Explore Ben Thanh Market: The Ultimate Guide to Saigon’s Iconic Landmark

ben thanh market, hcm city

If Dong Xuan Market is a cultural feature of Hanoi in the North, Ben Thanh Market is one of the unique features of Saigon in the South Vietnam that every tourist will gain unique experiences when visiting. With diverse choices of traditional food, handicrafts, clothes, souvenirs, purses and friendly vendors, wandering around Ben Thanh Market is a must-do experience, especially for foreigners visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Here’s a guide to help you get around Ben Thanh Market once you visit it.

Top Facts About Ben Thanh Market:
Location Address Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam​
Operating Hours Opening Hours 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Indoor market); Night market: 7:00 PM to late night
Getting There Public Transport Buses: Routes 01, 02, 03, 04, 18, 19, 28, 36, 45, 52, 53, 56, 65, 93, 109, 152​
Taxi & Motorbike Readily available; apps like Grab recommended.
Taxi: Mai Linh, VinaSun Taxi, Saigon Airport, Vina Taxi
Main Attractions Shopping Over 1,500 booths with more than 6,000 small businesses selling various goods: clothes, textiles, souvenirs, and more​
Food Court Famous for its food court offering variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes, including pho, banh xeo, and various chè​
Historical Significance Established 1912, features French colonial architecture including a clock tower​​
Architectural Features Notable Elements Clock Tower, arched windows, wrought-iron balconies, high ceilings​.
Nearby Attractions Points of Interest War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon.
Visitor Tips Best Time to Visit Early morning or late afternoon to avoid crowds; evening for the night market​.
Bartering Tips Friendly haggling is expected; start with a lower price and negotiate.​

History of Ben Thanh Market

overview ben thanh market

Ben Thanh Market is one of the oldest markets in Ho Chi Minh City and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vietnam. This destination should not be missed when coming to the city of more than 300 years old. Visitors can explore many colorful stalls to buy food, souvenirs and costumes, fabrics.

The market has a history dating back to the early 17 century, with its original as a meeting place for small businesses selling goods on the street near the Ben Thanh River (now it is Saigon River). From 1859 to 1870, the French colonial government called the area Les Halles Centrales (or Central Market). The market was moved into a new building in 1912 with the new name of Ben Thanh Market.

Formerly Ben Thanh Market

Images of Formerly Ben Thanh Market.

However, in 1914 the market was relocated to a more central location to what was then near My Tho Railway Station (current Saigon bus station) and again renamed as the “New Ben Thanh Market” to distinguish from its predecessor. In 1985, the new one was renovated to keep up with the city’s progress, yet the famous clock tower on the south entrance was left unchanged. Despite the restorations over time, the market remains one of the earliest surviving structures of Saigon – having witnessed war after war, and finally peace.

Constructed by the French colonial administration, Ben Thanh Market has been a central part of Saigon’s (now Ho Chi Minh City) commercial landscape since 1912. The market’s architecture reflects the era’s European influence, combined with local design elements to create a structure that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Architectural Features

  1. Facade and Clock Tower: The most recognizable feature of Ben Thanh Market is its grand facade and the clock tower, which has become a symbol of the city. The clock tower is designed in a colonial style with arches and a domed top, reminiscent of French architecture.
  2. Interior Layout: The interior of the market is organized into a grid-like pattern, facilitating easy navigation through its vast space. The high ceilings and spacious aisles are designed to accommodate large crowds, with ventilation systems that keep the market cool even in the tropical climate.
  3. Materials and Construction: The market is constructed using a combination of concrete, steel, and traditional materials such as wood and tiles. The use of durable materials ensures the building’s longevity, while the wooden shutters and tiled roofs add a touch of traditional Vietnamese craftsmanship.
  4. Decorative Elements: The market features decorative motifs that reflect local culture, including intricate tile work and carvings. These elements add a layer of cultural significance to the building, making it not only a place for trade but also a repository of Vietnamese heritage.

Ben Thanh Market is more than just an architectural marvel; it is a vibrant center of daily life in Ho Chi Minh City. The market’s design facilitates social interaction, with open spaces that encourage gatherings and communal activities. It is a place where locals and tourists alike can experience the rich cultural tapestry of Vietnam.

