The history of Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City

The history of Saigon is a fascinating tale of a small fishing village that transformed into a bustling trade hub, experienced colonial rule, endured the ravages of war, and eventually emerged as a dynamic modern city. Saigon's rich heritage, cultural diversity, and economic growth make it a city of contrasts, where the old and the new coexist in harmony. As Saigon continues to evolve and thrive, it remains a captivating destination for travelers seeking a glimpse into Vietnam's past and present.


In recent years, Saigon has emerged as a popular tourist destination, attracting travelers from around the world with its vibrant culture, history, and hospitality. The city offers a range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to budget guesthouses, making it accessible to a diverse range of travelers.


Efforts are being made to strike a balance between growth and sustainability, with initiatives to improve public transportation, conserve historical buildings, and promote eco-friendly practices.

Incentive & Event here


Today, Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, is a vibrant and dynamic city that seamlessly blends its rich history with modernity. Its streets are lined with towering skyscrapers, shopping malls, and trendy cafes, while its alleys are adorned with ancient temples, pagodas, and traditional markets. The city's cultural diversity is reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and festivals, which are a fusion of Vietnamese, Chinese, French, and other influences.


Saigon is also a thriving economic hub, with a booming business scene and a rapidly growing population. The city's strategic location, well-connected infrastructure, and abundant labor force have made it an attractive destination for foreign investment, leading to rapid urbanization and development.


Despite its modernization, Saigon has managed to retain its unique charm and character. Visitors can still explore the city's historic landmarks, such as the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, and the Opera House, to gain insights into its tumultuous past. Saigon's street food scene is renowned, offering a tantalizing array of local delicacies that are a must-try for food enthusiasts.


Which general founded Saigon?

According to the official website of Ho Chi Minh City, the history of the city's formation is as follows: "In 1698, Lord Nguyen sent General Nguyen Huu Canh to explore the Southern region, and he founded the city of Saigon."

Nguyen Huu Canh (1650-1700), originally from Quang Binh province, was the third son of the renowned general Nguyen Huu Dat, known for his literary and martial arts skills, and who had made significant contributions through his military campaigns. History records that he had led troops to suppress disturbances in the Southern region, including the Chiêm Thành dynasty.

In February 1698, Nguyen Huu Canh was appointed by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu as the Chief Commissioner of the Eastern territory. He established the administrative center of Gia Dinh, which comprised two districts: Phuoc Long (in present-day Dong Nai province, with Trấn Biên Citadel) and Tan Binh (in present-day Saigon, from the Saigon River to the Vam Co River, with Phiên Trấn Citadel). This is considered as the founding year of Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City as we know it today.


Which museum in Ho Chi Minh City is currently located at the site of Khai Tuong Pagoda, where King Minh Mang was born?

The War Remnants Museum is located on Vo Van Tan Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Previously, this land was the location of Khai Tuong Pagoda, where King Minh Mang was born. In 1859, French forces attacked Gia Dinh (now HCMC), and after capturing the city, they occupied Khai Tuong Pagoda and other major pagodas to establish a military defense line against Vietnamese attacks.

According to writer Son Nam in "Old Ben Nghe," the pagoda's premises were later used as a school for training teachers. In 1880, the pagoda was dismantled, and the school was moved to a new location. Subsequently, on the deserted pagoda site, the French built a mansion for their officials in the colonial administration. During the period of President Ngo Dinh Diem's rule, the place was used as a university for medicine.

After the liberation and reunification of the country on September 4, 1975, the revolutionary government established the War Crimes Museum at this location. On November 10, 1990, it was renamed the War Remnants Museum, and on July 4, 1995, it was officially renamed as the War Remnants Museum.


When was Thao Cam Vien in Ho Chi Minh City built?

Thảo Cầm Viên in Ho Chi Minh City was built on March 23, 1864, initially named Vườn Bách Thảo. It was constructed by Admiral Pierre-Paul De La Grandière, the Governor-General of French Indochina, with the ambition to promote culture and conservation of fauna and flora for research purposes for the scientists of French Indochina.

Dr. Louis Adolphe Germain, a veterinarian in the French military, was tasked with clearing and developing a 12-hectare area of wild land in the northeast of the Thị Nghè Creek for animal husbandry and plant nursery. In 1865, the construction was completed with various rare animals and plants imported from neighboring countries such as India, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and expanded to 20 hectares.

Since 1869, Thảo Cầm Viên has been open to the public for regular visits. The people of Saigon at that time, and even today, still commonly refer to Thảo Cầm Viên as the "Sở Thú" (Zoo). According to information on the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens' website, there are currently over 1,000 individuals of 125 species of animals, over 2,000 species of trees belonging to 260 species, 23 species of native orchids, as well as various species of bonsai and lawns covering an area of 17 hectares.


Catinat, the central thoroughfare of the colonial administration, is which street in Ho Chi Minh City today?

