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The First Timer’s Guide to Ho Chi Minh City – 48 hours in Saigon

A version of this post originally appeared on HotelQuickly.

Đọc bằng Tiếng Việt.

As a Hanoian who recently relocated to Ho Chi Minh City, I need slow, relaxing weekends to recover from this city’s hasty rhythm and non-stop action. Here’s the staycation routine that I turn to when I want to recuperate while not missing any adventure.

Discover the best brunch spots, boutique hotels and after-dark activities in Ho Chi Minh City through the eyes of a local.

Saturday

10:00 am | Brunch with a view

 

A photo posted by Ella Tran (@ellatran_) on

This restaurant is the perfect place to start your weekend. Looking over the ‘April 30th’ park and central streets of Saigon, Au Parc creates a welcoming atmosphere with natural sunlight. Here, you can enjoy classic eggs Benedict with mimosas. The well-cushioned armchairs will put you in a relaxing mood. It’s also just footsteps away from the Cathedral and Presidential Place.

Address: Au Parc Restaurant, 23 Hàn Thuyên, District 1

02:00 pm | Shop Local

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Flea markets have become a phenomenon in Vietnam, with dozens popping up in major cities. Hello Weekend Market caters to a young crowd. It’s always packed like sardines but it’s the perfect place to get a glimpse of the local way of life. Plus, you can always find something to buy. The merchandise ranges from locally designed clothes to imported cosmetics to home decor. Stand owners are usually twenty-something entrepreneurs with impeccable taste and style. This place is a haven for those who want to shop locally and find unique gems.

Address: Hello Weekend Market, Hoa Lư Stadium, 2 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, District 1

07:00 pm | Central Vietnamese Cuisine & French Pastries

Đông Phố is a popular joint for Vietnamese families to gather on weekends. The restaurant serves a peculiar combination of authentic central Vietnamese cuisine and French pastries. However, it works. After a meal of Bún Bò Huế soup and assorted fresh rolls, you can enjoy mint rose macaroons and a cup of espresso. The decor is elegant and high-end but the prices are affordable. The outdoor lightning will also set the mood for the night.

Address: Đông Phố Restaurant, 57 Hồ Xuân Hương, District 3

10:00 pm | Drinks with Celebs

hotel des arts

(photo by @m1schler) 

Hotel Des Arts – MGallery is currently the place to be seen in Saigon, with a trendy crowd and a steady influx of local celebs. Despite the glamorous outlook, the ambiance is down-to-earth. The rooftop, the pool and the electro music puts everyone in a friendly mood. It’s easy to strike up conversations with your neighbors. The view of the skyline is also spectacular. Somehow, Hotel Des Arts can infuse a mix of bustling energy and relaxing conversations. Bonus: Drinks are half the price (about VND 120,000) of other high-end hotels in town.

Address: Hotel Des Arts, MGallery Saigon, 76-78 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, District 1

SUNDAY

08:00 am | Breakfast in Bed

A photo posted by Ella Tran (@ellatran_) on


I Am Vietnam Hotel is a rare find, far away from the center, and perfect for those who want a “staycation” or less-touristy experience of Saigon. I discovered the hotel through the HotelQuickly app. It’s decorated like an apartment, giving you a familiar sense of home and equipped with a kitchen so you can cook with your significant other. Still, the experience feels like a vacation: The staff serve you fresh ginger green tea upon check-in and bring a full breakfast to your bed – all without any extra charge.

Address: I AM Vietnam Hotel 30/57B Nguyen Cuu Van Street, Ward 17, District Binh Thanh
(You can use my HotelQuickly code: ETRAN12 for 200,000 VND off at any hotel) 

03:00 pm| Korean Spa

I couldn’t believe I could find such a well-equipped and authentic Korean “Jjimjilbang” bathhouse in Vietnam. First, you will alternate between sauna/steambath and cold bath to sweat out all the toxins. Afterward, you will get dressed and join the common areas, where you experience different types of caves such as volcanic rock room, Himalaya salt room, or icy igloos. This is usually a fun activity to do with a group of friends. You can also order delicious fermented rice drinks and have a full Korean dinner. After spending a couple hours lost in Golden Lotus Spa, all your stress will definitely go away.

Address: Golden Lotus Healing Land Spa, 139 Tôn Dật Tiên, District 7

08:00 pm | Night Walk

To finish off the weekend and enjoy the after-spa glow, I usually walk along the Starlight Bridge — named so because it lights up in rainbow colors throughout the night. This area has lots of open spaces so it’s perfect to unwind. District 7 is usually empty of tourists so I can fully immerse into a local experience.

Address: Starlight Bridge or Cầu Ánh Sao, District 7

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