Plenty of Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife is right out in the open: from happy hour in Pham Ngu Lao to late-night drinks at rooftop bars in District 1, you don’t have to make much of an effort when it comes to a night out. You hardly need to stumble past many of the hotels in Ho Chi Minh if all you’re looking for is a place to grab a drink.
But for a real experience, for a place that you know will be able to deliver masterfully made cocktails or craft beers, it’s worth doing a little bit of digging and exploring what wonders Ho Chi Minh has to offer on its side streets and in its basements. The best of the city is kept secret, so check out this list of our favorite hidden and low-key bars and alcohol-serving cafés in the city.
The Fig Lounge & Coffee
15 Nguyen Thi Huynh Street, Phú Nhuận District
Garden cafés are especially popular in Vietnam, and at The Fig Lounge & Coffee it’s easy to understand why. Designers of the space made it no secret that they’re looking to make even the indoors of The Fig calming and fragrant, and so whether you end up sitting outside near the pond with a cup of coffee or inside on one of the café’s woven sofas drinking a signature cocktail, you’re guaranteed a relaxed night.
Besides being a solid respite from the bustling city centre, The Fig also offers crisp, contemporary Asian food and Vietnamese-Western fusion desserts, all made from entirely organic ingredients. It’s open until eleven, so if you want to move from herbal tea to some Chilean Sunrise Shiraz as the day grows to night you don’t even have to get up from your chaise lounge.
14 Ton That Dam, Nguyen Thai Binh, District 1
If you’re looking for an actual hideaway, the Snuffbox Lounge is a charming ode to turn-of-the-century American speakeasies. With jazz DJ sets on almost every weekend and frequent live music events, the Snuffbox Lounge offers a modern, fun twist on a vintage aesthetic.
Mixologists at the Snuffbox Lounge have a playful mastery of their craft and enough of an understanding of the pleasure of spectacle to make watching cocktails being made an experience in its own right. You’ll understand what I mean about the skill of the staff when the crystal beakers come out and a smoke-topped drink is set in front of you.
The Snuffbox Lounge opens for coffees and drinks at midday, and sultry nighttime lighting transforms it into the perfect after-dark hangout—plus, it’s open until three in the morning so you won’t be rushed out the door.
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Cakes & Ale
1F, 6B Cong Truong Quoc Te – Ho Con Rua
1st Floor, 6B Turtle Lake (International Square), Ward 6, District 3
Certainly not a traditional pub, Cakes & Ale offers exactly what it sounds like: delicate, intricate little cakes and gateaux and a choice between highly regarded (and ice-cold) Belgian and Dutch ales. The cake menu offers a spread for mouths in any mood, from tiramisu and flan to more out-there options like the Mango Panna Cotta and Passion Fruit Cheesecake, as well as a variety of cupcakes, milkshakes, juice blends, teas and mixed sodas.
The atmosphere is cozy and it’s easy to forget, amidst the vintage books, the cozy corner baking area and the smell of homemade cakes, that you haven’t been transported to a relative’s living room.
Mary Jane’s The Bar
85 Nguyen Huu Cau, District 1
When it comes to hiding, Mary Jane’s The Bar does it best. To get entry to this rooftop bar you’ll need to enter an office block, press “9” in the lift, and walk up two flights of stairs—a proper hidden bar entry experience if there ever were one.
This place is more about atmosphere than food, so eat elsewhere and come here for the drinks, shisha and electronic music. It’s the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset from, and the latticed plants make it feel secluded and intimate in a way that few other open-air bars do. Mary Jane’s The Bar is definitely a solid stop after a full day of exploring all of the things to do in Ho Chi Minh.
5 Tran Quy Khoach Street, W. Tan Dinh, District 1
Though not as hidden as others on this list, Kujuz is a gleefully original café experience that’ll make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon something exclusive. Found inside of a giant greenhouse that’s full of plants, Kujuz serves food and coffee as well as drinks, but that last one comes with a catch.
Customers are given free rein of the kitchen to mix their own concoctions (though you’ll be offered a recipe and some assistance if you want it), meaning you have the resources to blend and pour exactly the drink that you want.
It’s definitely a different experience than what you’d get at a regular bar, but you might be surprised by how much prowess you have with a couple of bottles at hand. Whether you choose to make your drink yourself or to get some help, there’s no doubt that you’ll lose a few hours relaxing in this secret garden.
58 c Tran Quoc Thao, District 3
Era Coffee is a frequent feature on lists of the best cafés in the city, and it’s easy to see why. With a strict “no laptop” policy and no signage in the window (look for the candlelight in the window to find the place), this hidden gem is the perfect spot to forget what era you’re in with a cocktail in your hand.
With full bookshelves and lit candlesticks set against cozy, stained glass lights, Era Coffee offers an opportunity to escape crowds of tourists and settle in with a notebook, some whisky, and a peace of mind.