Saigon Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – The Best Vietnam Travel Guide
Saigon Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – The Best Vietnam Travel Guide
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Location: Located in Lam Son Revenue, Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is about 7,5 kilometers from Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Transportation: car, local bus, motorbike, taxi, bicycle
Travel duration: 30 minutes from Tan Son Nhat International Airport by taxi Square: 3,200 m2
Booking ticket website: www.luneproduction.com
I. Overview of Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House, otherwise known as The Municipal Theatre, stands as one of the most impressive sights in Ho Chi Minh City. Located at the intersection of Le Loi and Dong Khoi Street in District 1, this building is an elegant colonial architecture, which is very close to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and the classic Central Post Office. On a building area of nearly 3,200 m2, the theater was constructed with facade architecture as well as motifs similar to the Petit Palais museum in Paris. Innovative interior design with full audio and lighting equipment. The oval auditorium with 468 seats offers a good view from every seat. It is also echo-free and therefore preserves all the sound inside the theatre. In addition to the ground floor, there are two other floors with a total of 1800 seats.
The Saigon Opera House is considered to be a versatile theater that specializes in theatrical performance and is also used to host a number of major events.
II. Historical highlights of Saigon Opera House
In 1897, Saigon Opera House was designed by a group of French architects include Eugène Ferret, who also was accountable for the amazing Sanremo Casino on the Italian Riviera, with Ernest Guichard and Félix Olivier, as the Saigon Opera House (or Opėra de Saigon). The Municipal Theatre was formally created to entertain Saigon’s burgeoning upper and middle class in French Colonial times
In the early 1940’s, the theatre was believed to be too fancily decorated and managers decided to remove many of the fancier adornments. Parts of Saigon Opera House were also damaged by allied aerial attacks against the Japanese Imperial Army. Fortunately, many of the original architectural features still remained such as the stone verandah, the colorful granite tiled floors, the white stone statues at the entrance, chandeliers, bronze statues in front of the stairs, richly engraved auditorium arch and wall statues.
The Municipal Theatre wasn’t always used as an entertainment venue. After the French defeated at The Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the Geneva Accords were reached, the theatre was briefly used as a shelter for French citizens emigrating from the north. By 1956, their entertaining purpose had been faded significantly and it was transformed into the Lower House of Assembly for the South Vietnamese Government. After 1975, the building served its true purpose as a theatre again and was restored one more time in 1995.
In 1998, to praise the Ho Chi Minh City’s 300th birthday celebrations, many famous architects and artists were hired to be a part of the restoration project for the theatre to turn back its former glory. The renovation was very important and the complex now features state-of-the-art lighting, sound and safety equipment. A group of exterior lights was installed in 2005 which means that audiences can get some stunning night shots easily.
III. Architecture highlights of Saigon Opera House
Famous for its parallel structure, the Opera House is located on District 1’s center axis, connecting the metro station and a lot of famous destinations of the city. From a distance, the Opera House is described as “it looks like a beautiful gigantic city gate”. The theater was designed and built base on the “flamboyant” architectural style of the Third French Republic.
The building is typified by skillful location between sculpture and architecture, in which, decorative sculptures are highly remarkable. Even the exterior or interior of this building are covered with many statues and reliefs in a harmonious way. Furnishings and patterns were created by a French artist and the applied decoration, rails for stairs, cartouches, and ceiling were originally imported from France. The architecture decided to put the stone-carved ornaments and statues at the entrance of the Opera house with a crystal chandelier, and shiny granite floor at the lobby area, all were built with the materials brought from France to Vietnam. It was designed to be built over two meters higher than the street surface with two-door layers, for the purpose of preventing traffic noise.
The oval auditorium of Saigon Opera House with nearly 500 seats provides a good view from each seat. It is also counter-echo and therefore maintains all the best sound inside the theatre. All the decorative patterns, sculptures of the façade and the interior of the theater were painted by a famous French artist in the same style as the late 19th century French theaters. The system of arched windows with raised railing was designed in bold classical French architecture
IV. Shows at Saigon Opera House
Unless you are present at an act of some sorts, you can’t be allowed to get very far into the building but that never be a problem if you really want to access inside. The Municipal Theatre co-operates many others Opera houses, for that reason, a variety of humanistic and traditional performances are taken place there. Every kind of show like plays, concerts, ballets, operas and Vietnamese traditional dances are occurring usually in Saigon Opera House.
