Asia/ Vietnam

The Hidden Cafes of Ho Chi Minh City

I’ve been really excited to write today’s post about some of the hidden spots in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon.

I can’t take any credit for discovering these gems; my boyfriend was determined we’d visit them and snaps to him for being completely right. Choosing my photos and remembering our time exploring has made me really happy and I hope you love reading this just as much as I loved writing it.

The Hidden Cafes of Ho Chi Minh City | Wander with Laura

During the last few years in particular, reviving old, run-down areas or buildings to create incredibly cool spaces for creatives, artists and generally foster a bit of community has become a bit of a trend. The development of the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool is a great example of this! But while a fair few of these amazing spaces still exist in Ho Chi Minh City, the local authority is slowly evicting businesses and demolishing the older buildings in favour of modern developments and skyscrapers. As a lover of all things quirky, I think it’s a huge shame and that’s even before you consider the historical impact on the city. But lamentations aside, there’s lots to see so let’s get into the hidden cafes of Ho Chi Minh City!

Catinat Building: 26 Ly Tu Trong

Catinat Building

We actually walked past this building a few times before realising that it was on our list of places to visit! Inside, there are some gorgeous boutique clothing stores and delightful little cafes. I couldn’t get enough of the Christmas themed cafe ‘Joy – Not Only December’ which felt absolutely crazy to walk into in Vietnam’s intense April humidity! Eventually though, we decided to grab a quick smoothie in 1st Garden Cafe. It boasted my dream combination of green plants, fairy lights and even a beautiful outdoor balcony area.

Catinat Building 1st Garden

42 Nguyễn Huệ

On one of Saigon’s busiest streets filled with fancy stores, it would be easy to walk past this nondescript building. While it was originally full of apartments, more and more independent cafes have moved in over the years. Each floor brings something new to discover and we sampled Saigon Vieux and Partea – two very different cafes.

Saigon Vieux looks out over the busy street and has an incredibly chilled vibe where we could enjoy reading a few chapters of our book over a milkshake. Upstairs, Partea is a British themed tearoom with a crazy collection of knick knacks on display including a lot of nutcrackers! Again, there’s a really cool idea behind this teashop where you select from dozens of different teas and then choose your own distinctly patterned teacup from the display on the wall. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves though…

Saigon Vieux 42 Nguyen Hue The Quiet American VietnamHidden gems in Ho Chi MinhPartea entranceBritish Tearoom Vietnam Partea English Tearoom Vietnam Partea VietnamPartea Wander with Laura Apple crumble in Partea

Unfortunately, eviction orders are regularly given to the shops and cafes in 42 Nguyễn Huệ but so far the independent businesses have fought back. I’m keeping everything crossed that it stays this way.

3A Station

One complex however wasn’t so lucky and unfortunately, we were too late to experience 3A Station. Arriving to find a huge pile of rubble and half-demolished buildings, we must have missed the closing date of this artistic complex by days. Only the signpost remained to betray all the creative businesses that once resided here but luckily the walls were still decorated with beautiful street art. It would have made a great fashion blogger spot but unfortunately, my shorts and vest combo wasn’t worth a snap.

3A Station Wreckage 3A Station Shops Vietnam Vietnam street art 3A Station Street Art 3A Station May 2017 3A Station Vietnam street art

14 Ton That Dam

Disappointed that our latest find hadn’t produced the goods, we pressed onto the next location. This street address was easy to find but it definitely looked the most derelict of the bunch! But imposing exterior and run-down apartments aside, you can find a treasure trove of cafes and stores here.

We spent a good few hours relaxing in ‘Things’, a cafe with a mishmash of antiques and trinkets scattered around as decor and lots of Tom Odell music playing in the background. Fun fact: it was here that we first read the news of the snap UK General Election, sparking off an obsessive following of the news for the next month!

14 Tom That Dam Vietnam Things Cafe 14 Ton That Dam

Rex Hotel

Ok, so this last one isn’t run down OR unknown. It’s a very fancy hotel located right on Nguyễn Huệ – albeit much more touristy than number 42 mentioned earlier. It was made famous during the Vietnam War as home of the Press Corps and when we decided to take a look, we couldn’t resist splashing out on a cocktail at the rooftop bar. We were seated at a prime location, right at the edge of the balcony, but I couldn’t help laughing as I looked down to see the view of a building site below. After taking a few shots of the more photogenic angles of District 1, we sipped on our drinks and watched the night set in across Ho Chi Min City after a lovely day of exploring.

View from Rex Hotel Rooftop Rex Hotel Bar Cocktail Rex Rooftop Bar Night View

Where is your favourite city for quirky places to hang out? I need inspiration for new places to find!


Read more about Vietnam:

How much to Budget for Travelling Vietnam

Things I Loved and Hated about Hanoi

Why you should visit Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay

Visiting Hoi An: Vietnam’s Most Beautiful Town

Three of the Best Things to do in Hue

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  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 7:54 am

    These are all so charming! I hope to get to Ho Chi Minh someday to visit these myself. And your photos are awesome!

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Thank you so much! I hope you make it, it’s an amazing city 🙂

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Cool spots. Only made it to Hanoi but really want to go to HCM. Looks like an awesome city.

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      It’s great! Even busier than Hanoi but very different 🙂 x

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    I wish you had written this a year ago! I was in Ho Chi Minh last December and I really would have loved to check out all the street art! We had just two days though.

    • Reply
      January 8, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      Awww no way! Hopefully you’ll get to go back one day! x

  • Reply
    January 8, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    hi Laura,
    Your pictures are beautiful, I thought I cannot find any fascinating locations to have a good look at HCM.
    I am travelling to HCM in 2 weeks time, just a 4.5 days short relaxing trip. I love to see the Wall Mural and was excited and looking forward until I saw your blog. But could you confirm is 3A Station fully demolised ? All the wall mural are gone , total wipe off in this area?

    Do you have any other recommended arts places I can roam around in HCM?

    Looking forward to your reply. Thank you. Lynette from Singapore.

    • Reply
      January 8, 2018 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Lynette, I’m so jealous that you’re visiting Vietnam – it’s so wonderful! 3A Station had just been demolished when I arrived so while many of the wall murals were still there, this could have changed 🙁

      Aside from the places mentioned here, we didn’t encounter any other galleries or art places – although I’m sure there are many – but Ben Thanh market is great and there are lots of historical museums that are very interesting 🙂 have an amazing trip! x

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