lifestyle • 13 Nov, 2017
A Guide to Saigon’s Ten Best Rooftop Bars
Check out our views from the top
Saigon is a city with a skyline on the incline. And as there are so many new rooftop bars, we thought it’s time to put together our authoritative top ten. And don’t worry. We all know the Internet’s littered with lazily written best-bar lists. But these places really are our favorite hangouts.
So, how did we do it? We went from the hidden to the high-end, from places to impress a date, to spots to show out-of-town guests the edgier side of this city. And we chose ‘rooftops’ over ‘skybars’ because, although the list includes both, some of our picks are resolutely low-rise like the three-floor Rogue Saigon.
Want to know where to go for vertigo? Then read on.
From the Chef and Founder, Peter Cuong Franklin, who likes to name things twice (as you’ll know if you visited his Hong Kong eatery ChomChom). The menu here is a love letter to his home town in the Vietnamese hills — from the black Da Lat tea in the gin-based Tra da to the Da Lat-style pizzas. “I call it ‘new’ Vietnamese cuisine,” Peter explains.
With their old market (food stalls outside open into the night) new kitchen concept, and with food served on all floors, it’s warming (literally) to find a bottle of Sriracha chilli sauce on every table. The superb staff are wonderfully welcoming, and the three-sixty views sensational. Take out-of-towners for Vietnamese flavors that even infuse the cocktails. Indulge in the most decadent dish in town, the $100 banh mi, with your nearest and dearest. Or take a chance with a Tinder date, safe in the knowledge that your nosey friends may not know this best-kept secret...yet.
The Crew: Already on the tourist trail but mostly in-the-know locals.
The Brew: Tra da with a twist — gin infused Da Lat black tea, honey, lime and soda. Alternatively, try the Phojito that cleverly combines rum, sugar, herbs and lime in their twist on the classic Mojito. Or sip a just-launched special like the Yuzu matcha with whiskey, premium imported matcha green tea, yuzu Japanese citrus, egg white, and pineapple (150,000VND).
High Point: Those three-sixty views that take in old and new and a cooly-created love-letter of a menu.
Address: 89 Ton That Dam, District 1
Opening time: 5:00PM - 00:00AM Tues-Sun (with a late kitchen till 11PM)
The grande dame of them all, Chill is still packed-out and probably the city’s best-known rooftop. Deceptively titled, Chill is, well, often decidedly not chill in the best ways possible (unless you decide to focus on the food in the Chill Dining space above).
In fact, Chill might better be described as a skybar and club, especially when MC Masta B’s getting hype on the bar top. And while we’re all aware that some skybars cut costs while hiking prices, Chill have always had a mixologist’s mindset, constantly cultivating creative new cocktails like the Wild Turkey infused Wild Saigon and the Mr Gentleman, with Gentleman Jack, vanilla, lime juice and cloves.
Plus they keep things fresh with high-grade entertainment from big-name international and local guest stars, like the recent team-up with the Buddha-Bar, that infused both the food and the booth — as they invited Parisienne party legend DJ Ravin to play a set.
The Crew: Diverse — from local celebrities to just-arrived tourists.
The Brew: It has to be the Wild Saigon Cocktail with Wild Turkey 101, smoked whiskey, cinnamon syrup, lemon and pineapple juice, with spice added by hot pepper tincture.
High Point: We really are high now, on the 25th floor of AB Tower. But it’s an easy elevator ride up from Sorae’s superior sushi on the floor below, and creative Cantonese kitchen San Fu Lou on the ground floor.
The View: The brightly-lit Bitexo tower and nearby skybars.
Address: 26 & 27th Floor Rooftop, AB Tower, 76A Le Lai, District 2
Opening time: 5:30PM - 2:00AM daily
With events at District 2’s Outcast packed out and a city in thrall to craft beer it made sense for owner Linh Nguyen to set up this spot at the bottom of Pasteur last August. There are something like 20 beers on tap served in sizes from 195ml to 500ml and 12 bottled beers. “We’re phasing out international bottled and tap beers to focus on Vietnamese products,” Manager Joshua tells us, “and we created our own craft beers this summer.”
They also recently launched a limited all-classic cocktail menu too whipping us up a perfect Whiskey sour. Now doing wine by the bottle and by the glass, it’s no longer only for crews who like to get crafty. And the entertainment is eclectic, with mid-week jam nights, and weekend sessions that’ll have you beaming to balearic, funk, soul and hip hop.
The Crew: In-town Outcasts.
