Ho Chi Minh City Neighborhood Guide

  • Quirky knick-knacks and homewares at L'Usine.

    Quirky knick-knacks and homewares at L'Usine.

  • Industrial interiors and glam antiques mix at L'Usine.

    Industrial interiors and glam antiques mix at L'Usine.

  • Lam boutique is a petite, vintage-inspired shop just off boulevard Đồng Khởi.

    Lam boutique is a petite, vintage-inspired shop just off boulevard Đồng Khởi.

  • The airy interior of Lam boutique.

    The airy interior of Lam boutique.

  • Old-school romance rules at Lam.

    Old-school romance rules at Lam.

  • Kiddie pool parties and dress-up themes are just the start.

    Kiddie pool parties and dress-up themes are just the start.

  • Draft beer by the glass at outdoor venue Saigon Outcast.

    Draft beer by the glass at outdoor venue Saigon Outcast.

  • Shipping containers and other recycled materials make up Saigon Outcast's grounds.

    Shipping containers and other recycled materials make up Saigon Outcast's grounds.

  • Saigon Outcast is a quirky, irreverent place for boundless creativity.

    Saigon Outcast is a quirky, irreverent place for boundless creativity.

  • A place where dance parties and well-curated exhibitions coexist.

    A place where dance parties and well-curated exhibitions coexist.

  • The Observatory has been known to host a raucous party, or two.

    The Observatory has been known to host a raucous party, or two.

  • Art gallery space at The Observatory.

    Art gallery space at The Observatory.

  • Cục Gạch Quán's rooftop dining terrace.

    Cục Gạch Quán's rooftop dining terrace.

  • Cục Gạch Quán's owner was inspired by his grandmother's street-stall restaurant.

    Cục Gạch Quán's owner was inspired by his grandmother's street-stall restaurant.

  • The enchanting, romantic interiors of Cục Gạch Quán.

    The enchanting, romantic interiors of Cục Gạch Quán.

  • The outdoor patio.

    The outdoor patio.

  • L'Usine is a mixed-use space for happy living.

    L'Usine is a mixed-use space for happy living.

  • Casual dining with simple, fresh ingredients.

    Casual dining with simple, fresh ingredients.

  • The Observatory front.

    The Observatory front.

Click image to view full size

Tucked down the laneways of District 1’s restored French colonial villas, and further afield in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City’s creative scene is flourishing

By Claire Knox

Ho Chi Minh City is a thrilling melange of old and new: lean, lofty Vietnamese-designed apartments and heaving wet markets, such as the cavernous Bến Thành, stand by ornate heritage buildings like the dome roofed Central Post Office, the rose-colored Notre-Dame de Saigon cathedral, and the War Remnants Museum, housed in a restored 1929 mansion. Chinatown’s decorative ancient temples are juxtaposed against war relics, such as the sprawling, concrete Reunification Palace where television cameras famously captured North Vietnamese army tanks crash through its gates marking the end of the war. For a bird’s-eye-view of it all, head to one of the city’s shimmering skyscrapers, a symbol of the city’s increasing modernity: its lust for the slick, the stylish, for affluence, and innovation.

In the shadows of the towers, tucked down the laneways of District 1’s restored French colonial villas, and further afield in District 2, the city’s creative scene is flourishing. HCMC’s creative ranks have already made waves overseas with showings at last year’s New York Guggenheim No Country exhibition and more recently at the Singapore Biennale, which featured a robust Saigonese representation. There’s the fashion renaissance who have setup camp around District 1’s Đồng Khởi street with a mix of edgy, luxurious boutiques like Australian-Vietnamese Mai Lam’s eponymous store that sells her exquisite embroidered shirts and avant-garde military jackets. Artisanal cafes, bohemian bars, and exhibition spaces are also sprouting around Saigon, and scores of young diaspora chefs are returning to Vietnam and exploring their culinary heritage, resulting in a proliferation of French-Vietnamese and other fusion restaurants.

Here are five places in this architecturally nuanced and increasingly art-infused city to frequent during your next visit.

Share this Article