen Thai Binh:

  • Maison Marou Saigon
  • Padma de Fleur

Shopping in District 1

Benh Thanh Market

Of course, the main place most tourists like to check out is Benh Thanh! Truthfully I haven’t been in much even on my first visit, but I’ve heard prices here are obviously higher than other markets in Saigon.

Book Street

Next to the Post Office is this fun street nicknamed Book Street for, what I hope, are obvious reasons. Lots of cute bookstores that also have souvenirs.

Lucky Plaza

Right on Nguyen Hue Street, this is the place to go for all sorts of fun bargain finds. It caters more to tourists as well, so they have larger sizes.

Metiseko Boutique

For something more upscale, check out the sustainable brand, Metiseko! They have two boutiques right near each other, one for their silk collections and ones for their organic cotton collections.

Russian Market

I’ve heard good things about this place! It’s supposed to be a good spot to find more active wear and bigger sizes.

Vincom Center Shopping Mall

This mall is a little bit further down from the Post Office and near the People’s Comittee and has just about every story you could imagine. It’s massive! I went here to use the Citi ATM (it’s right near the entrance to Zara btw) and wound up shopping around a bit.

For those looking for Western brands, they’ve got all the usuals: H&M, Zara, etc. Was surprised they had a whole Old Navy (though sizes here really only go up to large)! Also picked up my Birkenstocks and some Innisfree stuff here.

Beauty in District 1

Blush Spa

Attached to the Hammock Hotel is Blush Spa and I loved all the pink decor! They have different packages which are quite fun.

Merci

A friend recommended this spot to me as she loves it. She said if I liked Prive, I’d like Merci, so now it’s on my list to try next! It’s also right by Little Japan, so you can go here for some pampering and then next door for some delicious ramen.

Nu Spa

Nu Spa is attached to the Odys Boutique Hotel and a nice little place for massages if you’re staying there. I got the body tension release massage.

Prive Nails

If you’re looking for a lovely place to get your nails done, then check out Prive Nails! They have a location here and Thao Dien. It’s an upscale salon and everyone is so nice.

It’s funny because one of my hotels tried to recommend this other place, and Steph wanted to try out somewhere new, so we went and immediately left for Prive. The other place was so unpleasant, even by Vietnamese customer service standards, and once I realized Prive was literally next door, I grabbed Steph and left. Sorry, but when the technician who’s supposed to saw off my gel nails scoffs and acts like I’m interrupting her day, I’d rather pay someone else!

Wings Lashes De Tham

If you’re looking for lash extensions, Wings is pretty much to go to for any expat in HCMC! I accidentally went to a different location but the experience was pleasant and quick. Mine cost me less than 500k VND/$20 USD though if you get the bigger, fancier styles it can get close to 2 million VND!

And there you have it! All the best things to do in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions since I’m sure I haven’t covered even half of it!

For more travel in Southern Vietnam:

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