Saigon City Hall
Beautiful by day, stunning by night, Saigon City Hall is another excellent example of French colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. Built between 1902 and 1908, the building was originally called Hotel de Ville de Saigon. Since 1975, the building has been the headquarters of the Peoples Committee in Ho Chi Minh City and is unfortunately not open to the general public. Only civil servants and cleaners are allowed.
The building was designed by French architect P.Gardes and modeled on City Hall in Paris . It has a main hall, rectangular wings and manicured trees decorate the façade. The famous bell tower, a feature common to many European town halls, sits on top on a pyramid like pedestal and imparts style and elegance to the structure.
You can find Saigon City Hall at the northern end of Nguyen Hue Street on Le Than Ton. It’s smack bang in the middle of the popular District 1 shopping precinct and just around the corner from the Municipal Theatre. It’s also just a short walk from other key sites such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saigon Central Post Office, Reunification Palace, The War Remnants museum, Ben Thanh Market and Bitexco Financial Tower Skydeck. The central location makes it an easy inclusion of any walking tour around Ho Chi Minh City that touches on the main sites.
Whilst seemingly out of place in an Asian city, it fits in with the grace and charm of the many other buildings in the immediate surrounds. It’s fantastic that it’s being used rather than being left idle and this is probably one good reason why it is so well preserved.
The building is extremely photogenic by day and night. The pastel exterior has led to it being called “The Gingerbread House and it contrasts well against a clear blue sky. A recent addition to the building is the lights that were installed by engineers and artists from Lyon in France. (Lyon is one of 25 sister cities to Saigon, that include Toronto, Barcelona and Shanghai). The illumination really give it a magical air and, if your camera is good enough, a spectacular picture.
Directly across the road from Saigon City Hall is a lovely little park where an iconic statue of National hero Ho Chi Minh sits with a protective arm over a small child. The spot is extremely popular with tourists and locals alike and you might need to be extremely patient to get a shot sans people. One great viewpoint is from the roof top terrace of the adjacent Rex Hotel. Take advantage of their afternoon happy hour from 5-7pm and get some fabulous pictures as well.
Tourist police hover and will advise quite strongly to hold onto your belongings tightly and wrap any straps around you body securely. There is obviously a high occurrence of snatch and grabs around this area so take care with your things. There’s plenty of security around the actual building itself too. We got moved on from sitting on the shaded front steps after another long day of sightseeing.
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