1. A O SHOW at Saigon Opera House, Viet Nam
Director: Mr.Tuan Le
Music director: Mr.Nguyen Nhat Ly
Acting director: Mr.Nguyen Lan Maurice
Choreographer: Mr.Nguyen Tan Loc
The name ‘A O’ starts from ‘Lang Pho’ in Vietnamese, which means ‘village and city’. The show describes the captivating beauty and traditional culture of Vietnamese life in the countryside, in contrast with the busy, noisy and dirty of country`s urban. The show is an exclusive mix of the bamboo cirque, acrobatic acts, contemporary dances and theatrical visual art. The live music will bring audiences the unique melody of Vietnamese Southern work songs. In general, this beautiful blend of categories generates a particular stage of the language, which well catches the element of Vietnam’s fascinating culture.
One of the unique points of A O show is that all the props are made from bamboo. Bamboo is a symbol of strength, stability, and resilience of the Vietnamese. Bamboo trees have been attached to Vietnamese life for thousands of years. Vietnamese used bamboo to build fences, build houses, make fishing tools or plow. Bamboo is now used more subtly for decoration or interior. In the show, bamboo represents youth, endurance, frankness, and solidarity.
Although bamboo instruments are very popular in life, it is not easy to turn them into props on stage. Writers and actors alike have to spend time exploring creativity, experimentation, performances with bamboo rafts, rowing boats, stringers. After being selected, the props will be machined more firmly, the surface smooth to remove the bamboo without cutting the actor, ensuring durability, beauty, and safety.
Having a bold cultural and much of entertainment, A O Show usually bring audiences from amazement to surprise. Therefore, this show has been having their own European tour frequently since 2015.
A O Show’s key features
- Vietnam’s contrasting portrait
- Cirque meets dance
- A delicate touch of humour
- 120-year-old opera house
Booking a ticket in here: A O Show
2. TEH DAR at Saigon Opera House, Viet Nam
Director: Mr.Tuan Le
Music director: Mr.Nguyen Nhat Ly
Acting director: Mr.Nguyen Lan Maurice
Choreographer: Mrs.Ngo Thanh Phuong
Teh Dar Show welcomes audiences on an adventure into the charming world of Vietnamese highlanders. Wild animal hunts, moonlight romance, jungle’s tales of death and reincarnation, are all recreated with amazing bamboo cirque, adventurous acrobatics, and anesthetize melody from peculiar tribal instruments. Which have a meaning in the highland tribe K’ho’s language is “going in the circle”, Teh Dar embrace and maintain fascinating and various Vietnamese tribal cultures. Cause the artists continue inspiring, the circle of tribal life keeps going, the cultures shall remain.
The music in TEH DAR is one of the main factors that make the spirit strong, wild, as well as the feelings of love of the Tay Nguyen highland. Ethnic artists and original instruments of the plateau, such as “tu va”, “goong”, T’rung, gather on the stage of the city theater. Among them, the most distinctive is the percussion of enormous gong orchestra with enchanting sound, witnessed by cultural heritage by UNESCO.
TEH DAR’s key features
- Exotic Vietnamese tribes culture
- Tales of the wild highland
- Enchanting music from tribal instrument
- 120-year-old opera house
Booking a ticket in here: TEH DAR
3. THE MIST
Director: Mr.Tan Loc
Music director: Mr.Nguyen Nhat Ly
Choreographer: Mr.Ngoc Khai
Choreographer: Mr.Ngoc Anh
The Mist will bring you a story about the Southern Vietnamese farmer’s ordinary life, expressed through new classic and contemporary movement by talented artists. By using rice farming as an analogy to acknowledge farmers’ dedication, from their misty dawn on the fields, the performance brings farmers’s hardship and their exertion to rise up from the humble muddy soil, to brace storms, to the moment they arrive gladly like shining pearls at harvest. The Mist is the time of mental states, with multiple ups and downs, built up by sensational live music, magnificent visuals, and colorful lighting effects.
The props in The MIST are made from the simplest and most familiar materials of the South Vietnamese farmers such as straw, bamboo, slipper and especially rice – the main element of the show. A big bunch of incense sticks, knockers are also displayed on the stage to express the spiritual life of the Vietnamese. In addition, there are the indispensable wooden clogs, the simple but subtle and elegant outfits from the “ao ba ba”, “ao dai” and robes.
