Introduction to Ho Chi Minh City

things to do in saigon 2 day
Ho Chi Minh City is the country's largest city. | Source: Freepik.
Imagine the tantalizing smells of street food wafting through the air, the sounds of motorbikes echoing against historic buildings, and the vibrant energy of Vietnam's largest city – that's Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon! Are you visiting this captivating metropolis for the first time with only two days to spare?  Let me show you how to make the most of your whirlwind adventure.
Before we dive into planning your two-day itinerary, let me give you a quick overview of this incredible city. 
Ho Chi Minh City, located in southern Vietnam, is the country's largest city and its economic and cultural heart. It's a place where the past and present collide beautifully. Think French colonial architecture next to bustling markets and sleek skyscrapers. Plus, get ready to have your tastebuds delighted by the incredible street food scene!
Do you prefer hot weather? Or are you looking for a place to escape the cold? The weather in Saigon can be perfect for you. The weather is generally warm and humid year-round, so pack accordingly. The city is divided into districts, with District 1 being the heart of the tourist action. 
Now that you have a sense of the city, let's dive into how to make the most of your two-day adventure in Ho Chi Minh City!

The Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City

best time to visit ho chi minh city
Plan your perfect itinerary in Ho Chi Minh and make it memorable!
The absolute best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is during the dry season, between December to April for optimal weather. During this time, you'll have little humidity and lots of sun. It's perfect for exploring all the city has to offer! For those planning a short two-day trip, the months of December to March offer the most consistently comfortable weather.
If you're looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, lower prices, and fewer tourists, the wet season from May to November may be worth considering. Expect frequent afternoon downpours that typically clear up quickly, plus high humidity. It's best to be prepared for occasional heavy rain that could cause some street flooding.
Want some nearby adventures? The dry season is also ideal for visiting the Mekong Delta, Vung Tau, Mui Ne, and Phu Quoc Island. These destinations offer stunning beaches, gorgeous landscapes, and a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, bicycling, swimming, kitesurfing, ATV riding, and boat tours.

Day 1: Discovering the Heart of Saigon

For your first day in Ho Chi Minh City, take a walk around, enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, and try out some of the recommended dishes so that you don't have to travel far from the center.
And don’t forget to grab a cup of on-the-go coffee, as Vietnamese coffee is considered very strong and can help boost your energy level to take on the day.

First-day Morning

Start your day with a delicious breakfast and a cup of coffee. The city offers a variety of breakfast options, ranging from rice to noodles to bread, for you to choose from. You might try the following options:

Bún Bò Huế or Bún bò /bʊngb ba:/ - Spicy Hue beef noodle soup

Bun bo Hue is a well-known traditional Vietnamese noodle soup that is renowned for its bold and complex flavors. It features rice vermicelli noodles (bún), thin slices of beef (bò), and a spicy broth infused with fragrant lemongrass. The dish is typically served with a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables, including bean sprouts, lime wedges, and sliced jalapenos, which add brightness and crunch to each spoonful. A bowl of Bun bo Hue is a hearty and satisfying meal that can be enjoyed any time of the day. 
As a Saigonese, I have tasted Bun Bo Hue at several locations gathering Saigon, but in my opinion, the following places serve it most deliciously:
  • Bun Bo Hue 24h - A local's casual destination for Bun Bo Hue. Open 24/7. Price: ~40,000 VND. Address: 62 Huynh Thuc Khang Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Bun Bo Ganh Hue. Open: 6:30 AM - 11:30 PM. Price: 40,000 - 70,000 VND. Address: 206 Co Bac Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 
breakfast for first day in saigon
Delicious breakfasts are the first thing on the itinerary for 2 days in Saigon! | Source: Freepik.

Xôi (pronounced "soy") - Sticky rice

Xôi is a popular Vietnamese sticky rice dish that's perfect for on-the-go eating. It's readily available from street vendors and often found near parks, making it a convenient choice for tourists exploring the city. 
Xôi comes in a variety of flavors, from savory options like pork or egg to sweet ones like mung beans. With so many choices, you're sure to find something to satisfy your cravings. Here are my suggestions on where to find delicious xôi in Ho Chi Minh City:
  • Xôi Gà Number One - Number One Chicken Sticky Rice. Open: 6:30 AM - 8:30 PM. Price: ~55,000VND. Address: 15 Nguyen Trung Truc, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1. 
  • Xôi Làng Nghề Quận 1 - District 1 Craft Village Sticky Rice. Open: 6:00 AM - 8:30 PM. Price: ~55,000VND. Address: 11E Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ben Nghe, District 1.