"Catinat" is the old name of Dong Khoi Street. According to researcher Vuong Hong Sen's book about old Saigon, the street was well-known because at the beginning of the street, near the Saigon River, it used to be a place where the Nguyen Dynasty kings rested (thus also known as Ben Ngu). However, prior to 1865, along with 25 other streets, it was only numbered sequentially from 1 to 26.

On February 1st, 1865, Admiral De La Grandière named each street, and street number 16 was named Catinat - the name of a French general who participated in the battles of Danang (1856) and Saigon (1859) under Louis XVI. This street became the center of the colonial administrative machinery, where most of the important government offices were concentrated.

In 1954, after the French withdrew from Vietnam, Catinat Street was renamed Tự Do (Liberty) by the government of the Republic of Vietnam. After 1975, once again, the street was renamed Dong Khoi.

It can be said that street number 16 - Catinat - Tự Do - Dong Khoi is one of the oldest streets, witnessing the ups and downs of Saigon's history.


Which park considered as the "Royal Garden" of old Saigon?

Before the French occupation of Saigon in 1959, Tao Dan Park (District 1, Ho Chi Minh City) was considered as the "garden of the governor" of Gia Dinh Citadel, the residence of General Governor Le Van Duyet's family. This park was also known as Vườn Ông Thượng in Vietnamese folklore. In the park, besides the residence of the General Governor, there were also ornamental flower gardens and a traditional opera house.

After the French occupied Saigon, a part of Vườn Ông Thượng was used as the location for the Government Palace, later known as Dinh Norodom. The remaining part was planned and developed into the city park (Jardin de la Ville). This was also the first public flower garden of the people of Saigon.

From 1922 to 1955, the city park was named after lawyer Maurice Long, who had served as Minister and at times High Commissioner of Indochina. After 1954, the French completely withdrew, and the Government Palace became the Presidential Palace. The government of the Republic of Vietnam also changed a series of street names, parks, and public works. The Maurice Long Park was renamed Tao Dan Park, after the poetic pen name of King Le Thanh Tong in the 15th century.


Norodom Palace is the former name of which building today?

Through the Information Gate of Independence Palace, which covers six provinces of Southern Vietnam, in 1868, the French government began designing and constructing a palace in the center of Saigon as the residence for the Governor of Southern Vietnam.


The construction was initiated on February 23, 1868 and completed in 1871, when the French Governor in Southern Vietnam, Lagradìere, laid the foundation stone named Norodom (after a Cambodian monarch). Most of the building materials were transported from France. Due to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the construction was delayed and not completed until 1873, with an additional 2 years for interior decoration.

The palace was built in the typical Neo-Baroque style of Napoleon III's era. When it was first constructed, it was considered the largest and most beautiful mansion in the Far East.


From 1887 to 1945, several French governors-general used this palace as their residence and workplace during the period of French colonization in Indochina. It was also a symbol of French colonial rule in Indochina, and was known as the Governor's Palace.

On March 9, 1945, during the Japanese coup against the French, the Norodom Palace became the workplace of the Japanese government in Vietnam. However, only six months later, Japan was defeated in World War II, and France regained control of Southern Vietnam, and the Norodom Palace once again became the headquarters of the French government in Vietnam.


After 1954, when France withdrew, Vietnam was divided. The North became the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the South became the State of Vietnam (later the Republic of Vietnam). On September 7, 1954, the Norodom Palace was handed over between the French representative, General Paul Ely, and the representative of the State of Vietnam, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem.

In 1955, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem removed Emperor Bao Dai and declared himself as President. He decided to rename the palace as Independence Palace. According to feng shui, the palace is located at the head of the dragon, hence it is also known as the Dragon's Head Mansion.


On February 27, 1962, the coup forces sent two South Vietnamese military pilots, Nguyen Van Cu and Pham Phu Quoc, to fly two AD6 planes to bomb and destroy the entire main left wing of the Presidential Palace.


As it could not be restored, Ngo Dinh Diem ordered the demolition and construction of a new palace on the same site according to the design plan by Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu, the first Vietnamese to win the Rome Prize.

Construction commenced on July 1, 1962. However, before the construction could be completed, Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated by the coup forces on November 2, 1963. Therefore, when the palace was inaugurated on October 31, 1966, the guest of honor at the ceremony was Nguyen Van Thieu, Chairman of the National Leadership Committee. From the day of its inauguration, the Independence Palace became the residence and workplace of the President of the Republic of Vietnam.


At 10:45 a.m. on April 30, 1975, tank number 843 of the Liberation Army's 4th Battalion, 1st Company, 230th Tank Regiment (2nd Corps) rammed into the side gate of the Independence Palace. Subsequently, tank number 390 rammed straight into the main gate of the palace.

