What makes Vietnamese Architecture so special?
Vietnamese Architecture features characteristics influenced by its colonial past, as well as its desire for a brighter future. French colonial buildings sit next to modern skyscrapers.
Simply walking around Saigon expresses this juxtaposition between the two sides of its history. Vietnamese Architecture in Saigon is therefore a broad and eclectic category of design.
But where should you start?
This tour of the best that Saigon’s architecture has to offer with the modern architecture that has graced the face of the city in recent years, and finishes by looking at the traditional architecture of its former years.
Here is our pick of the top 6 examples of Vietnamese architecture in Saigon.
Modern Vietnamese Architecture
Bitexco Financial Tower
Owned by Bitexco group, a Vietnamese real estate company, this tower stands as the second-tallest building in Saigon. Upon its completion in 2010, this 262.5m tall skyscraper became a powerful symbol. The resemblance to the country’s national emblem – a lotus bud – expresses the importance of national pride and its future.
Unlike most buildings, Bitexco Tower’s helipad doesn’t sit at the top of the tower. It remains faithful to its aesthetic by tapering off like a lotus leaf.
Visitors can admire the view from the observation deck, or appreciate a fine-dining experience on it’s upper levels.
Currently, the tallest completed building in South-East Asia, Landmark 81 towers over all others in the city. Constructed by Vietnam’s VinGroup, the tower consists of 81 floors which reach 470m above ground from its tip
Along with Bitexco Financial Tower, it’s another example of neo-futurism architecture which reflects the bright journey ahead for the country.
Another similarity is that it draws inspiration from nature. The tower resembles bamboo, which represents strength as well as the agricultural roots of the country.
Though admirable from a distance, the tower’s tallest observation deck treats visitors to incredible views. There’s also a luxury hotel and a shopping centre on its lower floors.
Tip: While here, visit the ice skating rink in the basement. There’s a good reason why we mentioned it in our guide on things to do in Ho Chi Minh.
Colonial-era Vietnamese Architecture
The 6-decade long French occupation of Vietnam began in the 1880s. During this period, Vietnam suffered from a governing body dedicated more to profit than politics. Despite this dark period in the country’s history, Vietnam also benefitted from many architectural gems.
People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh
Originally a hotel built in 1898, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh is a grand structure that can be found at the northern end of Nguyen Hue walking street. It features a French colonial-era design, with a strong cream-yellow and white exterior. The building holds a mostly symbolic role and unavailable for public viewings.
Dramatic spotlights at night give the building an entirely different look.
The People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh is also a short walk away from other iconic French colonial structures. These include the French Opera House, the Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Municipal Theatre/French Opera House
The Saigon Opera house (or Municipal Theatre), designed by French Architect Eugene Ferret, still operates to this day. Its first show took place on January 17th, 1900. Originally built to entertain the French Legion, the opera house features a flamboyant and neo-classical style.
Since its completion, several restoration efforts have taken place. After its most recent face-lift in 1998, it was inaugurated to celebrate Saigon’s 300th anniversary.
Tickets can be booked for shows from the Lune production website. These usually start at 560k VND (24 usd) per ticket, but differ depending on your seating area. There’s ‘aah’ (the cheapest), ‘ooh’ and ‘wow’ (the priciest) to choose from.
Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Nhà thờ Tân Định) – Romanesque revival architecture.
The colloquially named ‘Pink Church’ is a Roman Catholic Church with a salmon-pink exterior. Despite its bright façade, the building is actually among the oldest in the city. Originally constructed in 1876, this church is approaching its 150-year birthday.
The building has managed to survive the country’s turbulent history thanks to a series of restoration efforts. As of March 2020, the Church has received further renovations to its interior.
Still operational to this day, Church-goers can attend mass here in its cream-coloured inner sanctum. Visits have been halted until further notice due to the renovations and current coronavirus situation.
You can find Tân Định at 289 Hai Ba Trung street.
The Cafe Apartments have a range of quirky spots to have a Caphe Sua Da in. They were originally apartments that were used to house soldiers around the 1960s, though were later given to the dockworkers in the area. Development of the area led to many renting out their homes as cafes. Now the Cafe Apartments building is home to a coworking space, fashion brands and cafes.
In the past, the Café Apartment building would have blended in as a humble living space for its inhabitants. Now it stands out with colourful signs on its façade.