The MIST’s key features
- The stories of rice
- The beauty of southern Vietnam
- A dance of colorful emotion
- 120-year-old opera house
- Booking a ticket in here: The MIST
Price for every show
- [A] Zone: VND 630,000
- [O] Zone: VND 1,050,000
- [W] Zone: VND 1,470,000
V. Things to do around Saigon Opera House
1. Enjoying the Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street – The most famous street near Saigon Opera House, Vietnam
Location: Nguyen Hue Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 500 meters from Saigon Opera House
Opening hour: 24 hours daily
Length: 670 meters
Width: 64 meters
The operation of Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street: Sprinkler system with light mixers, mist sprayers, signal light systems and surveillance cameras are all controlled in underground control room under Nguyen Hue Street. To serve the demand of visitors and local people, 26 parking places in buildings, sidewalks along pedestrian streets are arranged.
Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street started welcoming people on April 29th, 2015. This is the construction that celebrates the 40th anniversary of liberating the South of Vietnam. Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street is extremely an attractive place for each person who comes or lives in Saigon. It is an important highlight of urban beauty, an architecture of the downtown area, an ideal place for entertaining and having emotional moments with family. Coming to Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street, you will never feel bored cause this place is really “a paradise” for activities. To attract local people and visitors, this will be the place for organizing many social and cultural events of the city such as meetings, festivals, flower streets, art performances, exhibitions.
You can take a walk alone or play with your friends and family in the streets during the day. It may be uncomfortable with the heat when you experience the Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street in the morning, but do not need to worry about that because the sunlight will be reduced by the systems of mist spray which are set discreetly around the trees and the two fountains. The road is paved with marble to create eye-catching and make the street cooler. The rows of sesame buds tree alternating with a lot of flower bowls creates more green patches of plants.
In the evening, Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street even has more attractions for tourists. Being looked from above, Nguyen Hue is a bustling, crowded street shimmer in the color of the lights. People are more excited when enjoying the musical performance combined with the sound and laser light art on various types of music to create its own attractive color. Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street is surely a multi-color, explosive and interesting attraction to people.
Others must-do activities in Nguyen Hue Pedestrian street:
- Taking a picture and visit Saigon Garden in Nguyen Hue Street
- Experience every corner of the old apartment at No.42 Nguyen Hue Street
- Listening and dance with freestyle music from various street bands
- Watching the Nguyen Hue street from above in a coffee shop nearby
- Finding and try the local food around the street
2. Visiting Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, The Cathedral of the city near Saigon Opera House, Vietnam
Location: No.1 Cong Xa Paris Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Distance: 550 meters from Saigon Opera House, Vietnam
Opening hours: from 5:30 to 17:00
Entrance fee: Free
Average travel time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Perimeter: 91 meters x 35,5 meters
Height: 21 meters
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is the most beautiful, most important and one of the most ancient churches in Ho Chi Minh City. It not only be meant to lay people but it is also one of the representative symbols of the city.
Shortly after occupying Saigon, in 1863, the French built a church to serve as a place of worship for the Catholics in the Far East. The church was built on the ground that belonged to a small abandoned Vietnamese temple. In addition to the purpose of worshiping places for believers, the construction of the cathedral is also in the purpose of widespread Catholicism and the greatness of French civilization to the colonists.
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most unique destinations in Saigon, always attracting the attention of both domestic and foreign tourists with its special neo-Romanesque style of architecture. There has no enclosure around this construction. The foundation of the church is specially designed, withstand the ten times weight of the entire church structure above. From the outside, from the wall to the whole roof are created by many of bright red bricks, that makes no moss can cling to mold. The stained glass system on the wall consists of 56 units, each of them depicts each character or an event in the Bible. When there is light shining on the beauty shimmering, the Cathedral immediately shows its splendid and charming; 31 pink round vent holes, straight into the wall in a very skillful way as the pattern on the silkscreen; 25 multi-colored glass windows combined together create the beautiful images.
The interior of the cathedral was designed with one main lobe, two others extra lobes, followed by two rows of chapels. The chapel accommodates about 1,200 people, with totally twelve rectangular pillars representing the twelve apostles. Right after the main column is a corridor with quite a lot of compartments. In here, they put more than 20 altars with the small white stone statue on each, which is quite sophisticated. The cathedral’s lighting system was originally designed with electricity, without candles. Daylight is illuminated by sunlight, through the system of colored glass windows and vents.
