The Best Restaurants And Bars In Ho Chi Minh City

     
Chances are you’ve only ever considered Ho chi Minh city as a stopover at the start or over of a trip to lớn Vietnam. But spend some time exploring the southern metropolis, & you’ll wish you’d booked a much longer stay.

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Over the last few years, Saigon, as it was formerly called và is still often referred to, has been reinventing itself at electrifying speed—thanks, largely, lớn Vietnam’s breakneck economic growth, & the fact that the majority of the city’s population is under 35 years old. Everywhere you look, there’s a palpable can-do attitude & new cafes, restaurants, booming districts, cool hotels & neat bars; but also a flourishing creative pool, from local designers to lớn indie art spaces.


Its historic heart—which rests in the War Remnant Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Reunification Palace—may be what draws the crowds, but today’s Ho đưa ra Minh city is where modern-day Vietnam is taking shape và showing its ambitions.

The districts

Ho chi Minh đô thị (or simply HCMC) counts 24 districts—19 inner city districts and five suburban areas. Among them, a handful will keep you busy for a few days of exploring. These key districts are pretty close khổng lồ each other, & are best navigated by taxi—the city’s subway system isn’t slated to open until 2021—or better yet, Grab, Southeast Asia’s favorite ride-hailing app. Get a local SIM thẻ at the airport (they’re really cheap) and tải về it as soon as you land.

District 1

Start in District 1, the city’s commercial and historic hub. Most of Saigon’s main landmarks are here, from the Reunification Palace lớn the Central Post Office. Sights aside, this is the place lớn get a glimpse of HCMC’s myriad facets: street vendors next to shiny department stores, elderly residents playing cards next khổng lồ stylish urbanites heading lớn work, soon-to-be-torn down buildings next to lớn five-star hotels (the Mandarin Oriental is opening here next year); & a wave of new businesses catering lớn the Instagram generation.

District 2

Historically one of the poorest areas in Ho bỏ ra Minh City, cut off from D1 by the Saigon River, District 2—also known as Thao Dien—has turned into a buzzy enclave full of boutiques, Western restaurants, art galleries, và drinking venues. You come here lớn rub shoulders with the growing international community that calls the city home or buy vegan snacks at places lượt thích Kashew Cheese or La Holista.


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District 3

Cheaper than D2 & less crowded than D1, everyone will tell you District 3 is HCMC’s hippest neighborhood. They’re right. The area mixes beautiful colonial architecture with modern establishments, temples with cocktail bars, parks with compelling museums (the War Remnant Museum is here, as is the slightly dated but rather interesting Southern Women’s Museum & the bright pink Tân Định Church). It’s also fairly strollable, with mazes of narrow hems (alleyways) to get lost in.

District 5

Lastly, there’s District 5, aka Saigon’s Chinatown, aka Cholon. Steeped in traditions và dotted with ultra-ornate temples, pagodas, teahouses, và expansive markets, it has tons to offer in terms of heritage and history, & it’s catching up lớn its neighbors with cool hostels and even cooler cafes. Come during a major Chinese holiday and Cholon’s most famous street, Lantern Street, turns into a visual spectacle of softly glowing paper lamps.

Where lớn eat

Several restaurants are rethinking Vietnamese cooking by giving it a modern twist. Bà Bà in D1 is one such place. Run by a French-Vietnamese couple & serving inexpensive bowls of rice noodles and spring rolls, it’s a modern iteration of a mom-and-pop shop, and a sleeker alternative to lớn the omnipresent street stalls. Quan Bui, with branches in both D1 & D2, does local classics in a polished ambience, while Anan, one of the hottest tables in town, presents experimental new Vietnamese cuisine just upstairs from Chợ Cũ, Saigon’s oldest street market. Helmed by chef Peter Cuong Franklin, the restaurant features innovative dishes like banh xeo tacos & street-style Dalat pizza, và it’s a must to lớn get a taste of the country’s evolving gastronomic scene.


For a healthy poolside lunch, try newly opened L’Herbanyste in a refurbished villa in D2, for fresh salads và tofu scrambles. Upstairs, a small spa chăm sóc sức khỏe và làm đẹp by the same folks offers all-organic facials and massages. Prem Bistro, a boho-chic three-story space in D3 that features a leafy patio, rooftop, & plenty of cushion pillows for floor seating, also caters wellness-minded types: items lượt thích shirataki noodles & Moroccan zaalouk are available alongside weekly yoga and meditation classes. If a more indulgent meal is what you’re after, Tomatito, a boisterous Spanish spot, is the place for a night of tapas & sangria.


Chinese-Vietnamese food is best in Cholon—and especially at nhì Ki mi Gia, a legendary family-run institution specializing in mày vit tiem, duck leg và yellow egg noodles served with mustard greens in a rich, dark broth seasoned with medicinal herbs & spices.


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Where khổng lồ drink

Saigon loves its coffee (Vietnam is the largest exporter of robusta in the world). The Workshop, on the đứng đầu floor of a crumbling building in D1, is particularly serious about it, serving specialty beans to third wave coffee devotees. For great blends with a side of interior kiến thiết drool, go khổng lồ T House cafe in D3. Hidden down a tiny lane, it was designed by local architecture firm Kientruc O, and it’s a mix of tropical garden and bright communal spaces, with big textured glass windows & all-white walls. September Saigon, in D5, is designed with the Instagram mix in mind, with excellent lattes lớn boot. If you’re in Thao Dien, stop at shack-like Dolphy Café for ca phe sua da—classic iced coffee with condensed milk. It’s thick, sweet, và very strong.

