Ho Chi Minh

Nguyen Hue Walking Street — Many Moods of Saigon’s Pedestrian Street

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest and busiest city in Vietnam, with over 13 million residents. Its streets are notoriously chaotic. Nguyen Hue Walking Street (Vietnamese spelling: Phố đi bộ Nguyễn Huệ) is different. With its wide tree-lined banks, it was the city’s first pedestrian street.

You’ll find the street is in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. It runs in a straight line from the City People’s Committee Headquarters to the Bach Dang Wharf of the Saigon River.

Nguyen Hue Walking Street is a popular spot for cultural activities and street performances. With many shops, cafés, and restaurants in the vicinity, it’s frequented by tourists and locals alike. People gather to socialize, ride hoverboards, and take leisurely strolls.

Since April 2015, Nguyen Hue Street has been a pedestrian street. Over the weekends (Saturday and Sunday), two adjoining narrow strips are also closed, and no vehicles are allowed.

History of Nguyen Hue Walking Street 

Nguyen Hue Walking Street History
[ by Manhhai from Flickr ]

During the French rule, Nguyen Hue Street was Cho Vai Canal (Kênh Chợ Vải). It ran from the bank of Saigon River (Bach Dang Wharf) to the People’s Committee Building, or Xa Tay Palace to local people (Dinh Xã Tây). Cho Vai Canal was the inner-city waterway for merchant ships and military vessels.

As early as 1790, this canal was a vital link between the Saigon River and Gia Dinh Citadel (Thành Gia Định), the predecessor to modern-day Saigon.

When the French conquered Saigon in 1861, Admiral Charner changed the name to the Charner Canal. Along the two banks of the canal were two streets named Rue Rigault de Genouilly and Boulevard Charner.

The canal became very polluted over time due to heavy trade. Finally, in 1887, the French had the canal filled, and the two streets merged into Charner Boulevard.

They also built a tramway to connect not only Saigon and Cholon, but also My Tho City in the Mekong Delta. Charner Boulevard was the chosen venue for festivals and ceremonies even at that time.

Saigon’s first market, built in 1860, was in the middle of this boulevard. However, it was closed when Ben Thanh Market opened in 1914. The location of the original market is where the Bitexco Tower and the State Treasury stand today on Nguyen Hue Street.

In 1956, Charner Boulevard was renamed Nguyen Hue Street and became the most beautiful street in Saigon of its time. The street and its neighborhood have undergone a lot of re-development over the years. And it is now a popular tourist spot in the city.

Overview of Nguyen Hue Walking Street

Nguyen Hue Walking Street Overview
[ by Marco Vech Professional Photographer from Flickr ]

Nguyen Hue Walking Street is in a neighborhood surrounded by beautiful French colonial architecture. The walking promenade is tree-lined and a respite from the crowded streets of Saigon.

Walking the street takes about 10 minutes, and there are nice bars and restaurants along the way. In addition, there are benches to sit and soak in the sights and sounds of the city.

The street is still one of the prettiest in Saigon. It has a high real estate value with many multi-story buildings, luxuriant trading houses, and popular restaurants.

Nguyen Hue Walking Street as It Is Today

Nguyen Hue Walking Street Today
[ by Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street from Facebook ]

Nguyen Hue Walking Street is 670 m long and 64 m wide. It took seven months to construct and was completed in April 2015 at a cost of nearly 430 billion VND. 

It has two sections. One is Monument Park of President Ho Chi Minh from Le Thanh Ton Street to Le Loi Street. The other is from  Nguyen Hue Square from Le Loi Street to Ton Duc Thang Street.

The modern granite-paved square has water fountains and trees. There’s also a misting system to cool the air and reduce dust. The basement has a control center for monitoring the music and lighting, along with public restrooms.

Famous Flower Festival on Nguyen Hue Walking Street

Nguyen Hue Walking Street Festival
[ by PhuongNgoc Bui from Facebook ]

For years, Nguyen Hue Street was the spring flower market for citizens of Ho Chi Minh City. Now, this traditional market has been moved to September Twenty Third Park ( 23/9 Park, District 1). However, to commemorate it, the Nguyen Hue Flower Street Festival is held as an annual Tet event.

