Unexpectedly Cool Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is not just about street stalls, rickshaw rides and cheap massages. Here are some unexpectedly cool things to do in Saigon.

1. Check out a hipster cafe.

Urban Kitchen Burger and Fries

If you think that good food in Ho Chi Minh City is limited to Vietnamese food (and coffee), think again. Hipster cafes are surprisingly not scarce in Saigon, and the food is actually worth writing home about. The best part? Reasonable prices, especially when compared to Singapore’s hipster cafes (and their overpriced lattes).

If you’re looking for a place to grab some brunch, check out Urban Kitchen + Bar – a laid back cafe with Instagram-worthy food that actually tastes good. The menu is a mix of American classics and international fusion, so you can get anything from gourmet burgers to Pork Shoulder Kimchi Tacos there (and for 15 SGD or less too).

Urban Kitchen Pork Shoulder Kimchi TacosPork Shoulder and Kimchi Tacos

At night, the place transforms into a chill bar to kick back and have a beer or two. Happy Hour is from 5pm – 7.30pm on weekdays, so head down early if you want to score some good deals on beer, wine, cocktails and house pours.

Urban Kitchen 2

The street that Urban Kitchen + Bar is on (Ngô Văn Năm) also has a couple of other restaurants and bars, so you can always check out the other places if you’re craving something other than brunch food.

Urban Kitchen + Bar

18 Ngô Văn Năm, Bến Nghé, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tel: +84 8 6250 6363
Opening Hours: 11am – 12am (Monday to Friday), 10am – 12am (Saturday and Sunday)

Urban Kitchen 1

2. Eat Mediterranean food.

Tristan Ngo's restaurant, Elbow Room, at 52 Pasteur, District 1, HCMC(Source: Skewers Mediterranean Restaurant)

I know what you’re thinking – Mediterranean food? In Saigon? You’d be surprised though, especially since you won’t have to shell out a fortune for some good seafood and pasta in Saigon. Check out Skewers, a well-known Mediterranean restaurant that has been around since 2000 – yup, that’s 15 years and counting.

Skewers Restaurant 1(Source: Skewers Mediterranean Restaurant)

Popular with the expat community in Saigon, Skewers is great for a nice night out with friends – especially when you need a break from Vietnamese cuisine. The menu serves up a good selection of pasta, seafood and quite possibly the biggest slab of ribs I’ve ever seen on a platter (but they were pretty delish anyway). Don’t forget to save space for dessert as well – you’ll want to try the Death By Chocolate, an indulgent lava cake topped with vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

Skewers Restaurant 4(Source: Skewers Mediterranean Restaurant)

Skewers Mediterranean Restaurant

9A Thai Van Lung Street, District 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tel: +84(8) 3822 4798
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2pm (Lunch), 6pm – 11pm (Dinner) daily

Skewers Restaurant 2(Source: Skewers Mediterranean Restaurant)

3. Party at an upscale club.

Ace Nightclub 2(Source: ACE Nightclub Facebook)

Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife scene has become exponentially better in recent years, and there really is no shortage of decent bars and clubs in the city these days. Instead of seedy techno clubs (with a tendency to serve up fake alcohol, we hear), the city has welcomed a new breed of upscale places that are catered to expats and the who’s who of Saigon.

One such place is Ace Nightclub, a classy lounge and club that is reminiscent of Singapore’s own Velvet Underground. The place is known more for EDM music, and has an impressive set-up of lights and screens to add to the party mood.

Ace Nightclub 1(Source: ACE Nightclub Facebook)

If you happen to be there while someone is celebrating his or her birthday, you’ll also get to watch the girls bring out bottles of champagne lit with sparklers – which OK, is not exactly a new thing, but you know you want to Snapchat that shit.

The club seems to attract a well-heeled crowd, so leave your shorts and sandals at the hotel. A night out at ACE Nightclub calls for your A game, especially when the ladies there are mostly dressed to the nines (and their tiny waists omg how do Vietnamese girls stay so slender my self-esteem has been shattered).

