After my article about the cafe scene in Chiang Mai I was alerted to the fact that Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) has a healthy cafe scene going on as well. I know a number of location independent workers who have set up shop there and extoll the virtues of the good coffee and fast, free wifi. With such an endorsement I had to go and investigate for myself.
[Photo of a coffee while editing a photo of a coffee. How meta.]
I spent a month in Ho Chi Minh City which I thought would give me enough time to pace my cafe hopping out and give me a feel for what it’s like to live there. So I present to you my research on cafes in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City Cafe Map
[Link to Ho Chi Minh City Cafe Map]
Cosmo Cafe was the first cafe I went to on this trip to Ho Chi Minh City. I met up with Jon Myers here, who ended up being my cafe recommendation machine as he had been living in the city for the previous six months. I was last in HCMC in 2005 and do not remember the city having anything as modern as this place. Good coffee and vibe here and as it turned out, a harbinger of good cafes to come.
Location: Corner of Le Thanh Ton and Le Pasteur Street, Dist. 1
I ended up back back at Kita Cafe numerous times over the month, mainly for the ambience of the colonial era building. Despite being on the main avenue of old Saigon its corner location isn’t too busy, so you can sit outside without being drowned out by the noise of motorbikes.
Location: 39-41 Nguyen Hue Ave, Dist. 1
L’usine – Dong Khoi
Wow. By now I was starting to realise that there is a fairly awesome cafe scene going on in Ho Chi Minh City. Coming to L’usine confirmed that. This cafe is on the first floor of a building with an entrance via an arcade. Once you arrive upstairs you are greeted with a cafe that is truly world class. This is another cafe I ended up at more than a few times. After revisiting this cafe a number of times I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to visit 30 cafes in 30 days. Oh well, I’ll just have to come back for further research.
Location: 151 Dong Khoi (1st floor), Dist. 1
L’usine – Le Loi
L’usine has a second branch Le Loi St, not far from Ben Thanh Market. This cafe equal in its coolness to the Dong Khoi branch, so I have a hard time picking a favourite out of the two.
Location: 70B Le Loi St, (1st floor), Dist. 1
The Print Room
I just happened upon The Print Room by chance while walking down Pasteur. It is tucked away in an alley and then upstairs in an apartment block. This is a cozy cafe with comfy couches and a little upstairs sitting area as well.
Location: 158D Pasteur, (1st floor), Dist. 1
Geisha’s Coffee and Tea House
Geisha’s is above a clothing store and there are two levels, one of which is for smokers.
Location: 85 Pasteur Street, Dist. 1
Cafe de la Gare
Another cafe tucked away upstairs in an old apartment block, Cafe de la Gare is a roomy establishment with good working tables. There is only Vietnamese coffee (no espresso machine.)
Location: 145 Nguyen Trai, (1st floor), Dist. 1
L’Anmien is a popular lunch place with good outdoor seating.
Location: 76A Le Lai-Ben Thanh, Dist. 1
Id Cafe – District 1
“OMG this is my new favourite cafe!” is something I exclaimed a number of times in Saigon, and I said that as I entered Id cafe as well. There is a downstairs cafe which is quite small, so make sure to go upstairs.
Location: 34D Thu Khoa Huan St, Dist. 1
Decibel is at the end of District 1 and I would never have found it in my wanders. This is another cafe I wish I had returned to yet I only made the one visit. By now it was apparent to me that the Saigon cafe scene is on steroids.
Location: 79/2/5 Phan Ke Binh, Dist. 1
Window 4 Cafe
Window 4 Cafe has a reputation of being a place you go to look good and be scene, yet somehow they let this caffeinated hobo in. Apparently they have lovely ladies in their employ who are paid to stand around and look lovely (I was obviously too busy working to notice). The cafe looks out over the park in front of the Reunification Palace.
Location: 12 Alexandre de Rhodes, Dist. 1
La Fenetre Soleil
La Fenetre Soleil is a suitable place to have a party or take a date in the evening. In the day time the balcony area is a good place to sit with a laptop.
Location: Upstairs, 44 Ly Tu Trong, Dist. 1
Creperie & Cafe
Another one I was put onto late in the game, which is probably just as well as I would have returned here more often. It has one of the better outside seating arrangements as it is opposite a park and catches a breeze so it isn’t a sweaty ordeal sitting outside. This is just as well as the air conditioning inside feels like you have stepped into a refrigerator.
Location: 5 Han Thuyen St, Dist.1
Magonn – The Cafe
Magonn is a cafe above a boutique clothing store of the same name.
Location: Upstairs, 109 Le Thanh Ton, District 1.
Website: www.magonn.vn (website of clothing store downstairs.)
Press Corner Coffee
Press Corner Coffee is hidden away on top of a building behind the Reunification Palace. This is a shisha cafe so inside is too smoky for my liking, but outside the balcony overlooks the park and is surrounded by greenery.
