Being the most famous market as well as an important symbol of Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Thanh Market is absolutely a must-see attraction of the most dynamic city of Vietnam. Visitors to the market not only purchase goods or souvenirs but also have a chance to find particular images and characteristics shown in daily activities of the inhabitants in the city.
History of Ben Thanh Market
The original market was created by early 17th century street vendors who gathered along the Ben Nghe (now Saigon) River. The town changed hands multiple times until Nguyen captured it for good in 1789. To solidify control, Nguyen successfully petitioned French priest, Pierre Pigneau de Behaine, to help build the Citadel of Saigon. The market was extremely busy and hundreds of boats, bobbing around in the harbor, combined to create a floating market.
Ben Thanh Market in the beginning of 20th century
After the French took over the Gia Dinh Citadel in February 1859, the city including the market was burned. After consolidating power, the French rebuilt the market on Nguyen Hue Street which, at the time, was a canal. However, it was burned down in 1870 as the materials used to build the market were quite flammable. The French decided to rebuilt a new market with metal frames that became the largest market in Saigon. In 1912 the market was moved to a new building and called the New Ben Thanh Market. The building was renovated in 1985.
Location of Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market retains a total area of 13,056m² , which is home to 1,437 pavilions, 6,000 small businessmen and 11 enterprises. The market is designed with 4 main entrances and 12 side doors emitting four directions. The south entrance (overlooking Quach Thi Trang Square) is with the symbol of three-side clock tower.
North gate of Ben Thanh market in Le Thanh Ton street
Inside is home to trading of clothing and dry food. The north entrance (on Le Thanh Ton street) is splendid with colorful fresh flowers and fresh fruits. The east entrance (on Phan Boi Chau Street) attracts tourists with cosmetics and colorful candies. The west entrance (on Phan Chu Trinh Street) houses footwear, handicrafts and souvenirs.
What can be found at Ben Thanh market?
In the market, you can find it easy to catch all sorts of items from budget to luxury, especially delicious food, all kinds of seasonal fruits, sweets, clothing (including the famous ao dai traditional Vietnamese dress), shoes, handbags, appliances, electronics and souvenirs… Thanks to abundant commodities, Ben Thanh Market deserves one of the biggest and most important markets in Ho Chi Minh City.
From late afternoon until late night, the shops inside the market are closed, but sidewalk restaurants around the market open and make it extraordinary lively area. Food stalls are set up around the sides of the market that serve many traditional food specialties of Vietnam at a reasonable price.
Restaurants and shops inside Ben Thanh market
Famous for the idea place for street foods, Ben Thanh Market brings you a chance to experience like a local. There a number of vendors and food stalls in the market food section that offers guests dishes freshly made to the order. You can try various kinds of local dishes like banh cuon, banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake), banh beo, cha gio, hu tiu, bun thit nuong, bun rieu, com ga (chicken rice), com tam (broken rice with pork), etc. and then down it with a ca phe su da (traditional Vietnamese iced milk coffee).…Especially, you should taste deep fried whole fish, seafood and cool beer at very cheap price.
The market is full of a lot of people selling fairly similar thing. You should a few places before finally deciding on what you want.
Though quality of goods is quite good but price here is often inflated up to two or three times than the initial. It is better if you go at least three or four stalls to compare the prices, and see how cheap you can bargain. You can typically go lower than that starting price and pay between 1/3 or 1/4 of the starting price. You can go even lower
After you tell the seller your ‘lowest offer price’, they will disagree. Don’t be afraid to walk away. You can just walk a few stalls down and find the exact same item at a much cheaper price. Or you can be called by them with an acceptance of your price.
Foreign visitors are bargaining in shoes shops
You will have “morning price” that is a little lower than the usual for the same good if you go to Ben Thanh market before 8.00 am. “Cool” price at the beginning of the day is for easier first transaction which is believed to bring about good luck to the sellers for the rest of the day.
Foreign visitors can communicate in English with most of the shop-keepers. Several sellers can also speak French, Chinese, Japanese or Korean. The sellers can recruit help from other people to answer your questions. Do ask them which can help you get the prices you want to pay.
If you don’t want to buy anything at all, then look for a moment and walk along. Don’t touch things and then put it down. This may anger the vendors.
Opening time at Ben Thanh market
The market’s daily routine usually starts at 4 a.m. with the opening of fruits stalls at the back gate.
The other gates open at around 8 a.m, close at around 6.00 pm
Ben Thanh Night Market open from 06:00 pm to 10.00 pm. Stalls set up on the streets to the east and west of the Ben Thanh market. Nearby is the famous Street food Market, where is s a great place to get some dinner before you come to hotel. You also find some clubs and bars nearby, or cafes and parks.
Ben Thanh market on Tet holidays
During TET holiday (Lunar New Year), Ben Thanh Market is open, however not all the stalls are open. It will also be less crowded.
Nearby Ben Thanh Market
It is easy to walk from Ben Thanh to Bui Vien, which is the backpacker street or Walking Street (Nguyen Hue) as well as and other famous tourist sites of the city such as the City Hall, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, Opera House, War Remnants Museum, Independence Palace, etc.