Ho Chi Minh City now has 21 bars and restaurants located on the city’s rooftops. Owen Salisbury and Jon Aspin decided to check them all out to create a definitive list of what’s available in Saigon, up on high. Photos by Kyle Phanroy and Owen Salisbury
Floors 24-25, AB Tower, 76A Le Lai. Just below Chill.
Clientele: Mostly expats, with a sprinkling of rich Vietnamese thrown in
Dress Code: Nice
Beer: VND60,000 to VND150,000 for a 500ml can
Cocktails: VND170,000 to VND290,000
Drinks List: Whisky heaven, with some genuine rarities. Sake heaven. Sizeable for the rest
A modernist vision of 1980s Japanese excess, with hanging wire sculptures resembling abstract fishing nets, towering bamboo shelves and pebble gardens. Enjoy pounding, bass-heavy music in comfortable surroundings.
With a wine collection of over 400 bottles — and a whisky collection with bottles whose prices can reach VND99 million — the snobbiest drinker can tipple in smug satisfaction. All the more so because the bartenders are exceedingly knowledgeable, guiding you to a drink you’re certain to love.
The beautiful decor and stunning view of District 1 make this one of the nicest — and most expensive — places to get a drink in Ho Chi Minh City. If you show up from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, Sorae’s happy hour gets you half off most drinks.
In a Nutshell: If you’re an epicurean drinker, Sorae is for you.
Eon Heli Bar
52nd floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1
Clientele: Tourists, locals looking for a romantic view, business types
Dress Code: Tourist-friendly, so come as you are
Beer: VND99,000 to 230,000 plus jugs
Cocktails: VND220,000 to 265,000
Drinks List: Capable of making a mean speciality cocktail — and with some exclusive top-shelf choices, too
You’ve literally reached the top here — Eon Heli Bar is the highest bar in the city, and if you can afford it, well, then you’ve probably made it in that sense, too.
Not a place to get hammered and pour out your woes to an ostensibly sympathetic bartender, Eon Heli Bar is all about sociability. Featuring live music at sunset and at 8pm every night, one can wander the ring-shaped bar grooving to the music, or to the mix of foreign tongues that greets your ear. If you want something more disco, a DJ spins from 10pm onward.
With their new Ladies Night in effect every Wednesday as of March, there’s one more reason to go get drop-jawed about the views available at Eon Heli Bar.
In a Nutshell: The highest view in town is not to be missed at sunset.
Broma: Not a Bar
41 Nguyen Hue, Q1
Clientele: Walk-ups from the street, it’s mostly a younger crowd, evenly split between foreign and local
Dress Code: Come as you are
Beer: VND80,000 to 190,000
Cocktails: VND140,000, except for the five-shot Long Island Ice Tea at VND250,000
Drinks List: Moderate; more than enough to make excellent cocktails
A lovely, plant-bounded, candle-lit space, where tourists, expats and locals rub shoulders equably. The view overlooking the new Nguyen Hue is stunning, hinting at a gentrified future for Ho Chi Minh City.
For an even better view, climb the ladder/staircase to Broma’s observatory, a microscopic upstairs that lays out Nguyen Hue all the way to city hall.
The music gets a trifle loud, though Broma does interesting things with its choice of DJs, creating a different theme every weekend.
If beer is your thing, try local craft beer Te Te, or Spanish import Inedit.
Cocktail recommendations; Broma has a surprisingly creative cocktail list. To beat the heat, try the Kumquat Smash. Alternately, to heat things up, the Rum Bo Hue is the drink for you.
In a Nutshell: Manages to be both relaxed and electric, but the music can get a trifle loud for talking.