Coffee Culture

Vietnamese coffee culture is more than just a drink; it's a way of life. Robusta coffee, often sweetened with condensed milk, invites you to savor the moment in bustling street-side cafes. From classic iced coffee to unique variations like egg or coconut coffee, each sip offers a flavorful glimpse into the heart of Vietnam. Embrace the relaxed pace, and let the coffee fuel your exploration of this vibrant culture.
coffee culture in saigon
Vietnamese coffee culture is a way of life in Saigon. | Source: The Workshop Coffe & Tiktok.
No visit to Saigon is complete without experiencing its renowned coffee scene. Instead of the suggested spots, try these unique cafes:
  • The Workshop Coffee: A specialty coffee shop with a focus on high-quality beans and brewing methods. Open: 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM. Price: ~55.000 VND. Address: 27 Ngo Duc Ke Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Là Việt Coffee - An environmentally responsible coffee shop with a light, clean, and cool atmosphere. They offer creative drinks and options even for non-coffee fanatics. Open: 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM. Price: ~55.000 VND.
    • Address 1: 16 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street, Ward 6, District 3.
    • Address 2: 57A Tu Xuong Street, Ward 7, District 3.
    • Address 3: 193 Hai Ba Trung Street, Ward 6, District 3. 
    • Address 4: 6D Tran Quang Dieu Street, Ward 13, District 3.
You can try sidewalk coffee. It's a way to experience the traditional drinking culture of indigenous people. Sidewalk coffee is sold on every Saigon street. But, only a few are loved and appreciated by people. Some places you can visit are:
  • Vợt Cafe. Open: 6 AM - 9 PM. Price: 15.000 VND+. Address: No. 330/2 Phan Dinh Phung Street, Ward 1, Phu Nhuan District.
  • Vợt Cafe Nam Ky KN. Open: 6 AM - 12 PM. Price: 15.000 VND+. Address: No. 291 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Ward 14, District 3.

Historical Landmarks

  • Central Post Office: This iconic building, designed by the architect of the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, served as the city's main post office since the late 19th century. Inside, you can admire the intricate details, the large map of Vietnam crafted from marble, and buy unique souvenirs. Open: 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM. Address: 125 Hai Ba Trung, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1. 
  • War Remnants Museum: Gain a sobering perspective on the Vietnam War with a visit to this powerful museum. Exhibits include photographs, artifacts, and military equipment. Open: 7:30 AM - 5:30 PM. Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3.

First-Day Afternoon - Lunchtime Delights

lunch in saigon
Delicious foods awaited you at lunchtime on your first day in Saigon.
Take a break and refuel with more of Saigon's delicious cuisine. Instead of Banh Canh Cua or Banh Xeo mentioned in the “One-day itinerary in Ho Chi Minh City”, try these:

Vietnamese Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice is one of the most popular lunches in Central and South Vietnam. The common version combines tender and flavorful poached chicken with fragrant and sticky rice, served with pickled vegetables and spicy garlic chili sauce/egg oil sauce. 
You can also try other versions of Chicken Rice, such as grilled chicken and rice in a bamboo tube or Hainanese chicken rice. Here are some must-try locations:
  • Waterfall fried chicken rice Susu. Open: 10:30 AM - 8:30 PM. Price: 60.000VND +.  Address: 117/1D Cong Quynh Street, Nguyen Cu Trinh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 
  • Twelve -Hainanese chicken rice. Open: 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM. Price: 55.000VND +. Address: 012 lo c2 Số 45, Ward 6, District 4, Ho Chi Minh City.

