I love Ho Chi Minh City. After spending a month here, I feel like I could actually live in Asia in the long-term. The food is amazing, the city is clean and safe, and the ex-pat and remote working communities are strong and lively.
My life in HCMC (as it will be referred to from here on out, because Ho Chi Minh City is annoying to type over and over again and, I imagine, annoying to read) looked pretty much like this: Wake up, go to work at an adorable cafe, go to 5pm Yoga at Yoga Sculpt n Shape (which actually kind of made me like yoga), eat some sort of delicious Pho/Banh Mi situation, and then either go to bed or go back to work. I was living at a place called The Saigon Mansion, and my apartment was clean and big and I was generally just in love with my life there. It really felt like *home,* even in the short time I was there, which is a really important factor when you’re living out of a suitcase for a year.
When it was time to leave HCMC, I was really sad. There were so many places in the city that I had grown to love, and so much that I didn’t feel like I’d gotten to see yet. I was also really depressed to leave all of the amazing food, because I became a hard-core Pho addict in the 30 days I was living there (I was legit eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Here are some of my favorite places that HCMC my home away from home.
Holy pho I'm hungover 🍜 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••• HOW TO PROPERLY EAT PHO: 1) Decorate it with 🍃, like bean sprouts, basil and mint leaves. Squeeze a little lime for good measure. 2) Mix hoisin sauce and sirracha in a dish on the side, and use it to dunk the meat (you're apparently not supposed to put the sauce in the broth…. news to me 😲) 3) SLUURRRRRRRRRRP those noodles. Ask your boyfriend to photograph you from a few angles. 4) When you run out of beef and noodles, add more veggies to the broth…. literally the never ending bowl of soup, aka my dream come true. 🙇🏻♀️🙇🏻♀️🙇🏻♀️
413-415 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường 7, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
IMHO, this is the best Pho in Ho Chi Minh City. The menu is in Vietnamese and the patrons are all local, which you know is a sign of real authenticity. Get a seat toward the front of the house so you can watch the Vietnamese ladies dole out the noodles and hunks of meat at an incredible pace. They also give you an unlimited amount of vegetables to put in your soup, which makes the bowl feel never-ending in the best way possible.
The Lunch Lady
Dja Kao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I don’t always agree with Anthony Bourdain’s recommendations (the Bun Cha restaurant he took Obama to in Hanoi was kind of meh) but this one erally is worth the hype. There’s no menu, so you basically just sit down on a tiny red stool and the lunch lady herself will serve you a heaping portion of whatever she’s cooking that day — usually some sort of noodle soup and spring roll, guaranteed to be delicious. On Fridays, she makes some sort of “pork blood soup” that supposedly smells really, really strongly (I was always too afraid to go near there on Fridays, so don’t know first hand) so if you’re not one with an adventurous palette, best to check it out some other day of the week.
91 Pasteur, Ben Nghe, and Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Saigon grill lets you cook your own food on a rooftop overlooking the city, and has delicious meats as well as out-there specialties like alligator, pig intestines and chicken gizzards. Don’t worry — There’s recognizable, non-adventurous stuff on the menu, too. I liked the pork belly and the spareribs, and all of the vegetables were also straight up delicious.
32 Vo Van Tan, 6, and Quan 3, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I ate at this vegetarian spot, but it was hands down my favorite place in the entire city. The menu features veggie-heavy dishes like coconut mushroom curry and sauteed eggplant, as well as juices, smoothies, fruit-infused cocktails and specialty “detox drinks.”
21 Han Thuyen, Ben Nghe, and Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
If you’re looking for a place to get great Vietnamese food that doesn’t require sitting on a little red stool in the sidewalk, hit up Propaganda. The Pho and spring rolls are delicious (I tried all the flavors of both and can’t pick a favorite), and the atmosphere is cool and upscale — The entire place is decorated with socialist artwork from the Vietnam war.
