15 Jan 2021

Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon - an over 150-year-old church in Ho Chi Minh City, has recently emerged as a prominent tourist destination. The official name of this Cathedral is “Vương cung thánh đường chính tòa Đức Mẹ Vô nhiễm Nguyên Tội” which means "Immaculate Conception Cathedral Basilica" in English.

Table Contents
  • I - Architecture highlights of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral 
  • 1 - Interior architecture
  • 2 - Bell towers
  • 3 - Watches
  • 4 - The front campus
  • II - What to do while visiting the cathedral
  • 1 - Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon mass schedule
  • 2 - Photographing
  • 3 - Feeding the pigeon
  • 4 - Exploring street food
  • 5 - Having coffee on the vendors
  • 6 - Exploring the surrounding areas
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
Source: Saigon Scenes
The cathedral was erected in 1863 with 100 wooden materials and officially inaugurated in 1865 in order to serve the needs of celebrating Mass for the French Catholics in Saigon during the French Colonization. Nevertheless, over the period from 1875 to 1987, the church was reformed into a Lasan Taberd school due to its serious degradation. Not until the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon was completed that it resumed serving as a Cathedral. 

Notre Dame Cathedarl Basilica of Saigon
The cathedral in 1965 (Source: Baomoi)
In August 1876, Governor Duperré held a competition to design a new-age house, and the drawings of architect J.Bourard modifying Roman architecture were chosen. In the beginning, there are 3 church construction sites expected to be:
- The foundation of Thi Cu School - the junction of Le Duan and Hai Ba Trung streets, where the French consulate is situated nowadays.
- In the Kinh Lon area on Nguyen Hue street where the old church was built.
- Current location: No. 01 Paris commune, Ben Nghe ward, district 1, Ho Chi Minh city.
The cost of construction of this Cathedral is about 2,500,000 French francs (at that time). At an early age, it was called the State Church. However, the Cathedral was officially renamed to Notre Dame after the statue of Our Lady was moved from Italy to Ho Chi Minh city in 1959.

I - Architecture highlights of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral 

Existing as a perfect combination between the modified Roman and the Gothic architectural style, Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is designed and built with a strong capacity for endurance which can withstand 10 times the load of the current church architecture.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral architecture
Interior architecture (Source: Amazing New Life)

1 - Interior architecture

The cathedral is designed with one main hall and two chambers, next to the prayer hall. The total area of this cathedral is about 93m, the widest place is 35m, and the height of the arch is 21m. Thus, it can accommodate up to 1,200 people. 
Furthermore, one of the symbolic points of Notre-Dame Cathedral is the 56 doorway windows portraying characters or events that related to the Bible along with 31 rounded roses and 25 multicolored glass windows.

2 - Bell towers

These days, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Vietnam has two bell towers consisting of 6 bells engraved with sophisticated patterns corresponding to 6 sounds. Four bells corresponding to the sound (Sol; map; re; mi) are hung in the right tower and the left tower keeps 2 bells corresponding to the sound (la; si). Besides, the total weight of the bell set including the bell and the counterweight is 28,895 kg.

3 - Watches

The set of R.A clocks settled in front of the cathedral was made in Switzerland in 1887. They weigh more than 1 ton and have a unique hammer alarm system that hits the church bells. However, due to the long operating time, the winding wire became too old and made the system no longer functional.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Vietnam
(Source: Internet)

4 - The front campus

The campus in front of the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica is designed with four intersecting roads that form the typical Catholic cross. The center of the park is the statue of Our Lady of Peace (Queen of Peace) made by the sculptor G.Ciocchetti in 1959. The statue is made of marble with a height of 4.6m and weighs 8 tons. The front of the statue has the words "REGINA PACIS - ORA PRO NOBIS - XVII." II. MCMLIX "roughly translated as" Queen of Peace pray for us 17/02/1959 "

II - What to do while visiting the cathedral

The Notre Damee Cathedral is one of the most important Churches in Saigon at which you can experience many different cultural activities, and explore several gorgeous scenes such as:

Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon mass schedule
(Source: Tgpsaigon)

1 - Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon mass schedule

If you want to attend the Mass, you can visit the cathedral at these following times:
Monday - Saturday: 5:30 am; 17h30 pm
Sunday: 5:30 am, 6:45 am, 8:00 am; 16h00 pm, 17h30 pm, 18h30 pm
Mass in English: Sunday - 9:30 am.