The Brew: Dive into the diverse selection of craft beers with a sample serving of six (for 260,000VND).
High Point: Knowledgeable staff and a cool location concoct the perfect after-work or Sunday-hangover-cure spot.
The View: Not much to see at this height, but these streets take us back to 60s Saigon, and trees overhang enigmatically from Pasteur Street.
Address: 2nd Floor, 13 Pasteur, District 1
Opening time: 4:00PM - 0:00AM Sun-Thu, 4:00PM - 2:00AM Fri-Sat
A ‘sky lounge with dining’, Sohy is a new destination on the city’s map, even though guests have been gravitating to the same building for Shri’s excellent mix of drinks and dining for some time on the floor below. A multi-venue space, Sohy has a sky lounge, a dining area, a cigar room and champagne garden.
Their cocktails are art pieces (we mean you Dusk, with your sweetly citrus mix of bourbon, orange ginger jam, honey, lime and thyme). There’s a sensational sound system. One of the best stocked bars in the city. And bartenders with some of the biggest smiles around. And it’s all as sleekly stylish as you’d expect from Shri’s noisy neighbor.
They’ve been foregrounding events lately, with frequent networking nights, the Sunset Lam fashion show, and regular guest DJs. And we’d better end the debate right here, it’s pronounced ‘so-high’.
The Crew: Corporate crews, visitors from Shri and next door’s Social Club at the Hotel Des Arts, and diners from across town looking for an after-dinner dance.
The Brew: Besides the tangy Dusk, the Eden is tastily tropical with Flor Da Cana Rum, coconut syrup, mango, lime and pineapple brulee bitters; plus there’s a long list of bubblingly-brilliant sparkling cocktails.
High Point: The smiling service and the menu of creative cocktails.
Address: 72 -74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1
Opening time: 5:30PM - 3:00AM daily
A surprise find, Tropicana is District 2’s only rooftop bar. It’s perfect for residents too lazy to leave Thao Dien. But this place is passionate enough about live music to lure visitors over from across town too.
The place brings us live Latin music, and sounds of the Caribbean — with Hem-Hem’s Skapicana nights — and DJs dropping by to tell some late night tales, like Jonathan from Belgium. We should add, stories of spectacular views from Nam Anh’s 9th floor are true. And there’s outside seating and an inside area with a stage and bar area. And expanding views of that inflating skyline.
The Crew: District 2 residents resisting the bright lights of District 1 and Latin music lovers.
The Brew: From a range of Latin America-themed cocktails try the Copacabana with white rum, creme de banana, Aperol, and champagne (150,000VND).
High Point: You can’t help smiling stepping out of the elevator of this commercial residential building to find this tropical paradise.
The View: Mostly low-rise but changing fast as developments around District 2 scale new heights like the soon-to-be-completed tallest building in Vietnam, Vincom Landmark 81.
Address: 41 Street 41, Thao Dien, District 2
Opening time: 5:00PM - 2:30AM Tue-Thu & Sun, 5:00PM - 4:00AM Fri-Sat
It’s appropriate for a place so breezy to blow new life into the Saigon rooftop bar scene when it opened two years ago. From the beginning, it had a greater focus on the music than its competitors with its commercial but well-curated tracklist packing out Glow every night.
A dramatic flight of stairs takes you up to the space with seats and sofas arranged around a big central bar. “We’re mixing it up with electro swing and latin house nights, and some live electric saxophone on Friday’s,” Head of Entertainment Doru Tudose tells us. There are light bites like the rosemary accented garlic and chilli Shrimp Gambas. And downstairs is the newly renovated club, Play, if you need a change of scenery.
The Crew: Business-people, well-heeled tourists and lots of party-seeking Saigoners.
The Brew: Grab a sofa package, starting from just 5 million VND, with any two bottles from a choice of champagne, vodka, cognac, and whiskey.
High Point: Taking a photo laid inside the ‘o’ of the oversized letters that spell the name Glow at the top of the stairs.
The View: Up-close District 1 with the Bitexo on one side and AB Tower on the other.
Address: 93 Nguyen Du, District 1
Opening time: 5:00PM - 3:00AM daily
Broma is warmly remembered for the bacchanalian barn dances of a few years ago that went off in the downstairs space. But as guests started gravitating towards the gentrifying skyline, Broma quickly became the city’s best-loved low-rise rooftop.
These days it’s spread across the surrounding buildings, a sign of owner Austin Dinh’s endless energy for getting things right. And it might have been the first place to start shaking local culture into its cocktails, with drinks like the spicy sugar-cane-spirited Rum Bo Hue. With live bands, jam nights and jazz, and DJ sessions it’s great any night of the week.
