As we all know, Ho Chi Minh City, often used interchangeably as Saigon by the locals, is the biggest city in Vietnam. It is not only an economic center but also a multicultural city. Therefore, it has always been an interesting destination for tourists all over the world. Super busy with millions of motorbikes, good food, and energetic are what people say when they talk about Saigon.
Whether this is your first or second or third time to the so-called Pearl of the Far East, Saigon will always make you feel excited by the way the locals enjoy the city. Besides some famous tourist attractions such as Ben Thanh Market, Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Independence Palace. This article will show you where to go in Saigon like a local.
1. Mong Bridge
Mong Bridge is a bridge across Ben Nghe Canal, connecting District 1 and District 4 of Saigon. It is considered one of the oldest bridges in the city. The bridge was built from 1893 to 1894, by a French company named Levallois Perret. It was 128 meters long and 5.2 meters wide. It was built of solid steel and was used to facilitate the commuting between the center of Saigon and the area of Khanh Hoi.
In the years of 2000s, during the construction of East-West Avenue and Saigon River Tunnel, Mong Bridge was totally dismantled. After the construction, the bridge was reassembled based on the original version. However, the color was changed from black to green. Therefore, some people also call it “Green Bridge”.
Mong Bridge – one of the oldest bridges in Saigon
Nowadays, the Mong Bridge is a place for young locals to gather every night to hang out. Parking their motorbikes in the opposite parking lot, people buy some street food and drinks, take photos, and sit along the two sides of the bridge chatting with each other. You may also catch a group of friends with a guitar, or sometimes a cajon, singing and swaying to the music. That is how a part of young locals enjoy their nights with friends and family.
Check out The Most Beautiful Bridges in Saigon.
2. Municipal Theater
Ho Chi Minh City Municipal Theater, or often known as the Saigon Opera House, is an opera theater located at Lam Son Square, District 1. The theater was built in 1897 by architect Eugène Ferret. Its architectural style was neo-classical and was inspired by the Opera House in Paris. The theater consists of 1800 seats.
Saigon Opera House is now a venue for many high profile events and cultural – entertainment activities of the city such as classical music performances, opera performances, and ballet performances. There are many shows designed to introduce Vietnamese culture to foreigners; most of them are about an hour long. In every show, you can expect to watch a story about Vietnamese daily life told through a spectacular contemporary dance performance.
Municipal Theater at night
At night, if you are searching for an answer to the question of where to go in Saigon, you might think of the Municipal Theater in different senses. Right at the back of the theater, there is a small vendor that sells favorite local drinks, such as peach tea and milk tea at a low price. The young locals often gather here for a drink and share with each other their stories.
3. Turtle Lake
Turtle Lake in District 3 is also a traditional traffic four-way roundabout connecting three roads: Vo Van Tan, Pham Ngoc Thach, and Tran Cao Van. Turtle Lake architecture was a combination of Eastern and Western styles. It is considered one of the symbols of Saigon that were built before 1975 and still remains nearly the same today. Many people are curious about why this lake is called Turtle Lake despite there is no turtle in the lake. The lake was actually named after its architecture. When you look at the lake from above, you will easily recognize the shape of the lake looking like a huge turtle.
Turtle Lake from above
The Turtle Lake area is now a very popular culinary place, days or nights. You can find many cafes and restaurants in this area. At night, there are a lot of street vendors gathering around the lake selling local junk food. People often come here to take photos in the morning and enjoy the food as well as the liveliness of Saigon at night.
4. 30/4 Park with Coffee in Saigon Style
If you want to be a true Saigonese once, you must have a coffee at the 30/4 Park in Saigon style. The park takes its name from the Independence Day of Vietnam, April 30th in 1975. 30/4 Park is located between the Independence Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. From this park, you can also see one of Saigon’s oldest shopping malls – Diamond Plaza.
