Religious Sites Walking Tour (Self Guided), Saigon/HoChiMinh City

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is home to a mix of gorgeous Buddhist temples and Catholic churches. All of the religious sites in the city display amazing architecture and have great histories. The next tour highlights some of the most-visited religious sites of Ho Chi Minh City.
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Religious Sites Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Religious Sites Walking Tour
Guide Location: Vietnam » Saigon/HoChiMinh City (See other walking tours in Saigon/HoChiMinh City)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.2 Km or 3.9 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Emperor Jade Pagoda
  • Tan Dinh Church
  • Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
  • Ky dong Church
  • Xa Loi Pagoda
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral of Saigon
1
Emperor Jade Pagoda

1) Emperor Jade Pagoda (must see)

Also called the Tortoise Pagoda, this ancient temple was built in the year 1909 by the Cantonese Chinese community of the city. A statue of the Taoist God of the heavens made of jade is the main object of worship.

Visitors enter the temple from a crowded street filled with shops and houses through a traditional Chinese temple gate. The Jade statue at the center is dedicated to the Taoist God of the heavens. The deity is said to decide who will enter the heavens and whose entry will be rejected. The statue of Kim Hua, the Goddess of fertility is in the room to the left of the central hall and another room has the statue of the King of Hell surrounded by his minions. The interiors are filled with paintings portraying Taoist and Buddhist mythical stories and sculpture depicting the ten levels of hell and the apocalypse from Chinese mythology. The temple is an active one and the smell of burning incense hangs heavily in the atmosphere. There is a large concrete pond in front of the temple filled with large turtles.

Why You Should Visit:
The Temple is old and holds some magnificent wood carvings, but what makes it unique is that it is alive (still a place for reverence) аnd іnсrеdіblу аtmоsрhеrіс wіth іnсеnsе smоkе hаngіng hеаvу іn thе аіr.

Tip:
Be sure to make your way through the hallways and upstairs to see all there is to see.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7/8am-6pm
2
Tan Dinh Church

2) Tan Dinh Church

The Tan Dinh Church was built by French colonists in the late 19th century. The parish church is the second largest next to the Notre Dame Basilica in Ho Chi Minh City.

Construction of the building began in 1870 and The Tan Dinh Church was completed and opened to the public in 1876. The structure was enlarged in 1896 and later in 1926. Two large bell towers housing 6 bells were built near its gate. A wealthy family gifted three altars made of Italian marble in 1929. The church building underwent a major restoration and renovation in 1976 when it celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The Tan Dinh Church has a pink façade with decorative designs. The main tower has a 3 meter high bronze cross. There are two smaller lamp towers with air holes and patterns. The dome is covered with fish scale shaped tiles and the galleries are adorned with statues of angels. The large chancel has gothic pillars that lead to the main altar. There are statues of female saints to the left and of male saints to the right. The Tan Dinh Church is an active place of worship with a vibrant congregation who are involved in many charity activities.
3
Vinh Nghiem Pagoda

3) Vinh Nghiem Pagoda

The Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is one of the largest pagodas in Vietnam. It was built in traditional Vietnamese style but unlike other pagodas in the country, it was the first to be built with concrete rather than wood.

The Vinh Nghiem Pagoda stands on the site of a wooden Ly Dynasty pagoda that dates back to 1225. Two monks from North Vietnam, Thich Tam Giac and Thich Thanh Kiem, worked to rebuild the old pagoda in concrete ensuring durability. The design was by eminent architect, Nguyen Ba Lang and it was built between 1964 and 1971.

The Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is a complex of several unique buildings. All the structures have Chinese style roofs with upturned cornices. The Avalokitesvara Stupa in the left part of the upper courtyard is the largest Buddhist building in Vietnam. It consists of seven floors. A large bell donated by the Japanese Buddhist Sanga hangs next to the Stupa. The ground floor has the offices of the temple, a library and an auditorium. The grand sanctuary is on the second floor and visitors are not allowed. Another tower with a curved roof holds urns containing ashes of Buddhist monks. The quiet secluded Vinh Nghiem Pagoda becomes a crowded bustling venue during Buddhist festivals.
4
Ky dong Church

4) Ky dong Church

The general population of Vietnam is Buddhist, but due to French influence, there are a few Catholic churches around Saigon. Ky dong is a beautiful Catholic church that offers Catholic Vietnamese a fabulous place to worship. The architecture of the church is definitely worth seeing. The statue of St Mary prominently stands outside, where people bring flowers and gather to pray.
5
Xa Loi Pagoda

5) Xa Loi Pagoda (must see)

The Xa Loi Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. The headquarters of the Vietnamese Buddhist Association was located here until 1983 and it later served as its second main office until 1993.

The Xa Loi Pagoda was designed by architects Tran Van Duong and Do Bá Vinh to enshrine the relics of Gautama Buddha. Construction began in the year 1954 and it was consecrated in 1958. It became the scene of raids and vandalism by armed forces loyal to the Roman Catholic president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, in 1973. In the face of protests by the Buddhist majority community, seeking civil rights, the pagoda became the center of Buddhist resistance. It was damaged; several monks and nuns were either killed or imprisoned, and the 80-year-old Buddhist patriarch arrested and placed in a military hospital.

Visitors are greeted by a Chinese style statue of Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy. The main hall inside is dominated by a bronze sculpture of Gautama Buddha crafted by artists from Bien Hoa, located north of Saigon. The walls are decorated with a series of panels made by Dr. Nguyen Van Long of the Gia Dinh Art School. The complex boasts the highest bell tower in Vietnam. It stands 32 meters high and weighs two tons. The pagoda is located amidst beautifully landscaped gardens complete with a koi pond and bonsai trees.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7–11am / 2-5pm
6
Notre-Dame Cathedral of Saigon

6) Notre-Dame Cathedral of Saigon (must see)

This Roman Catholic cathedral constructed by the French colonists is the seat of the Archbishop of Saigon. The red building with two pointed bell towers is a distinctive landmark of Ho Chi Minh City.

The French Bishop Isidore de Colombert laid the foundation stone of the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica in 1877. The building was designed in France and built under the supervision of a well known French engineer named Bourad. It was consecrated on Easter Day, 1880 in the presence of the then Governor of Cochin China, Charles Le Myre de Vilers. The church became a basilica in 1959 after receiving approval from the Vatican.

The Notre Dame Basilica is made from construction material imported directly from France. The bricks were made in Marseilles and the stained glass that once adorned the windows came from Chartres. It has a neo-Romanesque design with three arched façade. The two bell towers are 57.6 meters high and hold six bronze bells. Each tower is topped by a 3.5-meter high cross. In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien of the Saigon parish installed a statue of the Holy Mother in front of the church. In 2005, a story that the statue had shed tears circulated and thousands of visitors came to view the phenomenon. The clergy later denied the occurrence of the incident.

Tip:
It looks nice from the outside and a great place to take pictures, but you can not go in, as it is being renovated until 2022.

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