Leaf Chicken Hotpot

Leaf Chicken Hotpot (Lẩu gà lá é) is a popular dish in the city of Dalat, but it is interesting to note that this dish actually originated in Phu Yen province. Leaf chicken hotpot is characterized by its clear and sweet broth, infused with the spicy and aromatic flavors of perilla leaves (lá é) and green chilies, creating a unique and unforgettable taste.
If you haven't decided on what to have for lunch, you can head over to the following places to try this delicious dish: 
  • Chicken Rice - La E Leaf Chicken Hotpot Ngõ 90. Open: 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM. Price: 79.000 VND +. Address: 114 Le Thi Rieng Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Van Quan - Leaf Chicken Hotpot. Open: 10:00 AM - 10:30 PM. Price: 200.000 - 300.000 VND for 2 - 3 people. Address: 45 Co Giang, Cau Ong Lanh Ward, District 1.

Market Experience: Ben Thanh Market

ben thanh market location
Visit the bustling Ben Thanh Market. | Source: Flickr.
Dive into the heart of Ho Chi Minh City at the bustling Ben Thanh Market. Brightly colored fabrics, exotic spices, and the sounds of vendors and shoppers create a lively atmosphere. The vast market offers a diverse selection of goods. Browse handmade crafts, clothing, souvenirs, traditional snacks,  fresh produce, and more. It's a great place to pick up unique gifts or try local delicacies. Practice your haggling skills and find unique souvenirs and local specialties. 
Bargaining Tips:  Haggling is a playful (and expected) part of shopping in Ben Thanh Market. Here's how to approach it:
  • Start Low: Begin your negotiation at about half the asking price.
  • Be Friendly: Smile, joke a little, and use polite language – it goes a long way.
  • Know Your Limit: Decide in advance how much you're willing to spend.
  • Walk Away Tactic: If you can't get the price you want, pretend to leave. Often, the vendor will call you back with a better offer.

City Stroll

Continue your afternoon with a leisurely walk along Nguyen Hue Walking Street - a vibrant pedestrian promenade lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. Leading to these additional landmarks:
  • City Hall: A grand colonial-era building, located at the end of Nguyen Hue. Its French-inspired architecture, featuring intricate details and a clock tower, makes it a photogenic stop. While the building itself isn't open to the public, it's a beautiful landmark to admire.
  • Nguyen Hue Bookstores: This book lover's paradise is a delightful side street off of Nguyen Hue. You'll find a wide variety of bookstores, from modern chains to cozy independent shops selling everything from Vietnamese literature to English-language novels. Even if you don't buy, simply browsing and enjoying the cafe culture is a charming experience.

First-Day Evening in Saigon - Street Food Exploration

Embark on a thrilling motorbike food adventure for the ultimate Saigon experience! 
Sample delicious local specialties and soak up the lively nighttime atmosphere. Afterward, enjoy breathtaking city views from the top of Landmark 81, or perhaps take in the Saigon Skydeck experience. Want something more down-to-earth? End your day by people-watching and grabbing a drink on buzzing Bui Vien Street. 
Discover the top 9 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City at night for a vibrant Saigon experience. This guide is perfect for your first night in the city! This itinerary provides a base – feel free to tailor it to your interests! If history fascinates you, spend more time at the War Remnants Museum. If local life intrigues you, explore diverse markets beyond Ben Thanh. 
Want more? Check out our full "One Day in Ho Chi Minh City" article for restaurant recommendations, transportation tips, and more ways to customize your adventure!