Every year for the Tet holidays, the street (from the city government office to Ton Duc Thang Street along the Saigon River) has a vibrant floral display. In addition, there are thematic decorations attracting thousands of visitors daily. 

If you come here during the lunar new year, you will feel the cheer of spring and the promise of the year to come. However, the cracks on the granite pavements are beginning to tell a tale of increasing footfalls and the need for constant upkeep.

The Lotus Fountain and Music Show

The Lotus Fountain and Music Show
[ by Paul Blizard from Facebook ]

A music and art program lights up Nguyen Hue Walking street every weekday from 5.30 pm to 11 pm. While on weekends, the show starts earlier, around 4 pm. Although the light shows continue, sometimes the music is turned off to prevent annoying the hotels or residents in the vicinity.

The lotus-shaped fountain built on the intersection of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue Street cost VND 20 billion (USD 863,000). It was inaugurated in October 2019 to symbolize people’s solidarity in developing the city and taking it to greater heights.

Best Time to Visit Nguyen Hue Walking Street

Best Time to Visit Nguyen Hue Walking Street
[ by Phuc Ma from Flickr ]

Evenings are the best time to visit the pedestrian street, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. There are pop-up art galleries and exhibitions. You may even come across a living statue, cosplay, and other unique photo opportunities.

Nguyen Hue Walking Street is also the place for organized parades, festivals, or culture and sports activities in Ho Chi Minh City. The Ho Chi Minh City Street Show, an art performance show, takes place on the evenings of Saturdays and Sundays.

The street provides free Wi-Fi access 24-hrs. It’s crowded at times, but you will come across friendly faces with warm smiles. And, not to mention an unforgettable cool breeze on your leisurely walk.

Best Things to Do On Nguyen Hue Street

Nguyen Hue Walking Street brings new experiences to visitors and showcases the liveliness of Ho Chi Minh City. Everyone has their reason to frequent this street, but read on for our top recommendations.

View all locations mentioned

Take a Leisurely Stroll in the Breeze

Nguyen Hue Quiet walks
Quiet walks to take a break
[ by Ninh Tình from Facebook ]

Take a break from the chaotic bustle, enjoy a cool breeze, and explore a different side of Saigon. Evenings are the best time to take leisurely walks or sit on the benches at the square and relax.

The bustling streets around Nguyen Hue will become quiet after 11:00 pm. Vehicles are sparse with no street vendors. Therefore, Nguyen Hue Street later at night is ideal for those who prefer some quiet.

Buzz to Street Music Performances

Nguyen Hue Walking Street Music Performances
[ by Thien Hoang Nguyen from Facebook ]

Typically, on Saturdays and Sundays, there is live music or dance troupes, and the street becomes a youthful and vibrant space. Sometimes elaborate stage set-ups feature performances by famous artists from Vietnam and elsewhere.

Snap Some Great Pics

Taking photo at Nguyen Hue Walking Street
[ by Linh Le from Unsplash ]

With quite a few landmarks and French Colonial architecture around, the street is an excellent place for pictures. It’s also rare to see a clean, green, wire-free, litter-free street in Saigon.

During the day, it’s a nice spot to catch a glimpse of the sights and sounds of one of the busiest cities in Vietnam. At the same time, the energetic night vibe with performances or the bustle restaurants and cafés add a different hue.

Saigon Garden on Nguyen Hue, with a combination of shops, cafés, restaurants, and a pretty bonsai display, is another popular spot for pictures.

Visit Café Apartment

Cafe apartment saigon
[ by Van Thanh from Unsplash ]

Café Apartment or Apartment 42 is an old apartment with peeling paint just above the Nguyen Hue Bookstore (Fahasa bookstore). A building that has stood the test of time, it’s known for its hip café’s, craft studios, and fashion boutique stores. There is a lot to explore, so visit with some time in hand.

