Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named and still also referred to as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer sea port prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam 1955 – 1975. On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
The city has various museums including the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History, the Revolutionary Museum, the Museum of Southeastern Armed Forces, the War Remnants Museum, the Museum of Southern Women, the Museum of Fine Art, the Nha Rong Memorial House, and the Ben Duoc Relic of Underground Tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnels are northwest of the city in Cu Chi District.The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, in District 1, dates from 1865. The Dam Sen Tourist and Cultural Park, Suoi Tien Amusement and Culture Park, and Can Gio’s Eco beach resort are three recreational sites inside the city which are popular with tourists.
Like many of Vietnam’s smaller cities, the city boasts a multitude of restaurants serving typical Vietnamese dishes such as “phở” or rice vermicelli. Backpacking travelers most often frequent the “Western Quarter” on Phạm Ngu Lao Street, District 1.