2 - Photographing

This Cathedral is obviously considered a "holy land" for travelers who love to check-in or take pictures due to its large front campus, ancient exterior design, and unique interior decoration. In fact, it has already become a popular destination for couples to take wedding pictures.

3 - Feeding the pigeon

Another must-try experience when going to Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon is feeding the pigeons. Church pigeons are often fed, therefore, they are quite friendly and courageous. There are many ways to get their attention and feed them such as whistling, shaking bells, shaking boxes, ... You can buy a packet of food for pigeons for 12,000 VND / bag of green beans (~ $ 0.52) on the venders around this area.

4 - Exploring street food

There are several amazing specialties around the cathedral with attractive prices such as:
- Banh Can - 20,000 VND / dish ($ 0.86)
- Cha Ca Banh Canh - 20,000 VND / dish ($ 0.86)
- Bot Chien - 20,000 VND / dish ($ 0.86)
- Crab soup - 15,000 - 20,000 VND / bowl (~ 0.64 - 0.86 $)
- Fresh spring rolls and Dried beef salad - 15,000 VND / box (~ $ 0.64)
- Mixed rice paper - 15,000 VND / bag (~ $ 0.64)
Address: Alley 84 Nguyen Du 
Opening hours: 10 - 14 hours daily

Notre Dame Cathedral Ho Chi Minh
(Source: Baoonline)

5 - Having coffee on the vendors

Situated across from the main entrance of the Notre Dame Cathedral Ho Chi Minh city is a number of coffee vendors where travelers can settle down, enjoy a cup of coffee with the locals, and take a look at the surrounding landscape. It's a hidden gem for ones who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City for a while. Moreover, you only have to pay from 8,000 - 15,000 VND / cup of coffee (~ 0.34 - 0.64 $) here.

6 - Exploring the surrounding areas

There are several tourist attractions to explore near the cathedral you can consider to put into itinerary:
- Central post office - (70m)
- Craft House (souvenir shop) - (200m)
- Nguyen Van Binh Book Street - (300m)
- Independence Palace - (350m)
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum (550m away)
- Ho Chi Minh City Opera House - (550m)
- Ben Thanh Market - (1km)
- War Remnants Museum - (1km)
- Zoo and Botanical Gardens - (1.2km)
- Bitexco Saigon Observatory - (1.2km)
- Museum of Vietnamese History - (1.3km)

III - You need to know before visiting Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Nha tho Duc Ba Saigon

(Source: Internet)
Some other information that needs to be counted in the plan visiting Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral:
1 - Ticket price: free entrance fee
2 - Opening hours: 6am - 10pm every day
3 - Time to visit: 2 - 3 hours
4 - Costumes: Because the Cathedral is a cultural attraction, visitors should put on appropriate clothes, not show your shoulders and knees.
5 - Activities to restore the cathedral
The cathedral has recently been under maintenance. Although the Mass is still being held frequently, it does not welcome visitors. Therefore, you can only stand outside the eye-view room and enjoy the panoramic view of the church and the campus ahead. It is expected that by 2025, the restoration process of the cathedral will be completed.
Along with Hanoi St Joseph cathedral, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most impressive architectural construction of church built by French in Vietnam. 
To brief, the information related to Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral that we synthesize above is fundamental things travelers should know about before visiting there. Wish for all of you a convenient and enjoyable journey in Ho Chi Minh City in particular and Vietnam in general.
Related keywords: Cathedral Saigon; Nha Tho Duc Ba Saigon; Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon opening hours; Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon entrance fee
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Hi, my name is Quan, and you can call me “Kun”. Having a big passion for travel, I spent 6 months traveling to most of the regions & provinces in Vietnam. I find Vietnam's landscapes are so beautiful, Vietnamese people are so friendly.

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