Saigon Nightlife: The Best Bars and Clubs
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 travellers 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.
Bui Vien Street
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 parlours 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 its one-star rating on TripAdvisor might be an indicator that it may not necessarily be the safest option. T & R, 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. Alternatively, you can have a beer at The View in Duc Vuong Hotel, famous for being the most affordable rooftop bar around.
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). Further down the road, somewhat off the main drag but only a 5 minute walk further down De Tham street, the Tipsy Unicorn is a more laid-back, cozy gay bar popular with locals and expats.
Generally speaking, there are three kinds of expats 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 Kieus (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 been setting Saigon on fire for months during their 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 Chill Skybar or Glow Skybar.
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 host a weekly poolside chillout day party called Hazy Lemons, a great way to chill and laze away on a Saturday afternoon.
You have several bars and clubs where you will meet the same groups of people. The most popular are Broma in District 1, which also hosts 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 which 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 organise 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 centre.
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 expats. 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 Chill Skybar and Glow Skybar.
Chill Skybar is without a doubt the most exclusive rooftop bar in Saigon. On the 26th floor of the AB tower, it attracts an eclectic crowd of international business people, socialites, tourists, expats and wealthy Vietnamese. The view might be the best in the city, especially when the sun sets, which coincides with happy hour (88,000 VND++ for all kinds of drinks from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm).
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 on weekends after 11:00 p.m. and you’ll see people dancing in the bar area until 2:00 a.m.
Note: Though Chill Skybar is expensive by Vietnam’s standards, a typical drink will cost you just above US$10.
Glow Skybar remains an upscale favourite for expats and tourists—you might even see it advertised at the airport. It shares some great features with Chill Skybar: danceable music, a nicely designed open-air area, stunning views and an well-dressed crowd. The prices don’t differ much from Chill Skybar, either.
Social Club Rooftop Bar on top of the Hôtel des Arts Saigon is another rooftop bar in the upper-tier (no pun intended) of Saigon’s rooftop venues, 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.
Social Club Rooftop Bar
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.
Last but not least, Envy Club caters to both Vietnamese and foreign guests, and is probably the most spectacular party spot in town with its Las Vegas-style bling-bling decor and eye-popping acrobatic performances.
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!
The infamous Apocalypse Now, often referred to as the oldest nightclub in Saigon, attracts a diverse crowd of late-night revellers, expats, tourists, and – be warned – many freelance sex workers. The music includes popular hits from the past 20 years. The average priced drink menu makes it a cheap option for late-night party people; however, to avoid disappointment, we suggest that it’s best to stick to ordering beer here.
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. You also have rock clubs like Seventeen Saloon, and Hard Rock Café attached to the Kumho Asiana Plaza.
Hard Rock Café
If you want to listen to local bands, there are some alternative venues as well such as Fang, 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.
Beer Club Saigon
Note: As you are most likely to be the only foreigner inside, it is possible that you won’t be allowed entry.
Beer bars and beer gardens are another craze 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’s always sports bars such as Phatty’s Pub.
As the Saigon nightlife scene is always rapidly changing, we invite you to leave comments on this page to share your favourite spots with us, too!
Banner Image source: Air 360 Sky Lounge