Whenever it comes to Saigon, there are many sparkling skyscrapers with modern designs and bustling tourist areas. Tan Xa Palace, however, is a small ancient structure nestled in the heart of the busy central district. The hidden historical roots of 200 years and charming traditional architecture make it a lovely off-the-beaten-path site to admire a different side of the urban sight.
Location: 180 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, District 3. ( Tan Xa Palace lies inside the campus of Archbishop’s Palace)
The small chapel is inside the campus of Archbishop’s Palace
How to Get to Tan Xa Palace
By bus: You can get on bus number 150 or 152 and get off at the medical center station. It is best if you can bring a map with you on the way.
By motorbike: Since the address is not difficult to find, you can visit the building on the back of a motorbike. It would be better if you could have a local buddy during your journey, who can give you a clearer insight into the building’s tales and stories, and Saigon as a whole.
You can park your motorbike here
By taxi: Before hopping in a taxi, remember to inform the address precisely. It is advisable to do some research on How to Avoid Taxi Scams in Saigon.
What Makes Tan Xa Palace Special
Before standing in the current location, Tan Xa Palace was originally constructed at another site under the Nguyen Dynasty. This homestead was first built in 1790 on the right bank of Thi Nghe Canal for an ally of King Nguyen Anh, whose name was Pigneau de Béhaine. He was a Bishop of Ardan who assisted the Nguyen to consolidate power in Saigon (known as Gia Dinh at the time) and defeat the Tay Son troop. Besides, this humble building was also where the Bishop tutored Prince Canh, who was a son of Nguyen Anh. After the death of Pigneau de Béhaine in 1799, the building remained in the ownership of other French Bishops.
The oldest building which is 200 years old
A cave figure of the birth of Jesus
However, as soon as the Hue royalty decided to impose a ban on Catholicism in the country, Tan Xa Palace was shut down from 1811 to 1864. It was not until 1897 that the building was renamed Tan Xa Palace by Truong Vinh Ky – a Vietnam language and cultural researcher extraordinaire. Finally, it was moved to its present location in 1911 and turned into a chapel inside the Archbishop’s Palace.
The statue of worshipping inside
The perfect mix of Western and Eastern structure
Even though Tan Xa Palace functions as a Catholic worshipping monument, it still retains the traditional Vietnamese belief in architecture and design with three compartments. The building structure and tiled roof were replaced in 2014, as some parts of it were severely damaged through time. Inside the chapels, most interior furniture is surprisingly well-preserved. Many frames have the precious wooden carves of dragons, phoenix, and flowers – which reminds significantly of the signature Oriental art.
Nearby Attractions of Tan Xa Palace
Besides Tan Xa Palace, there are several other attractions in District 3 that are worth a visit.
- Vinh Nghiem Pagoda: This pagoda is one of the most famous and vital sites of Buddhism worshipping in Vietnam.
Address: 339 Nam Ki Khoi Nghia, Ward 6, District 3
Opening hours: 7 AM – 6 PM
How to get there: It is about 2 kilometers from Tan Xa Palace so you can get on bus number 4 or travel on foot.
- Tan Dinh Church: It is also well known to the locals and travelers by the name “ Pink Church in Saigon”.
Address: 289 Hai Ba Trung, Ward 8, District 3
Opening hours: 5 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 7 PM
How to get there: there are buses number 3, 36, and 150 and will drive you straightly to Tan Dinh Church. But you can also go on foot to take a glimpse of the Saigonese lifestyle.
- Turtle Lake: the unique roundabout in Saigon
Address: The intersection of three streets named Vo Van Tan, Tran Cao Van, and Pham Ngoc Thach in District 3.
- The War Remnants Museum: Coming to this museum, you can learn how the Vietnamese struggled to fight for their peace and freedom.
Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3
Opening hours: 7.30 AM – 6 PM
Ticker fee: VND 40,000 per person
How to get there: It is just 200 meters from Tan Xa Palace so you can walk there in a few minutes.
Our Takes on Tan Xa Palace
There is much to be learned from this ancient chapel because its original structure and condition remained unchanged for decades. This oldest building in Saigon is not only the perfect combination of West and East religious culture but also a symbol of the Saigonese historical story since the Nguyen Dynasty.