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Intoxicating Ho Chi Minh City

Surprising Saigon. Storied Saigon. Sexy Saigon. Vietnam’s biggest city (officially known as Ho Chi Minh City) has more alliterative epithets than you can shake a stick at. The biggest city in Vietnam, its sheer size can be overwhelming, stretching out more than 100km and housing over 13 million people in 24 different districts. Although it may not have the immediate charm tourists can expect to find in Hanoi or Hoi An, Saigon is a place where the longer you stay, the more impossible it is to leave.

The central districts still boast grand colonial mansions, Art Deco department store buildings, and legendary hotels. Chinatown – a city within a city – bustles with life and has enormous market buildings not found anywhere else in the country, while the expat enclaves hide hip hangouts and creative hubs. Then, there are the restaurants, noodle stalls, and street-side to-go coffee carts perfuming the air with exotic scents and mouth-watering flavors.

Hooked your interest? Read on to discover how to add Saigon to your next Vietnam tour, or browse some of our selected favorites that check every box here.

What's in a Name? Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City?

Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon? Which name to use? Most visitors to Vietnam can find themselves a little bit confused on this city with two names. Originally called Saigon (forest city), it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1976 to commemorate the reunification of North and South Vietnam into one country.

Although officially referred to as Ho Chi Minh City, locals from the area (and those who fled from the communist regime during the war) will usually refer to it as Saigon.

No matter which name you use, the city offers unique historical insights to all those who spend a little time getting to know its many layers. Understandably, politics can be a bit complicated, but understanding the past is as necessary as it is important.

Join a tour with Topas to learn about the city’s past and present.

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Cutting Edge Saigon Culture

Ho Chi Minh City’s flourishing art scene is just one of many reasons that it’s considered Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan and dynamic city. Vietnamese (and foreign) creatives are drawn to Saigon for its open-minded nature and unlimited opportunities. It’s also Vietnam’s creative agency hub, with the country’s biggest collection of ambitious entrepreneurs and innovative content creators, private gallerists, haute couture shops, video producers, writers, and graphic designers found here.

The city oozes creativity, especially in places like District 1’s Craig Thomas Gallery, District 2’s Factory Contemporary Arts Center, and District 3’s Salon Saigon. Or, if post-modern is more your vibe, wander past graffiti murals to the restored Café Apartments, a mall outfitted with shops, cafes, restaurants, and co-working spaces in a renovated Soviet-bloc building.

Sound interesting? Then our Saigon Heritage package is the one for you! Filled with private artists’ collections, workshops, and world-class cuisine, you’ll be calling yourself a ‘Saigonese’ in no time.

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Ho Chi Minh City Nightlife - Something for Everyone

Saigon is Vietnam’s rising nightlife star, with sophisticated rooftop bars, pumping nightclubs, hidden speakeasies, and classic bia hois, all staying open until the rooster crows. This is the city to let it all go and really find your nightlife niche.

If your budget’s tight and you want to hang with the youths, there are countless corners to sit down for some street beer, while those looking for a  taste of the high life will much prefer a look across the urban skyline during the city’s many happy hour deals at rooftop bars.  You can even time-travel and sip a gin and tonic in a colonial era hotel, or dance the night away in salsa clubs and techno raves.

Wondering where to go? Ask your travel designer to include any of these top-rated bars and clubs to your Vietnam travel plans right away!

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Saigon Food Scene

Does a world cuisine exist that you can’t find in Ho Chi Minh City? Perhaps, but that won’t be for long. In most big cities, there are hundreds of new restaurants opening up (and closing down) each week. In Saigon, there are thousands.

Alongside the delicious and cheap street food culture, Ho Chi Minh City has a bourgeoning restaurant scene which attracts both local, internationally acclaimed, and celebrity chefs.

So much of modern Vietnamese cuisine is inspired by what’s happening out on the streets, and the best way to find these little eateries is with help from a local travel designer.

From chic rooftop endeavors showcasing meals in the European tradition to trendy vegan oases offering smoothie bowls and other insta-worthy courses, we can tailor-make a Saigon foodie tour to your heart and stomach’s wildest dreams. Feeling extra-adventurous? Add a few days in the Mekong to compare and contrast local flavors.

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Ho Chi Minh City Nature Excursions

Ho Chi Minh City may be known for its sprawling metropolis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your nature fix! Within the city’s districts, there are tropical parks and gardens brimming with exotic flowers as well as small Mekong-like canals fringed with water palms and mangroves.

The Can Gio Biosphere, an officially recognized UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Zone, is just a 2-hour speedboat ride away while Cu Chi Tunnel tours are a great half-day Ho Chi Minh City excursion to experience the city’s countryside as well as an important piece of history.

More active travelers can combine a Saigon city break with off-the-beaten path Vietnam destinations such as Nam Cat Tien National Park or Da Lat, where you can trek into the jungles on a search for crocodiles and canyon through waterfalls, respectively. For maximum effect, combine the two for a fascinating look into ethnic minority cultures and untouched nature that few international tourists get to see.

Is water more your thing? Venture off into the Mekong to discover Vietnam’s floating world of markets and waterways. Or, head to the beaches of Phu Quoc, Con Dao, Ho Tram, or Mui Ne for some much needed ocean therapy.

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Feeling Inspired?​

Dive deep into Vietnam’s magnificent landscapes and warm culture with these destination-focused itineraries designed to take you further into the country. Or mix and match to create the adventure of a lifetime.

Our Ho Chi Minh City Tours

6 days | Active From VND

Discover the magnetism of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s biggest city, and get off the tourist track on this 6-day adventure packed full of kayaking, mountain biking, and trekking. Visit Ho Chi Minh City’s best museums, attractions, and experiences before exploring the wild jungles of Nam Cat Tien National Park, home to ethnic minorities, bears, monkeys, and crocodiles.

4 days | Culture From VND

Gain a deeper perspective of Vietnam’s past and present on this 4-day cultural escape to Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in the country.  Browse private artist collections and join different workshops by day while sipping cocktails from the best rooftop bars by night. In addition, this package includes many opportunities to taste different varieties of southern Vietnamese fare.

4 days | Active From VND

Explore the magnetism of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s biggest city, on this 4-day active itinerary featuring the best museums, attractions, and experiences in the city. An added bonus is a day-trip to the Cu Chi countryside just outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Head down the Saigon River by speed-boat and then trade the water for land when you cycle through remote countryside and then squeeze through the guerilla tunnels of Cu Chi.

7 days | Culture From VND

Gain a deeper perspective of southern Vietnam on this 7-day cultural retreat to Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho, the largest cities in their respective regions. Browse private collections and join artist-led workshops, learning about Saigonese heritage before discovering the vibrant traditions of the Mekong. Here you’ll gain insight into daily life, whether it’s situated around Can Tho Ecolodge or your overnight cruise to Cai Be.

7 days | Active From VND

Get off the tourist track on this 8-day adventure through South Vietnam, packed full of kayaking, mountain biking, trekking, and waterfall canyoning. The journey starts in eclectic Ho Chi Minh City before taking you through the wild jungles of Nam Cat Tien National Park, home to ethnic minorities, bears, monkeys, and crocodiles.  Then, cool off in the cool and calm Central Highlands of Da Lat, where you will sample local coffees and abseil down waterfalls in style.

Want to explore Vietnam from North to South? ​

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