Among the many interesting architectural sights on Ho Chi Minh City’s Nguyen Hue Walking Street, the cafe apartment at No.42 certainly stands out as one of the more unique. Let’s explore the cafes, workshops and boutique fashions of this famous Saigon landmark.
Changing times at the cafe apartment
Built in the mid 1960s, the apartment block at 42 Nguyen Hue has seen many changes. It once held American military officers and high ranking officials working for the South Vietnam government. After the Fall of Saigon, however, some of the apartments were given to shipyard workers. As the city developed and construction changed Nguyen Hue to what it is today – a center of tourism – the tenants began renting out their apartments. It was illegal, but people did it anyway, and that is why there are so many shops in this apartment building. Unfortunately, the law is pushing back. Notices of eviction for all the businesses make the news regularly. They’re still open, but nobody knows for how long.
Because this building was originally an apartment block, the layout isn’t what you would expect for normal commercial use. The entrance to the upper floors is on the left of Fahasa, a well-known chain of book stores. If you’re looking for maps, newspapers, magazines or a book to read, this is a good place to check out. There is staircase that will take you every floor, or you can pay a fee of 3,000vnd ($0.13 USD) to use the elevator. Most shops and cafes will refund the elevator fee on your bill. Parking is available next door at Lucky Plaza.
As you climb the floors, you’ll see signs and menus for the various cafes and shops. Each business faces Nguyen Hue Walking Street, but the entrances are on the backside of the building, where the staircase and elevator are. There is no set layout for the floors, so you may need to explore for a while before you find what you’re looking for. A good trick is to find the cafe or business you want to visit before you head into the building, while you’re still outside looking at it from the street. That way you’ll already have an idea of where to go.
There are over 30 business inside 42 Nguyen, as well as apartments for longtime residents. Tea and coffee addicts will find plenty of wonderful spots to watch the scenery on Nguyen Hue. We’ve included some of the more popular places below. Now, if you’re into fashion, then you’ll just have to explore on your own, because there are too many places and styles in this building to list them all – but that’s part of the fun.
Tea lovers should definitely head to Partea on the fourth floor. This English style tea house is popular among young Vietnamese because of their attention to detail and unique style. You’ll find all your favorite blends in stock, as well some wonderful new creations that you’ve probably never had before.
The Maker, which is on the third floor, is one of the more popular cafes in the building and sells itself as a creative workspace for office workers and digital nomads. With great food, drinks and even some quirky jewellery options, you really can’t go wrong spending a few relaxing hours in this welcoming cafe.
Another attractive option for artsy caffeine lovers in 42 Nguyen Hue is Saigon Ơi on the fifth floor. It has snacks, juices, salads and an earthy decor that makes you feel right at home. If the heat outside is getting to you, be sure to try one of their iced drinks to cool off as you enjoy the wonderful views from their balcony.