The View Rooftop Bar
8th floor, Duc Vuong Hotel, 195 Bui Vien, Q1
Clientele: It’s Bui Vien. Expect backpackers, dreadlocked hippies, and burnt-out expats who still haven’t discovered the rest of the city
Dress Code: ...again, it’s Bui Vien. Just don’t show up naked
Beer: Yes. VND22,000 to VND48,000 for a 500ml can
Cocktails: VND99,000 to VND119,000
Drinks List: Massive, but only covering less pricey forms of booze
Enter through the Duc Vuong hotel lobby and take the elevator up to an almost Escher-like maze of small rooftop terraces bounded by palm fronds and flowers. The View Rooftop Bar is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle below.
Get a seat near the Bui Vien edge to people watch, or simply stare across the rooftops and enjoy the sight of an old Vietnamese man hanging his laundry. You can also people-watch right in the bar, listening to the babel of people from a dozen countries around the world enjoying the low-cost drinks and relaxing atmosphere.
One of a very small number of bars on the list serving shooters, the menu features half a dozen types and more. Be warned: though they are cheap at VND30,000 each, you can only order them three at a time. The View also has the longest happy hour in town, from 10am to 6pm. Each day features a different two-for-one cocktail.
In a Nutshell: For those who want to mingle with backpackers, or simply see Bui Vien from a new perspective.
2nd floor, Kumho Asiana Building, 39 Le Duan, Q1
Clientele: 80% foreign — philanthropists and the hip. 20% local
Dress Code: Casual; tourist chic
Beer: VND45,000 to VND99,000
Cocktails: VND85,000 to VND105,000
Drinks List: Modest, but enough to make some killer cocktails. Broad wine list, but lacking depth
KOTO is a great place to feel good about spending money. Breezy and garden-like, it is curiously intimate for so spacious a terrace. Perfect for parties and BBQs, KOTO seats 280 people and stands 400. Vincom towers like a purple monolith above, with the rush of traffic and the bustle of a night market below providing plenty to look at.
The inside is more conventional, a hubbub of conversation threaded through with mellow beats. Enjoy a drink at the bar, chatting with the convivial bartenders. All the staff, in fact, are friendly and warm.
KOTO’s only weakness is its limited bar — the top shelf of high-end cognac and scotch is purely for show. Nevertheless, their house cocktails, the KOTO Colours and the Kojito, are both cool, refreshing examples of the mixologist’s art.
In a Nutshell: For the ethically evolved partier, KOTO is one of the most relaxed and spacious destinations here.
20th floor, Novotel Hotel, 167 Hai Ba Trung, Q1
Clientele: Hotel guests and tourists. Word writers on assignment
Dress Code: Casual. Hotel guests have to be able to come up straight from the pool, after all
Beer: VND95,000 to VND130,000
Drinks List: Moderately extensive. You won’t find rarities, but you won’t be disappointed
Since OnTop is part of Novotel, the standard corporate hotel chic applies; this bar could be in London, Dubai, Tokyo or San Francisco and look essentially the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course — it has a comfortable feel, the sort of place where one can while away an evening chatting with good friends.
The view is pleasant, showing off the city from an unexpected angle and allowing for a degree of people-watching not possible from higher vantages.
One of the funnest parts is the range of promotions; 50 percent off every day from 5.30pm to 8pm for starters, and an individual special every day of the week. My personal favourite is Tuesday’s promotion, where you flip a coin against the bartender. Win, and the drink is on the house. If you lose, of course, you pay up in full.
In a Nutshell: Chill and relaxed, the novel promotions give you something to look forward to every night.
23rd floor, Hotel des Arts, 76-78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3
Clientele: Wealthier Vietnamese, hotel guests, business-class expats, young urban Vietnamese professionals
Dress Code: Smart casual. You don’t need a tie, but no shorts nor sandals
Beer: VND90,000 to VND150,000
Drinks List: Serious, with a focus on single-malt Scotch and a large selection of wine, including some lovely New World vintages
Decorated in wood panels, with carved screens separating the booths and elegantly comfy chairs, the closest term is nouveau club chic. Calling back to the Old World while throwing in hints of the new, it’s only fitting that the bar of the Hotel des Arts should look so nice.
