Things to do in District 1
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.
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.
At this minimalist shop tucked under the Beaux-Arts Municipal Theater, graphic primary-color classics are reminiscent of Michael Kors; a crimson satin party dress with an exposed zipper is a steal for less than $100.
The white-on-white Modernist building that houses Gaya makes a dramatic first impression (yes, those are giant fountain-pen nibs on the façade). Inside, you'll find the best haute souvenirs in all of Saigon.
Housed in a restored colonial villa (next door to a former opium refinery) with a broad terrace overlooking a tree-shrouded courtyard, this louche hot spot is a hangout for the local beau monde. It’s perpetually jammed, especially on weekend nights, when live bands or DJs reign.
Racks of candy-colored Indo-chic dresses (from $120) fill the sleek pink-and-black space. Traditional Asian silhouettes are modernized and delivered in unusual fabrics such as houndstooth or nubby wool.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
Saigon’s largest selection of English-language books, travel guides, and magazines is also a good bet for postcards, maps, and hard-to-find international newspapers.
Since the “Five O’Clock Follies” (the U.S. military’s daily press briefings during the Vietnam War) were held downstairs, the rooftop garden—with its wacky Dr. Seussian topiary—became a beloved journo hangout, and remains an essential tourist stop to this day.
Owner-tastemaker Catherine Denoual’s shop in the towering Saigon Centre mall, features delicately embroidered sateen bed linens in rich chocolates, golds, and caramels, as well as perhaps the world's most decadent silk charmeuse robe ($185), for your inner Marlene Dietrich.