The bar scene in the city is not very female focussed at times, but there are exceptions. So for a woman, just what are the best bars in Ho Chi Minh City? It seems somewhat unusual that this takes some amount of research, but the fact is that Vietnamese culture and expat life can be a very male dominated thing. A large number of bars in the city are not the kind of places where women would generally want to hang out - between the expat oriented girlie-bars, the big clubs with their usual mix of over-confident buffoons and the local scene with its tables of red-faced work mates, bars in Vietnam are very much a male preserve. Where in this city is woman-friendly, and in fact woman-fun?! Where can a lady go out and be totally confident that her night will be a pleasant one?
I suppose to answer that we first need to understand what women want when it comes to a quiet drink after work, a night out with friends or a bit of late night revelry. From my own experience and from asking a few friends who have lived here for a long time, we've come up with the following suggestions:
Qui Cuisine Mixology
22 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Nghe Ward, D1
T: +84 28 3828 8828
This classy bar and restaurant in the heart of the city is an ideal venue for a group of girls to get together over an after hours cocktail and some excellent food. The decor is delightful; modern and arty yet at the same time warm and inviting. The style of the bar area is high end cocktail lounge, but there are some cosy areas if your group wants privacy and seating of various types. The cocktails here are among the best in the city and the menu compliments them perfectly. With a great lunchtime menu as well it really is a suitable bar for any occasion.
The Last Call
1st floor, 59 Dong Du, D1
T: +84 9 3314 6711 or +84 28 3823 3122
This upstairs cosy bar is directly facing the Sheraton Hotel and offers an intimate space for Saigon’s late night people. Proprietor Lola has created a lovely atmosphere here, it is especially female friendly and known for terrific cocktails and its comfortable ambience. The outside balcony is a great place for people watching. Their live music and DJ nights are pretty popular, and this is an excellent place to just let go and dance.
La Fenetre Soleil
44 Lý Tự Trọng, District 1
Tel: +84 28 3824 5994
La Fenetre, as it is generally known, is a superbly designed and run upstairs bar close to the centre of town. The ambience here changes as the days turn to night. During the day it’s a cosy café serving Indonesian food dishes, as night time arrives it becomes a bar, and is filled with the kind of mood that warrants rich lipstick and a glass of raunchy red. Over the weekends they have live music and the standard is usually very high. The Sunday afternoon music spots draw a good crowd. The main room is delightfully decorated and it has a kind of indoor veranda running round two sides. At any time night or day, this is one of the best bars in Ho Chi Minh City for women to let their hair down, embrace the evening and enjoy a drink.
Broma Bar, Saigon
41 Nguyễn Huệ, D1
Tel: +84 28 3823 6838
Describing itself as “not a bar”, this is in an excellent location right in the heart of the city. On one level it is a dark, atmospheric indoor space serving loud music and drinks to a mainly young crowd of Saigon’s night set. Go up the stairs and you gain access to a terrific little open-air rooftop bar, that provides amazing views of the Giant Bitexco Tower which is adjacent to it. Broma is a great place to sit and watch the world going by on Nguyen Hué.
Buddha Bar and Grill
7 Thao Dien, Thao DIen Ward, D2
Tel: +84 28 3744 2080
The Buddha Bar is something of an institution in District 2. It’s a large place with plenty of comfortable seating. It is split into three distinct areas and all have their merits. At the front is a separate bar selling Platinum draft beer and it is here that the dart boards are situated. In the middle is the main bar area with a pool table. On the weekends they have live music. At the rear there is more sofa type seating and an additional pool table (somewhat squeezed in to be honest) two more dart boards and a foosball table. The crowd here is genuinely a great, eclectic bunch of people. This must be one of the easiest places to make friends in the city.
The Wine Embassy
13 Ngo Duc Ke, Ben Nghe, D1
Tel: +84 9 0281 0523
This is one of the coolest wine bars imaginable. Covering two levels in the best part of town, it has steadily been building an exceptional reputation over the last couple of years. It has two nitrogen replacement wine dispensers which means that at any given time they have 24 different wines available by the glass. In addition, their extensive cellar houses hundreds of others. The owner and sommelier, Francois Carteau, is extremely knowledgeable and immensely passionate about wine. This passion shines through in everything about the place. Whilst being a place for genuine wine connoisseurs it maintains a good ambience and is the perfect setting to relax with a glass of your favourite wine.
37 Ky Con Street, District 1
Tel: +84 9 6688 4668
Situated close to Ben Thanh Market in the heart of the city, Saigon’s Lookout opened early in 2015 and is not the rooftop bar that you would possibly expect. It covers three floors of a superbly converted French Colonial house and serves up drinks and good quality food to a discerning clientele. This is all rather upscale and it does it beautifully. It is also worth noting that the bar is no smoking indoors; there is a smoking area outside to the rear. The bar is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the city’s highlights.
Dailo’s Gastro Pub
6 Thai Van Lung, D1
Tel: +84 28 3823 6999
This is a new bar owned and run by the people who previously owned Red Bar. When Red Bar closed its doors in September 2015, everyone thought that the city had lost one of it’s best and most well known bars for good. Out of the ashes came Dailo’s. It’s hidden away up Nguyen Sieu, a small street off Thai Van Lung in the Japanese part of town. It is a beautiful building and the conversion has been well done. This bar is almost always busy, it has pool and darts, TVs, great food and live music on many nights from a terrific resident band.
24 Thao Dien, Thao Dien Ward, D2
Tel: +84 9 0144 4840
This new bar opened its doors at the start of 2015. It’s a lovely spot, well designed and staffed, and offering something a little bit different. It describes itself as a café, bistro and store, but it is also a very nice place to simply sit down and enjoy a quiet drink. The ambience lends itself to conversation at a time when many of the bars in the city are seemingly obsessed with loud music. The food is excellent, though a small complaint would be that the menu is rather uninspiring and needs rewriting. It is easy to look at the menu and decide not to bother, it is worth persevering though. A special mention to the staff who are top drawer; they speak English and are very helpful.
90 Xuan Thuy St, Thao Dien Ward, District 2
Tel: +84 28 3744 2588
Choosing a real ale pub might seem like a strange choice here; surely this will be filled with middle aged men enjoying the beer? Well no actually it isn’t. It is full every night with a real mix of people. The owners here have got this so right. It has no TVs, no music and no fancy decor. It is all about the beer and it works fantastically well. It is interesting the number of young Vietnamese women who enjoying coming to try the truly superb beers. It is also really great to see so many people simply sitting, drinking and talking. Great place at any time of the day.
Rooftop of the Hotel Majestic, 1 Dong Khoi, Ben Nghe, D1
Tel: +84 28 3829 5514
The Hotel Majestic is one of the most famous hotels in Vietnam, made more so by being the place where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American. The rooftop bar here is one of the best places in Vietnam for enjoying an evening drink. Offering delightful views of The Saigon River, it really is pleasant to sit here as the sun goes down. Drinks and food are a little expensive, but you have to pay a premium for class, and this hotel bar has it in spades.
152 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1
Tel: +84 28 7307 7779
Beer clubs are an ever growing phenomenon in Saigon. Not everyone’s glass of Sauvignon Blanc (certainly not mine), but in the name of impartiality, it is only fair to include one. If you like loud techno, bright lights, cigarette smoke and crowds, this is the place for you. The beer clubs are massively popular among the young Vietnamese nighthawks and as they go, this is one of the best. The location is a plus, opposite the Reunification Palace, and the original building is a gem. They have a beer garden if you want some respite from the over-loud music. Large choice of beers, plenty of cocktails and wines by the bottle accompanying somewhat pricy food.