Ho Chi Minh

Saigon Central Post Office— An Architectural Delight in Ho Chi Minh City

The Saigon Central Post Office (Vietnamese spelling: Bưu điện Thành phố) is your destination in Saigon when you feel nostalgia for postcards. They may only arrive a couple of weeks after you’ve returned home, but a few people might be pleasantly surprised or even amused. 

Postcards aside, the Saigon Central Post Office is the best surviving French colonial structure in Ho Chi Minh City. Nowadays, it’s a popular attraction included in many tours, and it also sells interesting souvenirs like traditional toys.

Things to See in the Saigon Central Post Office

Fleur-de-Lis and Name Plaques
Fleur-de-Lis and Name Plaques
[ image by Alice Hamilton ]

The Renaissance-styled exterior of the Saigon Central Post Office is adorned with intricate carvings. Each of the 20 pilasters between the windows is decorated with an ornate fleur-de-lis. On the plaques are names of scientists who contributed to the upliftment of humanity. 

With names like Alessandro Volta, it’s not so difficult to guess their claim to fame. If you’re with other people, take the challenge to see who knows their famous inventors. 

Once inside, you’ll feel transported back in time to a 20th-century European train station with its neo-Gothic arched roof and large cavernous interior. There are charming antique wooden countertops, old glue pots, and areas to write letters— and of course your postcards.

The polished old-school phone booths no longer have public telephones and some now feature ATMs. Despite all that, It’s unmistakable you’re in Vietnam. On the walls, you’ll see two huge old painted maps and a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the end of the hall.

Interesting Facts about the Saigon Central Post Office

The Letter Writer Mr. Dương Văn Ngộ
The Letter Writer Mr. Dương Văn Ngộ
[ by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poi from Flickr ]

There are two common misconceptions about the architects of the Central Post Office. The first one is that the building was designed by being Gustave Eiffel— the architect of the famous Eiffel Tower. 

Secondly, the building was not a collaboration between Auguste Henry Vildieu—the French adjunct architecture at the time— and Alfred Foulhoux. The actual design was by Alfred Foulhoux alone. 

Inside the post office, you can witness a living icon at the end of a wooden table. Since 1990, Mr. Dương Văn Ngộ (born 1930) had spent his days hand-writing letters for those who cannot write for themselves.

The admirable gentleman is fluent in English and French and only charges 10 000 VND per page. Working diligently every day from 8 AM to 3 PM for the past 30 years, the 90-year-old writer has made his name into the Vietnam Guinness Book of Records.

The History and Architecture of the Saigon Central Post Office

Saigon Central Post Office 1969
Saigon Central Post Office 1969
[ by larsdh from Flickr ]

Construction of the Saigon Central Post Office lasted from 1886 to 1891 when Vietnam was a part of French Indochina. It was the final, and arguably the greatest work of Alfred Foulhoux.

Foulhoux’s first major work in Saigon is now the Department of Information and Communications and Department of Trade and Industry offices. The second is the present People’s Law Court. And the third, which once stood on the site of today’s Sheraton Saigon Hotel, was demolished in the 1950s.

The post office welcomes you with the iconic large clock above the main entrance.  As you enter, two unmistakable items are the two large maps painted on either side. 

The one on the left is the ‘Lignes télégraphiques du Sud Vietnam et Cambodge 1892’ which translates to “Telegraphic lines of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia 1892”. The one on the right is ‘Saigon et ses environs 1892’ meaning “Saigon and its surroundings 1892”.

Visiting the Saigon Central Post Office

Inside the Saigon Central Post Office
Inside the Saigon Central Post Office
[ image by Alice Hamilton ]
  • Monday – Friday: 07:00 – 19:00
  • Saturday and Sunday: 08:00 – 18:00
  • Entrance fee: None

There are souvenir shops selling some nice traditional items and accessories. You can, of course, also buy postcards here to pen a few thoughtful sentences at one of the classic wooden writing tables. 

What’s Around the Saigon Central Post Office

What’s Around the Saigon Central Post Office
[ image by Nguyễn Hoàng Anh ]

The Saigon Central Post Office and Surrounding Locations

One of the best ways to see the Saigon Central Post Office is with a good informative guide. Tours often include a number of places in the day or morning. If you’re creating your own itinerary, check out some of the best places nearby: 

The Saigon Notre Dame, Ben Thanh Market, War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, and the Independence Palace are all within a few blocks of here.

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