Places - November 26, 2022 | 04:07 pm PT

Saigon metro stations lay tracks for tours of historic landmarks

Many stations built for HCMC's first metro line stand near historical landmarks and tourist sites.

Ben Thanh Station

People travel past Ben Thanh Market in downtown HCMC. Photo by Tung Tin

The most famous and iconic tourist attraction near the Ben Thanh Station is the market it was named after.

The 13,000-square-meter market in District 1 was built in 1870 by the French. It operates all year round and opens from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

The market hosts hundreds of stalls selling clothes, souvenirs, dried food, fruit and many other items; as also food stalls that serve traditional Vietnamese dishes to locals and tourists.

Just 100 meters away from the station is the Bui Vien pedestrian street, the busiest backpacker hub in HCMC that’s chockfull of bars, discotheques and nightclubs. The area also teems with motels, homestays, restaurants, food stalls and travel agencies.

Saigon Opera House Station

Nguyen Hue Boulevard in front of the City Hall in downtown HCMC. Photo by Tran Ngoc Dung

The metro station in front of Saigon Opera House is next to Nguyen Hue pedestrian street, and not too far from other popular tourist attractions like the City Hall, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.

Nguyen Hue, which runs from the City Hall to Ton Duc Thang Street along the Saigon River, has welcomed thousands of visitors every day since it turned pedestrian.

The street, lined by luxury hotels, restaurants, financial centers and skyscrapers, gets particularly crowded during the weekends and holidays.

Ba Son Station

The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is surrounded by green trees. Photo by Quynh Tran

The Ba Son Station hugs Ton Duc Thang Street near the Saigon River in District 1. It is one of three underground stations on the first metro line.

From Ba Son Station, visitors can easily access the famous Saigon Zoo.

Built in 1864, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest zoos in the world. It has over 1,300 animals, including some rare species, and 2,500 trees.

From the Saigon Zoo, visitors can drop by the Vietnam History Museum and the Vietnam Geology Museum, both on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street.

Van Thanh Station

Children play in front of an old building in Thanh Da-Binh Quoi urban area. Photo by Nguyen Chi

This station stands near the Van Thanh Tourist Area in Binh Thanh District and Thanh Da-Binh Quoi that is often mentioned as a green oasis in HCMC.

The Thanh Da-Binh Quoi urban area, bordered by the Saigon River and Thanh Da Canal, spreads over of 426 hectares (1,053 acres). While Binh Quoi is a bucolic countryside with large spaces, fish ponds and mud roads, Thanh Da has many old residential complexes.

Tan Cang Station

Landmark 81 building is lit up at night. Photo courtesy of Vingroup

Tan Cang is the largest of 11 elevated stations on the Ben Thanh - Suoi Tien metro line. The station, with its 6,200-sq.m roof made of fiberglass reinforced plastic sheets produced in Japan, is set to be a tourist attraction on its own.

From the Tan Cang station, a 15 minute walk leads to Landmark 81, Vietnam’s tallest building. Here visitors can go up to the top floor to enjoy a panoramic view of the city at Skyview, swim at an infinity pool, enjoy food at many restaurants as also watch movies at is cinema complex.

Thao Dien Station

This station is not too far from Thao Dien area in District 2, known as the city’s largest expat hub.

The Deck Saigon, a restaurant and bar in Thao Dien area by the Saigon River. Photo courtesy of the restaurant

Covering an area of nearly 3.7 square kilometers, the Thao Dien area is mainly inhabited by well-to-do expats and home to a series of fine dining restaurants, bars, international schools and entertainment hubs.

Suoi Tien Station

The final station of the line stands near the Suoi Tien Park in Thu Duc City, several historical sites and unique pagodas.

A Buddhish monk walks inside Buu Long Pagoda in HCMC. Photo by Quynh Tran

The Buu Long pagoda, built in 1942, underwent a major restoration in 2007. Its architecture now carries influences from India and Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.

One interesting feature of Buu Long is that, as a Theravada Buddhist pagoda, it does not allow visitors to burn incense or candles. Only the Buddha is worshiped here, unlike most other Vietnamese pagodas where many deities, including those from other countries, are worshipped.

Located on the banks of the Dong Nai River and surrounded by a thick, shady grove, the pagoda is a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Not far from Suoi Tien station is the Vietnam Ao Dai Museum. Surrounded by lush greenery, the museum displays documents and artifacts about the ao dai (traditional Vietnamese long dress) from its inception to the present.

Inside Vietnam Ao Dai Museum in HCMC. Photo by Quynh Tran

Among the companies planning to offer tours along the metro stations is the Penguin Travel Company in District 1. It is planning to launch a new tour that will have visitors explore the architecture and functional system of Ba Son Station. The will also have the opportunity to admire the beauty of the city from the Saigon River on a river bus tour that goes past modern icons like Landmark 81, Thu Thiem 2 Bridge.

Leading tour operator Saigontourist, meanwhile, is considering a Saigon Opera House station tour.

HCMC's first metro line, costing over VND43.7 trillion ($1.9 billion), runs around 20 kilometers from Ben Thanh Station to Long Binh Depot in Thu Duc City. It is over 90% complete and expected to open to the public in 2023.

A map of the metro line No.1 stations. Graphics by Hoang Khanh

Story by Hoang Phong