Most people that come to Saigon do not realize how big the city is and how distinctly different each of the 24 districts are from one another. At XO Tours we are often asked by our guests to recommend a district to stay in while they’re in Saigon, so in this article we are going to share our picks for the top 5 districts in Saigon for travelers.
But before we introduce the 5 districts we think most travelers should stay in, we want to share a popular local saying that goes:
“Ăn Quận 5, Nằm Quận 3, Xa hoa Quận 1, Trấn lột Quận 4” which literally translates to “Eat in District 5, Sleep in District 3, Party in District 1, and Get robbed in District 4.”
In this post, we will cover the 4 districts mentioned in the quote above, and also add in District 2 since we are starting to see more and more interest in that district from travelers.
(Please click on the links below to jump directly to the district you want to explore)
- District 1 – The City Center
- District 3 – Coffee and Architecture
- District 4 – AirBNBs & Seafood
- District 5 – Shopping Bargains & Dumplings
- District 2 – Tranquility & Fine Dining
If you prefer watching to reading, play the video below to learn about the top 5 districts in Saigon
There are many advantages to staying in District 1 compared to the other districts, that’s the reason that most travelers choose to stay here. First of all, District 1 has the most choices for accommodation in the city, from the cheapest hostels to 5-star hotels. In addition, most of the main tourist attractions are located here: like the Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, War Remnants Museum and Independence Palace. District 1 is also a great area for people that love nightlife, with a wide range of bars, clubs, and cafes that open until late into the evening. Keep in mind however that food, accommodations, and other services in District 1 are often much more expensive in comparison to the other districts. If you’re the type of traveler that would prefer to say in a less touristy area we would recommend avoiding District 1.
For a nearby option let’s head over to District 3.
According to the old saying I mentioned earlier, District 3 is the best place to get a good night’s sleep. That is why some of the oldest neighborhoods in Saigon are located in District 3. District 3 is much less busy than District 1 but it is still conveniently located to most of the main tourist attractions and shopping areas. Many of the oldest French colonial buildings in the city are located in District 3 so it’s a great place to stay if you love architecture. District 3 also has some of the most unique coffee shops in Saigon, where many Saigonese will gather for leisure and work. There isn’t as much nightlife in District 3 as in District 1, however, you can find some of the best live music in District 3 at places like The Acoustic Bar and Yoko Bar.
From District 3 we’re going to now cross the Saigon river to visit District 4.
District 4, like District 3 borders District 1, so it is conveniently located near most of the popular sites in the city. There are not as many hotel options in District 4 compared to Districts 1 and 3, but you will find some amazing AirBNBs with some of the best views in the city in District 4. District 4 used to have a reputation for being crime-ridden but over the past 10 years the government has cleaned up the crime and District 4 is now one of the best locations in Saigon to find amazing street seafood. Crab claws, scallops, and clams…are some of the highlights. The only downside to the restaurants in this area is that most do not have English menus. If you feel intimidated about exploring District 4 on your own, join XO Tours on our famous XO Foodie Tour, and we’ll order the best seafood in District 4 for you!
The next district we’re going to check out is District 5, which is often referred to as Chinatown.
Welcome to one of the largest Chinatowns in the world! Locals call the Chinatown here Cho Lon, which literally means “Big Market.” The name says it all; it’s the main trading and wholesale District in Saigon. Most of the vendors in Ben Thanh Market and other popular markets in Saigon come to Chinatown to buy their products wholesale, so the prices in this district are usually much lower than in the touristy areas. Keep in mind however that many vendors in Chinatown only sell their products in bulk. It’s also more difficult to shop in Chinatown if you do not speak Vietnamese or Cantonese because most of the vendors do not speak English. Another disadvantage of staying in D5 is that it’s quite far away from the main tourist attractions. If you love Chinese architecture, bargain buys, outdoor markets and Chinese food however than this the best District in Saigon to stay in. Also if you’re the type of traveler that loves to get off the beaten path, then you’ll appreciate the fact that you won’t run into many tourists in District 5.
And now we’re going to head to D2 for a complete change in scenery.
District 2 used to be swampland but major development in recent years has transformed it into the richest district in the city, filled mansions and villas. If you’re tired of eating Vietnamese food and you’re interested in fine dining, you will love District 2. You’ll find some of the most acclaimed European and Western restaurants in the city in District 2. This district is also one of the most popular areas for expats to live in because it is much less hectic than the other districts, and has less air pollution due to there not being as much traffic. Many of the largest international schools are located in District 2 so it’s a convenient place to live for many expats that teach for a living. The downside to District 2 is that it takes around 30 minutes to travel to the city center, and there are much less local street food options. And during the rainy season (from June to October) many areas in District 2 are prone to flooding.
We hoped you found this blog post about the districts in Saigon helpful. For most first time travelers to Saigon, we would still recommend staying in District 1 since it is the most convenient area for sightseeing and shopping. If you’ve been to Saigon before and want to explore some other unique districts however we don’t think you can go wrong with one of the other districts we mentioned in this post. If you do not have much time exploring the city by yourself, you might consider trying one of XO Tours’ super fun The Sights of Saigon Tour or The XO Foodie Tour to catch a glimpse of Saigon and savor some delicacies of this charming city as well.