History on Top of History
When the French ruled Vietnam, they constructed a large stone fortress in the center of Saigon known as Norodom Palace. Naturally, control of the building transferred to the Vietnamese when they finally forced the French out of the country. But during the Vietnam War, bombs destroyed the palace, and the South Vietnamese leader had a new, modernist building constructed in its place. The Independence Palace served as the seat of the South Vietnamese government until 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army bashed through the front gate and ended the war. The building then acquired a new moniker: Reunification Palace.
From Government Seat to Public Museum
Though government functions still sometimes take place inside the palace, the building primarily serves as a museum. Visitors can tour the meeting rooms, along with the much more elegant reception rooms, as well as the president’s chambers. In the basement there’s an entire telecommunications center, where government officials ran the war effort. Of course, one of Independence Palace’s biggest draws is simply its quintessential 1960’s architecture.
The palace is open every day of the week–though it closes each day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a lunch break. It’s also within walking distance of several other Ho Chi Minh City attractions, including Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral and the War Remnants Museum.