A personalized guide to our corner of the city
Some other great spots:
1) This tiny breakfast place is set back from the main road and only open in the morning hours. The two sisters manage to create 8 soups every morning, where locals file in cafeteria-style for their morning noodles. My favorite is a soup originating from the middle part of the country (Hoi An area) by the name of Mì Quảng, though so far none of them have disappointed.
2) Bún chả Hà Nội – Delicious dish of noodles and fire-grilled meat native to the north. Worth the drive, or maybe combine it with a stop on the way up to the airport. Located here.
3) Titi – French food at Vietnamese prices. Here’s where you can see how much Vietnamese people enjoy French cuisine. In a crowded but clean cafeteria-style setting, you’re served a bread basket while waiting for the food. The duck with mulberry sauce and the beefsteak with french fries are what made them famous. I would choose the duck again every time. More photos here.
4) Bánh Xèo – If you’re looking for the classic Vietnamese take crepe dish, one reliably delicious spot is Bánh xèo Ăn Là Ghiền. There are two locations, both flagged here for reference. We’ve only tried the Phú Nhuận location, so let us know what you think if you get to try the other!
Evening / night only
5) Quán Ốc 63 Nguyễn Trường Tộ. Another beloved snails place, this one doesn’t like to stay open past 10pm, and they start running out of the good stuff even earlier. Be sure to try the crab curry (cà ri cua)
6) Quán bia tươi Sài Gòn (Literally: Saigon fresh beer restaurant) – At 4,000 VND a pint, this is quite possibly the cheapest beer you will ever drink. Served cold, in a beer garden setting, and serves small plates for snacking. But at 4,000 VND a pint, does the rest really even matter? Directions for taxi driver here.
7) Café Bệt (Literally “Plop Down Café”) – is not a café in the traditional sense, but an evening hangout in the park between the Reunification Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Strolling through here in the evening will get you an invitation to plop down on one of the newspapers offered by entrepreneurial vendors all around the park. Place your order for coffee, juice, or tea, and it will be scurried over from some unseen stocking area. Wandering snack-sellers offer quail eggs, peanuts and roasted rice crisps larger than your face. Find a spot near one of the grilling buckets and you can even get hot crisps loaded with pate and other finger-licking toppings.
Not only food
8) Art Gallery Thảo Mộc – great prices on original artwork. Some is still done on commission, but ask the painter (the guy with long hair) for some original pieces. He is proud of his work and takes care of packing it well so it travels safely. Very little English, so it might require some hands and feet gesturing. There are other galleries clustered in the same area for further browsing.
9) Chợ Bà Chiểu Market – another local’s local market. This one has a particularly good selection of snack stands as you wander a bit deeper into the market
10) Chợ Bình Tây Market – One of the largest local markets – you can find everything under the sun here, including a wide selection of used goods and Vietnamese coffee without the tourist premium. Don’t be afraid to haggle, but even if you don’t, you’re unlikely to get massively ripped off.
11) CoopMart grocery store – Well-stocked and conveniently open till 10pm
12) Cargo Bar – Live music in an industrial space on the riverfront. Shows listed here.
13) Branded Shoes at a discount – These shoes either have minor defects or were surplus items that get re-routed to this street (Lý Chính Thắng) for sale at a fraction of the retail price.
14) The Regency Hotel (khách sạn Khải Hoàn) – Runs something of a relaxation amusement park with an all-inclusive spa open 24 hours. Entrance is a bit steep at nearly $20, but once you’re in, the sauna, salt steam room, fish spa, body scrub, facial, ear cleaning, relaxation massage and foot treatment are all yours at the cost of what you choose to tip. A friend has even elected to get their hair cut there, though I wouldn’t say I recommend that. Pictures and video available here if you’re willing to spoil the surprise.
15) War Remnants Museum
16) Reunification Palace
17) Notre Dame Cathedral & neighboring Saigon Post Office
18) Opera House
19) Chợ Bến Thành Market
20) Backpacker’s District, known locally and by taxi drivers as Phạm Ngũ Lão
21) Saigon Zoo