Location: Upstairs, Tang 3 So 1 Huyen Tran Cong Chua, District 1
Has a night club feel to it but suitable for working during the day if you are in this part of district 1.
Location: 144 Tran Hung Dao St, Dist. 1
Id Cafe – District 3
Another one of my favourite cafes that now has a second branch. I like the vibe of this cafe as well and I would spend more time here if it was walkable from my location. Bikers don’t have that problem.
Location: 61B Tu Xuong, Dist. 3
Overture is more of a night club lounge than cafe and the downstairs was certainly too dark to be working. Better upstairs but it was very busy at lunch time.
Location: 109 Tran Quoc Toan, Dist. 3
Ngo Thoi Gian Cafe
A more local feel to this cafe, opposite the Turtle Pond roundabout north of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Location: (Turtle Pond) 8 Cong Trưong Quoc Te, Dist. 3
Cafe Nghe Thuat
Another cafe in the cluster of cafes at Turtle Pond.
Location: (Turtle Pond) 6B Cong Trưong Quoc Te, Dist. 3
Yet another cafe on the stretch along Turtle Pond.
Location: (Turtle Pond) 4 Cong Trưong Quoc Te, Dist. 3
Ca Phe Nguyen Chat
I found this place while walking up to the train station. This is a classic old cafe where you can get a Vietnamese coffee at a Vietnamese price. Free wifi here as well, of course.
Location: 93 Nguyen Thong, Dist. 3
Paris Baguette Cafe
One of the many things I like about Vietnam are the bakeries. While I love the rice and noodle dishes of Vietnam, I appreciate being able to find a proper croissant for breakfast. There are tables and wifi here but I couldn’t get a seat inside. The balcony was insanely noisy from the traffic below.
Location: Corner of Cao Thang and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai streets, Dist. 3
A word of Vietnamese Coffee: As you may have noticed most of the cafes are in District 1 or 3. I lived in District 1 which happened to be where most of the good cafes are. I wandered around District 5 one day and found Cafe Evo, which is where I found a good Vietnamese coffee. I like the Vietnamese style coffee, but it has to be done right otherwise it becomes a frustrating experience. Sometimes the filter will get so clogged that hardly any coffee comes out. At this cafe they put your glass inside a another glass of hot water while the coffee drips.
Location: 585 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 7, District 5
Chain Cafes – Various Districts
Being a coffee-mad land, Ho Chi Minh City has its fair share of chain cafes. Starbucks opened its first branch in Vietnam here in February 2013. Gloria Jeans is also here, but other than that the chain scene here is dominated by two local brands, Trung Nguyen Coffee and Highlander.
Trung Nguyen Coffee
Trung Nguyen Coffee branches are everywhere and I have to say I ended up here many times out of convenience as it was the closest cafe to me. This is the Starbucks of Vietnam, but with better coffee. I like their branding as well – it reminds me of an old railways logo. All the branches have free wifi.
I ended up in various branches here as well for the convenience factor. Another prominent chain with wifi in all locations.
Starbucks finally arrived in Vietnam in February 2013. I’ve listed the first branch that was opened, no doubt the first of many. This picture was taken in the opening week thus the big crowd.
Location: New World Hotel Building, Corner of Nguyen Thi Nghia and Pham Hong Thai, Dist. 1
Soho Coffee Lounge
Soho Coffee is a small local chain of cafes.
Location: 185 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Dist. 1
Possibly a Korean chain but as usual no local website. I only saw the one branch in District 1.
Location: Corner Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Ton That Tung
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
American chain cafe has branches around the city.
Location: Several Locations
My Life Coffee
Another local chain with six cafes around the city.
There is a real startup vibe going on in Saigon so this cafe name seems appropriate for the times. Unfortunately Startup Coffee is nothing more than a takeaway bar attached to a donut shop. I’m guessing they aren’t going to get far with the Starbucks ripoff logo, but I wish them all the best.
Location: Tran Hung Dao, Dist 1
This cafe isn’t a work cafe but I want to list it because I like its style. There are rows coffee jars here with beans from around the country.
Location: 277A Le Thanh Ton, Dist. 1
If you want to go somewhere to admire the Notre Dame Cathedral then Coffee May will do the trick. There is aslo a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on the same square.
Location: Tuong Duc Me, Dist 1 (Square opposite Notre Dame).
Cong Vien Van Hoa Park
If you sit down in Cong Vien Van Hoa Park long enough you will soon be found by a drink vendor that can bring you a coffee. Apparently in the morning the park is filled with suits getting a caffeine fix. I never made it that early so I can’t verify that, but there always seemed to be groups here having little coffee parties when I went through.
Location: Cong Vien Van Hoa Park, Dist. 1