YOUR INSIDER'S NIGHT CLUBS GUIDE
IN HO CHI MINH CITY 🇻🇳 SINCE 2008
SAIGON INSPIRATION GOING OUT club UNDERSTANDING THE ECOSYSTEM THAT IS SAIGON’S NIGHTLIFE
Saigon provides one of the most diverse nightlife scenes in South-East Asia
Some cities around the world are well known for their nightlife culture and history. Berlin is known for its techno clubs and crazy parties, Amsterdam is popular for its trance events, and you can find some of the craziest marathon parties in Ibiza. Although Asian cities have their fair share of popular events such as the legendary psytrance parties in Goa or the full moon parties in Koh Phangan, it wasn’t until recently that nightlife was established as an institution and a pull factor for tourism for some parts of Asia.
When “nightlife” is mentioned in Southeast Asia, many would point you towards the scene in Bangkok which has blossomed over the years, ranging from the infamous ladies’ bars to franchised international music festivals. However, not many would have realized by now that on the other side of the Southeast Asian peninsula, Vietnam, especially Saigon, is quickly gaining a reputation for providing the region with one of the most diverse nightlife scenes, with an increasing number of international DJs and producers performing live shows of various genres and subgenres in an increasing number of clubs and rooftop bars across the city. And this is even before mentioning the home-grown, high-energy Vinahouse scene.
But when did it all start?
The evolution of the city’s nightlife scene is as dramatic as the history of the city itself. During the American War, the city saw a sizeable population of foreign journalists residing here as correspondents. They mostly frequented hotel bars, sipping on cocktails while churning out news reports pertaining to the war. Hotel Majestic, The Rex, and The Caravelle were some of the most popular with the latter subsequently becoming the unofficial American media headquarters, as described in a journal written by Steve Somerville, a former correspondent for Reuters based in Vietnam.
However, nightlife in that era wasn’t just limited to foreign journalists. Back when Dong Khoi Street was still known as Rue Catinat, and subsequently Tu Do Street, there was a buzz developing in that area. Live music acts dominated stages across the stretch and one of the venues that achieved iconic status among the in-crowd was Tu Do Nightclub, at the junction of the present Dong Khoi and Dong Du Streets.
Tu Do Nightclub was the nightlife institution of that era. The club brought together American and Vietnamese patrons looking for great live music courtesy of legendary performers like Tuan Ngoc and Khanh Ly, among many others. However, the facade and ceiling of Saigon’s nightlife were blown off unexpectedly in September 1971 when a bomb went off inside the club, killing 15 and injuring 57 others. This sounded the death knell of the music scene and nightlife in the city.
As post-war Vietnam grappled with economic sanctions and poverty, priorities were shifted towards survival and not much information has been recorded nor revealed about nightlife before the Doi Moi era.
Sowing the seeds
With Doi Moi, Vietnam embraced a free market economy in the late ’80s and early ’90s, effectively marking its growth as a nation. It also saw an increasing number of foreign businesses setting up base here. The city saw the return of establishments catering to music, alcohol, and entertainment. One remnant from that generation that left us during the pandemic is Apocalypse Now.
As the 2000s rapidly streamed past us, technology started shrinking things and music production tools got condensed into computer software programs. Young Vietnamese musicians eager to create their own sound began producing their own brand of electronic music designed to give you that extra pump in life and soon enough, Vinahouse was born. Its polarising reach did not stop beer clubs from popping up all across the city, much to the delight of young locals with a penchant for loud music and towers of booze.
Electronic music had, by 2010, become a global trend and Vietnam embraced it wholeheartedly. This also coincided with Saigon’s magnificent economic growth resulting in an increasing number of foreigners living and working here. In what could be seen as a genuine exchange of culture, they brought along their favorite music to the city. Clubs, lounges, bars, and rooftop bars started opening across the city, providing a diverse range of music, both mainstream and underground.
According to Dan Bimong, founder of The Observatory, “I started The Observatory with the idea of having a venue where we can invite artists from all around the world that fit with my musical perspective that is clearly focused on a wide range of house, disco, techno, and affiliated sounds”.
At the turn of this decade, those genres were still only limited to small parties within common circles, mainly among ex-pats “The idea was also to have a place that is fully dedicated to that activity with a decent sound system and a program with international guests every weekend in order to give the opportunity for the city to see artists that never had the chance to come to play in Vietnam”, he added.
