Ben Thanh Market is the oldest and largest market in Ho Chi Minh City, located right in the centre of the city at the meeting point of four major roads.
Ben Thanh Market is open from 06:00 to 18:00. After 18:00 food and other stalls open outside the market around its perimeter. After dark the area around the market becomes very lively with local people stopping by after work for food and a drink before heading home.
About Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market began as an informal collection of street vendors gathering together in early 17th Century. A market building made largely of wood was constructed in the early 19th Century which was then burnt to the ground by retreating Vietnamese soldiers after the French colonial forces took the city in 1859. The newly installed French colonial government rebuilt the market in 1860 which burnt down again in 1870 and subsequently got rebuilt in wood and brick in the same year.
History of Ben Thanh Market
The building which currently houses Ben Thanh Market was built between 1910 and 1912 to replace the 1870 market building which was falling apart by that time. The new market building has some art-deco features and the design influenced the much grander and more stylish Central Market in Phnom Penh.
Shopping at Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is now principally a tourist market with the majority of the stalls selling clothes, bags, shoes to tourists.
A lot of what is sold at Ben Thanh Market is branded products, some of which may be fake, at fixed prices higher than those you may find at other less well known markets in the city. There are, however, still stalls which sell interesting items and things which local people come to purchase.
If you you search around at Ben Thanh Market you can find some interesting Vietnamese handicrafts. We particularly liked the stall which sells traditional Vietnamese wind chimes. These are authentic local craft work and a good enough quality to make it worth while transporting them back to Europe or North America as gifts or for resale.
Fresh and Preserved Food
The parts of Ben Thanh Market which remains popular with local people are those stalls selling foodstuffs. You can find fresh food and dried food here, along with coffee and other items sold in bulk for Vietnamese buyers to take back to sell in markets in more rural areas.
All kinds of fresh produce is sold at Ben Thanh Market including meats and fish. The parts of the market which sell the fresh food are easily identifiable by the smell. Non-refrigerated quickly start to give off a pungent aroma in the heat of the tropics and shopping for these items tends to take place very early in the morning. Generally its a good idea to stay clear of the ‘wet market’ part of Ben Thanh Market after 10:00 because it stinks.
Cooked Food Vendors
The most popular part of Ben Thanh Market for both local and foreign visitors is the part where the food vendors set up. You can buy everything here from noodle soup (pho) to seafood and everything in between. Ben Thanh Market is a great place to try the traditional food of South Vietnam in the style the local eat it at the same prices the locals pay for it.
Location of Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is located 3.7 km by road from Saigon Railway Station.