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Come evening, the drinking scene is just as expansive. Notable craft breweries have popped up in recent years between D1 & D3, from Pasteur Street Brewing Company, which was one of the first to open and counts three taprooms, lớn the smaller Heart of Darkness Brewery and the huge BiaCraft Artisan Ales. All serve beers that often incorporate local flavors, from jasmine khổng lồ papaya, jackfruit và even durian.

Generally found inside aging commercial buildings, many of Saigon’s cocktail bars wouldn’t look out of place in new york City. Take D1’s Drinking & Healing, a handsome space of raw brickwork, concrete beams, và a lofty vaulted ceiling, where patrons can request bespoke creations from a crew of dapper mixologists. Apt852, in D3, is another gem: a Hong Kong–style bar with red neon lights, xanh velvet high chairs, and mah-jong sets used as tables, where stiff drinks come in Chinese teapots & medicinal bottles, and old Chinese ballads play in the background. For alfresco drinking, try the tropical Banana Mama in D1, which has a view of Saigon’s rising skyline và it’s delightfully hipster; or the chicer Social Club Rooftop Bar, in the khách sạn des Arts in D3. It boasts even better panoramic views of the city. Want to lớn dance? Newcomer Bam Bam, a Bali-inspired venue featuring a beachy décor and lush greenery, is your place. The dance floor is an empty swimming pool, so you get the idea.

Where lớn tap into local culture

HCMC’s art movement might still be small, but it’s blossoming. Housed on the second floor of an old tenement apartment in D1, 289e is a good place lớn start exploring it. A multidisciplinary venue doubling up as cocktail lounge, it runs weekly film screenings, gigs, và rotating exhibitions. The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre & Vin Gallery, both in D2, are two other noteworthy independent spaces, both keeping the emphasis on local talent. Closer to lớn the riverside, be sure khổng lồ stop by Saigon Outcast, a spacious multipurpose complex hosting festivals, weekend fairs, outdoor cinema và concerts. Down an alley in D3, salon làm tóc Saigon puts up art shows và cultural events in a restored French colonial mansion that used to lớn be the residence of U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge from 1963 to lớn 1967.

Where to lớn stay

D1 is the obvious lodging choice for most travelers—and where the swankier hotels are, from the Reverie Saigon khổng lồ the Park Hyatt Saigon. But a cluster of boutique hotels across the city offers a more character-filled—and equally cushy—stay.


The 108 rooms at Myst Dong Khoi blend a minimal aesthetic with traditional local touches, like hand-carved rosewood benches and recycled timber sofas based on the Vietnamese platform beds of yesteryear. Outside, an eclectic all-white exterior is dotted with wild, tropical plants growing from the balconies, while the lobby sits under a ceiling made of roof tiles, iron beams and metal grills reclaimed from old Saigon shipyards.


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Mia Saigon, on the ngân hàng of the Saigon River in Thao Dien, is a newly opened hotel inspired by HCMC’s early 20th century Art Deco, with interiors showing French-Indochinese influences, from marble bathrooms to lớn rattan chairs. Also in D2 và also by the riverside is Villa song Saigon. A leafy French-colonial style building, it features 23 rooms individually decorated with old world colonial charm.

In the heart of D3, hotel des Arts is opulent and rather swish, not to lớn mention home to one of the best rooftop bars in town (see the drinks section above). For more modest but still stylish abodes, book the nearby The Hut Saigon, which offers intimate homestays in beautifully appointed settings. Rooms are reached through a quaint café by the same owners.

Where lớn shop

Forget the touristy Ben Than Market or Bui Vien Street in the backpackers area. HCMC’s best shops are found either up flights of stairs in “apartment malls”—old residential buildings turned commercial spaces—or down hems.


In two different apartment malls in D1, womenswear boutiques Eugene and Libe Workshop are excellent examples of modern Vietnamese design. The New Playground, an underground warren of streetwear shops, offers a fascinating vignette of Saigon’s youth culture; while Ginkgo is a cool concept store stocking homegrown Vietnamese brands doing culture-driven clothing, accessories, prints, and trang chủ furnishings.

For local kiến thiết wares, ceramics, và handcrafts, head lớn Zuzu, Sadec District and Amai Saigon in D2—just make sure to have enough space in your luggage. Hey Camel, at the end of a hem in D3, is another ceramics siêu thị worth browsing. Here, Spanish artist Leandro Marcelino makes a colorful range of vases, mugs and teapots in traditional Vietnamese stoneware and hosts classes, too.

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L’Usine, a lifestyle brand và boutique with multiple locations in town is also great for refined souvenirs. If you can’t decide what to buy, just grab a bar of exquisitely packaged Marou chocolate, made from single-origin cocoa beans rigorously sourced in Vietnam. Want more? Go straight to the source: Maison Marou, the company’s headquarters/patisserie/chocolate factory, và get a whole stash.