One of the quieter, more elegant watering holes in the city, this is where you head to close that deal and celebrate in style afterwards. The DJ spins out a nice selection of tunes, the perfect blend of energizing and relaxing.
The upstairs bar is a bit less fancy, though the pool and outdoor shower — for when you absolutely must cool off after that fourth mojito — are a nice touch. And the view is breathtaking.
If you’re hungry, the dining nook offers something light-years beyond mere bar food, but beware; prices are steep.
In a Nutshell: Posh; this is the place to bring high-powered out-of-town guests for a sophisticated drink.
Floors 26-27, AB Tower, 76A Le Lai, Q1
Clientele: Rich people and their hangers-on; tourists; the young and gorgeous
Dress Code: Smart casual. No sandals, no shorts
Beer: VND140,000 to VND180,000
Cocktails: VND210,000 to VND520,000
Drinks List: Solid but not spectacular — a focus on the classic and the recognizable
The name is misleading. Chill is all flashing lights and breathtaking views of the city, an aggressively modern place for the smart set to congregate in. Packed with party people, it can be a tad difficult to discuss literature or philosophy while the music is pounding away. With bottle-service galore, this is one of the places the wealthy come to amuse themselves, and it’s one of the loudest, fullest skybars in town.
An absolutely stunning view of District 1 is mostly ignored by the clientele, but trust me, you’ll want to walk the edge and stare, slack-jawed, at the Ho Chi Minh City skyline.
Cocktail recommendation; try the Berry Sour, a concoction of port, Bulleit bourbon, egg whites, red berry tea, sugar syrup and fresh lemon juice. Sweet and tart, it’s a perfect complement to the flashing lights, thumping bass and glowing bar.
In a Nutshell: Smart casual may leave you feeling under-dressed; this is where the beautiful expats come to play.
15-17-19, Nguyen An Ninh, Q1
Clientele: 40% tourist, 60% locals and expats. From young and hip to old and fanny-pack wearing, OMG boasts a diverse crowd
Dress Code: Casual as it gets
Beer: VND90,000 to VND150,000
Cocktails: VND120,000 to VND160,000
Drinks List: Boasting around 850 bottles of wine, the spirits selection is limited at present, but should be moderately extensive by the time you read this
With a remodelling that should be finished by the time this goes to print, OMG is looking to tone up its image. The indoor area is being transformed into a gourmet restaurant complete with oyster bar, curated wine-appreciation dinners and whisky mentoring.
Though not as immediately impressive as other views, OMG has an almost hypnotic vantage point of the Ben Thanh roundabout — watch traffic swirl around as though it were the legendary maelstrom, while Bitexco Tower shines above like a starship ready for launch.
Happy Hour is from 6pm to 8pm, with a smart selection of sparkling wines. If music is your thing, OMG provides it; if you’re lucky, the manager himself will hop up and spin the tables.
In a Nutshell: Location, location, location. And we can’t wait to try the new menu, either.
23rd Floor, Centec Tower, 72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3
Clientele: Upscale expats, people who can afford to dress nice, hip young Vietnamese professionals
Dress Code: Smart casual during dinner hours; for earlier or later drinks, tourist-casual is ok
Beer: VND60,000 to VND170,000
Drinks List: Extensive, with a selection of Scotch that is among the best in the city
An elegantly decorated restaurant with spectacular views from the outdoor terrace, Shri at night lays out the city beneath you like a carpet of jewels. The plush chairs and lush profusion of plants make this a marvellous place to let the stress of the day simply melt away. Simply sit in beauty and sip on one of their unique cocktails and emerge refreshed.
Both a bar and a restaurant, Shri carries over 300 wines, from Old World to New, from South Africa to Australia and has an excellent dinner menu.
Happy hour is 4.30pm to 6.30pm daily, and gets you 25 percent off all wines and 50 percent off all other drinks.
In a Nutshell: Hot first dates. Or any hot dates, really.