Vibrant Cafe Apartment in Ho Chi Minh City
Floor after floor, you walk up the building as if you’re exploring an old alley. In a battered apartment building from the 1960s, cafes, shops, and restaurants have nested, forming an eclectic mix of commercial and residential units. It is called the “Cafe Apartment.”
The building with a unique name of “Cafe Apartment” was originally built in the early 1960s for residential purposes. Nguyen Hue walking street where the building is situated gets always crowded with tourists trying to get to the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City Hall, constructed during the French colonial era, and the Ho Chi Minh Statue at the end of the street. Like most other urban plazas, the city’s big and small events are often held there. It also serves as a resting place in the city, away from all the hustle and bustle of busy traffic in downtown.
카페 아파트먼트

Cafe Apartment

Treasure Hunt in Narrow Hallway
When you look up, enjoying the cityscape of Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll soon find a colorful building that stands out among others. It’s the Cafe Apartment decked with commercial signs and neon lights. You might get lost trying to find the entrance to the building. It’s not the entrance to the bookstore in the center of the ground level, but a dingy doorway in the left corner. From there you walk past the parked motorcycles, and will soon find an elevator and stairs. As you slowly walk in the creaky hallway showing the trace of time, you’ll soon find yourself busy taking photographs of unique and unfamiliar views. To the unknown, yet friendly and cramped, yet most Vietnamese place, we go.
카페 아파트먼트 입구 © 안지나

Entrance to Cafe Apartment © Ahn Jina

건물 안으로 들어서면 보게 되는 풍경 © 안지나

View from the inside of the building © Ahn Jina

History of Cafe Apartment
Taking the stairs from the ground level is okay, but considering the hot and humid weather, it is wiser to take the elevator. We paid the old man guarding the entrance 3,000 dong, about 150 Korean won, to get off on the 9th floor. Your elevator fee will be reimbursed if you use cafe or restaurant services. Since you’re on the top floor, you can take the stairs downwards, checking out places on each floor. From the worn, well-trodden steps to the walls showing the trace of time, you can guess how long the structure must have been in that spot, looking down at the plaza.
건물 곳곳 세월의 흔적이 느껴진다. © 안지나

건물 곳곳 세월의 흔적이 느껴진다. © 안지나

건물 곳곳 세월의 흔적이 느껴진다. © 안지나

At many different corners of the building, there are signs of the passage of time. © Ahn Jina

The Cafe Apartment building was constructed in the early 1960s. Before 1975, it used to be government housing provided to high-ranking officials in South Vietnam. At a glance, the Cafe Apartment may look like a commercial space, but the original design was intended to be residential. However, its location in the center of downtown Ho Chi Minh City and the great view from its units prompted its owners to rent out their houses to make money, resulting in the present Cafe Apartment. There are critics who are against commercialization, and some business owners have been warned by the government with a suspension of business. Considering how urban spaces tend to transform in developing countries with a growing demand for taller buildings, we don’t know when the Cafe Apartment will disappear into history.
카페 아파트먼트 건물에서 바라본 거리 풍경 © 안지나

Streets as seen from Cafe Apartment © Ahn Jina

Exploring Cafe Apartment
Getting off the cramped elevator, a narrow hallway stretches horizontally before you. Walking around with curiosity, you can see the buildings in the vicinity thanks to the windowless aisle structure of the Cafe Apartment. From an urban scene of modern high-rises and luxurious hotels to a glimpse into the lives of local people, such as hanging laundry on the rooftop, even without stopping by one of the shops at the Cafe Apartment, you can have a good travel experience by simply taking a walking tour of the building. If you chose the Cafe Apartment to find shelter from the heat or from exhaustion, you can have some unique, unexpected experiences. Here are the best ways to explore the Cafe Apartment.
카페 아파트먼트 © 안지나

