As Ho Chi Minh city continues on the path toward westernization the city has seen an influx of artistically minded expats. Attracted by a low cost of living and inspired in no small part by a diverse and beautiful country, this increasingly vibrant creative community has set down roots in districts across the city.
Smack dab in the center of Saigon, District 1 is home to the vast majority of the city’s art museums and galleries. Nguyen Hue, Ho Chi Minh’s walking street, features more street artists than any other area of the city. Those who enjoy performance arts can visit the centrally located Saigon Opera House. Set in a stunning French colonial building, it’s one of the city’s grandest pieces of architecture. Although rents may be higher in this part of the city, the number of shared artistic spaces and studios is growing every day.
Saigon’s most Western district may also be its hippest. District 2, more specifically the Thao Dien neighborhood of District 2, is home to an eclectic mix of studios, cafes, bars, and outdoor spaces that embrace and embody youthful creativity. Saigon Outcast, one part bar, one part local art show, one part rock wall, and one part live music venue has been at the backbone of Thao Dien’s creative culture since its inception in 2012. Just down the street, the Factory Contemporary Arts Center has quickly grown into one of Saigon’s most interesting and dynamic galleries.
District 3 is much quieter, shadier, and calmer than the madness in central Saigon. It also happens to be an up-and-coming neighborhood with the city’s artistic types. A number of live music venues lie hidden down leafy alleyways, playing host to some of Saigon’s youngest and most fun musicians. Among these, Acoustic Bar and Yoko have done wonders in nurturing a creative environment that has spread throughout the district.
Few districts have been able to maintain their authentic charm while supporting rapid modernization the way Binh Thanh has. Trendy cafes and bars sit next to generation old pho or banh mi joints. Located just over the bridge from District 1, this is as exciting a place as you can find in the city. For creatives, Toa Tau offers some of best workshops, seminars, and classes around. For those looking to take things a step farther, the district is also home to HCMC’s Fine Arts University.