Dress by Lucy’s Dream
Want to skip the tourist traps and escape the city’s sweltering surge? Saigon has heaps of secret places to shop, amazing street art to see and an electric skyline to sip cocktails over in style. Throughout this post Haute Culture is going to introduce you to Saigon’s best kept secrets for a more sophisticated and savvy stay in Vietnam’s capital for commerce and contemporary culture.
Things to do in Saigon: Special Sight Seeing
Saigon is a city of many architectural influences, France, China, Japan, Soviet Union and of course America have all left their mark. Check out these centrally located must see sight-seeing tours;
Reunification Palace was the home of the former president of South of Vietnam and has an amazingly preserved Art Deco interior.
War Remnants Museum, formally titled “Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes” at its opening in 1975, this building originally housed the American Information Agency and is now a horrific reminder of the consequences of war.
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is the best known spiritual landmark in Saigon. The Catholic Cathedral has been holding regular candle lit sermons for Christians since the French occupation from 1887-1945.
Municipal Theater is home to the HCMC ballet and symphony orchestra. This centrally located landmark is a stunning old Colonial Opera House dating back to the Indochina rule, tickets to a show start at $30.
The Jade Emperor Pagoda was built by the Chinese community in 1909. This atmospheric Taoist temple is decorated with divinities, heavy on the incense and encrusted with elaborate ceramic roof work.
♥ Haute Cultures Top Recommendation ♥
Sophie’s Art Tour Saigon For those of you wanting a more relaxed approach to learning the history of Vietnam, one of the most insightful and visually interesting experiences I’ve have been on is Sophie’s Art Tour. Spend a morning traveling back in time to learn the story of Vietnam’s fight for independence told through the hands and hearts of artists
Things to do in Saigon: Escape to the Secret Café’s
Vietnam has got its café culture down to a tea. There are some real gems to be found hiding in the nooks and crannies of Saigon’s apartment blocks, away from the central streets. Saigon’s café culture is enough to rival even Amsterdam’s café culture and not only does it offer a place to cool down, but also offers a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life.
7. Saigon Oi workshop and cafe is a meeting hub for creative freelancer types in the city.
8. Kujuz 3son is unmissable with a ramshackle decor of recycled furniture and a shiny VW van parked out the front! This cafe is haven to urban artists living in the area that nom down the delicious selection of fresh cupcakes made here daily.
9. Saigon Vieux is a hidden gem located on the second floor or the number 42 Nguyen Hue Street this ice cream parlour makes the most delicious mint chocolate chip shake that I have ever tasted.#NOMNOM
10 ♥ Haute Cultures To Recommendation♥
Partea is hidden on the 3rd floor of an old art deco apartment block (42 Nguyen Hue street), this aspirational English-style tea shop has a Cath Kidston kitsch interior complete with bunting. It is literally packed with groups of cute giggling girls taking selfies, drinking pots of earl grey, eating yummy cakes and watching the sensational sunsets.
Things to do in Saigon: Go Boutique Shopping
Saigon has an unnecessary amount of shopping malls in my opinion. Unfortunately, Vietnam is not, nor has it ever been the best place for fashion, but there are a few very good exceptions that I have sought out to share with you.
11. Lucy’s Dream pop up store at 177 De Tham Street, is like a beacon of rainbow light for the fun and fashionable travel lover. The store is packed with bright and bold wearable art pieces all illustrated by local Vietnamese artists. The majority of the clothes are made from a satin crepe that doesn’t crease in your bag.
12. Lam is a lovely boutique selling feminine silk dresses and pretty printed designs down by the Minicipal Threater.
13. Over 5 floors, 42 Nguyen Hue Street is a fading art deco apartment block that sticks out like a sore thumb in the center of District Housing heaps of independent studios, boutiques, jewellery shops and some of the cafes listed above. Walk through the dodgy looking entrance and climb the stairs (don’t risk the elevator) to experience the unique atmosphere of business start-ups alongside families still residing there today. Quality of establishment varies from shop to shop, but is well worth the visit to discover hidden local gems on every floor.
14. Nau My personal favorite independent day wear brand, Nau’s focus on simple tees, dresses and Ao Dai(Vietnam dress with hip high side slits) mixed with colourful, bold and culturally inspired hand embroidery.
