This grand building was originally called Independence Palace, built for the president of South Vietnam during the American Vietnam War. It went down in history as something else entirely, after North Vietnamese communist tanks crashed through its gates during the Fall of Saigon in April, 1975.

The iconic scene of the arriving tanks, and a soldier draping a Viet Cong flag over the palace, was witnessed around the world as the moment that marked the end of the war. That November, the building was renamed Reunification Palace, and it has stood frozen in time ever since. Two of the original tanks are still parked outside.

The palace had been designed for General Ngo Dingh Diem, the president of South Vietnam at the time, who was so unpopular with the people that his own air force had bombed his previous palace. The new palace was thus equipped with a reinforced bomb shelter in the basement.

The building itself is grand, and rather typical to the architectural style of the 1960s in its plain, concrete simplicity. Complete with an in-house movie theater, library, games room, disco bar, and a helipad on the roof, the palace also boasts an underground section, that is probably the most interesting place to visit. The basement has not only a bomb shelter, commissioned by Diem, but a whole intricate system of tunnels, communication rooms, and command posts, complete with war maps and vintage communications equipment.

Needless to say the president never got the chance to enjoy the new digs. He was killed by his own troops a year after the bombings, and three years before the completion of the Reunification Palace.

Know Before You Go

The palace is open to visitors daily as long as there are no summits or conferences going on at the time. You can buy tickets at the main gate. Free guided tours are available in English, French, and other languages.

Atlas Obscura - August 22, 2018