Ho Chi Minh City

A vegetable seller at Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City

Where to stay

  • Anpha Boutique Hotel, 202 Le Thanh Ton, District 1; +84 8 3823 8890; www.anphaboutiquehotel.com. A Trip Advisor-lauded boutique hotel with 21 modern and elegant guestrooms.
  • Duc Vuong Hotel, 195 Bui Vien St, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1; +84 8 3920 6991; www.ducvuonghotel.com. A centrally-located, value-for-money hotel with a pleasant rooftop bar and restaurant.
  • Hotel Pullman Saigon Centre, 148 Tran Hung Dao Blvd, District 1; +84 8 3838 8686; www.pullman-saigon-centre.com. A large and comfortable hotel situated close to Ben Thanh Market. It also boasts the highest rooftop bar in Saigon.
  • The Alcove Library Hotel, 133A Nguyen Dinh Chinh St, Phu Nhuan, +84 8 6256 9966; alcovehotel.com.vn. This stylish, elegant hotel is perfect for book lovers – expect walls of well-stocked bookshelves in the lobby, and a short bedtime story as part of the turndown service.
  • The Common Room Project, 80/8 Nguyen Trai, District 5; +84 90 139 9819; thecommonroomproject.net. This is a far cry from the typical backpacker hostels found in the city. Hidden in an alleyway in District 5, it’s about as far away from the downtown tourist crowds as you can get. It offers a mix of communal dorms with decent bunk beds and private rooms with plush furnishings, as well as a rooftop bar and a spacious open communal kitchen. Weekly communal activities like family-style dinners and free cooking lessons are great opportunities to mingle with fellow travelers.