If you like your tea, head to Partea for an English cup of tea, and for coffee drinkers, Thinker Dreamer is a great option. Craving some sweet indulgence? Then, DOSH has an excellent selection of desserts. There are also some healthy choices, such as delectable poke bowls at Poke Saigon. It opens at 8 am and is open late till 10 pm.

Some retail therapy options include a must-visit to Chicbae — although typical western sizes can be hard to find. The E.Y.E Saigon is where you can get a personalised tee or tote bag, and Double Double is for phone accessories.

Enjoy Coffee Overlooking Nguyen Hue Street

Coffee Along Nguyen Hue Walking Street
Chill at a quaint cafe
[ by Veeraya Boriboon from Facebook ]

The street has changed a lot over the last decade. Now there are quaint cafés with panoramic views of the pedestrian street. At night, the city’s vibrancy adds a different mood to this quiet street and is best enjoyed over a nice meal. Most cafés have balconies to soak up the vibes with cocktails, tea, or some traditional Vietnamese coffee.

Browse Fahasa or Nguyen Hue Book Store

Nguyen Hue Book Store
[ by Phượng Bích from Facebook ]

Fahasa Bookstore is a great place to browse and unwind. There is a nice selection of both fiction and non-fiction, books for children, stationery, and much more. You may even come across some rare books that have not been reprinted and are not available elsewhere.

Try the Street Food

Nguyen Hue Street Food
[ by Alberto Prieto from Saigoneer.com ]

Enjoy some unique snacks on Nguyen Hue pedestrian street. You may come across vendors with colorful fresh fruit boxes, baked rice paper, and mixed rice paper bags. Along and around the street you can also find other Saigon street food to sample.

Of late, milk tea has become quite popular and a good place is Phuc Long Cafe or you can try some unique cotton milk tea at Boo Coffee. Also, try some ice-crème, bingsu, peach, or matcha tea.

An absolute must-try will be the super cheap smoothies at a store hidden away in an alley on 47 Nguyen Hue Street. The street has several luxury retail brands and some 5-stars, but street food is an experience like no other.

Bonus Tips: Three Other Must-Try Experiences

Street from Broma Not A Bar
View of the pedestrian street from Broma Not A Bar
[ by Broma – Not A Bar from Facebook ]

1. Xóm Nhà Lá is a mini food court with booths that have a rustic décor. The space is relatively narrow and mainly serves take-away food and drinks. The food is delicious, nutritious, and cheap.

2. Rex Garden Bar, an iconic hotel bar with a long history. The rooftop bar on the 5th floor has live entertainment, a selection of cocktails and beverages, and international cuisine. For those wanting a 5-star experience to enjoy the views of Nguyen Hue Street, the Rex Bar won’t disappoint.

3. Broma Not A Bar is a cozy, less touristy bar with a bohemian vibe. It has a wide choice of international beers and locally crafted cocktails. Though the views of the street from its 4th-floor location are average, the overall ambiance and live gigs throughout the week make it a popular hangout spot.

Other Attractions to Explore Nearby

Nearby Notre Dame Basilica
Notre Dame Basilica undergoing some renovation
[ by Michu Dang Quang from Unsplash ]

There is a lot to explore around Nguyen Hue Walking Street, from shopping and chilling to unique food experiences. If you want to go shopping, there are lots of shops nearby including the Vincom Shopping Center.

About a five-minute walk away is the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica and Independence Place, while the Opera House is just 10-minutes away. The Dong Khoi shopping street is only 100 meters from Nguyen Hue Street.

Discover more things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

Future Redevelopment Plans for Nguyen Hue Street

Nguyen Hue Street Future
[ by Markus Winkler for Unsplash ]

Further plans for a facelift for Nguyen Hue Street include lighting up the entire street and adding more seating and security. Other projects include more restrooms, parking lots, and automatic vending machines — especially during events and festivals.

There are also plans for more organized street food stalls to control street vending. For better access, there is a proposal to connect it to the Saigon Opera House and Nguyen Hue, Ton Duc Thang, and Ham Nghi streets. 

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