Ho Chi Minh City, also commonly referred to as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. According to the 2019 census, Ho Chi Minh City has a population of over 8.9 million within the city proper and over 21 million within the metropolitan area. Located in southeastern Vietnam, the city surrounds the Saigon River and covers about 2,061 square kilometres (796 square miles). Ho Chi Minh City is the economic and financial centre of Vietnam and plays an important role in the country’s culture and scientific developments.
Prior to Vietnamese settlement in the 17th century, the city was a scarcely populated area that had been part of historic kingdoms of Funan, Champa, and Khmer successively. With the arrival of the Vietnamese, the area became more prosperous and officials began establishing the city from 1623 to 1698. After being ceded by the last Vietnamese dynasty to the French in 1862, the name Saigon was adopted and the city underwent urbanisation to become an important economic centre in the region. The city was the capital of South Vietnam until the end of the Vietnam War with North Vietnamese victory in 1975. In 1976, the government of a unified Vietnam renamed Saigon to its current official name in honour of the communist leader Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh City is a regional force in finance and business, classified as a Beta city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. The city is an emerging international tourist destination, with popular landmarks related to the remnants of its colonial past showcased through colonial architecture. A major transportation hub, the city hosts the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the busiest airport in Vietnam. With rapid economic development, Ho Chi Minh City is undergoing the construction of new high-tech zones and education institutions and serves as a major media and entertainment centre.