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Ho Chi Minh City Highlights

Ho Chi Minh City – also known as Saigon – is widely known for its historical significance during the Vietnam War, but did you know that one of the city’s most enduring legacies is its stunning architecture? A trip around this incredible city will introduce you to a variety of structures ranging from French Colonial villas to modern steel and glass skyscrapers – signs of the city’s growth and innovation as well as its rich history.

View from the Top

Vietnam’s most populous city is also the country’s financial center, so it is fitting one of the highlights of any visit is a stop at the Bitexco Financial Tower. The tower is the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City, clocking in at 859 feet high, and standing as a symbol of the rapid development of the city’s economy. Its design was inspired by Vietnam’s national flower, the lotus, with a helipad projecting out from the center at what would appear to be the blossoming lotus bud. While primarily used as an office space, it also houses a shopping mall, cinema, restaurant and bar. On the 49th floor is the Saigon Skydeck, where guests can enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of the city and the Saigon River.

Photo Ops and the Opera

Visitors can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city with a trip to the Saigon Opera House – a famous landmark built in 1897 by French architect Eugène Ferret in the French Colonial style. The 800-seat venue began as a theater and was later used as South Vietnam’s Assembly House before once again being utilized for its original purpose. This breathtaking site hosts the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera, along with various concerts and plays, including the “AO Show,” “The Mist,” and “The Dar.” Photo opportunities abound both inside the opera house and along the tree-lined boulevard surrounding it.

The Other Notre Dame

The name Notre Dame generally evokes images of the famed Notre Dame in Paris, but there is another. Notre Dame Cathedral is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most prominent attractions and it still serves as an active religious institution for locals, who can attend Sunday mass. The structure includes twin Romanesque bell towers that stand at nearly 196 feet tall. All the building materials for the cathedral were imported from France, and construction spanned three years from start to finish – from 1877 to 1880. While the building itself holds an important place on this list of architectural wonders, it is what’s outside that has drawn curiosity in recent years due to the story of the religious miracle that was said to have taken place there. In 2005, witnesses claim to have seen a single tear streak down the right side of the Virgin Mary statue that stands out front. Locals swarmed the city center to catch a glimpse, forcing authorities to stop traffic around the cathedral.

From Saigon with Love

Right next door to the cathedral is the Central Post Office, constructed between 1886 and 1891. This still-operating post office, which features a bright yellow exterior framed with white accents, is known for its distinctly French Colonial architecture, intricately designed marble floors, and looping arches. Amid the decidedly European touches hangs a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the end of the hall, reminding visitors that they are still, in fact, in Vietnam. Original oil paintings adorn the walls, which also feature two painted maps – one depicting the postal route from southern Vietnam to Cambodia and another outlining the local area. Travelers can visit the post office to purchase souvenirs, send postcards home, and visit the last remaining “public letter writer,” who has been translating letters into English, French, and Vietnamese for almost three decades. Nearly a nonagenarian, Duong Van Ngo has become a regular fixture here, setting up shop every morning as one of the few constants in an ever-evolving cityscape.

If you’d like to experience Ho Chi Minh City for yourself, we would love to welcome you aboard one of our Charms of the Mekong or Riches of the Mekong river cruises.

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