District 1 Travel Guide
The delirious pastiche of the former presidential palace, completed in 1966, calls to mind the lair of a Bond villain crossed with Austin Powers’s pad. Yes, this is where the National North Vietnamese Army crashed its tanks through the fence in April 1975 and effectively ended the war.
Stepping into L’Usine is a whole other sensory experience: the light-filled industrial space (polished concrete floors; exposed beams) holds a café, a gallery, and a bevy of casual-cool clothing labels—even a selection of vintage bikes.
What was once Vietnam’s hippest nightspot—in the mid-1990s pioneer days—has lost a bit of its edge: the new décor is too flashy, the lighting distracting, and the clientele more corporate than cool.
Specializing in Art Deco furniture (both reproduction and antique), this densely packed multistory shop may have a corny name but it’s been a favorite of expats looking to outfit their villas since it opened in 1998.
The shop's two rooms abound with perfectly curated antiques and Art Deco reproductions such as a sexy, low-slung mahogany club chair for just $400. If you fall for any of the tasteful settees, or can't live without an oversize glazed-ceramic lamp, the shop arranges shipping.
Peeling ocher walls, sun-bleached curtains, musty corridors, a fountain full of pond scum: Saigon’s oldest art museum is atmosphere incarnate, like Miss Havisham’s parlor gone tropical.
This friendly store—one of many similar cotton shops on Le Thanh Ton—ranks as one of the street’s best. The accommodating staff, which speaks halting but comprehensible English, will make simple embroidered cotton or linen sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, and napkins to your specifications.
Tucked away in the landmark Eden Mall, right off busy Dong Khoi Street, this centrally located sleek salon and spa is a favorite of well-heeled Saigonese.
Parents of little girls thank heaven for Than Thuy, an unassuming shop packed to the rafters with adorable gingham dresses with Peter Pan collars, plaid jumpers, and eyelet nightgowns—all meticulously embroidered, stitched, and smocked by hand.
The vintage ‘60s soundtrack (from the Fifth Dimension to the Shangri-Las), lengthy cocktail list, and fabulous skyline views from this sprawling ninth-floor terrace bar draw plenty of American tourists and expats.
Inspired by the sumptuous textiles, rich palettes, and hotels of the 1940s, owner-designer Lim Du Mihn stocks a well-curated and eclectic trove of French, Chinese, and Vietnamese Deco furniture and accessories, including outsize teak-framed mirrors, paneled screens, and low-slung armchairs.
Valerie Gregori McKenzie, a French clothing designer based in Saigon, sells her breezy resort wear (sundresses, tops, and sarongs in soft cotton, silk, and linen) and yoga separates at this pleasant and well-run boutique, which emphasizes ethical sourcing of fabrics.
Locating Villa Anupa, hidden down a slender lane off Le Thanh Ton Street, is a challenge; even harder is deciding which of Anupa Horvil's butter-soft leather bags should come home with you. Will it be the white hobo with tourmaline beading ($250)? Or the metallic-gray clutch ($160)?
Along with the Archbishop’s Residence, this ranks as perhaps the most graceful and visually arresting colonial building in Saigon, full of rococo flourish and wonderful wedding-cake detail.
Saigon’s main public market sells everything from dried spices and live chickens to cheap clothing and plasticware. And while it may be chaotic and crowded, it’s always entertaining to explore—and especially good for a quick snack from the many food vendors here.