Fine Arts Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. All photos by Christian Berg.
Wake up with a fresh bánh mì packed with pickled vegetables and succulent pork to prepare yourself for a solid day of exploring. Check your maps and sip on a cà phê sữa đá at one of the cafes surrounding in the park outside the Reunification Palace before going inside to view this relic of wartime history
A few steps away, the Notre Dame Cathedral is at its best in the early morning, and right across the street is the Saigon Central Post Office, a worthwhile stop with photogenic tiled floors and old-timey phone booths. Afterwards, let your legs carry you along Đồng Khởi st., the city's main shopping thoroughfare, toward the Saigon Opera House.
TIP: Lune Production stages riveting contemporary circus and cultural shows at the Opera House several nights a week. Score a ticket for an hour of fascinating entertainment.
Ready to eat like a local? Võ Roof Garden makes modern Vietnamese dishes served on a lovely rooftop garden overlooking the city. There are also countless small stalls on the sidewalks, serving everything from bún thịt nướng (grilled pork noodle bowls) to cơm tấm (broken rice.) Take your pick.
Nguyễn Huệ is one of the only pedestrian streets in Ho Chi Minh City. Stop by Apartment 42 to check out the eclectic assortment of cafes, boutiques, and shops that have sprung up in this former residential block. Afterwards, you might like a mini-shopping spree along Đồng Khởi St., or a cold coffee at L'Usine.
Feeling adventurous? Venture out for a shellfish-themed spread at Ốc Oanh at 534 Vĩnh Khánh in District 4, for an assortment of crab, scallops, molluscs, and freshwater snails cooked in butter, garlic, lemongrass, and chilli. A little more subdued? Take a table alongside the locals at Quán Bụi for a delicious Vietnamese dinner. For your first evening in the city, have a classic Saigon experience at Saigon Saigon Bar at the Caravelle, or order from the enticing menu of craft brews at Pasteur Street Brewing Company.
TIP: Ho Chi Minh City is awash spas and wellness centres, with options to fit every budget. If you're looking to de-stress for less, finish your day with a Vietnamese foot or body massage.
Start your Sunday with an insider view into everyday life at Tao Đàn Park in District 3. Every morning Vietnamese gather here to exercise, chat, and play hacky sack under the trees. A small Buddhist temple adds to the park's charm.
Continue the local exploration at Tân Định Market on Hai Ba Trung in District 3. The morning markets in Ho Chi Minh City are a great photo opportunity, with bright vegetables, intriguing street food snacks, and just-picked produce at every turn. After exploring the local markets, make a pilgrimage to Thiên Hậu Pagoda in District 5. This atmospheric site is full of intriguing details.
You're in Vietnam, so don't miss the chance to sample some of the city's famous dishes. Treat yourself to lunch at Cục Gạch Quán -- a family-style restaurant tucked away in a beautiful old house.
Ho Chi Minh City boasts an incredibly colourful history. Spend an afternoon checking out the War Remnants Museum, which is chock-full of exhibits and photos that will give you deeper insight into the American War. For art lovers, the Fine Arts Museum is a graceful old mansion with a wealth of gorgeous pieces. And for those who want something different, FITO Museum earns rave reviews for its traditional medicine exhibits.
Round out your Ho Chi Minh City weekend with a taste of modern Vietnam. Situated inside a wet market in District 1, Anan Saigon serves some of Vietnam’s most original cocktails and elevated Vietnamese cuisine. If you feel like celebrating, Glow Sky Bar creates the perfect atmosphere to do just that. Cheers!