Where to eat

  • Bookworm’s Coffee, 4 Do Quang Dau St, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1; +84 8 3838 9487. Read books and play board games while snacking on light bites.
  • Chill Skybar, 76A Le Lai, District 1; +84 93 882 2838. Raise your glass at this rooftop bar, and enjoy gorgeous views of the glimmering city skyline.
  • Ciao Bella, 11 Dong Du, Ben Nghe, District 1; +84 8 3822 3329; ciaobellavietnam.com. A relaxed and homely restaurant serving up fresh, reasonably priced Italian cuisine.
  • Cuc Gach Quan, 10 Dang Tat, Tan Dinh, District 1; cucgachquan.com.vn. This eatery is a throwback to the days when Vietnamese families ate out of cracked bowls, grandmas put chopsticks in old metal tins and uncles played mellow tracks from tape recorders. The food here is pure home-style southern Vietnamese — think caramelized claypot pork, stir-fried water spinach with garlic and sour fish soup.
  • Dai Phat Restaurant, 275 Le Thanh Ton St, District 1; +84 8 829 7292. This is a good spot to get acquainted with hu tieu (pork broth-based noodle soup).
  • Dong Pho Restaurant, 57 Ho Xuan Huong, District 3. For a modern interpretation of Vietnamese cuisine, served with French flair.
  • ESPY Pizza, 154 Cong Quynh St, District 1; +84 966 543 352; www.facebook.com/espypizza. Head here for enormous, New York-style pizzas with toppings like barbecued chicken and pepperoni.
  • Five Oysters Restaurant, 234 Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1; +84 8 6291 6847; www.fiveoysters.com. This little Vietnamese seafood restaurant serves up dishes that are big on flavor, such as fresh oysters with wasabi, and roasted crab with tamarind sauce.
  • Hoa Tuc Restaurant, 74/7 Hai Ba Trung, District 1; +84 8 3825 1676; www.hoatuc.com. Crowd favourites include the fried rice in lotus leaf, and soft shell crabs in green rice batter with passion fruit sauce.
  • Hoang Ty, 1 Nguyen Huu Cau. The signature meal here, thit luoc cuon banh trang, is a roll-your-own affair of thinly sliced pork knuckles, lettuce, cucumbers, basil and shiso leaves inside sheets of rice paper.
  • Hum Vegetarian Cafe & Restaurant, 32 Vo Van Tan St, Ward 6, District 3; +84 8 3930 3819; www.hum-vegetarian.vn. Nosh on an extensive array of healthy but delicious vegetarian fare within a tranquil setting.
  • L’Usine, 151/1 Dong Khoi St and 70B Le Loi St, District 1; lusinespace.com. Stop by this bistro and treat yourself to a generous bowl of olive-stuffed chicken salad, along with a ham and cheese sandwich. Its gorgeous retail space also spotlights artisan-grade products, from Lomo cameras to bespoke motorcycle helmets.
  • La Fenetre Soleil, 44 Ly Tu Trong St, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1; +84 8 3824 5994; lafenetresoleil.com. A quiet café by day and a buzzy but low-key lounge bar at night. Enjoy a wide selection of cocktails, imported beers and coffee, as well as Japanese-Vietnamese fusion fare like chicken teriyaki burgers and Vietnamese spring rolls presented as sushi.
  • Lau 404, 7 Phan Van Truong, District 1. Here, you’ll find the Vietnamese version of the hotpot. Toss in seafood, beef, chicken, mushrooms and greens for a hearty meal.
  • Long Huy Nha Hang Restaurant, 129 Cach Mang Thang 8, Ward 5, District 3; +84 8 3834 2859. Here, you’ll find a wide range of banh xeo (savoury turmeric crepe), with fillings like shrimp, pork and mushrooms.
  • Mountain Retreat, 36 Le Loi St, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1; +84 90 719 4557. Serves up delicious dishes such as spicy baby clams with rice crackers, and fried quail eggs wrapped in fishcake paste and rice flakes. The establishment’s name is a nod to its rustic setting, which is inspired by the mountainous northern area of Ha Giang.
  • Mi Quang My Son, 38B Dinh Tien Hoang St, District 1. This is a favourite haunt among locals for mi (yellow wheat-flour noodles).
  • Muoi Xiem, 204 Nguyen Trai St, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1; +84 8 3925 3027. Another great place for delicious banh xeo. Here, you’ll find different renditions of the turmeric crepe, ranging from the traditional shrimp-and-beansprouts filling to the more modern mushrooms and seared chicken.
  • Noir, 180D, Hem 178 Hai Ba Trung, Da Kao Ward, District 1, +84 8 6263 2525; facebook.com/noirdininginthedark. Book a table here for a dining experience you won’t forget — a three-course meal eaten entirely in the dark! It’s an experience designed to enhance diners’ appreciation of the food’s aroma, taste and texture.
  • Quan Banh Xeo 46A, 46 Ding Cong Trang, District 1. Take a table here for a savory bite of banh xeo, a sizzling pancake stuffed with pork, shrimp, and beansprouts, and served with a dipping sauce.
  • Quan Oc Hoang, 178 Nguyen Thuong Hien, District 3; +84 90 291 50 99. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant serves up freshly-cooked tiger prawns, scallops and other seafood that you can wedge in banh (bread).
  • Relish & Sons, 44 Dong Du, Ben Nghe, District 1; relishandsons.com. For hearty, juicy gourmet burgers served with homemade relishes. Try the New Porker, a glorious burger heaped with pulled pork, apple slaw, pineapple and chili chutney.
  • Restaurant La Cuisine, 48 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Nghe, District 1; +84 8 2229 8882, lacuisine.com.vn. Dine on classic French fare, such as ratatouille and foie gras terrine, at this refined restaurant.
  • Rooftop Garden Bar, 141 Nguyen Hue St, District 1; +84 8 3829 2185; www.rexhotelvietnam.com. Chill out with a local beer at this spacious rooftop bar, which is open around the clock.
  • Thanh Xuan, 62 Ton That Thiep St, District 1; +84 8 3821 3193. Enjoy a delectable bowl of My Tho-style hu tieu cua (noodle soup with roast pork, prawns, pig organs, crab meat and minced pork sauce) at this popular breakfast spot.
  • The Lunch Lady, 23 Hoang Sa St, District 1. This humble street stall is packed with locals and tourists alike, all clamoring for a taste of its pho. The menu changes every day.
  • The Refinery, 74 Hai Ba Trung, District 1; +84 8 3823 0509; www.therefinerysaigon.com. This modern bistro is set in a beautiful colonial building that once housed an opium factory. Order the seared salmon salad and the vodka-infused mocha.
  • Trung Nguyen Coffee, various locations, including 26 Le Loi, Ben Nghe, District 1; +84 8 3825 1270; www.trungnguyen.com.vn/en. Vietnam’s leading coffee chain serves up everything from traditional brews to Japanese coffees.