Day 2: Immersing in Local Culture

Morning in Ho Chi Minh City

morning 2nd day in ho chi minh city
Ho Chi Minh City's most prominent temples. | Source: Internet.
On the second day in Ho Chi Minh City, for you to fully immerse yourself in the culture, we will show you what a day in the life of a local looks like. As you may know, Ho Chi Minh City is a diverse city with a range of religious beliefs and practices. However, the major religion present in the city is Buddhism. That’s why there are numerous Buddhist temples and pagodas throughout the city where followers can worship, meditate, and participate in religious ceremonies. 
Some prominent temples in the city, such as the Jade Emperor Pagoda or the Giac Lam Pagoda, are places that you should visit at least once. The Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of Ho Chi Minh City's most prominent temples, located in District 1. This stunning pagoda is known for its exquisite construction and serene atmosphere. Notably, it received national attention in 2016, which was when President Barack Obama traveled to Ho Chi Minh City and visited the pagoda during his trip.
  • Address: 230 Mai Thi Luu, Da Kao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 
  • Opening time: 7AM - 5:30 PM.
In addition, the Giac Lam Pagoda, which dates back over 300 years, has significant historical and architectural value. It not only showcases Buddhist architectural style but also incorporates Hindu and Taoist architectural culture. Moreover, the pagoda's serene gardens and ancient architecture make it a perfect spot for meditation and relaxation, while its 32-meter, multi-story stupa serves as a place of enlightenment. 
  • Address: 565 Lac Long Quan, Ward 10, Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Opening time: 7AM - 9PM.
By visiting these pagodas, you can learn about the customs, rituals, and spiritual beliefs while taking a moment to feel calm and contemplate, whether you are religious or not.

Afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City

Now that you've finished learning about the spiritual culture, let’s take a break with a comforting, family-style meal for lunch. Usually at a local household, the meal consists of 3 dishes: meats, veggies, and soups, with a bowl of rice for each person. Why? To make sure that one has enough nutrition in their body with a balanced meal — not too much protein, fat, or carbs, but just the right amount of everything.
lunch for 2nd day in saigon
A family-style lunch is a nice choice for your 2 days in Ho Chi Minh City! | Source: Saigon Cooking Class & Freepik.
Here is a list of restaurants that offer these simple, common Vietnamese dishes yet are delicious with an authentic home-cooked taste: 
  • Quan Bui Original: 19 Ngo Van Nam Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1. Opening hours: 7:00 AM - 11:00 PM. 
  • Cuc Gach Quan (Brick Restaurant): 10 Dang Tat Street, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1. Opening hours: 9:00 AM - 11:30 PM. 
  • Com Nieu Thien Ly: Opening hours: 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM; 4:00 PM - 9:00 PM
    • 114-116 Ham Nghi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
    • 16 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Dakao Ward, District 1
    • 252 Co Bac Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1
For your afternoon activities, if you enjoy tasting authentic Vietnamese cuisine, why not try making these local dishes by yourself with the cooking class? Joining a cooking class allows you to learn authentic recipes that can only be passed down through generations. The instructors will share their experience and skills to ensure that you master the traditional procedures and tastes that are usually used in Vietnamese cooking. 
What's more, some cooking workshops typically involve excursions to local markets or ingredient-sourcing expeditions, which allow you to engage with local sellers while also experiencing the bustling ambiance of the city's food markets like a real local. 
There are a lot of cooking classes available around the city, but here are some of our recommended classes that are just around the corner for you to attend:
  • Hoa Tuc Cooking Class: 74/7 Hai Ba Trung Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
    • Sessions: 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM; 2:30 PM - 5:30 PM (3-hour class)
    • From: Tuesday - Sunday 
    • Fee: 36 USD/Adult; 25 USD/Children
  • Saigon Cooking Class: 80/1 Nguyen Trai Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1
    • Sessions: 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM; 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM (3-hour class)
    • From: Tuesday - Sunday 
    • Fee: 39.5 USD/Adult; 25 USD/Children
  • Lua’s Kitchen - Vietnamese Homestyle Cooking Class: Copac Square, Block A, 12 Ton Dan Street, Ward 13, District 4
    • Sessions: 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM; 2:30 PM - 5:30 PM; 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM (3-hour class)
    • From: Monday - Sunday 
    • Fee: 40 USD/Adult; 30 USD/Children