In front of the Cathedral is a small park. In the middle of the park is the statue of Lady of Peace (or Queen Peace). At the left flank of the statue is the name of G. Ciocchetti – the Italian designer, who made this statue. The statue was carved in Italy and moved to Saigon in 1959, by the seaway. The statue is 4.6 meters in height, 5.8 tons in weight with the material of white marble, not polished and still remaining its rudimentary.
5 must-do activities when visiting Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, Vietnam
- Visiting the Cathedral’s interior
- Enjoy a cup of pure coffee in Saigon style right at the park and admire the beauty of this ancient Cathedrals.
- Feeding the pigeons around the park
- Trying local food next to the Cathedral
- Taking a cyclo to explore the surrounding area
3. Shopping at Ben Thanh Market – The most notable market near Saigon Opera House, Vietnam
Location: Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Distance: 1 kilometers from Saigon Opera House, Vietnam
Area: 13,056 m2
Opening hours: daily from 7:00 to 19:00
Website: Ben Thanh Market
Tel: (+84) 283 829 9274
Acreage: 13,056 m2
Highlight products: Clothing, textiles, fashion, handicrafts, fresh food, fruit, fresh flowers, raw material.
Not just a place for business, this market has become a witness to the city’s vicissitudes, the incredible changing of the city. It is also the economic face of the development of Ho Chi Minh city for hundred years. Besides that, Ben Thanh Market is the interference point between the ancient Saigon and the present Ho Chi Minh City.
In recent years, Ben Thanh Market is an indispensable site for any tours to Ho Chi Minh City. Of course, visitors to the market are not merely looking for souvenirs or goods but also looking for the unique image, a characteristic of the daily life of a city where markets can show it the most obvious.
Ben Thanh is considered the largest retail market in the sense that you can find in this place all kinds of goods, from popular to high-class, especially the most selective foods. There is a lack of nothing, from the onions, the chili, the vegetables, the fish, all kinds of seasonal fruits to candy, cloth, shoes, handbags, electronics, souvenirs…
Ben Thanh Market has a total area of 13.056m², an average daily pick up about 10,000 people to trade and visit. The market has about 1,446 stalls, 6,000 buyers, 5 companies, with four main doors and 12 side doors radiating in four directions.
- South Gate (opposite the Quach Thi Trang Square) with the symbol of the three-sided clock tower, is the main gate. Inside this Gate is the place for selling the fabric and dry food.
- North Gate (on Le Thanh Ton Street) is vibrant with fresh flower and fruit stalls that always invite passersby.
- East Gate (on Phan Boi Chau Street) attracts customers with colorful cosmetics and candy stalls.
- West Gate (on Phan Chu Trinh Street) is a place for women because of the diversity of styles and sizes of shoes, fine art items, and souvenirs.
Referring to Ben Thanh Market, the food court with the presence of a full range of traditional dishes throughout the country must always be mentioned first. In January 2012, Ben Thanh Market was named as one of the Top 10 most popular street food destinations in the world by the Food and Wine Magazine, which is a strong affirmation of that variable.
Ben Thanh Market is also very vibrant at night. Starting at 7 pm, the stalls flow into Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chu Trinh streets along with the market with fine art stalls, souvenirs, clothes and especially the food.
People coming to Ben Thanh market are mainly divided into two types: visitors and close customers. Visitors are mostly tourists, most of them are foreigners, and intimate customers include residents living in the surrounding streets as well as the longtime residents of Saigon.
Although the shopping trend for modern life is buying in the supermarkets or shopping centers, sometimes in the fast-paced lifestyle people also need to live slower, as a way to regain balance for their soul. For that reason, Ben Thanh market in particular and all the traditional markets, in general, will always remain parallel with age.
4. Visiting the Independence Palace – The significant historical construction near Saigon Opera House, Vietnam
Location: No. 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Distance: 1.3 kilometers from Saigon Opera House, Vietnam
Opening hours: from 7:30 to 11:00 and from 13:00 to 16:00
Height: 26 meters
Surface area: 4,500m2
Total area: about 120,000m2
Entrance fee: VND 40,000/adult; VND 20,000/university student; VND 10,000/student (from 6 to 17 years old)
a. Historical highlight of the Independence Palace, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
In 1868, the French government began designing and constructing a residence in the center of Saigon for the Governor of the South. When completed, it was called the Norodom Palace.