What to do

  • Ben Thanh Market, intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Aves and Le Lai St. A cavernous hive of more than 5,000 shops and stalls selling everything from street food to souvenirs. Don’t forget to bargain!
  • Binh Tay Market, 57 Thap Muoi St, Ward 2, District 6. With its central clock tower, latticed windows and ornate dragons, this market looks like a cross between a railway station and a temple. Laid out in narrow aisles, it offers merchandise ranging from kitchenware and beauty products to Chinese spices and joss paper.
  • Bo Cap Vang (or Golden Scorpion) ecotourism park in Dong Nai province is the perfect destination for a weekend picnic or a swim (a creek runs through the grounds). It’s located across the Soai Rap River from Ho Chi Minh City and is surrounded by canal waterways. You can get there via the Cat Lai ferry from Cat Lai Port in District 2. bocapvang.com.vn
  • Bui Vien and De Tham Streets, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1. Best for nightlife. Soak up the streets’ buzzing atmosphere over an ice-cold beer or two.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels. Learn more about the Viet Cong resilience by visiting this network of connecting underground tunnels, where several military campaigns were staged during the Vietnam War. Find walk-in guided tours at Pham Ngu Lao St.
  • Duy Tan – Saigon Artisan, 76A Le Loi St, District 1; +84 8 3821 3614. A unique souvenir shop where you can browse and buy products from homegrown brands like Very Ngon Homewares and Archie Eco Shoes.
  • Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, Ben Thanh, District 1; +84 8 3930 2196; www.goldendragonwaterpuppet.com.vn. Learn more about Vietnam’s folk traditions through music and puppetry.
  • Mekong Delta. Book a day tour and explore the waterways of the Mekong river – the 7th longest river in Asia.
  • Municipal Theatre, 7 Lam Son Square, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1; +84 8 3829 9976. Also known as the Saigon Opera House, this landmark is a stellar example of French colonial architecture.
  • Phuong Nam Lacquerware, 219 Nguyen Trai St, District 1; +84 8 837 0434; www.phuongnam.com. Shop for traditional lacquerware, from plates to vases, in the shop’s 1000m2 showroom.
  • Reunification Palace, 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St, District 1; +84 8 3822 3652; www.dinhdoclap.gov.vn. Also known as Independence Palace, this famous landmark is where the first Communist tanks arrived on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War.
  • Saigon Central Post Office, 2 Cong Xa Paris, District 1; +84 8 829 6862. This colonial-style post office, which resembles a 20th century railway station, was designed by Gustave Eiffel – the man behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
  • Saigon Heritage Tour, historicvietnam.com. This half-day tour, led by British historian Tim Doling, covers key landmarks such as Lam Son Square, the 100-year-old Municipal Theatre and the riverfront State Bank Building.
  • Saigon Skydeck, 49/F Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1; +84 8 6291 8750. This glass-enclosed observation deck offers uninterrupted views of the city.
  • Saigon Square, 7 Ton Duc Thang, Ben Nghe Ward. Score fantastic deals at this shopping mall, where you’ll find clothes, accessories, shoes and more – many from well-loved brands.
  • Sophie’s Art Tour, sophiesarttour.com. Led by British art curator Sophie Hughes, this informative four-hour tour plunges through many layers of the country’s complex history, including its years as a French colony and the Indochina wars of the 20th century, and how this shaped Vietnam’s artists.
  • Tao Dan Park, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1. An especially lovely urban oasis where locals congregate, from tai chi practitioners to bird lovers (who tote their birdcages along with them every morning!). Visit before 8am, when the air is filled with birdsong and the sun has yet to reach its peak.
  • Thanh Da, Cu xa Thanh Da, Phuong 27, Binh Thanh District. A tranquil, little-known island within the city, bordered on all sides by the Saigon River. Here, you’ll find villagers going about their daily lives, relaxing in simple abodes or tending to their rice crops. Rent a bicycle and pedal past the verdant paddy fields before stopping at a riverside café for some fresh soursop juice.
  • Thien Hau Pagoda, 710 Nguyen Trai St, Ward 11, District 5. This pagoda was named in honor of a fisherman’s daughter from the south Chinese province of Fujian, who is revered as a deity by local seafarers for her ability to rescue those stranded at sea. Built in 1760, the pagoda now serves as a cultural community house for the city’s ethnic Chinese population.
  • Toa Tau, 632 Dien Bien Phu St, Binh Thanh District; +84 917 961 071. Get your creative juices flowing at this innovative learning hub and art space. Try your hand at origami classes and storytelling sessions, just to name a few.
  • War Remnants Museum, 28 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3; +84 4 3930 5587; warremnantsmuseum.com. Previously known as the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, it houses artefacts such as artillery pieces and infantry weapons, as well as photographs depicting war atrocities.
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