Over the years, Ben Thanh Market has undergone several renovations to preserve its historical integrity while adapting to modern needs. Efforts have been made to maintain the original architectural features, ensuring that the market remains a cherished landmark for future generations.

Ben Thanh Market, located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is one of the city’s oldest and most iconic landmarks. Its history is intertwined with the development of the city itself, dating back to the early 17th century.

  • 17th Century: The origins of Ben Thanh Market can be traced back to the early 1600s when small, informal markets began to appear along the banks of the Saigon River. These markets primarily served the local population and were a hub for trading goods.
  • 1859: The French colonialists captured Saigon, and the market grew in significance. It was initially known as Les Halles Centrales and was located near the Ben Nghe River.
  • 1870: A fire destroyed the original market, prompting the French to construct a new, more permanent structure. This new market was called Ben Thanh, named after the Ben Nghe River (Ben) and Thanh, the Vietnamese word for citadel.
  • 1912: The market was relocated to its current location, the site of the old railway station. The construction of the new Ben Thanh Market began and was completed in 1914. The market’s iconic clock tower, which stands today, became a symbol of Ho Chi Minh City.
  • 1950s-1975: During this period, the market continued to be a central hub for commerce and daily life in Saigon, even amidst the turbulent times of the Vietnam War.
  • Post-1975: After the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, Ben Thanh Market remained a key trading center. The market adapted to the economic changes of the new socialist regime, continuing to thrive as a bustling marketplace.
  • 1990s-Present: Ben Thanh Market has undergone several renovations and restorations to preserve its historic structure while modernizing its facilities. Today, it is a popular tourist destination, known for its vibrant atmosphere, diverse range of goods, and cultural significance.

Ben Thanh Market is not just a shopping destination but a cultural icon representing the spirit and history of Ho Chi Minh City. It offers a wide variety of goods, from fresh produce and traditional Vietnamese cuisine to handicrafts and souvenirs, making it a microcosm of Vietnamese culture and daily life.

Location and opening hours

Ben Thanh Market possesses one of the most crucial locations in District 1 – the intersection of Phan Boi Chau, Phan Chu Trinh, Le Thanh Ton streets and Quach Thi Trang construction site. So you can say that all roads lead to Ben Thanh.

ben thanh market, hcm city

Ben Thanh Market Opening Hours
Ben Thanh Market: 06.00 AM – 18.00 PM
Ben Thanh Night Market: 18.00 PM – 20.00 PM

During Tet (Vietnamese New Year), Ben Thanh Market is open, however almost shops are closed. It will also be less crowded, so it is a perfect time to explore the quite Ben Thanh market which is decorated with gorgeous lights and flowers. It is a sight to enjoy!

What to buy at Ben Thanh Market

ben thanh market, vietnam

Ben Thanh Market has 4 main gates and 12 entrances. The main front gate or the south gate is on Le Loi Street, the North on Le Thanh Ton Street, the East on Phan Boi Chau Street, and the West on Phan Chu Trinh Street. The main entrance is famous for the big clock tower which is the iconic symbol of Ben Thanh Market. It’s a chance to truly get stuck in with the locals and test your bargaining skills. It’s a very different experience if you come from Europe or America and are so used to fixed priced items that the idea of bargaining never comes to mind.
Clothes: Near the entrance, you can find rows of colorful textiles and clothing. You can buy different kind of clothes, even the traditional “Ao Dai” costume and “Non La” – a Vietnamese conical hat you often see people wearing on the street. You also can find them selling mosquito nets, hammocks, embroidery, and even bedding.
Accessories: jewelry, watches, bags, wallets, handicrafts are sold in the East Gate side.
Souvenirs: a paradise of many stalls for gifts, ceramics, handicrafts and art will be found on the West Gate side of the market.
Food: you can buy a lot of Vietnamese packaged food and specialties here such as coffee beans, tea, fish sauces, and dried goods in the East side of the market. They sell different varieties of coffee to take with you back home, available for purchase by the kilo. Phin filters are also available (and make wonderful gifts) for you to use every time you want to make your morning coffee in Vietnamese way. Fresh food with a variety of fishes and meat, processed food and fruits are sold at the North side. You can also find flower shop at this side. The food stalls in the back or outside the market is worth your try because of its variety and tastiness.

Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City is a bustling marketplace famous for its wide variety of goods. Here are some of the best items to buy:

  • Souvenirs
    • Handicrafts: Vietnamese lacquerware, bamboo products, and handcrafted ceramics.
    • Textiles: Silk scarves, embroidered tablecloths, and traditional áo dài (Vietnamese long dresses).
  • Clothing
    • Fashion: Trendy T-shirts, dresses, and suits. Custom-tailored outfits are also available.
    • Accessories: Handbags, wallets, and belts made from various materials including leather.
  • Food and Spices
    • Coffee: Vietnamese coffee, particularly weasel coffee (cà phê chồn).
    • Dried Goods: Dried fruits, nuts, and seafood.
    • Spices: Various Vietnamese spices like cinnamon, star anise, and pepper.
  • Local Delicacies
    • Snacks: Rice paper, dried squid, and traditional sweets.
    • Sauces: Fish sauce, soy sauce, and chili sauce.
  • Jewelry and Accessories
    • Jewelry: Silver, jade, and pearl jewelry.
    • Accessories: Hats, scarves, and traditional conical hats (nón lá).
  • Art and Decor
    • Paintings: Vietnamese paintings and artwork, often depicting local scenes.
    • Home Decor: Lanterns, wooden carvings, and pottery.
  • Footwear
    • Shoes and Sandals: A variety of styles, including custom-made options.

Must-Try Foods at Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City is a culinary paradise, offering a variety of delicious Vietnamese foods that visitors must try. Here are some must-try dishes:

  1. Phở: A classic Vietnamese noodle soup made with beef or chicken, fresh herbs, and aromatic spices.
  2. Bánh Mì: A Vietnamese sandwich featuring a crispy baguette filled with a variety of ingredients such as cold cuts, pate, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.
  3. Gỏi Cuốn (Spring Rolls): Fresh rice paper rolls filled with shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles, and fresh herbs, served with a savory dipping sauce.
  4. Bánh Xèo: A crispy Vietnamese pancake made from rice flour, turmeric, and coconut milk, filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts, and served with fresh herbs and dipping sauce.
  5. Bún Thịt Nướng: Grilled pork served over vermicelli noodles, topped with fresh herbs, pickled vegetables, and a flavorful fish sauce.
  6. Chè: A traditional Vietnamese dessert made with sweetened beans, fruits, and coconut milk, often served over crushed ice.
  7. Bánh Khọt: Small savory pancakes made from rice flour and coconut milk, topped with shrimp and green onions, served with fresh herbs and dipping sauce.
  8. Hu Tieu: A flavorful noodle soup featuring clear noodles, pork, shrimp, and a savory broth, often topped with fried shallots and fresh herbs.
  9. Bánh Cuốn: Steamed rice rolls filled with minced pork and wood ear mushrooms, served with a side of Vietnamese sausage, bean sprouts, and dipping sauce.
  10. Sinh Tố: A refreshing Vietnamese smoothie made from fresh tropical fruits, often blended with condensed milk for extra sweetness.

These dishes represent a small sample of the incredible variety of food available at Ben Thanh Market, each offering a unique taste of Vietnamese cuisine.

Getting to Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market, one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most iconic landmarks, is easily accessible through various means of transportation. Here’s how you can get there:

  • By Taxi or Ride-Hailing Services: Taxis: You can easily find taxis throughout the city. Popular companies include Vinasun and Mai Linh. Ensure the meter is running to avoid overcharging.
  • Ride-Hailing Services: Apps like Grab and Gojek offer convenient ride-hailing options. These services are often cheaper and more reliable than traditional taxis.
  • By Public Bus: Ho Chi Minh City has a comprehensive bus network. The main bus terminal, Ben Thanh Bus Station, is located right next to the market. Look for buses that stop at or near the Ben Thanh Bus Station.
  • By Walking: If you’re staying in District 1, Ben Thanh Market is within walking distance from many popular hotels and tourist spots. Walking is a great way to explore the city’s vibrant street life.
  • By Cyclo: For a more traditional and leisurely approach, consider taking a cyclo (a three-wheeled bicycle taxi). Be sure to negotiate the fare before starting your journey.
  • By Motorbike: If you’re comfortable riding a motorbike, you can rent one and navigate the city yourself. Remember to wear a helmet and drive safely, as traffic in Ho Chi Minh City can be quite chaotic.