Chill Sky Bar
AB Tower, Tang, 26 ,, 76 Le Lai, Ben Thanh, Quận 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Despite what the name implies, once the sun goes down this place is anything but chill. It has spectacular views of the city and great happy hour deals (you can get a pina colada IN A COCONUT for $7 before 7pm), and is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Later in the night, though, it gets straight up wild. The last time I was there, the bartenders got on top of the bar with a smoke machine and gave the entire crowd a champagne shower. It was amazing.
Sky Bar At The Hotel des Arts Saigon
76, 78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Str, District 3, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, 070000
So, this Sky Bar actually is pretty chill. Located on top of the M Gallery Hotel, the rooftop spot has an infinity pool and low-level views of the skyline. The crowd is a chic mix of Asian, American and European ex-pats, and the whole vibe kind of reminds me of the Soho House rooftop in New York.
2 Lý Tu Trong, Ben Nghe, and Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
I’m not much of a clubber, but try to make it to at least one in every city to prove that I am not old, washed up and lame. Saigon’s “Lush” is huge, with two rooms on the lower level and a sky balcony that overlooks the dance floor. I was there on St. Patrick’s Day and it was straight up wild,
Second Floor, 63 Đông Du, Quận 1, Ho Chi Minh City
It doesn’t look like much when you’re walking up an endless flight of stairs in a dilapidated row building in the middle of the city, but Layla Bar is a speakeasy that’s worth the climb. They offer DIY mixed spritzers where you can choose your own ingredients from a list of delicious-sounding options (think: passion fruit, elder flower, lime juice… The list goes on). The inside is sleek and grey with a lot of high-top seating, and there’s a cute outdoor space complete with twinkly lights and cushy patio furniture. The owner is also a really hot Australian guy and tends to hang out behind the bar, which is always a plus.
188 Nguyen Van Huong, Thảo Điền, Ho Chi Minh, Thảo Điền, Vietnam
If you’ve ever had a burning desire to drink beers while rock climbing in an outdoor garden, this is your spot. I accidentally wore a mini-dress the night I went here, so climbing was out, but it was still a really great spot to drink and hang. It’s in the middle of District 3, where all the expats live, so is a pretty popular spot pretty much any night of the week.
The 100 Rooftop
100 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
This is the perfect spot to lounge, smoke hookah and sip cocktails from sunset to sunrise. The inside is a little loud and smoky, but the outdoor space is open and heavenly and offers stunning views of the city. For some reason, they also bring out a massive fruit bowl if you order a Hookah, and that alone is reason enough to go. Try the peach mint hookah, it was always my fave.
I’m embarrassed to admit how many days I spent eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in L’Usine, but it really is that good. The food is delicious all day long (I was a sucker for the smoothies) and the WiFI is strong at each of the three locations. The restaurant is also attached to a really, really cute store that sells all kinds of women’s and men’s clothes from Vietnamese and French designers (lots and lots of Comme Des Garcons stuff, which was my personal fave) and browsing makes for the perfect work break.
95 Nguyen Van Thu, Dja Kao, and Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Vintage Emporium is the kind of place you want to go back to time and time again because once you realize how good the food/smoothies/coffee is, you need to try everything on the menu. The vibes in the cafe are Marrakesh-meets-Brooklyn-vintage-shop, and somehow it works. I met a lot of really cool ex-pats who were also hanging out there all the time doing work, so I will definitely give the spot two thumbs up for networking (or, meet-cuteing, if you’re single).
Trung Nguyen Legend Cafe
7 Nguyen Van Chiem, 1, Ho Chi Minh, 700000, Vietnam
If you can’t actually work from a beach (which is sadly pretty much an impossibility in HCMC) Legend Nguyen is the next best thing. The cafe’s floors are covered in sand, which makes you feel like you’re in the middle of an island instead of in the middle of a city. The food is pretty good, and the Kumquat Freeze is an absolute must try.