Ho Chi Minh City loves to drink. At all times of day, on some corner of every district, alcohol is consumed in mass quantities. More often than not, this means beer splashing across red plastic tables as mountains of empty bottles grow on the asphalt below. However, beyond the sea of tiny chairs and stools, there’s a thriving scene of actual, physical saloons. With endless options, District 1 is the epicenter of Ho Chi Minh City’s bar scene. Here are downtown Saigon’s best watering holes.
Located a stone’s throw from the Bitexco Tower, Game ON is Saigon’s preeminent sports bar. This cavernous space, popular with Ho Chi Minh’s large expat community, is home to two dartboards, a pool table, a dozen TV screens, and two large projectors. The beer is very reasonably priced—40,000 VND (2 USD) for a Saigon Red—and the food is excellent. Game ON also plays host to stand-up comedy shows and one of the city’s best trivia games (Thursday Nights). Whether you’re trying to catch the Premier League, NFL, Monaco Grand Prix, or just spending a night out with friends, Game ON is a great pub in a great location.
High above the endless sprawl, on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Tower, the Eon Heli Bar offers the undisputed best views of Ho Chi Minh. Drinks here are a bit pricier than you’ll find elsewhere in the city, but no one comes here for the drinks. Honestly, no one comes here for the company either. It’s the view, the view, the view, and nothing but the view. Before you even order, take a few minutes and walk the full loop around the bar. Pause every so often to search for the Cambodian border, the mighty Mekong, or the East Sea. Stare out over the helipad and let it all soak in. With unparalleled views, no trip to Ho Chi Minh is complete without a stop in the Eon Heli Bar.
Perched nine floors above the madness of Bui Vien on the roof of the Duc Vuong Hotel, The View is a great place to observe the action and excitement seeping through the streets below. Beers and drinks here are much cheaper than other rooftop bars in Saigon, and the view’s superb. An abundance of green mixed with lots of exposed wood, brick, and stone in this garden in the sky sets the tone. This is one relaxing joint, great for escaping the concrete expanse below.
With Saigon experiencing a craft beer boom, this is one of the best places in town to sample the local brews. Malt is a lively mix of locals and expats, with dozens of different beers on tap. The centrally-located establishment has a shuffleboard table and two dart boards for the competitor in you. If that’s not your scene, head to the front patio and soak up the friendly atmosphere. Don’t miss the food menu—Malt has the best pastrami in town.
Rum Bar is a plastic chair experience like no other. Occupying the sidewalk just across from Malt, Rum Bar has, well, rum. Lots of it. In beat-up glass, a bottle of rum will set you back a whopping 7 USD. Mix in a coke or two, and you and your friends will have a night to remember—which you unfortunately won’t remember—for less than a cab ride to the airport. A fresh take on the plastic chair experience, Rum Bar is an incredibly fun way to dive head-first into Saigon’s drinking culture.
Donkey looms large in the heart of backpacker insanity. This three-story joint caters to a mostly younger crowd looking for a late night. The first floor is open to the street and a bit more quiet; it is a good place for a beer with friends. If you’re looking for the party, head on up the backstairs, and find your way to the chaotic dance floor. When that gets a bit too sweaty, make your way to the balcony and watch the absurdity below. Located in the very center of Bui Vien, Donkey has been a staple for travelers passing through Saigon for years.
A true Saigon dive, T & R is a filthy smoke-filled delight. Just off Bui Vien, this narrow den of depravity is set back from the street and can be a bit tough to find. However, once you make your way through the brick archway, you might not leave, at least not until you can see the sun. The crowd consists of travelers stopping through and salty old expats. This is the type of place where the truth never seems to get in the way of a good story. The beer is reasonably priced and the drinks could kill a horse. Stop by after midnight, suck up the second-hand smoke, and have a real Saigon experience.
Nestled down a meandering alleyway, past two other restaurants, Indika is one of Saigon’s hippest joints. The bar occupies the first floor of a colonial era building and plays host to any number of interesting events from reggae nights to a pop-up Tattoo Takeover. With good craft beer and a cozy garden-patio, Indika is an expat bar through and through.
Flamenco, sangria, and sombreros. In Saigon, Carmen is the place to go for all things Latino. This cheerful establishment has live music reverberating off the stone walls seven nights a week. Set back from the street in a Spanish villa, the owners have done a great job of creating an authentic look and feel. This is one happening joint, perfect for a night of dancing—just watch your head on the way in.
An intimate rooftop garden experience, Broma looks out onto Nguyen Hue, Ho Chi Minh’s walking street. This trendy joint caters toward expats and travelers and has some delicious, albeit pricey cocktails. The cozy, relaxed vibe paired with an advantageous central location makes Broma a great place for a night out with friends.