The Ho Chi Minh City Museum or the Gia Long Palace as it is referred does tend to get bashed a bit on reviews I found on a lot of the big travel websites.
We didn’t find it too bad though, but we do like this sort of stuff more than most.
You have to take things for what they are sometimes and not compare them too much to other places or museums you have visited.
Sure some of the tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh and in Vietnam differ to what you expect.
But if you are interested in the history of Vietnam and like to read and learn about it with an open mind, all of the museums and other experiences cover all of the bases.
I don’t usually complain about complainers, so I’ll leave this here.
The day started for us the same way we usually do when we are venturing out into the city with a visit to Ben Thanh Market.
We caught the bus into the cities heart and got off just around the corner from the market.
It was early afternoon and not a Public Holiday this time, so it was busier than last time we were there.
If you use Ben Thanh Market as a base in the city like we have, you can walk to most of the major tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
So, like us, if you are on a budget you can catch the bus into the city, get off at the Ben Thanh Market stop and then walk to places like the Ho Chi Minh City Museum.
This gives you a real look into the city as well rather than the views looking out from a taxi.
It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the market to Ho Chi Minh City Museum.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum
When you walk through the front gates past the ticket office and look up at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum you think to yourself simply, “This is a really big building and so French”.
The ticket prices to get in aren’t too bad either and the funny thing is there is a sign on the ticket office that has this written on it.
PLEASE PAY MORE: 20.000VND/1 CAMERA IF YOU TAKE PICTURE
So a warning, if you go into the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and you want to take photos you have to pay an extra 20,000VND on top of your ticket price, per camera.
I’d say that this is an easy way of getting a bit more money out of the photographers that use the staircase inside.
So we paid for ourselves and my camera and headed off into the museum grounds to check it out.
When you enter the building (as you will see on the video below) you see this amazing staircase.
There was only one crew shooting wedding shots when we arrived there but I have read that the main lobby can be filled with many crews taking photos and making videos of couples ready to tie the knot.
This staircase is solid and massive, there is not many other ways to describe it.
You can see why it would be used as a great backdrop for photos when you stand on it and look around.
I haven’t seen anything like it so far around at any of the other attractions we have been to.
Here is a video for you of the main lobby and the entrance, I have a few other videos too if you want to look at them on my YouTube Channel.
History of the Ho Chi Minh City Museum
Before I give you information and let you have a look at what you will see in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum I’ll give you a quick rundown of the history of the building.
It was originally constructed as an exhibition hall to display trade products.
The construction took place over three years from 1887 to 1890 and it was designed by the French architect Alfred Foulhoux.
Alfred Foulhoux pops up as a lot in Ho Chi Minh City’s history, he was the same architect that designed the Saigon Post Office.
Throughout the years form the construction until now I counted close to ten changes this building has gone through during its long history.
These were sometimes changes in the way the building looks but mainly they were changes in who was in charge of the building (and the area at the time) and the what the building was used for.
As recently as December in 1999 it changed to what it is now, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum which is dedicated to the history of the city.
What will you see in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum?
Once you head into the main lobby you have the choice of heading left or right down the corridors.
Also if you venture a bit more into the main lobby there are entrances to two of the exhibitions too.
We choose to head left and slowly work through all of the rooms.
The corridors are quite long with black and white tiles on the floor and these amazingly tall French windows and doors on either side.
If you look at my Social Media channels there are some photos of the corridor.
The architecture of this building is fantastic, a bit run down, but none the less there is so much to look at.
I’ll list the rooms here in the order you get them on the brochure, all though at times you may end up wandering aimlessly through the place.
- Nature and Archaeology
- Geography and Administration
- Commercial Ports, Trades and Services
- Industry and Handicraft
- Revolutionary Struggle 1930 to 1954
- Revolutionary Struggle 1954 to 1975
- Life for Revolutionary Fighters
- Currency Exhibition
So there is plenty to look at and read about on the way around the museum.
Ranging from the dirt the city is built on through to the area the city was first built on.
Then onto the ports and trade through the ages with the industries that were prominent too.
You are given an insight into the culture of the city and surrounding areas and then the struggles over the years with the wars and more.
Also throughout the building there are plenty of other displays of items to look at including boats, statues, carts and more.
Outside too, there is plenty of things to look at, the gardens aren’t too bad either.
There is a range of anti-aircraft guns, a tank, a helicopter, two aircraft and a selection of cars including a Simca and Renault that were used for the 1968 attack on the US Embassy.
At the rear of the building on the ground floor there is the entrance to the maze of secret tunnels.
The tunnels were constructed between 1962 and 1963, so quite recently if you think about it.
There are two short tunnels with a living area and also a communications room too.
These tunnels have only been open to the public for a small time so if you are thinking about visiting the Ho Chi Minh City Museum after reading this, you are lucky to see the tunnels.
There is an urban myth regarding a tunnel between The Independence Palace *link here and the Ho Chi Minh City Museum.
I have read from a few sources that this isn’t the case and that the tunnels only exit into surrounding streets.
So it is crazy to be walking down these tunnels and thinking about what you have just read about the reasons they were constructed and the way they were used.
An afternoon at the Museum was complete
So we walked around the gardens on the outside, looked at the tank, the guns and the planes and strolled past the front lobby again on the way out.
Our few hours in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum was complete.
I’d say we wouldn’t be back to visit this museum again for a long time but I have taken plenty of photographs.
There was plenty to read and it was certainly interesting seeing all of the history of the area in a different way compared to the other museums.
So if you have a couple of spare hours and staying in Ho Chi Minh for a while.
I say, why not visit it.
Here is the address, phone number, Google Maps link and the opening hours for you.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum
65 Ly Tu Trong,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh
Google Maps Link for the HCMC Museum
Phone 028 3829 9741
7.30am to 6pm
Adult 15,000VND or 1USD
If you take a camera in it is an Extra 20,000VND per Camera