If you ever come across an Instagram picture of a big analog clock with the hashtag #somewhereinsaigon, Loft Café is where it’s at. To get here you need to enter an old colonial building on the corner of Ly Tu Trong and Dong Khoi street, walk past an art gallery – which also apparently serves as a motorbike parking spot – walk up some dirty unkempt spiral stairs, and voila! With good environment, good menu, and good service, this café checks every necessary box.
M2C stands for modern meets culture. This café is run by the same guys who are in charge of i.d café, so expect nothing short of fantastic here. The café – with its simple and tasteful artistic décor, antique furniture and brick walls – creates a wonderful artisan setting where people from all walks of life can meet and interact over a cup of delicious Vietnamese coffee. Located near the War Remnants Museum, it’s a good place to get away from the Vietnam heat and enjoy some food while waiting for the museum to open after lunch break.
Boo Coffee is located on the café apartment building that looms above the pedestrian street, locally known as Nguyen Hue. This complex is famous for having many cute boutique stores and themed cafes across its floors. Boo Coffee is one of them, and this café is known for its cute décor and fun menu, where the coffee comes in glasses that are shaped like skulls. Try the signature cotton candy coffee, topped with a comically large puff of cotton candy. Make sure you visit the café apartment building before it is demolished and replaced by a glass box.
The Note Cafe is located in the heart of the city, overlooking the popular backpacker street. It’s a tall, skinny, two-storey cafe with a spiralling staircase that leads you to a nice little open space upstairs to escape the madness that is Bui Vien Street. As the name suggests, you can leave cute little notes for future customers on the walls, and it’s also fun to read the ones left by travellers from around the world. A great place if you’re feeling down and need some anonymous words of encouragement. Try the egg coffee!
Padma De Fleur is a flower shop and café in one. This floral wilderness is located down an alleyway just a couple minutes’ walk from Ben Thanh Market. The set lunch menu changes every day — everything is homemade, and you have to take what you are given. Each set has a soup, a meat dish and vegetables, similar to a family meal in Vietnam. It’s a little like dining in someone’s private home and you will be surrounded by floral décor. There are only a few typical drinks available, too, such as Vietnamese coffee and tea. However odd that sounds, this venue is another hidden gem in Ho Chi Minh City’s alleyways.
If you are a coffee lover and really care about the cup you are being served, then Chat Coffee and Roasters & Bistro is where you need to go. Located down the same alleyway as Padma De Fleur, this café is easy to recognise by the coffee roasting equipment you see at the entrance. This café has a minimalist, rustic look to it due to the stainless steel, copper, and wooden decor that is complemented by the quiet alleyway. The menu is also rather delicious and slightly expensive, but as with the golden Ho Chi Minh City rule, you get what you pay for.
The Workshop is a contemporary loft café with wooden and brick décor, overhead hanging lamps, tall stools, and a giant specialty coffee bar in the centre that has tons of cool tools for baristas to craft their drinks with. The windows let in the perfect amount of natural light, creating a wonderful atmosphere for anyone, whether you are looking to work, read, or hang out with your friends. There is also a private space for business meetings – hence, the name – and a projector for presentations.
Cong Caphe aims to create a different feeling for visitors compared to The Workshop. Every piece of furniture, the art on the wall, flower pots, military décor and tableware, together with the dim lights and mellow music, all contribute towards creating a rustic, ’80s feeling. It is a popular chain throughout Vietnam, having locations in Da Nang, Hanoi, and Sapa in addition to Ho Chi Minh City. In District 1 itself there are two branches. Their signature iced coconut coffee is exceptional and a must-try.
Of course we had to include a cat café in this list for cat lovers. ICHI Cat Café is the best of its kind in Ho Chi Minh City, and for a small entrance fee of VND$40,000 (US$2.00), you can cuddle cats and play with them as you enjoy a cool drink. There are so many cats inside, of many different breeds, sizes, colours and personalities. Most of them are lazy, as cats usually are, and will probably come poke their head inside your handbag and then proceed to sleep next to it as you enjoy your coffee. All the cats are healthy, well-fed, and well taken care of. Bear in mind, there is no food on the menu, but you’ll be too distracted by all the fluff and whiskers to care.