A thriving ecosystem
While clubs like Kasho serve those who are looking for the mainstream EDM club experience, venues like Lush and Piu Piu go one step further by organizing themed events featuring specific genres of music like hip hop and bass music. The Lighthouse and Arcan cater to those who are looking for purely underground electronic music genres like techno, house, drum & bass, and psytrance with plenty of independently organized events featuring international DJs.
Teams like The Beats Saigon, dOSe, Jetlag, Heart Beat, Techno.vn and many others have been responsible for most of the movement in the city’s underground electronic music scene. There has also been a massive increase in the number of young Vietnamese DJs and music producers in the city mainly due to a rising level of awareness and interest, with DJ academies run by organizations like Pioneer Music catering to them. This has created a revolving door of talented DJs playing in clubs across the country, performing alongside experienced foreign DJs currently living in Saigon, and even touring the region.
Locally produced music festivals have also brought big-name DJs and producers like Deadmau5, Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, Hardwell, and Steve Angello to the city, playing to large crowds. Beyond the flashing lights and pulsating basslines, other components of nightlife have also started to gain traction here, from speakeasy bars to craft beers. Establishments like Drinking & Healing, Snuffbox, and Firkin have provided residents and tourists with bespoke cocktails created by skilled bartenders and mixologists, all accompanied by specially curated music.
Homegrown breweries like Heart of Darkness, East West, Te Te, Winking Seal and at least a dozen others have opened more than just venues for beer aficionados. They have also created a scene that’s slowly gaining global recognition.
How far will it go?
Since nightlife is constantly evolving in Saigon, it has already started playing a significant role in the tourism industry with music lovers from across the continent traveling here to check out the increasingly vibrant nightlife scene in the city.
“We have noticed it at The Observatory while talking to our customers. Almost every weekend, we meet people from Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok just to name a few cities, who come here to enjoy our vibrant nightlife. It’s definitely growing, so let’s see what will happen in the next few years”, added Dan Bimong.
From the chaotic backpacker-filled bars of Bui Vien Street to glossy speakeasy bars, EDM clubs and rooftop bars, Saigon’s nightlife can be described as an ecosystem catering to almost everyone—locals as well as foreigners. However, whether the city’s nightlife evolves into a global institution or not will still heavily depend on factors such as its reputation, safety and security, quality of music, the people to keep it running, and of course, the authorities. But as of now, it’s back to being one of the most vibrant in Southeast Asia.
SAIGON INSPIRATION GOING OUT club SAIGON NIGHTLIFE: THE BEST BARS AND CLUBS
• Find out where to go for cheap beers and meet new people.
• Where the millennial “cool kids” go.
• Discover where the eclectic mix of socialites, tourists, ex-pats, and wealthy Vietnamese spend their nights out in Saigon.
• Don’t miss a beat! We’re telling you where to go if you wanna dance the night away.
• For the musically inclined who loves live music.
• Find out where to go for a crazier atmosphere.
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s definitive party city, with hundreds of bars and clubs to choose from for a proper night out. However, the age-old quality vs quantity argument might not be necessary here as the city’s nightlife scene is quite possibly one of the most diverse in the region. Whether you’re into eardrum-crushing Vinahouse music, fun nights with your friends at a dance club, a low-budget night out for some cheap Saigon beers, or some good, dark underground techno, there is something for you here.
Backpacker Nightlife in Saigon
Backpackers usually stay and drink in the Pham Ngu Lao District, along Bui Vien Street. For Ho Chi Minh nightlife and entertainment that is a buzzing, chaotic, sensory overload for friendly locals and travelers alike, this is where you want to go. A slightly subdued version of the infamous Khao San Road in Bangkok, you won’t find a lot of stylish places here. Vietnam alcohol prices in this area vary depending on where you’re drinking. The good thing is most of the establishments here are inexpensive and great for meeting new people.
Although popular with tourists, the Pham Ngu Lao area also masquerades as a slightly low-key red light district, with its countless hostess bars and massage parlors with “extra” services. Just take a walk down the street and if you see an increasing number of pretty ladies smiling at you as you walk, there’s a good chance you’re in “that area”.
One of the most popular (or unpopular) bars in the area is probably Go2 Bar; famous for staying open until morning. It is one of the few after-hours clubs in Saigon although it’s one-star rating on TripAdvisor might be an indicator that it may not necessarily be the safest option. T & R Saigon, a popular tavern along Do Quang Dau road is probably one of the best bars to check out. With an old-school American-styled interior, the ability to play the type of music you like thanks to its open keyboard option, and a crowd that’s made up of regulars, it’s a great place to make new friends even if you’re going solo.
