Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City Overview

A visit to Ho Chi Minh City is incomplete without a few hours spent shopping at Ben Thanh Market. One can find everything from cheap clothes, textiles, souvenirs, electronics, accessories to the the best of Vietnamese street food. During daytime the market sells fresh produce and groceries but the evenings are filled with enticing scents of wok-fried noodles and barbecued meat.

Ben Thanh Market is impossible to miss when one visits Vietnam. It serves as a shopper's paradise with just about everything obtained there. This happens to be the main marketplace of Ho Chi Minh City and is listed in almost all guide books about the city. While there are a number of upscale shopping malls located within its premises, one would also be able to buy fresh produce as well as vegetables in another section of the market that is thronged by the local populace. The market is the first place to look for apparel, utensils, decorative items, home appliances and almost every big and small item imaginable. It serves as happy hunting grounds for tourists hoping to buy trinkets and souvenirs by bargaining vociferously with the shopkeepers.

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Ben Thanh Market Food

Food at Ben Thanh Market
There is a Wide Array of Delicious Food at Ben Thanh Market (Source)

The food section at the Ben Thanh Market is instantly recognizable by the delicious aroma wafting from it. The local people in the area drop in to enjoy their lunch in the market. The night market sees numerous foreigners tucking in to a lip smacking array of food that includes banh xeo (pancake), com ga (chicken and rice combo) along with the delightful broken rice and pork dish known as com tam. Washing it down with ca phe su da or Vietnamese iced latte is a fitting end to the meal. The food is freshly prepared and completely hygienic. The visitors need not fear stomach infections while savoring the delectable dishes sold by the vendors in their quaint stalls within the market.

Ben Thanh Night Market

Ben Thanh Night Market
The Ben Thanh Night Market Lets Shoppers Continue the Exquisite Shopping Experience to 10:00 PM (Source)

Ben Thanh Market does not really down its shutters at the close of the day but the stalls are kept open until late in the evening. Tourists prefer to shop in the evening to escape the stifling heat of Vietnam. Surprisingly, the shopkeepers put up their stalls outside the gates of the market as the night falls with sumptuous food being sold to the visitors who find hot delicacies sold from makeshift stalls with open air seating arrangement made available to enjoy full meals under the starlit sky. The west and eastern gates of the market remain closed with the streets in between closed to traffic while the night market is in operation. Many of the tourists enjoy a leisurely stroll around the market looking at shoes, garments and trinkets and buying them at dirt cheap prices after bargaining furiously.

How to Reach Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market District 1 Ho Chi Minh City
Ben Thanh Market is Located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (Source)

Ben Thanh Market is situated on the most important part of District 1 of Saigon. It is located right at the crossroad of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Le Lai & Tran Hung Dao streets and can be found directly opposite to the Bus Station of Saigon. Bus No. 152 is the most convenient means of transportation from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport with tickets costing VND 15,000 for a ride. The locals prefer to walk across to the market that is conveniently located while tourists can hail a vinasun taxi.

Tips for Visiting Ben Thanh Market

Crowds at Ben Thanh Market
The Crowds and Chaos at Ben Thanh Market Make it Easy for Pickpockets to Operate (Source)
  • One must be prepared to bargain until the price is halved
  • Being the first customer of the day is considered to be lucky with the wares being sold at an incredibly low price
  • Fresh produce is available in the morning hours
  • Looking around is allowed but touching things unnecessarily is likely to make the vendors angry. It is best to avoid such an action
  • Pickpocketing is rife within the market so it is necessary to keep the valuables and money well protected 
Ben Thanh Market Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Source)

Ben Thanh Market is the largest enclosed market in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a prominent landmark of historical importance and sees numerous people walking inside every day. The market is the best place for buying artifacts affordably and is considered to be a part of every sightseeing tour in Vietnam.

What to Buy at Ben Thanh Market

Shopping at Ben Thanh Market
You Can Buy a Great Range of Products at the Ben Thanh Market (Source)

There is no limit to the things that one can buy when shopping at the Ben Thanh Market. The colorful handicrafts are worth the price here with bright scarves and wood crafted trays being one of the most sold items. If one is looking for dried powders and pastes then Ben Thanh Market is the place to be. The Vietnamese shrimp paste & spices is a must buy when one is looking to whip up the local delicacies. The locals make a beeline for the fruit and vegetable section instantly on entering the market for the best variety of the freshest produces are sold here as well. This section does brisk business until midday and closes off past noon. Foreign tourists are agog to find shoes, decorative items, clothing, custom jewelry, leather and lacquer products as well as electronic goods sold in 3000 odd stalls at unbelievably affordable rates. The visitors are often seen leaving the market with a broad smile plastered on their faces.

Ben Thanh Street Food Market

Ben Thanh Street Food Market
The Ben Thanh Street Food Market Offers Delicious Street Food From Various Parts of Southeast Asia (Source)

The nearby Ben Thanh Street Food Market can be found outdoors with tables lined up to cater to the hungry customers. However, people who are not comfortable being watched while eating can also choose to shift to the air conditioned food court inside the market. It is considered to be a paradise for Vietnamese food with traditional bun ca Long Xuyen and bun mam , both noodle dishes with fish and fish sauce being served by the minute. Grilled seafood on a stick make delectable finger food and comes at an incredibly cheap price of VND 25,000. Delicacies from the neighboring countries of Korea, Malaysia and Thailand are served here as well with fried rice in numerous different flavors and pancakes from Malaysia being highly popular along with the soft serve ice cream of Korea.

Ben Thanh Market History

Ben Thanh Market is also one of the oldest concrete structures across the modern city of Ho Chi Minh where the traditional Saigonese culture remains evident to date. The market is rectangular in shape and occupies around 13,000 square meters of space. The market first began functioning way back in the 17th century as a makeshift place where peddlers put up temporary stalls during the daytime. It was established as a formal marketplace named Les Halles Centrales after the latter half of the 19th century. It became famous as Ben Thanh Market after the French left the country. Unfortunately, the original building was gutted by fire and had to be shifted to its present location where it continues to thrive as a booming market place and prominent landmark of the city. It is also the most important rendezvous for the locals with the visitors finding the ancient architecture a classic backdrop for photo ops.

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