A chilled-out one-day guide through Saigon – top 10 gems to discover

I have a confession to make: visiting or living in Saigon {Ho Chi Minh City} can be quite exhausting. It is a bustling place and having lived there for over a year, I sometimes felt somehow worn out as it seemed like Saigon never gave me a rest.

But here is the good news for you: it is not impossible to have a chilled-out day in Saigon. During my time there, I was constantly seeking gems in which to hang out, relax {or have fun} and take my time. Here is a selection of my favourite places I want to share with you!

Morning: Start the day with a brunch at Au Parc

Located in the historical heart of Saigon, Au Parc is the perfect place to start a day. I can hardly remember the amount of times I’ve visited this place for its view overlooking a park, its charming interiors and of course, its excellent home-made Mediterranean food.

Also, swing by if you just want to refresh yourself, because Au Parc has a great selection of freshly-pressed juices and coffee. Believe me, you won’t regret it. {Did I mention that their chocolate fudge is to die for?}

Tip for afterward: visit the Notre Dame Church and the Post Office building just a few steps away.

Note: Au Parc is now becoming a very popular place, if you are looking for something quieter, the following would do a perfect job.

Morning alternative: Chill at THE DECK on Saigon River

A very nice {and much quieter} alternative to Au Parc is THE DECK. It’s far from the city center in district 2 {which is an expat area with other gems to discover} but if you want to chill, rest, relax and take your time, go for it!
The view of the Saigon River is terrific, and you won’t be disappointed by their week-end brunch that THE DECK offers. It’s a quiet location especially compared to the rest of Saigon, so just hang out there with a good read!

Highlight: lunch a la Vietnamese at Cuc Gach Quan restaurant

Every time somebody asks me where they should eat in Saigon, I always tell them to visit Cuc Gach Quan. Designed and built by the architect Tran Binh, it’s such a heart-soothing place with a lot of charm and character. Surrounded by plants, trees and small water sources, it appears like a small oasis in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City.
Not to mention the authentic and top-notch Vietnamese cuisine. While writing this, the taste of caramelized stewed pork with pepper in a clay pot just came to my mind very clearly. Cuc Gach Quan is an architectural and culinary oasis in town, so expect a one-of-a-kind experience and a lot of good detail in everything!

Note: it’s located in the center, but far from the tourist sites and maybe a bit hard to find. I hope this map or this map will help you.

Afternoon: Pay a visit to L’Usine – Cafe Boutique Gallery

You will love L’Usine for many different things, because it unites many different concepts all in one place. Being a cafe/restaurant in a unique location, the place is also a concept store and gallery where you can find art and a large collection of cutting-edge and hip brands like Kenzo.
It was founded by four friends who, interested in fashion, art and design, wanted to create something new and special in Ho Chi Minh City. Ever since, L’Usine has set trends in town and gained a large follower-ship amongst locals, expats and friends overseas. L’Usine’s flagship store is still located on Dong Khoi Street, hidden behind an alleyway with arts and crafts. A second boutique was launched in 2012, equally situated in the heart of Saigon in a colonial French era building, on Le Loi Street.

Visit them to enjoy the stylish and chirpy ambience, fresh home-made western food and of course, browse through things that you will fall in love with!

Tip: Grab some delicious hand-made, thoughtfully designed and fair trade Marou chocolate, a brand founded by two Frenchman in Vietnam.

Afternoon alternative: Visit Decibel – Art, Cafe and Creative space

Although Work Cafe on the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower is a very worthwhile experience to explore, I still want to highlight Decibel here. Artsy but uncomplicated, Decibel “opens the door to a gastronomic and artistic journey”, things that La Mangosteen is constantly seeking.
I’ve always found that it is a place to cool down, unwind and to get some cultural inputs at the same time. It’s definitely a creative space and cultural oasis in the financially-dominated Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate local and international exhibitions, live-concerts, independent film-screenings and other events.

A shout out: Support Decibel, because they’re supporting independent artists and the local art scene as well!

Get back to your feet with the best massage in town

What can be more perfect then having a good massage before l’Aperitif? It’s time to relax and let go at Maison de l’Apothicaire on Truong Dinh street in district 3 {they have different locations, but this one is the best!}.
Situated in a French-style villa, l’aphothicaire offers high quality treatments in a very calming and soothing environment. Their approach is therapeutic: all skin care products are of a natural basis. This place is especially popular among Japanese and Koreans living in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tip 1: If your friend/companion/partner doesn’t like massage, he/she can always unwind by the pool in the lush garden.

Tip 2: Book a Chauffeur Service {it’s included if you have a package} with this old baby.

Alternative: Moc Huong – a less pricy option

If you are looking for a more affordable option, just go for Moc Huong Spa, because their massages are equally good. The therapists are well-trained and certified, and the place is clean and stimulating. It’s very popular amongst locals as well!
I’ve visited this place many times and was never disappointed!

Note: treatments products are natural based from the well-known Thai brand Thann.

Evening: Shri – rooftop bar in the heart of Saigon

How about starting our evening at Shri‘s rooftop lounge? Book a table outside to indulge in the ambient setting and enjoy the panoramic view over the city. Shri restaurant/lounge also offers a top-notch culinary experience with a selected choice of Western and Asian cuisine. Stay over in their lounge bar for some of the best cocktails in town if you are in the mood!

Tip: Call and book a table near the glass front overlooking the city!

Evening alternative: Pomodoro – authentic Italian cuisine

If you’re looking for a less exquisite but still outstanding option, Pomodoro would be a perfect choice, because the family-orientated restaurant offers top-notch authentic home-made Italian food! This is my favourite Trattoria in town! Seriously, come down and try some pizza and pasta here!

Night: Warda – Lebanese Shisha Lounge

Last stop for everyone who loves to complete the evening in an oriental setting at a Warda lounge restaurant. Located in the back of an alley on Mac Thi Buoi, Warda is a little hard to find, but a worthwhile experience if you love Lebanese, Moroccan or Persian cuisine. And friends of Shisha, you’re at the right place, too!

Tip: if you stay here for lunch or dinner, don’t miss the Safran chicken rice! Dish below is hot mezze.

Cheers!

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  1. Pingback: 10 best Vietnamese and Thai restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City - A GUIDE - La Mangosteen

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