For LGBTQI+ folks, two of Saigon’s most famous gay-friendly bars, Republic and Thi Bar, are located right by the main strip on De Tham street. Republic is a reputable venue with weekly drag shows, though their cocktails are notoriously pricey; Thi Bar features live music nightly and is a consistently popular hangout spot for local Vietnamese LGBTQI+ people (mostly gay men).
Backpackers with style often go to De Tham street to indulge in Saigon’s vibrant craft beer scene or some of the fancier liquors without leaving the area. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of ex-pats in Saigon: those who love the backpacker district, those who hate it, and those who pretend they hate it but inevitably end up there every weekend. The second group will prefer more exclusive clubs and bars, which can also be popular with Viet Kieu’s (Vietnamese who’ve grown up abroad).
Where the Hipper Crowd Goes Out
Bam Bam only just officially opened in mid-August 2019, but the Bali vibes cocktail bar has set Saigon on fire for months during its soft opening. The central 360-degree bar is laid in the middle of a sunken pool and the rest of the space is dotted with lounge seating, beachy bar stools, and tropical plants. Bam Bam brings all the pretty young things and instakids of Saigon out to play and has been a hot spot for some impressive International DJs. For those that want to proceed with partying a little harder, head upstairs to Commas for dance music and strict bottle service. A handy tip – Bam Bam and Commas are both super busy! We highly recommend reserving a table if you can.
The Observatory is back! Like so many other indie clubs, bars and cafes in town, they’ve had problems lately in the course of Ho Chi Minh City’s redevelopment campaign but have overcome the worst. The Observatory remains a venue that attracts a hip and music-conscious crowd. Both a rooftop bar and a nightclub, the new location at Cach Mang Thang 8 in District 1 is spacious and boasts an excellent sound system.
They routinely host foreign guest DJs, as well as the recurring GenderFunk ball, which is one of Saigon’s biggest parties featuring a diverse lineup of DJs and legendary international drag performances. Be sure to visit The Observatory later on in the night: the crowds only start to arrive after midnight.
More quality party spots for lovers of underground music include The Lighthouse in District1. Boasting both a lounge space and a chillout area on their roof, they tend to attract a more relaxed and less affluent crowd than higher-end places like Social Club or Skyloft by Glow.
The Lighthouse is also the spot to check out Saigon’s roster of extremely talented DJs playing with international acts with increasingly-popular events like Heart Beat, TripWire, and HRBR.
Another newly established venue for those who really love underground electronic music is Arcan. Located in a residential zone on Binh Thanh District, the establishment features a restaurant and lounge called the ArcanStone that’s open during the day. The sound-proofed club on the second floor comes to life after dark with a generous array of music you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Asia with genres such as psytrance, raggatek, drum&bass, and many others.
On Saturday Afternoons, they used to host a weekly poolside chillout day party called Hazy Lemons, it was a great way to chill and laze away on a Saturday afternoon. Not so sure if it survived the pandemic.
You have several bars and clubs where you will meet the same groups of people. The most popular are Broma in District 1, which has hosted the popular Vitamin D after party that starts every Saturday and Sunday morning up to mid-day; Saigon Outcast in District 2 is another eclectic venue that hosts a flurry of activities all year.
Colloquially known as “Outcast”, it is a must-visit for anybody staying in the city longer than just a few days. They organize all kinds of events, have regular movie nights, open mic/DJ nights, farmers’ markets on the weekends, shows and live theatre… and a climbing wall! It takes about 20 minutes by taxi to get there from the city center.
If you’re looking for a similar atmosphere that’s more centrally located, go for Indika, central Saigon’s unofficial indie bar. It’s tucked away in a backyard off Nguyen Van Giai in District 1, but meandering through two restaurants to get there is half the fun. Reasonable prices and frequent live events make this the perfect place to start your night (but not to end it, as this bar closes at midnight). Their free flow of craft beer and rum punch for a mere VND 250,000 is available from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday nights. They also host Monday’s Got Talent, a recurring open mic event by Saigon Funny People. Check it out for a night of impressive local talent and more than a few jokes along the way.
Lastly, for craft beer lovers, Saigon’s thriving craft brew scene is no longer just an underground curiosity, with breweries like Pasteur Street Brewing and East West Brewing Co at the helm. Here and in other craft breweries like Rogue Saigon Craft Beer, Heart of Darkness, BiaCraft, The Winking Seal, and Belgo you’ll find a similar vibe to the venues mentioned above.
For a tucked-away local gem that offers a variety of local craft and imported brews, a unique spot in Binh Thanh district called Khoai is a popular watering hole for young locals and in-the-know ex-pats. This bar is a self-described “Hungarian ruin bar” with eclectic decor and a chill neighborhood feel, worlds apart from the messy chaos of Bui Vien street.
