Sandalwood flooring, leather armchairs, and black walls sporting a library of wine bottles; Den Bar is an old-school alternative to Hoan Kiem’s generally characterless selection of watering holes.

Situated at the corner of Mac Thi Buoi and Phan Van Dat, on the location once occupied by Seoul House, Soi & Meo Taproom is a hangout opened just after Tet. To explain the name Soi & Meo (wolf and cat), Quynh, the bar manager, says: “It’s inspired by America, where animals are used to name their bars.”

Something feels different upon stepping inside Layla for the first time that sets it apart from other cocktail bars in the same category around Saigon. It could be the floor-to-ceiling windows that bookend the space and allow the last of the fading afternoon light to filter in before the sun dips behind the buildings along Dong Khoi Street below.

At the foot of Hanoi Creative City, Bia-Khu 9 is a ramped up, bia hoi style restaurant and bar, with a huge Vietnamese food menu, and lots of beer.

You are struck by the scale of the place as soon as you walk up the small staircase into East West. It’s a grand arena, and the lofty ceilings match its impressive ambition. The trick is to make the large space inviting without being intimidating, and East West have pulled it off.

 

Think Hawaii, and then think Hanoi… sort of somewhere in the middle of that.

You are reminded of the age of this place when you travel up to the 5th floor of the Majestic Hotel in quite possibly the smallest elevator in Ho Chi Minh City. Its wooden panelling gives the illusion of stepping into a time machine — back to when Ho Chi Minh City was still Saigon, and Dong Khoi was the Rue Catinat. But when you walk onto The Breeze Sky Bar it’s an airy space, with plenty of space befitting of the bar’s name.

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