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The Top 40 Bars in Vietnam

Earlier this year we published an article about an inner-city bar crawl one of our staff members took in Melbourne, which is well known for its beautifully designed bars. We said then that Vietnam is well on its way to catching up, and with several new entries on this years shortlist, it does appear that the drinking scene here is going from strength to strength.

 

Certainly, well gone are the days when you didn’t need much more than a suitcase full of dreams, or a troubled past to run away from, before you set up your own establishment here. Today’s bar entrepreneurs in Vietnam are for the most part seasoned professionals, bringing experience from all over the world to bear on Vietnam’s burgeoning bar culture.

 

What’s also encouraging is the variety of bars that got a mention in 2015. Far from being full of high-end rooftops and VIP cocktail bars, new names like Bia Craft and Shrine in Ho Chi Minh City and Sidewalk and Unicorn in Hanoi encourage us to believe that variety will continue to be the spice of life in our tropical drinking paradise.

 

Ho Chi Minh City

 

For the second year running, our judges have voted Xu as Saigon’s top bar. Now, even though this caused some confusion among staff members at Word HQ; (“I never ever go there” was heard more than once), the result shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. For those that like their bars with a big dose of high-energy music, an equally energetic crowd and the chance to, er, meet someone ‘special’ who’s probably quite well dressed, Xu isn’t a bad place at all.

 

Following closely behind was Vesper Lounge, one of those places that has long titillated the after-work crowd. The fact that it serves up some of the best, creative tapas in this city is also part of its appeal. Coming in third was new entrant GLOW, which has been cramming our Facebook feed with glamorous pictures of any number of high-end rooftop parties they’ve been hosting since opening this year.

 

After that, our judges voted for a cluster of bars, with eight finishing close in the voting stakes, including Saigon Lookout, a new hotspot built in an old art-deco mansion, which has been hosting regular singles nights for what appear to be the best-looking people in the city, not to mention what looked like a pretty killer Halloween Party.

 

Also making its debut on the list was Thao Dien’s new favourite, Bia Craft. Born out of the growing trend towards ‘beer that doesn’t appreciate your mainstream lifestyle’, Bia Craft has quickly gained a following by serving ten ‘small-batch’ craft beers that are all locally made, with no TVs or unnecessary frills to distract you. Only slightly more popular is the father of craft beer in this city, the Pasteur Street Brewing Company, and rightly so. The beer here is excellent.

 

Also in that category of eight is Martini Bar, an old favourite for long-time residents, Chill Skybar, Blanchy’s Tash, and The Deck which all gathered votes last year and are well known to local residents. The Deck is of particular interest as it has just opened a huge new space next door to the existing venue.

 

Dropping slightly down the list this year was Broma, undoubtedly affected by the Nguyen Hue closure for the first half of this year, though its refurb now looks great. Saigon Outcast, deciBel and The Observatory also took a slight dip in popularity, but last time we were at each of them, they were packed, a testament to the great job they’ve done in creating a self-sustaining community and continuing to serve up quality events. The Australian sports bars, Phatty’s and Game On, also put in a good showing, as did one of our personal favourites, Racha Room, which finished just outside the top 10.

 

Hanoi

 

Unlike with every other top 10 list we compiled, not one new watering hole managed to manoeuvre itself onto our shortlist. Instead it was the mainstays and established drinking venues that got your vote, with Indochine-yet-contemporary Tadioto finishing top of the pile followed closely by Red River Tea Rooms. That Red River has become such a favourite is in part due its West Lake location and views. It’s also due to its atmosphere. This is an unpretentious, no-frills bar that is conducive to good conversation.

 

West Lake continued to fare strongly in the top bar stakes, with no less than six venues featuring in the top 10. Besides Red River, The Republic, 88 Lounge, Don’s Oyster Bar, Madake and Sunset Bar all made the cut, the latter being only one of three hotel bars in the whole of Vietnam that got your vote. On the not-in-West-Lake list were funky events venue, CAMA ATK, and even funkier bar-cum-café Barbetta, while what was formerly the highest bar in town, Summit Lounge, continues to tickle your fancy.

 

What’s clear is that while hole-in-the-wall watering holes such as Mao’s Red Lounge and Spy Bar remain popular, the focus has changed. People want something a bit more upscale these days, and if not, they like something event-focused. As well as CAMA ATK, Don’s Oyster Bar, Madake and 88 Lounge, HRC, Son Tinh Lounge with its live sports and regular stand-up comedy, and Binh Minh Jazz Club made it into our top 20. Meaning that it’s not just going out for a nice tipple that gets the juices flowing, but entertainment, too.

 


 

The Top 10*

 

Ho Chi Minh City

Blanchy’s Tash

Chill Skybar

Glow

Martini Bar / 2 Lam Son

Saigon Lookout

Sorae

The Deck

Vesper Bar

Wine Embassy

Xu

 

Hanoi

88 Lounge

Barbetta

Cama ATK

Don’s Oyster Bar

Madake

Red River Tea Room

Summit Lounge

Sunset Bar

Tadioto

The Republic

 

*The bars in these lists have been organised in alphabetical order

 


 

Bars in the Top 20*

 

Ho Chi Minh City

Air 360

Bia Craft

Carmen Bar

Game On

La Fenetre Soleil

Last Call

O’Brien’s

Pasteur Street

Phatty’s

Racha Room

 

Hanoi

+84

21 North

HRC

Sidewalk

Binh Minh’s Jazz Club

Rooftop

Été Bar

Hero Bar

Rockstore

Son Tinh Lounge Bar

 

*The bars in these lists have been organised in alphabetical order

2 comments

  • Andy Toole
    Andy Toole Wednesday, 16 December 2015 13:12 Comment Link

    Agree with Nicolas there are a few good places here in NT Rooftop, Booze Cruise and also my Bar Cheers Bar. Check them out on TA. ps why does Word Magazine not come to Nha Trang?

  • Nicolas Albernhe
    Nicolas Albernhe Sunday, 13 December 2015 19:16 Comment Link

    The best bars in HCMC & HA NOI...
    Not all Vietnam! hihi! There is a small village lost in south-central Vietnam....

    With love from The Rooftop Lounge in Nha Trang!
    Come have a look...

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