The Best Places in Saigon for a Fancy Night Out
Rooftops are king in Saigon, and among the most renowned are Social Club and Shri. Social Club is without a doubt the most exclusive rooftop bar in Saigon. On the top floor of the Hotel des Arts, it attracts an eclectic crowd of international business people, socialites, tourists, ex-pats, and wealthy Vietnamese. The view might be one of the best in the city, especially when the sun sets, which coincides with happy hour.
Social Club Rooftop Bar is on top of the Hôtel des Arts Saigon, not far from Turtle Lake in District 3. The music here tends to be more mainstream. Drink prices are not cheap, but their extensive craft cocktail menu is perfect for discerning drinkers. Gin lovers will be delighted to find an entire page on the menu dedicated to variations on a gin & tonic.
If you can afford it and dress appropriately (no flip-flops or Birkenstocks), it’s perfect for a classy drink or a date. The music gets louder later on weekends after 11:00 p.m. and you’ll see people dancing in the bar area well after. Though Social Club is relatively expensive by Vietnam’s standards, a typical drink will cost you just above US$10.
They also have a rooftop pool (for hotel guest use only) and for the thrill-seekers, a “sky bridge” with a transparent walkway that connects to the neighboring Shri restaurant (for a rooftop dining experience) and SOHY Sky Lounge.
Now, what about the ground-floor venues in Saigon? Qui is one of the most trendy places to spend your money in style. Its assets: good music, often paired with little dance interludes by professional dancers, and a great location in Saigon’s endlessly entertaining “Little Tokyo”. You can expect a typical variety of standard cocktails, and proper dress is required.
Other options are the classics Xu Bar and the recently-reopened Blanchy’s Lounge, one next to the other and centrally located on Hai Ba Trung street. They won’t be too crowded during the week, but on Fridays and Saturdays, you can expect a full house and a lively atmosphere. The music is generally more mainstream, but Xu especially has some great drinks to offer.
I Just Wanna Dance All Night Long In Saigon
Lush is probably the city’s most famous nightclub among foreigners. It is known to be a good pick-up place for both girls and guys. In particular, Lush’s ladies’ night every Tuesday is one of Saigon’s best events for single people. Don’t even think about sipping on a free ladies’ drink here though – they have quite a strict policy!
Live Music in Saigon
The best options to listen to live music are located inside or next to 5-star hotels. The recommended venues are Catwalk near New World Hotel and Maxim’s. If you want to listen to local bands, there are some alternative venues as well such as Snuffbox, MZ Club, RockFanClub and Yoko. Acoustic Bar is also worth checking out, but they’ve recently changed their focus to cater to a more mainstream audience.
Vietnamese Nightclubs In Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City’s Vietnamese nightlife scene is huge, yet attracts few foreigners. In District 1 alone, there are at least 15 popular nightclubs, 30 karaoke bars, and twice as many beer bars. If you dare to venture out to other districts, you will easily discover hundreds more These clubs can be great for meeting Vietnamese people. The atmosphere is usually crazier than in more Western clubs. The way they operate is quite different than other venues as well.
Typically, you will be ushered inside by the bouncers as if you were royalty (or promptly shooed away if it’s a “Vietnamese only” club). They will make space for you to stand at a table and summon a waiter to bring you a menu. Naturally, they expect a generous tip for their services. Most likely, you will have to buy at least one bottle of alcohol as they don’t typically sell drinks by the glass.
For this reason, it is best to come with a small group. The bouncers and waiters might offer you the company of ladies/hostesses who will expect some tips as well. They may also offer you an expensive fruit platter—a staple for any Vietnamese night out.
Venues like 030 Club, 212 Club, or FOX beer lounge tend to get pretty wild, with many locals playing drinking games and clinking their glasses in loud chants of một, hai, ba, YO! If you are looking for more “tame” Vietnamese clubs, you can try Canalis, located in District 1. Note that as you may be the only foreigner inside, it is possible that you won’t be allowed entry.
Beer bars and beer gardens are other crazes in Vietnam. You would need a spare liver to try all of them. Vuvuzela Beer bars (several locations), a concept most similar to Hooters in the States, are probably the most famous and popular in the city. You could also check out Kingdom in District 1 and Poc Poc Beer Garden in District 3. All of them have very loud music. For a quieter spot to enjoy a beer, there are always sports bars such as Phatty’s Pub.
As the Saigon nightlife scene is always rapidly changing, we invite you to send us your comments on this page to share your favorite spots with us, too!
