Saigon bars and pubs guide - Ho Chi Minh City

Big bar in Pham Ngu Lao area

Big bar in Pham Ngu Lao area

As in many countries in Southeast Asia, in Vietnam it’s often difficult to distinguish between bars and restaurants, as most places that sell drinks also sell food. In some cases it’s clear that customers visit a place principally for its food or drink, but in other cases a restaurant/bar may attract some people for its distinctive cuisine and others for its range of drinks and convivial atmosphere.

Thus you may check out some places listed below and be surprised to see they serve a wide range of food as well as drinks, and conversely you might visit a recommended restaurant and find it’s also a neat place to just have a chat over a drink.

Recommended Saigon pubs and bars

Allez Boo: Perhaps the budget district’s most popular bar (serving excellent food as well), where there’s always a buzz in the air and closing time is almost unheard of. Open: 08:00 to midnight (daily); 187 Pham Ngu Lao, tel: +84 8 3837 2505.

Café Latin: Particularly popular with expats for its live sports on TV, this place also features Latin music on Friday nights. Happy hour: starting from 16:00-19:00; 25 Dong Du, tel: +84 8 3822 6363.

Eden: Like the Allez Boo Bar, this dim-lit dive knows little about closing time. Great place to swap travel tales and down a few cool ones. Open: late; 236 De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao, tel: +84 8 836 8154.

Fashion TV: This is one of the top places for Saigon’s trendsetters to be seen in their best outfits. The bright and cavernous bar is not the best spot for a quiet chat but is ideal for people watching. 21-27 Ton That Thiep Str., Dist 1.

La Fenetre Soleil: It’s a bit tricky to find the entrance to this upstairs bar, but once you’re in it’s a real find. It functions as a relaxing café through the day but gets livelier at night when the cocktails flow. Open: 10:00 to midnight; 2nd Floor, 44 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, tel: +84 8 3824 5994, email: lafenetre@hcm.vnn.vn

La Habana: Get a good taste of Cuban music, drinks and cuisine at this welcoming spot just north of the city centre. Open: 10:00 to late (daily); 6 Cao Ba Quat, tel: +84 8 3829 5180, mobile: +84 903 335 323, email: lahabana_saigon@yahoo.com, website: www.lahabana-saigon.com.

O’Brien’s Factory: With the atmosphere of a sophisticated bar, lots of comfort food on the menu and plenty of imported beers, it’s not surprising that this place is a hit among the expats of Ho Chi Minh City. 74a2 Hai Ba Trung, tel: +84 8 3829 3198. 

Panorama: Located on the 32nd floor of the Saigon Trade Centre, this is a perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail as the sun sets over Saigon. Prices are predictably high but the views are unbeatable. 37 Ton Duc Thang, tel: +84 8 3910 0492, fax: +84 8 3910 0378.

Gossip Club: is an extremely popular venue frequented by the local businessmen and expat crowd in Saigon. With an award-winning local dj and Singaporean owners not afraid to splash the cash on decor, it’s little wonder it is always packed out on weekends. Techno and House music. Open: until midnight (daily); 79 Tran Hung Dao Street, tel: +84 8 3824 2525.

Q Bar: Occupying a prime spot in Lam Son Square beneath the Municipal Theatre, this is where the city’s movers and shakers hang out, clutching a colourful cocktail. 7 Cong Tuong, tel: +84 8 3823 3479, email: phuonganh@qbarsaigon.com.

Club 6B: small nightclub which is popular all through the week. Dance and techno tunes are spun by the accomplished resident djs and there is the occasional impromptu karaoke set by an over-enthusiastic local to liven up proceedings. Open: 12:00 to midnight; Level 5, 6B Pham Ngoc Thach Street, tel: +84 8 823 4098.

Lush Bar: Relaxed lounge bar playing rnb. hip hop and pop classics to keep the largley expat and tourist crowd entertained until the early hours. Despite the overpriced drinks, this is one of the classier venues that Saigon has to offer. Open: 20:00-02:00 (daily); 2 Ly Tu Trong Street, tel: +84 8 824 2496, mobile: +84 9 1863 0742, email: james@lush.vn, website: www.lush.vn.

Rooftop Garden: The terrace of the Rex Hotel was one of Saigon’s original rooftop bars, and it still pulls punters in for its casual elegance and classic city views. 141 Nguyen Hue, tel: +84 8 3829 2185, fax: +84 8 3829 6536, email: rexhotel@rex.com.vn, website: www.rexhotelvietnam.com.

Saigon Saigon: Perhaps the city’s most popular bar with a view, this place is located on the 10th floor of the Caravelle Hotel. There’s a good range of cocktails and live bands perform each evening. Open: 11:00 to late (daily); 19 Lam Son Square 19-23 Lam Son Square, District 1, tel: +84 8 3823 4999 ext. 27100, email: eam-fb@caravellehotel.com, website: www.caravellehotel.com.

Sax ‘n Art: The best place to catch a jazz session in Saigon, this place is conveniently located between downtown and the budget district. Drinks are a bit pricey but the musicians know their stuff. Open: 09:00 to midnight (daily); 28 Le Loi, str, Dist 1, tel: +84 8 3822 8472, email: jazz@saxnart.com, website: www.saxnart.com.   

Underground: A hugely popular basement bar on Dong Khoi that undercuts the competition for drinks and food. There’s a pool table, some tempting steaks on the menu, draft beer and friendly staff. Open: 09:00-01:00 (daily); Lucky Plaza Shopping Center, 69 Dong Khoi, tel: +84 8 829 9079

Apocalypse Now: Saigon stalwart dating back to when US GIs would party away their R&R time in the city. It’s become somewhat of a tourist trap recently and the foreigner-heavy crowd sometimes fall prey to unscrupulous taxi drivers and con merchants upon exiting worse for wear. Open: 19:00 to late (daily); 2B-2C Thi Sach Street, tel: +84 8 825 6124.

Heading out on the town in Ho Chi Minh City

You’ll find all kind of bars in Saigon, from quiet and cosy to loud and lively, and quite a few that feature live music in the evenings to draw in customers. One type of bar you shouldn’t miss is that marvellous Vietnamese institution – the bia hoi bar. These are simple, unpretentious places where customers sit on stools by the street supping a mild and cheap type of draft beer.

A couple of convenient locations to quaff a glass or two are at 20 Dong Du, just off Dong Khoi in the city center, and 102 Bui Ven in the budget district, where it’s often hard to find a spare seat.

For some years now, police have enforced midnight closing at most bars, though there are a few mysterious exceptions, mostly in the De Tham area, where drinking sessions have been known to roll on through till dawn.

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