Things to do in District 1
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.
Every expat in town eventually winds up on Pacharan’s fourth-floor terrace (directly opposite the Park Hyatt hotel) for wine, sangria, and reliably good tapas on weekend nights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Irony comes to Ho Chi Minh City at this perfectly named boutique that trades in Socialist-themed ephemera: Communist Party T-shirts, Uncle Ho coffee mugs, key-chains emblazoned with NVA tanks, and more.
Bespoke couturier Nguyen Cong Tri fashions runway-worthy satin and silk frocks at ready-to-wear prices (a floaty, turquoise chiffon dress for under $300). But don't expect a quick turnaround: it will take up to 10 days and a couple of fittings (shipping is available).
The fabulously embellished, often downright zany handbags of Hong Kong native and Hanoi resident Christina Yu are sold in Paris and London at three times the price; here you’ll find her latest designs as well as a small selection of shoes and costume jewelry.
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.
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.
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.
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.