SAIGON INSPIRATION GOING OUT club LATE NIGHT: AFTER HOURS NIGHTLIFE IN SAIGON
I read recently that nightlife in Saigon was pretty much non-existent.
Was this the same city in which I chose to live two and a half years ago?
The same city where I have frequently stayed up for 24 hours, drinking, partying, and having a great time?
The same city where market traders start work as late-night revelers wobble past on their way home?
The same city where many drinkers go straight to the office from the myriad of pubs, bars, nightclubs, karaoke rooms, and other venues? I was beginning to think I had imagined it all. I moved to Saigon, now of course called Ho Chi Minh City, in 2013, originally for just two months. I had a short writing gig and thought it would be fun to stick around for a while. Two and a half years later I’m still here, still enjoying life and still getting home at 4 a.m. on a regular basis.
After Hours Bars in District 1: Where to Party Until Dawn?
This is the main business and entertainment area, and there is no doubt that the vast majority of the late-night watering holes are to be found here. In the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao you’ll find a full-on 24-hour party town. This is Saigon’s answer to Bangkok’s Khao San Road, though not quite as spoiled.
It is here that you’ll find cheap beer and hostesses in abundance. Along Bui Vien, which runs parallel to the Pham, as it has come to be known, sexy girls in the many bars are pouring drinks for the trendy hipster types and old-school ex-pats that gather seven nights a week. This whole area never sleeps.
Just across from here, moving towards the river, you’ll find a group of bars spread across the few blocks that run between Pasteur and Ho Tung Mau. If trendy nightclubs are more your thing, Lush is a better-known after-hours club. This venue is very popular among the young, trendy set who like to party all night long.
Lush has created quite a stir in recent years. It is extremely popular with clubbing fans. All of these venues are gay-friendly in a city that has a healthy attitude to gay and lesbian people. Probably the most popular gay bar in the city is Centro, where the gay community meets to party, dance, and watch the late-night cabaret, which includes a ladyboy show.
Qui Cuisine Mixology has rapidly been gaining a reputation as one of the hippest places in town. With fabulous decor, great ambiance, awesome cocktails, and top-class food, this is definitely the place to be. Open until 2 a.m. every day, it’s a great place for late-night fun with friends.
Its location right in the middle of town makes it a good place to end your night. Qui mixes some of the funkiest cocktails in town, they really are a highlight. The layout of the bar allows for bar sitting, cozy corner chats with your partner, or large group fun. Its fast-growing clientele is full of praise for this place.
Many people of course come to Asia and don’t want to do the same things as they do back home. Saigon has such a variety of things to do that you don’t see in the West. The city has hundreds of cafes selling amazing tea and coffee, many of these open late also. Walking home in the early hours of the morning you will pass many old-style, hole-in-the-wall type places that are popular with the locals.
Old guys sit enjoying drinks, chatting, and generally chilling out. They will often invite you to join them and are almost always happy for you to join if you ask. I quite like this scene; even with no common language, it’s fun to sit and relax with the locals.
Hot Toc and Karaoke in Saigon
The phenomenon that is Karaoke is evident across the city. In most districts, you will find Karaoke houses. To Westerners, this is a strange phenomenon indeed. The idea of going to a venue that specialises in Karaoke is rather odd. They have many private rooms where you can either enjoy a party or take one of the girls that work there, and also often a more public area.
Of course some of these are nothing more than a place for working girls to sell their wares. Some though are legitimate. As with all things in Saigon, it can be difficult to tell the difference. For example, Hot Toc means hairdresser, but go into a brightly lit Hot Toc shop at 2 a.m., and you are likely to be offered a lot more than a haircut.
After Hours Clubbing Is Not Limited to District 1
While the main attractions are inside District 1, they are by no means confined to it. In District 3, The Acoustic Bar has live music concerts every night except Sundays from 9:00 p.m. While the music generally ends around midnight, people hang around drinking into the wee small hours. Over in District 4, the dance floor in Cargo Bar remains packed until the sun comes up. Opening in 2013 this place has garnered a huge following. In District 2, late-night drinking can be a bit hit-and-miss, which is surprising considering the very large ex-pat community here.
Buddha Bar sometimes opens very late but it tends to depend on how busy they are, which can be frustrating at times. The Billiard Clubs along Tran Nao however are always open very late. So if playing pool and drinking are your things, then these can really be great fun. The fact is that like most thriving modern cities, Ho Chi Minh City has plenty to offer after midnight, and in some cases right through the night. This is definitely a 24-hour party town.