EXPLORING HO CHI MINH CITY
An iconic Saigon building, and the immediate neighbour of the Caravelle Saigon. Built in the 1890s, at the height of French colonial rule, in 1955 it became the home of South Vietnam’s National Assembly. After 1975 and the end of the Vietnam War, the building resumed its intended purpose as the city’s leading theatre. These days, the Opera House hosts a range of musical, theatrical and dance performances. Ask our concierge what’s happening right outside our front door.
Distance from the Caravelle Saigon - 100 metres
The Hotel de Ville or City Hall, has been the centre of government in Saigon since it was inaugurated by the French in 1909. Known as the People’s Committee building since 1975, it’s a strikingly ornate piece of architecture, and the most photographed building in the city. A walking precinct along Nguyen Hue St in front of the City Hall opened in 2015. It draws big crowds of locals each evening and features a new statue of Uncle Ho. it’s a festive Saigon scene not to be missed, just a few minutes walk from the Caravelle Saigon.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 350m
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL
Around 7% of Vietnamese practice Roman Catholicism. It’s a minority religion that enjoyed privileged access to land and power during French colonial times - hence Notre Dame Cathedral’s position in the heart of this primarily Buddhist city. Built in 1880, it’s among the oldest remaining colonial era structures, and the country’s best known church. During colonial years, the spires were used as markers by ships sailing up the Saigon River. Notre Dame Cathedral is nearby the Caravelle Saigon on Dong Khoi St.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 700 metres
CENTRAL POST OFFICE
Ho Chi Minh City Post Office, across from Notre Dame Cathedral, is another of the city’s iconic colonial era landmarks. It was built in the decade after the cathedral, and opened in 1891. The interior is mostly original and features an impressive barrel vaulted ceiling and large maps of old Saigon. The painting of Ho Chi Minh watching over proceedings on the rear wall was installed after 1975.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 700 metres
No building is more deeply entwined with Saigon’s dramatic history than the Reunification Palace. The former Presidential Palace, it was the site of bombings, attempted coups and the end of the Vietnam War on April 30 1975. Images of Communist tanks crashing through the front gates are some of the most remembered of the twentieth century. The building is an outstanding example of Vietnamese modernist architecture, designed by French trained Vietnamese Ngo Viet Thu in the early 1960s.
Distance from the Caravelle Saigon - 1 km
HO CHI MINH CITY MUSEUM
Like the Reunification Palace a few hundred metres away, this building has been a firsthand witness to Saigon’s tumultuous history. French Governors, Japanese and British Commanders, and finally, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, all called the building home at different points in the twentieth century. Protests, coups and bombings all occurred here. Designed by Alfred Foulhoux, who also designed the Post Office, the collection is less compelling than the building’s history, but worth a look. It tells the story of the city’s revolutionary past, and contemporary economic development.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 600m
MUSEUM OF VIETNAMESE HISTORY
If Vietnam’s dramatic twentieth century history is weighing you down, a visit to the Museum of Vietnamese History might be just the tonic. Set in Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, this is a good escape from the bustle of the city, and the Vietnam War emphasis of other popular museums. The collection focuses on southern Vietnam’s pre-twentieth century history. There are exhibits from the Cham and Oc Eo kingdoms - the original inhabitants of the Ho Chi Minh City and Mekong Delta - as well as the Nguyen Dynasty. The building is another highlight. By the 1920s, colonial architecture was evolving to include local design elements. This museum is an excellent example of what is known as the Indochine style, fusing European and Asian architectural influences.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 1.6kms
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
Ho Chi Minh City’s most popular museum is a challenging experience. Once known as the Museum of American War Crimes, a change of name in the 1990s did not signal a softening of the tone. The museum tells the history of the Vietnam War from the view of the victor, and catalogues in images some of the atrocities committed against Vietnamese civilians. The Requiem photography exhibit, a special permanent display, is especially moving. It features images taken by photographers from both sides of battle, who were killed in action. US aircraft, tanks and other military hardware are on display in the museum grounds.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 1.7kms
FINE ARTS MUSEUM
The best place to explore Saigon’s modern art story is also one of the city’s most spectacular colonial-era buildings. The Fine Arts Museum was formerly owned by the Chinese Hui Bon Hoa family - one of the wealthiest families in the city before the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
There are some wonderful pieces on display here in a dramatic art space. The collection ranges from contemporary painting, to lacquer, works from wartime artists, and ancient pieces from the Cham and Oc Eo civilisations in a newly opened wing.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 1.3kms
Saigon’s expat enclave has been transformed into a buzzing zone of cafes, riverside bars, restaurants, galleries and boutiques. Some of the city’s best dining is now located in District 2. The shopping and galleries are also worth a look. If you’re in the city for more than a few days, make sure you head across to District 2 for a Saigon River sunset and a cocktail. Ask our concierge for tips.
Distance from Caravelle Saigon - 6.2kms
Ben Thanh Market is Saigon’s busy, central market, dating back to French colonial times. It’s a must for shoppers and curious visitors. You can buy everything imaginable from souvenirs to clothes, fabric and local handicrafts. For locals, Ben Thanh Market is a functioning vegetable and wet market - also worth a look. Saigon’s shopping is moving on from local markets. Takashimaya shopping mall is the largest and most modern downtown. It’s a short walk from Caravelle Saigon. As you wander the city streets, look out for the small boutiques scattered around the city centre, where local designers showcase their work. They might be hidden in buildings like 42 Nguyen Hue or the Catinat Building at the corner of Dong Khoi and Ly Tu Trong St.
Ask our concierge for tips.
Coffee has been a big part of Vietnamese life since French times - and Vietnam is now the world’s second largest coffee producer after Brazil. Enjoy traditional cafe phin Vietnamese drip coffee, a ca phe sua da ice coffee, or check out some of the city’s best specialty coffee houses, right by Caravelle Saigon. Shin Cafe at 13 Nguyen Thiep is popular, as is Workshop Coffee, further along Dong Khoi St. Coffee Republic is hidden away off nearby Thai Van Lung St. They’re all close by the hotel. Ask our concierge for directions.