Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

local traditions and international influences

Iyna Bort Caruso

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) isn’t the capital of Vietnam, but the city once known as Saigon is the most populous, the most visited and the financial center of the country.

The city is an amalgam of local traditions and international influences. Wide boulevards are lined with historic pagodas, temples and French colonial buildings. It was twice the capital of French Indochina, in the late 18th century and mid 19th century. Today’s HCMC is a whirlwind of youthful energy, whooshing with scooters and motorbikes.

International investors have been taking notice, especially those from South Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China. A skyline of modern skyscrapers and luxury residential towers are springing up. In some cases, new buildings with resort-style amenities are replacing historic structures like traditional skinny “tube” houses, often to the dismay of preservationists.

Private homeownership is actively encouraged. What’s more, recent changes in housing laws have made it easier for international buyers to invest in the real estate market, with only a few restrictions.  Even with a fast-growing property market, prices remain attractive compared to many other major Asian cities.

HCMC offers a mix of heritage and contemporary homes, villas and apartments. An expanding metro line is pushing up property prices around new transit stations.

District 1 is the heart of the city, brimming with upscale shopping and HCMC’s most important museums and landmarks like Notre Dame Cathedral, City Hall, the Saigon Opera House and the Reunification Palace. District 2 is a family-friendly expat haven, noted for its excellent international schools, strong community feel and delightful coffee culture. The neighborhood of Thao Dien features new homes designed by visionary Vietnamese architects.  Another affluent area is District 7. Many overseas Asian buyers have settled here in villas and apartments on quiet, tree-lined streets.