Ben Thanh and Binh Tay, the emblematic markets of Ho Chi Minh City
- on Dec 14, 2019       By: BN
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), is one of the essential stopovers to discover the country's most dynamic city, an important cultural centre steeped in historical traces. If the city is charming for beautiful works of architecture from the colonial era with the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, The City Hall... It is also attractive for the frenetic atmosphere of the markets which are in full swing at night. Among the most attractive places, the names of Ben Thanh and Binh Tay are, for many travellers, the two greatest examples.
See Ben Thanh market to discover with all of your senses
When the south facade of the Ben Thanh market appeared on French postcards and Vietnamese stamps at the beginning of the 20th century, the Saigonese did indeed consider it a worthy symbol of Ho Chi Minh City, the economic capital of the country until today. Located in the heart of the central district, more than a market, it tells you big pages of a three-hundred-year-old agglomeration experiencing so much upheaval. Visitors come here to shop, but also and above all to explore a typical Vietnamese market where there are so many cultural characteristics.
Ben Thanh market at the beginning of the 20th century
It was at the edge of the Ben Nghe river, near the walls of Gia Dinh that the Ben Thanh market was held in its first time. It was as frequented by traders from surrounding areas as well as by soldiers. Its first key date was marked in 1911 by the colonial authority which decided to build a brand new one which ended in 1914. Easily accessible by train, bus and also horse-drawn carriages, the market was quickly a commercial centre of Saigon, attracting merchant flows from all over. This revealed the special attention of the French towards its conception. The Ben Thanh market underwent a notable restoration in 1985 working on its overall architecture with the exception of the South door which was remarked by the well-preserved clock tower.
The place is now known as the largest retail centre and also an enthusiastic stopover for thousands of visitors. The market welcomes you with four main entrances and twelve secondary entrances with views of four directions. To the south (Quach Thi Trang boulevard), you can find all types of fabric and dried food. To the north (Le Thanh Ton Street), there are fruits and flower stalls. To the east (Phan Boi Chau Street), all kind of cosmetics, jam can be found and to the west (Phan Chu Trinh Street) there are stalls of shoes, handicrafts and souvenirs.
Ben Thanh is among the most attractive markets in the world, according to the newspaper USA Today.
On a surface of more than 13,000 m², it welcomes around 10,000 people every day for all activities included. Everything is sold in a bubbling atmosphere to immerse you in a thousand and one colours. Whatever you need, you can wander into more than 1,400 stalls brimming with household products, foodstuffs, handcrafted items, etc., enough to fill your curiosity with new flavours. And please do not hesitate to practice the art of negotiation.
To extend your visit to Ben Thanh Market, fill up on emotions by strolling through the aisles of its night market for an impressive spectacle. In the evening alone, no less than 4,000 visitors flock there for immersion in one of the most effervescent corners of the city where many languages and cultures rub shoulders.
>> Read also: Top 10 best night markets in Vietnam
Ben Thanh, one of the 10 most attractive places in the world for its street food
Finally, the last step absolutely not to be missed is the famous canteens of the Ben Thanh market. Let yourself be guided by the tastes of different regions of Vietnam to enjoy our traditional culinary delights, from the popular to the famous dishes such as Pho, Nem... Ben Thanh’s varied and exceptional street food makes it one of the 10 most enticing places in the world for street food, according to the Food and Wine Awards 2012.
Address of the Ben Thanh market: Le Loi street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
Binh Tay market, a facet of Chinatown
If buyers can quickly find an item at each stop in the Ben Thanh market, this is not the case in the wholesale market Binh Tay. One is known for its imprint of the French architectural heritage in Saigon, the other is distinguished by a perfectly oriental style.
Built in 1928 by Chinese businessman Quach Dam whose statue for his homage is still present, the place played a major role in trade between Saigon and the localities of the Mekong Delta. Since its activity for almost 90 years, it has undergone three restorations in 1992, 2006 and the last started in 2016 which had been completed in late 2018. Covering an area of around 2.5 ha with two floors, it is the unique market in Ho Chi Minh - a city with an airy green space inside.
Resembling a pagoda tower, its main entrance overlooking Thap Muoi Street is recognisable with a clock with four facades evoking a certain French touch. The rest of the Binh Tay market sectors are distinguished by typically Asian motifs. The roof is covered with Yin-Yang tiles decorated with a blue ceramic dragon. The same goes for the roof of four entrance overlooking Le Tan Ke, Thap Muoi, Tran Binh and Phan Van Khoe streets.
Renowned for being one of the liveliest markets in the city, you can get great deals by buying a series of items at more than 2,300 multi-coloured stands. Otherwise, a stroll around the stalls filled with exotic scents to observe the merchants, living at full speed, is also worthwhile. Nice change of scenery guaranteed.
In view of its history, you will come across a good part of the Chinese who represent a quarter of the active traders in Ho Chi Minh City. Their generations live in the Chinatowns of the district 5, 6 and 11.
Binh Tay market address: Thap Muoi, Ward 2, District 6.