Not the most attractive of conurbations at ground level, Saigon is transformed when viewed from an elevated perch. A growing contingent of skyscrapers – including the iconic Bitexco Tower – offer prime viewing opportunities, but the best venues to truly savour the city’s visual allure are its many rooftop bars.
Traditionally the majority of these venues were situated in the city’s luxury hotels and these remain highly popular with tourists and locals. In recent times, however, a host of independent lofty drinking dens have materialised. Most of these boast sleek, contemporary trappings (unlike the hotel bars which are mostly colonial in style) and cater to the city’s glamorous set.
The most famous rooftop bars can be found at three of the city’s most venerable hotels. The Caravelle on Lam Son Square makes great play of its history as the war hotel and its Saigon Saigon rooftop bar was a popular gathering place for thirsty correspondents during those turbulent years. Boasting an attractive dark wood interior complete with revolving ceiling fans the bar retains an evocative, old-word, atmosphere and its pricy cocktails are justly renowned.
Equally popular with those parched western journos during the war was the rooftop bar at the nearby Rex Hotel. More expansive and less refined than Saigon Saigon, it is nevertheless good, clean gaudy fun and the view, while less panoramic than some, is well worth witnessing.
The last of the great hotel rooftop bars is the M Bar at the Majestic Hotel. Slightly uncomfortable seating mars the experience somewhat, but the view over the Saigon River more than compensates. Also worth making for is the elevated bar at the Sheraton Hotel. The two for one happy hour deal here makes it a real favourite.
Glitzy and stylish, Cloud Nine is perhaps the hottest rooftop venue in the city at the moment. Situated just away from the thick of the action in District 3, the bar – located on the 6th and 7th floors of the Hai Nam office – features a striking wood and glass 1st floor with views over the city. An extensive and creative drinks list and a selection of tapas take care of libations while comfortable alcoves and a chilled soundtrack up the ante in the atmosphere stakes.
Similar, but more geared towards dining than drinking, is Shri. Situated at the peak of the Centec Tower, the sleek space offers a Japanese-themed menu and some of the most impressive views in town.