30/4 Park with coffee in Saigon style
This shady (shaded) and peaceful park is a popular gathering place of the locals. People often come here, sit under the trees or on the sidewalk, and order some drinks from nearby street vendors. The popular drink is coffee sold at a low price. People enjoy their coffee under the shade of the trees, watching the street, one of the biggest and the most beautiful streets of Saigon – Le Duan. This way of enjoying a coffee has become a unique way of Saigon people. It is called “ca phe bet” in Vietnamese. “Ca phe” means coffee and “bet” means to sit down on the ground.
Note: Due to the ongoing construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral, there is currently no coffee activity at the park.
5. Flea Markets
If you have a weekend and you wonder where to go in Saigon, flea markets are worthy consideration to pick up some souvenirs. In recent years, there is an emergence of flea markets in Saigon. They are often held on the weekends at places such as the front of BigC supermarket (on To Hien Thanh street), Nguyen Du gymnasium (on Nguyen Du street), at Pham Ngu Lao street, and Hoa Lu stadium (on Dinh Tien Hoang street), etc. Some famous flea markets you can visit at these places are Hello Weekend Market, The New District, Saigon Holiday Market, and Sale Hunter.
Flea markets with beautiful clothes and accessories
Flea markets in Saigon are where plenty of middle-class shops for the young to gather and sell their products like clothes, shoes, accessories, and food. You can expect to find very cool and unique items there. They are considered a very convenient place for shopping because many different shops gather there, which allows you to buy different pieces of clothes from different shops without wasting time commuting around from one to another. These flea markets are also called sale markets since shops often offer discounts.
More on Saigon’s Shopping Streets
6. District 7
If you are looking for somewhere with trees, lakes, and breeze, you can think of District 7. The locals often come here for a walk to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere at one of the most elegant places in the city. Notably, the Anh Sao Bridge is a popular place for couples. It is a nice idea for you to take your loved one there and enjoy the romantic atmosphere.
Ban Nguyet Lake and Anh Sao Bridge
Besides, District 7 is also known for its luxury in the area of shopping malls, especially Crescent Mall and its neighborhood. You can find many shopping malls with hundreds of famous clothing and food branches in District 7. Some Saigon shopping malls in District 7 you can spend time in are Vivo City, Crescent Mall, and Lotte Mart Nam Sai Gon. If you want to watch a new blockbuster, these places have the CGV cinemas offering the latest new releases.
Look for District 7’s luxury hotels and apartments at the best price below:
7. Vintage Coffee Shops in Old Buildings
Wish there is a place for you to escape this busy city for a while? Coffee shops with vintage style in old buildings and apartments are perfect places for you. You can find these coffee shops at some Saigon’s famous old apartments, such as the Nguyen Hue Apartment and the 26 Ly Tu Trong Apartment. Coffee shops located on high floors of Nguyen Hue Apartment give you a spectacular view over Nguyen Walking Street and other tourist attractions of Saigon. If you use the elevator, the private operator charges a small fee, which you can claim for a refund on your receipt when you purchase an order from the shops. Come, order a coffee or any kind of drinks you like, and slowly enjoy the drink. The vintage atmosphere is attributed to the decoration style of the shop, from the glass you are using, the chair you are sitting on to the music and views.
Nguyen Hue apartment numerous coffee shops inside
Vintage coffee shops in old buildings are often small places. In these places, there are art galleries, clothing shops, and small restaurants also. We suggest you spend half a day there to fully explore the very tiny corners of Saigon.
Summary of Where to go in Saigon like a Locals
Above are the recommended places you can discover when you are not sure where to go in Saigon. These are where the locals hang out and enjoy their free time. Having a Vietnamese friend to accompany you is an optimal choice since the mentioned places are popular with the locals. When traveling, be mindful of your belongings and ask for the prices before buying anything. But putting the annoyances aside, we bet that you will have a true experience of a Saigon’s local there.
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Interested in further exploring Saigon off-the-beaten-path? Sign up for this half-day Saigon’s Other Side Motorbike Tour.