The work was started on 23 February 1868 and Lagradìere – the French governor in South Vietnam placed the first stone. It was completed in 1871. From 1887 to 1945, many French generals used this mansion as the residence and office of the Governors-General of French Indochina
In March 1945, the Japanese defeated the French, monopolized Indochina, and Norodom Palace was the workplace of the Japanese government in Indochina. In September 1945, Japan failed in World War II, France returned to occupy Vietnam, and Norodom Palace was again the Headquarters of the French Government for Indochina.
On May 7, 1954, the French colonialists suffered many heavy losses in the Dien Bien Phu Operation, they were forced to sign the Gienève Agreement and withdraw their military from Vietnam. The United States tried to jump into for invading the South. Vietnam was divided into two regions, the North was the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, while the South was the State of Vietnam.
On September 7, 1954, the Norodom Palace was handed over by the representative of the French government – General Paul Ely, with the representative of Saigon government, is Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem. After that, he changed its name as Independence Palace. On October 26, 1955, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem dethroned Bao Dai King, established the Republic of Vietnam and became President. Since then, the Independence Palace became the home for Ngo Dinh Diem’s family and observed many political events.
In February 1962, a coup faction requested two Saigon’s military pilots to bomb the Independence Palace, which seriously collapsed the entire left wing section of the Palace. As a consequence of the damage, Ngo Dinh Diem ordered to build a new mansion right on the old ground as designed by an architect named Ngo Viet Thu. The Palace was begun to build in July 1962 and completed in October 1966.
As planned in Ho Chi Minh Campaign, at 10:45 am on April 30, 1975, the tank No.843 of the Liberation Army led the squadron to gore the auxiliary port of the Independence Palace, followed by the tank No.390 that destroyed the main gate of the Palace, ending 30 years of the arduous and heroic war of the Vietnamese nation
Nowadays, the Independence Palace is a famous Historical Site in Ho Chi Minh City and attracted by a lot of foreign and domestic tourists who come to this beautiful city. This place has also been used for the meeting of government and receptions.
b. Architecture highlight of the Independence Palace, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
To design the Independence Palace, architect Ngo Viet Thu decided to bring a cultural meaning to the constructor, so everything was arranged from inside the interior to the outward, all symbolize for the ancient philosophy. transmissions, oriental rituals, and personality of the nation. Architect Ngo Viet Thu harmoniously combines modern architectural art with traditional Eastern architecture.
The architectural beauty of the Palace is also represented by the stone floral curtains in the form of the elegant bamboo-section around the 2nd floor. Curtain stone was designed base on the door panel of the royal palace of Hue, Not only does it enhance the beauty of the Palace but it also has the effect of catching the sunlight. In the interior of the palace, almost all architectural features are made of traced straight lines; corridors, halls, and rooms take the quote of “clear and straightforward” as their criteria. The front yard of the Palace has an oval grass carpet with a diameter of 102 meters. The green of the lawn creates a feeling of calm and freshness as soon as you step through the gate.
Running along the width of the hall is a Half Moon Lake. The Lotuses and giant flower Lilys raise a lot in the middle remind the images of the quiet lakes in the pagoda and ancient temple of Vietnam. The main house has a “T” shaped area with 4,500m2 of a surface, 26m in height, located in the center position of the land. This was the residence and working place of the President of the Republic of Vietnam. The building has three floors, two mezzanines, one terrace, one floor and one basement. The total area is 20.000m² divided into 95 rooms. Each room has its own function, architecture and decoration to suit the purpose of each room. After 1975, the main building continued to use some rooms, the remaining are to serve visitors. Surrounding the Palace are green lawns, ancient gardens, ornamental plants, and 4 tennis courts behind the main building.
VI. Make the most of your travel to Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House, lying magnificently in the heart of Ho Chi Minh city, turns into a stage for a variety of traditional and classical performances such as concert, ballet, opera, play and Vietnamese traditional dance. There will be a huge deficiency for those who come here without visiting this beautiful theater. For travelers, please spend a little bit of your time sitting down and feeling the emotional moment with the show in here. You will not only have a very meaningful time away from noisy life, but you also have the knowledge and love the country of Vietnam much more.