Enjoy your visit to Ben Thanh Market! It’s a great place to experience local culture, shop for souvenirs, and taste delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

Attractions around Ben Thanh Market

Do not forget to pass by Ben Thanh Street Food Market which brings a sense of fresh air to diners, especially to foreign travelers who wish to explore the cuisine of local people. Ben Thanh Street Food Market is only 80 meters away from Ben Thanh Market, starting from the North Gate, opens from 19.00pm to midnight. When visiting the food market, guests should try traditional Vietnamese dishes including bun ca Long Xuyen (noodle with fish), com tam la sen (Vietnamese broken rice wrapped in lotus leaf), bun mam (noodles with broth made of fermented fish), goi cuon (spring roll), chao tom (grilled shrimp mousse on a sugarcane stick) and grilled seafood, with prices starting from VND25,000 each. In addition, those who love street food delicacies of other Asian countries can experience many authentic dishes like Thai fried rice, Malaysian pancakes, Balinese coconut water, and Korean soft serve ice cream among others.

bui vien street

Bui Vien Walking Street.

Bui Vien (the backpacker street) is not much further away and can also easily be reached by walk and the same can be said about Walking Street (Nguyen Hue) and other famous tourist sites of the city such as the City Hall, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, Opera House, War Museum, Reunification Palace, etc. The interior of these structures may be closed but they are a sight to behold at night with floodlights illuminating their cream-colored walls in the dark. The favorite thing to do is walk around this area at night because the traffic is not congested and it is extremely relaxing. There is also just so much to see – so you can definitely make a good night out of it.

If you’re planning to visit Ben Thanh Market, here are some nearby attractions worth exploring:

  • Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica: A beautiful example of French colonial architecture, the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica is located just a short walk from Ben Thanh Market. This cathedral, with its distinctive red brick façade and twin bell towers, is a popular spot for tourists and photographers.
  • Saigon Central Post Office: Next to the Notre-Dame Basilica is the Central Post Office, another striking building designed by Gustave Eiffel. The post office is not only a functioning postal service but also a popular tourist attraction due to its stunning architecture and historical significance.
  • Independence Palace (Reunification Palace): A historical site of great importance, the Independence Palace is where the Vietnam War ended in 1975. The palace is now a museum, offering guided tours of its historic rooms, including the war command room and the presidential office.
  • War Remnants Museum: A few minutes from Ben Thanh Market, the War Remnants Museum offers a sobering look at the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective. The museum features exhibits on the war’s impact, including photographs, military equipment, and personal stories.
  • Nguyen Hue Walking Street: A vibrant pedestrian street located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Hue Walking Street is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. It’s a great place to relax, enjoy street performances, and experience the city’s nightlife.
  • Bitexco Financial Tower: For a panoramic view of Ho Chi Minh City, visit the Bitexco Financial Tower, home to the Saigon Skydeck. The tower offers breathtaking views of the cityscape, especially at sunset.
  • Saigon Opera House (Municipal Theatre): A beautiful French colonial building, the Saigon Opera House hosts a variety of performances, including traditional Vietnamese music and dance. The architecture alone is worth a visit.
  • Museum of Ho Chi Minh City: Located in a stunning French colonial building, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum offers exhibits on the city’s history, culture, and development. It’s a great place to learn more about the local heritage.
  • Tao Dan Park: A peaceful green space in the bustling city, Tao Dan Park is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing break. The park features beautiful gardens, statues, and a small pagoda.
  • Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts: Housed in a beautiful colonial-era building, the Fine Arts Museum showcases a wide range of Vietnamese art, including contemporary pieces, traditional crafts, and historical artifacts.

These attractions provide a mix of historical, cultural, and recreational experiences, making them perfect for rounding out your visit to Ben Thanh Market.

Travel Tips:

  • Visitors should also be wary of pickpockets.
  • Be careful with your personal belongings.
  • Do not buy the first thing you see.
  • Do not pre-determine a fixed price in your head before you start to bargain.
  • Be prepared to walk away from a deal.
  • Ask questions about quality, original, warranty of goods or products etc.

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