City of 3.5 million bikes, 9 million residents and a whole lot of history, Saigon has heaps to offer the 21st-century nomad – not least a veritable cornucopia of cool coffee emporiums.
From street vendors to air-conditioned havens, the bean-loving traveller can take their pick from the proverbial sackful of superb shops.
In need of some guidance? Worry not: here are Modern Traveller‘s top coffee parlours in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon, to you and MT).
8. Thúc Coffee
OK, so it seems a little strange to start with a chain, but Thúc Coffee’s brand of art-house coffee caves, dotted as they are around the streets of District 1, make for a perfect air-conditioned retreat from the summer sun.
MT is a particular fan of the branch on Pasteur (number 158, to be exact). Walls adorned with murals of Einstein, Bach, Balzac and Bonaparte greet weary travellers after a visit to the nearby Ho Chi Minh City Museum, its wooden stools and air-conditioned interior providing much-needed respite from the prickly heat outside.
7. Bang Khuang Cafe
9 Thai Van Lung
Through an unassuming doorway and up two flights of stairs, this second floor of a former apartment building hides Bang Khuang Cafe, a welcome refuge from the rush outside – if you can find it.
One member of a rapidly expanding crop of converted urban spaces in downtown Saigon, the stylish upstairs space offers quirky decor (including a wall-mounted bike), good Wi-Fi and friendly staff – when they aren’t busy enjoying some of their own iced coffee.
6. Cafe Xanh
1 Truong Dinh
Perfectly placed for a pit-stop after a harrowing visit to the War Remnants Museum, Xanh Cafe is an open-fronted affair, complete with simple wooden benches and an ideal people-watching situation.
Carrying a full compliment of delicious juices and smoothies, as well as an impeccable staff-selected playlist, there’s no better place to soak in Saigon over an afternoon drink – without the air-conditioned barrier.
5. La Rotonde
77 Ham Nghi
Avoid the lunch-hour rush – the buffet menu is immensely popular – and you’ll find La Rotonde‘s dose of Parisian style to be an oasis from the District 1 drama.
It’s not the cheapest, but it’s worth venturing up the cast iron staircase for the Vietnamese iced coffee alone – whilst the smoothies aren’t too shabby, either. World-watchers will want a window seat, whilst lovers of interior design should be happy to soak up this slice of olden times Saigon.
4. The Kafe
34 Le Loi
One of a couple, The Kafe‘s Le Loi branch boasts a brilliant brunch menu, a host of coffee options and plenty of cakes for sweet-toothed travellers.
An airy, modern interior (complete with striking murals), attentive staff and reasonable prices make this a superb stop just steps from Ben Thanh Market, particularly if you’re craving some well-presented western treats.
3. The Loft
26 Ly Tu Trong
An urban coffee bolt-hole with a cool colonial vibe (the ancient elevator is worth a look as you enter), The Loft sits behind a large glass clock face one storey up, just a few strides from the mighty Vincom Centre.
Undeniably trendy, the decor will do wonders for your creative juices – as will the artwork on sale downstairs, and the high quality caffeine in the cups. What’s more, affordably delectable lunch options will put paid to any peckish rumblings. Despite an array of seats, it can fill up quickly – hit The Loft early in the day for a bit of quiet contemplation.
Ascend a set of stairs from the subtle roadside frontage and you’ll be greeted by Cafe-Restaurant‘s spacious, stylish interior. An old building made new, several nods to the vintage give this Dutch-owned haven a true touch of class.
The menu has a wide range of appealing meals to offer, whilst local coffees – made from beans ethically sourced from Eco Cafe, a 100% organic Dalat-based farm – are suitably scrumptious.
151 Dong Khoi
With a smaller sister store on Le Loi, L’Usine‘s upstairs cafe and shop is everything you could want from a Saigon coffee parlour: simple, delicious food and drink; striking retro decor; and an undeniably urban buzz.
Be sure to browse through the kitsch of the shop next door before enjoying the famously good coffee and irresistible homemade cakes. Go for the style, stay for the vibe – and come back for the coffee.
WORDS & IMAGES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS
Content correct at time of publication. A changing world is one of the joys of travelling!