The Crew: An eclectic cross-section of Vietnamese, international residents and tourists tripping in off Nguyen Hue.
The Brew: A taste of Vietnam in the Rum Bo Hue (modeled on the central Vietnamese noodle dish, Bun Bo Hue).
High Point: A great soundtrack but still lots of space to chill and chat.
The View: Right beneath the Bitexo Tower, with views down to the river, it’s the festive celebration spot and only a flight of stairs (or two) up from Saigon’s main pedestrian thoroughfare Nguyen Hue.
Address: 41 Nguyen Hue, District 1.
Opening time: 5:00PM - 2:00AM Sun-Thu, 5:00PM - 3:00AM Fri-Sat
Broma’s bolder (and taller) brother, The Lighthouse has the same sprawling self-confidence. Hidden corners, hushed lighting, a swing, a cinematically suspended disco ball, some seriously good music, and no neighbours means the opening hours often extend until late.
This place on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, already celebrating its first birthday, draws a more discerning crew of party people for deep dark techno nights like The Dark Side, crew nights with local legends like Youss, Sweet B and Dimitri, Spank Thursdays with ‘nothing but the dirtiest underground house’ and GooseBumps with Benjamin Lopez and Nouch.
The Crew: Edgier and international.
The Brew: The cocktail tribute to Long Island’s Montauk Lighthouse contains cachaca, rosemary syrup, lime, D.O.M., Cointreau, and spiced Vermouth (for 190,000 VND), which you can pair with their small plate pintxos menu (starting end of July)
High Point: All those corners to go curl up in with a cocktail once the dancing’s done.
The View: Great street views of traffic flowing away past Benh Thanh market on Le Thanh Ton. You can also play spot the skybar on the building tops that surround.
Address: 6th Floor, 104 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1
Opening time: 10:00AM - 2:00AM Tue-Thu & Sun, 10:00AM - 5:00AM Fri-Sat
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Social Club Saigon
There was an instant buzz when the Accor Group’s MGallery announced they were setting up in Saigon. After all, they’re the chain behind our other favourite places, like Bangkok’s Muse, La Residence in Hue, and Phu Quoc’s La Veranda. Justifying the hype the Hotel des Arts duly claimed the title of the region’s ‘Luxury Business Hotel of the Year’ at the 2016 World Luxury Hotel Awards.
They promise “a journey back in time to French colonial Vietnam”, but for now we’re more interested in the trip to the top of the building to the Social Club, designed by super-cool Super Potato from Japan. The downstairs restaurant and bar connects to the small but stylish rooftop (and the only-open-to-guests infinity pool), and there’s a champagne list for this sparkling setting, tasty small-plates of tapas and culinary creations from French chef Anne-Cécile Degenne, a famous Sunday Brunch, and even a selection of Cuban cigars.
The Crew: Hotel guests, international MGallery fans, and discerning locals.
The Brew: Grab a glass (or even better a bottle) of well-priced Veuve Clicquot champagne.
High Point: Take a tippy toe across the glass ‘skybridge’ to Shri and SoHy over in Centec Tower … but don’t look down.
The View: Back down Hai Ba Trung towards the skyscrapers of District 1 and the river.
Address: 23 & 24th Floor, Hotel des Arts Saigon, 76-78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1
Opening time: 5:00PM - 2:00AM daily
We’ve got warm but hazy memories of taking in the Victoria Harbour views from Hong Kong’s Upper House. So Upper Saigon’s name appealed instantly.
A sign of our city’s expansion, this bar has taken the risk of opening up near the intersection of Dien Bien Phu and Cach Mang Thang Tam in (for denizens of District 1) far-flung District 3. This Upper’s styled itself as a ‘top-grade American grill’ with a menu of ‘iconic dishes such as tacos, ribs, wings and burgers’. The funky wall murals, table football, and nightly DJ shifts up here on the sixteenth floor easily justify the short ride over.
The Crew: Stress-relieving office workers and a growing crowd of party people as the evening goes on.
The Brew: We grab a glass of house white (for 110,000VND) and a Midori margarita (120,000VND) from the long classic cocktail list.
High Point: The cool décor and big open windows that bring the breeze.
The View: Endless views along Dien Bien Phu.
Address: 308 Dien Bien Phu, District 3
Opening time: 5:00PM - 1:00AM Tue-Thu & Sun, 5:00PM - 3:00AM Fri-Sat
Words by David Kaye