The last President of the Republic of Vietnam was Duong Van Minh, who, along with the entire cabinet of the Saigon government, unconditionally surrendered. The Independence Palace was the site where power was transferred from the government of the Republic of Vietnam to the revolutionary government, marking the end of the war. In November 1975, the Conference for National Reconciliation and Reunification of North and South Vietnam was also held here.


According to the heritage ranking dossier, the Independence Palace is an extremely important historical relic - a place where many significant historical events took place and directly influenced the country's history. Due to its special significance, the relic has been invested in numerous times for restoration and preservation, becoming a perfect architectural work - a combination of harmonious architecture with the landscape and environment of the surrounding area.


Ho Chi Minh City Hall History

The headquarters of Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee today is one of the classical architectural buildings in the city. The building was originally planned to be constructed in 1871 as the administrative building of the French. However, three years later, the plan was abandoned.


It was not until 1893 that the French discussed again the construction of the city hall and the location for building it. Three years later, the issue was further examined and a design competition was organized.


In late 1898, the new building was commenced according to the design by architect Gardès. The building has Western architecture, resembling the bell tower style in northern France.



In 1909, the building was inaugurated and since then, it has been used as the headquarters of various administrative agencies in Saigon through different periods. Many other ancient buildings that once served as administrative offices in the city have been repurposed after 1975.

The initial decoration of the building was planned by artist Ruffier, but later it was assigned to artist Bonnet. Originally, the building was called L'Hotel de ville in French, and the locals simply referred to it as Dinh Xa Tay.


On documents, it was called Xa Tay (Western District) as the city hall. During the reign of King Bao Dai, it was changed to Tòa đô sảnh (City Hall) and was used by appointed governors as the mayor's office. The building was used for the executive council of Saigon-Gia Dinh-Cholon region.

After 1975, the building became the workplace of Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee, located at 86 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1.


Ho Chi Minh City Museum History

According to the information from Ho Chi Minh City Museum, this building was constructed in 1885 and completed in 1890, designed by French architect Alfred Foulhoux.


Initially, it was built as the Museum of Commerce to display domestic products, so the main entrance has two statues of the goddesses of Commerce and Industry, and the decorative reliefs depict Greek mythological figures, tropical plants, and animals. After its construction, the building became the residence of the Governor of Cochinchina, Henri Eloi Danel.

In 1945 alone, the ownership of the building changed five times. In March 1945, during the Japanese occupation of French Indochina, Governor Yoshio Minoda (Japanese) took over the residence. In July of that year, the Japanese handed over the building to the Bao Dai - Tran Trong Kim government.


Shortly thereafter, on August 25, 1945, the revolutionary forces transformed the building into the headquarters of the Interim Administrative Committee of Southern Vietnam, and later the People's Committee of Southern Vietnam.

In September 1945, Lieutenant Colonel B.W. Roe (British military mission) took over the residence, forcing the People's Committee of Southern Vietnam to relocate to Doc Ly Palace (now the headquarters of Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee).

After the recapture of Saigon, starting from May 23, 1947, the French handed over the building to Le Van Hoach as the headquarters of the self-governing government of Cochinchina, and later to Tran Van Huu as the residence of the High Commissioner (later changed to Governor) from June 1948.


After the Geneva Accords in 1954, Ngo Dinh Diem used this building as the Presidential Palace. In February 1962, the Independence Palace was bombed, and Diem moved the presidential residence to this building.


In 1966, after the reconstruction of the Independence Palace, this building became the headquarters of the Supreme French Institute. After the reunification of the country, Ho Chi Minh City used this building as the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Revolution, and at the end of 1999, it was renamed as the Ho Chi Minh City Museum as it is known today.


The People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City History


The headquarters of the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City is a building constructed from 1881 to 1885, designed by French architect Bourard and supervised by architect Foulhoux during construction. The building was initially built in an H-shape, combining European and Roman architectural styles.


From the entrance gate of the building, there are four clusters of parks on both sides of a spacious courtyard, leading straight to the main entrance of the building, which opens into a large hall separating two courtrooms. Inside, the courtrooms are designed to be dignified and solemn.

On both sides of the staircase leading to the second floor, there are two statues. On the right is the statue of the goddess of Justice, and on the left is the statue of the goddess of Unity. In addition to these statues, there are many reliefs and decorative motifs on the walls and ceilings of the building.


In 1961, as the population expanded, the building did not have enough space to serve the judicial work, so the government at that time built additional buildings behind it. Currently, this is the headquarters of the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City.


The information is translated from vnexpress

Join the Dong DMC team and offer your clients a unique and authentic travel experience in Vietnam



More contact with Dong DMC Vietnam - Vietnam Tour Operator

Dong DMC Vietnam
Address: 1st Floor, Tower V2, Sunrise City South, 23 Nguyen Huu Tho Street, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Email address:

Request annual tariff |  Submit simple inquiry | Submit detail inquiry


Leave a Reply