Evening in Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon dinner cruises
Saigon dinner cruises at Dang Wharf and Saigon Port. | Source: Binh Blue Đẹp.
Unlike an ordinary dinner meal, a dinner cruise in Ho Chi Minh City is a popular and enjoyable way for you to experience the city's vibrant nightlife while enjoying a delicious meal. It offers a relaxing and romantic setting with soft lighting and soothing music on the Saigon River. Not to mention, you can also enjoy the refreshing breeze from the river while admiring the sights and sounds of the city's bustling waterfront. 
Saigon dinner cruises frequently sail from one of the two biggest ports in Saigon: Bach Dang Wharf and Saigon Port. The price of the cruise depends on the quality, whether it is low-class or high-class, but here are some of the top Saigon dinner cruises for you to experience:
  • Saigon Princess Cruise: Pickup at Saigon Port. Price range: 30 USD to 80 USD. 
  • Indochina Junk: Pickup at Saigon Port. Price range: 20 USD to 70 USD.
  • Bonsai Cruise: Pickup at Saigon Port. Price range: 20 USD to 40 USD. 
The dinner cruise along the Saigon River is also a nice way for you to end the 2-day trip in Ho Chi Minh City. After almost 48 hours exploring the heart of Saigon, immersing yourself in the local culture, and trying out authentic Vietnamese cuisines, you can now proudly say that you are an expert in Ho Chi Minh City. 
Hopefully, with this 2-day itinerary in Ho Chi Minh City, you can have unique experiences and many memories like no other.

How Much Money Do I Need for 2 Days in Ho Chi Minh City?

Day 1 itinerary and budget range

Activities on First Day in Ho Chi Minh City Budget
Breakfast and coffee 5 USD
Visiting Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral 0 USD
Visiting Independence Palace 2 USD
Lunch and refreshing beverage 5 USD
Shopping at Ben Thanh Market 5 - 40 USD
Sightseeing Opera House 0 USD
Visiting Cafe Apartment 1 - 40 USD
Going on the Food Tour 49 - 59 USD
Live music bar 10 - 50 USD
Transportation (taxi, grab) 10 USD
Total 87 - 211 USD

Day 2 itinerary and budget range

Activities on 2nd Day in Ho Chi Minh City Budget
Breakfast and coffee 5 USD
Visiting Jade Emperor Pagoda 0 USD
Visiting Giac Lam Pagoda 0 USD
Lunch and refreshing beverages 10 USD
Joining the cooking class 36 - 40 USD
Eating on the dinner cruise 20 - 80 USD
Transportation (taxi, grab) 20 USD
Total 91 - 155 USD

Overall, the approximate budget for a 2-day itinerary in Ho Chi Minh City will fluctuate between 178 and 366 USD; however, depending on your choices of transportation, things that you buy, and activities that you do, the budget can be much lower than estimated.

Explore 2 Days in Ho Chi Minh City With Local Female Guides!

If you want to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture and make friends with locals, try having a guided tour and street food experience with a local guide. 
At Kiss Tour, we offer Saigon by Night and Street Food Tours. These trips allow you to discover the dynamic and exciting metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City by motorbike after the sun has set. But if you prefer to tour the city during the day, the Saigon City Tour is an excellent choice.
With our pleasant and expert guides, 2 days in Ho Chi Minh City are more than enough for you to completely grasp all the insights into Vietnamese culture while taking you to the most prominent attractions. 


1. Is 2 days enough in Ho Chi Minh City? 
The answer is yes. However, for just 2 days, you can only see the historical sites and the local culture around the heart of Saigon. If you have more than 2 days staying in Ho Chi Minh City, here are some of our other articles that can show you more about the rear of Saigon, places that tourists rarely think of with less glamorous buildings and bustling streets. 
Read more: 
What to do in Ho Chi Minh City in 3 days?
2. Do I need a visa for Vietnam? 
While citizens of certain countries may be exempted from acquiring a visa for a specified duration, these exemptions might fluctuate. In order to check if your country is on the list of requiring a visa or not, here is a detailed article “How to get Vietnam E-Visa and Vietnam Visa On Arrival in 2024?” that you should check out while planning for the trip.
3. What's the best area to stay in Ho Chi Minh City? 
The best areas for first-time travelers to stay at consists of 4 districts: 1, 2, 3, and 5. Why are these areas safe to stay in? And is there any area that I should stay away from and be aware of? Read here to learn more about “Safest Districts In Ho Chi Minh City for First-time Visitors
4. Is Ho Chi Minh safe for tourists?
Yes, of course. The good news is that Vietnam has been praised as the safest country to visit in Asia in 2024. However, it is never a bad thing to research some of the crimes that might happen and practice these safety tips that are listed in the “Is Saigon safe for tourists? - Saigon safes for Solo Female Travelers” article.
Author: Vy

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