Ace Night Club 3(Source: ACE Nightclub Facebook)

On a side note, can I also just add that the bathroom at ACE Nightclub is A LOT nicer than most clubs in Singapore? There were fancy chairs and pouffes by the vanity mirrors. Pouffes, ya’ll. Now that’s something you don’t see in most clubs or bars here.

ACE Nightclub

21 Nguyễn Trung Ngạn, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tel: +84 93 219 90 09

Ace Nightclub 4(Source: ACE Nightclub Facebook)

4. Have drinks at a rooftop bar.

Glow Skybar 4(Source: Glow Skybar Facebook)

Rooftop bars may be kind of passé in Singapore, but somehow the concept works better in Saigon. I guess Ho Chi Minh City’s breezy nights during the rainy season are a lot more forgiving than Singapore’s year-round humidity (can anyone say flat hair and streaky makeup?).

Glow Skybar 3(Source: Glow Skybar Facebook)

Situated on the top floor of a prominent office building in District 1, Glow Skybar is a relatively new rooftop bar that gives you stunning views of the city. The place is done up in quite a classy manner, but there’s still a casual vibe to it – so it’s the perfect place to chill out with friends over some drinks and bar snacks. 

Glow Skybar 5(Source: Glow Skybar Facebook)

Glow Skybar

93 Nguyễn Du, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tel: +84 93 887 45 69
Opening Hours: 5pm to 1am daily

5. Buy fresh produce at the market.

Cho Ben Thanh Market 2(Source: TripAdvisor)

As auntie as it may sound, you should pick up some fresh produce from the market if you have time (and luggage space). Vietnam has a rich agriculture industry, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their fruit and veggies are much fresher than the ones we get in Singapore – and cheaper too.

Cho Ben Thanh Market 1(Source: journalaroundsaigon.wordpress.com)

Check out Cho Ben Thanh market, which admittedly is quite touristy but is worth a visit anyway. Besides fresh fruit and veggies, you can also buy coffee beans (the weasel poop variety may sound somewhat off-putting, but is apparently one of the best), nuts and random knick-knacks there. As with most markets, you can bargain to get a better price, but some of the sellers drive a tough bargain.

Cho Ben Thanh Market 3(Source: somewherenearhere.wordpress.com)

Cho Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market, Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
(Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street, Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam)
Opening Hours: Early morning – 6pm daily

6. Get your Thai food fix.

MAMA Restaurant 3(Source: MAMA Restaurant Facebook)

If your inner Singaporean is craving something spicy while in Ho Chi Minh City, check out MAMA Restaurant – a contemporary Thai restaurant that serves up familiar favourites like Pad Thai and Tom Yum, as well more fusion-type dishes like BBQ Salmon and Panko-Coated Fish and Chips.

For the price you pay, the quality of food at MAMA Restaurant is really not too shabby. In fact, some of the dishes (like the Thai Basil Chicken) were – dare we say – better than the ones in Bangkok, perhaps because they didn’t seem as oily or salty (I love Thai food, but sometimes it just makes you feel like detoxing you know?).

MAMA Restaurant 4(Source: MAMA Restaurant Facebook)

The spacious restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, and even features a small garden-themed area with a pretty swing (you know you want an Instagram photo there). There is also a live band inside the restaurant itself, and if it’s your birthday they’ll sing you a song (perfect if you want to sabo your friends heh heh).

All in all, MAMA Restaurant is a good and affordable option for a pleasant meal with family or friends.

MAMA Restaurant 2(Source: MAMA Restaurant Facebook)

MAMA Restaurant

33 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, District 1,Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tel: +84 909 016664
Opening Hours: 10am – 2pm (Lunch), 5pm – 11pm (Dinner) daily

MAMA Restaurant 1(Source: MAMA Restaurant Facebook)

Still want more? Check out these other articles:

How To Do Europe On A Budget

Tokyo Travel Guide: Food & Desserts

Tokyo Travel Guide: Food & Shopping

5 Instaworthy Things To Do In Barcelona, Spain

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