Saigon market is the best place to start a tour of the city

Ben ThanhThe Ben Thanh Market is the best place to begin a tour of Saigon, the capital of the former South Vietnam and currently the largest city in the unified Vietnam.

It’s walking distance from the Pham Ngu Lao area, the haven of backpackers in the city now called Ho Chi Minh.

The market is located in District 1, the city center, where you can find Saigon’s main attractions such as the Fine Arts Museum, Saigon City Hall, Rex Hotel, Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, Post Office and the Reunification Palace.

Ben Thanh is itself a major tourist attraction, and personally I consider it the number one must-see destination in Saigon.

So even if you decide to not go very far away from the market, you can still do a lot of things to have fun.

A suggested activity is to try to cross the street to reach the traffic circle where the Tran Nguyen Han statue is situated.

Major Saigon streets such as Tran Hung Dao and Le Loi meet at the Tran Nguyen Han Statue

I’m telling you, it’s not always easy to be a pedestrian in Saigon, especially in this place where several major thoroughfares converge.  

You can also eat authentic Vietnamese food offered in the market itself.

Food in the market is cheaper than in the restaurants nearby

There are also a few restaurants just outside the market. One such restaurant is Pho 2000, where former US President Bill Clinton is said to have eaten during his Saigon visit.  

Pho 2000
From left to right: my mother, my mother's friend and my sister's mother-in-law

And since Ben Thanh is a market, one obvious activity is to do some shopping. The stores inside the market close down at about 6 or 7 PM, to give way to the night market outside.

Night market
Ben Thanh night market

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