Ho Chi Minh City is home to one of Vietnam’s most bustling locations – the Ben Thanh Market.
The market possesses the perfect balance between being a novel tourist attraction and a respected local hotspot. Here, consumers can choose from a tapestry of food, souvenirs, and artwork and develop a sense of true Vietnamese life.
Unlike so many other Ho Chi Minh City landmarks, the Ben Thanh Market was well established by the French colonialism era. The history of the market dates back as far as the 17th century when entrepreneurial-minded vendors began setting up market stalls on the banks of the Saigon River in the hopes of turning a profit.
By the turn of the 18th century, the market was in full swing and was bustling with vendors and haggling locals alike. The arrival of the French saw a change in the market on the Saigon River.
In 1859, they commandeered its control before a fire in 1870 signaled its end. In 1912, the market was rebuilt to become the country’s finest and moved to its current location.
At the Market
It’s difficult to properly sum up the sheer range of products available at the Ben Thanh Market. Everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, idiosyncratic gifts, and electronic products are available here, being that the market caters to an increasingly diverse range of customers.
The stalls are awash with the sounds of conversation, haggling, and the pleasant interchange of banter between vendor and potential customer. An entire day can be spent meandering around the market’s long, flowing corridors, observing the cavalcade of hopeful sellers and apprehensive buyers hoping to negotiate a deal.
Covering an area of over 11,000 square meters, the Ben Thanh market is a perpetual hotbed for human activity. Quiet days are nonexistent and a surplus of eclectic products is the norm. There are a few particularly wonderful art stalls that sell an array of indigenous artifacts and nick-nacks such as silk clothes, chopsticks, artwork, and jewelry.
The Best Time to Visit
While there’s never a bad time to visit the Ben Thanh Market, it’s important to note the differences between its daytime incarnation and its nighttime one.
After 6 pm, hungry locals seeking a post-work meal start infiltrating the market, making use of its food stalls. The sights, sounds, and smells emanating from these eateries are gloriously Vietnamese and you’ll be able to get a candid insight into the lives of the citizens.
There’s a delightfully humble quality in watching a chef cook your meal from only a few feet away. Despite all the food stalls sharing the same skinny stretch of road, the eateries are all incredibly hygienic and the range of fish, meat, and vegetables on offer is noticeably clean and fresh.
Menus are written in both the native tongue and English so there’s no need to feel intimidated or confused when ordering your meal. Once you’re sufficiently satiated, you can resume wandering around the market, marveling at the sight of a metropolis in full swing.
Tourists should remain cognizant of the fact that, like any marketplace, vendors thrive off the naivety of tourists. Prices are high in the market due to its reputation as a prime piece of real estate. You’ll need to keep your wits about you and do your best to barter with the vendors to avoid being taken advantage of.
Overall, the Ben Thanh Market is a fascinating insight into authentic Vietnamese life. It serves as a wonderful intersection where tourists meet locals and it offers a laundry list of unique goods and services. It may not be the cheapest market in the world, but it may be one of the best!
Address: Đ. Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Season: Open Daily