15. Thuy Design House, fine artist turned self-taught fashion designer Thuy Nguyen, designs fun collections inspiration by Vietnamese culture for women who want to flirt with tradition.
16 ♥ Haute Culture’s Recommendation ♥
Lam Gia Khang Lam Gia Khang is an international fashion designer in the making. If you are in need of an outfit for fine dining or a night at the theatre, he is the best Vietnamese designer for contemporary elegance and luxurious quality. Khanh is the winner of Elle Magazines Young Designer of the Year 2014, and dressed me exceptionally well that time I was a guest judge on Vietnams Next Top Model
Things to do in Saigon: See the Street Art
There is some dispute as to whether street art is allowed or not in Vietnam. Apparently if the local residents like it, it can stay, if they don’t the artist can face jail time and a heavy fine. With that in mind places like
Both 24 and 25 are regularly invited local and international artists to repaint their walls for public admiration. Both of these urban art venues have a regular music events, festivals and fashion fairs.
18. Siagon Outcast
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Things to do in Saigon: Special Dining in Style
Saigoneers eat more food than anywhere else in Vietnam, it is a street food frenzy every 10 meters, the fact is you are never going to go hungry in Saigon. But where do you go for a touch of Saigon tradition and sophistication, my top recommendations are;
19. To find the Secret Garden Restaurant There you will be greeted with Hoi An style lanterns and fed delicious traditional Vietnamese home cooking. The staff are lovely and the ambience is perfect for families, friends and romantic dates.
20. L’usine lifestyle space is a clean and classic looking boutique/cafe/restaurant. A stylish place to go for any meal of the day. Renown as a hangout for the coolest kids in town, it has a minimalist vintage vibe and a delicious European style menu. I strongly recommend the breakfast berry trifle.
21. Sorae Saki and Sushi bar. If you are looking to impress your date, then head to none other than this executive contemporary Japanese restaurant. Situated on the 24th & 25th floor of AB tower overlooking magnificent panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City.
22 ♥ Haute Cultures Top Recommendation ♥
Cục Gạch Cafe is a local recommendation! Owned by an architect the cafe is electrically filled with Vietnamese antiques and serves delicious traditional food and fresh juices.
Things to do in Saigon: Stay Somewhere Stylish
On this particular trip to Saigon I stayed with friends outside of District 1, but if money were no object these would be the most stylish locations to stay in Saigon.
23. The Alcove Library Hotel black and white mid budget boutique hotel with full library and colonial vintage decor.
24. The Reverie Saigon, looks outrageously extravagant, with no expense spared on design.
25. ♥ Haute Cultures Top Recommendation ♥
Hotel Des Arts Saigon M Gallery Opened in December 2015 this hotel is lavishly designed, with rooms that are fitted with exquisite furnishings and featured art pieces. It has a spectacular roof top pool overlooking an electric skyline, and the most delicious cocktails made to your personal preference.
Ho Chi Minh City was previously known as Saigon (until the reunification of the country after the American War in 1976), and is home to 9 million inhabitants over 2000 square kilometers. Contrast to the traditional capital of Hanoi, this super city is dominated by neon sky scrapers, shopping centers and street wielders. It is an assault of sights and sounds on the senses, and can just as easily chew you up and spit you out, as it can serenade you.
HCMC is probably my least favorite place in Vietnam. A wise friend once said “the taller the buildings the darker the shadows”. Saigon is the only city in Vietnam where I have seen street children begging in between traffic, predatory prostitutes at the majority of bars, sunglasses sales men every 20 meters and the most disgusting air pollution and congestion I have ever experienced.
So why write the 25 Things to do in Saigon? or as I prefer to call it the Style Seekers Guide to Saigon? HCMC is Vietnams main thorough fair to the rest of Asia. Welcoming over 25 million passengers per year, if you are heading to Vietnam you will most likely spend 2-3 nights in the city before instigating a much-needed escape. PLUS, whether I like it or not is completely irrelevant, fact is I have been here for over 2 weeks and wanted to find the coolest and most stylish spots in town to keep my sanity and help you make the most of your stay here.
Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City? What do you think? Are there any other local artistic secrets we should know about? Please add your recommendations in the comments box below!
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