카페 아파트먼트 © 안지나

카페 아파트먼트 © 안지나

Cafe Apartment © Ahn Jina

1. Souvenir Shop For Lasting Memories of Trip
The building has fancy little clothing shops on every floor, but tourists naturally seek unique Ho Chi Minh-style items. The E.Y.E Saigon takes custom orders for printing whatever phrase, graphic, or photo you might have on t-shirts and eco bags. It takes a couple of days for customizing. They also have on display diverse eco bags designed by the studio. It has bags and accessories made of Rattan or yarn, offering a great selection for gift shoppers.
더 아이 사이공의 다양한 에코백 © 안지나

Many types of eco bags at The E.Y.E Saigon © Ahn Jina

라탄과 털실로 만든 가방 © 안지나

Bag made of Rattan and yarn © Ahn Jina

Following the trace of a fresh scent we were drawn to, we stepped into NauNau DIY Studio. It’s a shop specializing in essential oils, perfumes, and cosmetics made with fair-traded natural ingredients. If you make an online booking before visiting the shop, you can concoct your own mix. Instead of common travel souvenirs, try making your own perfume to soothe your tired body and soul, using rice grown in Mekong, cinnamon oil collected from a Vietnamese jungle, and coffee beans from Bao Loc area.
나우나우 DIY 스튜디오 © 안지나

나우나우 DIY 스튜디오 © 안지나

NauNau DIY Studio © Ahn Jina

• The E.Y.E Saigon 4th floor, 42 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
• NauNau DIY Studio 5th floor, 42 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
2. Plateful of Saigonese Charm
You most definitely need to recharge your sugar level to beat the sweltering heat and intense sunlight of Vietnam. The smell of freshly-baked bread drew us to Dosh, a cafe with charming decorations. Their famous donuts of unique shapes are directly baked in the corner kitchen of the space. Dosh is a popular spot for Ho Chi Minh citizens, who like hip, trendy things. Their milkshake and donut combo is a must-try as the fluffy texture of their donut is famous.
도시 © 안지나

도시 © 안지나

Dosh © Ahn Jina

If you feel hungry after looking around the Cafe Apartment, we recommend you head to this place without hesitation. Poke Saigon reinterprets Hawaiian cuisine “poke,” sliced shrimp, salmon, or tuna sashimi placed on salad or rice, into a Vietnamese-style dish. You can choose your own toppings for a customized poke. We recommend “Saigonese” offering shrimps and fresh local vegetables and “Californian” adding spicy mayonnaise sauce to the salmon and veggie combo.
포케 사이공 © 안지나

포케 사이공 © 안지나

Poke Saigon © Ahn Jina

• Dosh 3rd floor, 42 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
• Poke Saigon 2nd floor, 42 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
3. Views of Ho Chi Minh Skyline and Plaza
One of the goals of those visiting the Cafe Apartment is to check out the famous plaza view that cafes here offer. That’s why tourists refuse to sit indoors where the air conditioner is available but head to the terrace seats. The terrace spaces of the building are perfect for enjoying the sight of a long stretch of the walking street and the skyline of the surrounding areas. After 5pm, you can see the poignantly red sunset and the busy plaza. 
사이공 어이의 내부 전경 © 안지나

Inside Saigon Ơi © Ahn Jina

사이공 어이 © 안지나

Saigon Ơi © Ahn Jina

부이하우스 © 안지나

Buihaus © Ahn Jina

Saigon Ơi is a cafe featuring the so-called “planterior” for the ambience of a small garden. By placing hanging plants on the terrace, they created a unique view. Cafe Buihaus sits on a relatively high 7th floor, giving its customers a bit more thrill looking down and a better vantage point to see Bitexco Financial Tower, the tallest building in the vicinity. Relaxing on a terrace seat with sipping sweet Vietnamese coffee and savoring a moment of tranquility the trip has given to you will be quite nice.

• Saigon Ơi 5th floor, 42 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
• Buihaus 7th floor, 42 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City



Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: LOTTE LEGEND HOTEL SAIGON
LOTTE LEGEND HOTEL SAIGON is located right off the Saigon River, and has beautiful river views from guest rooms. The hotel offers various dining options including Atrium Cafe, a buffet restaurant where the monthly menu-change lets you taste diverse Eastern and Western dishes, world-renowned Asian restaurant Crystal Jade Palace, and Yoshino, a Japanese restaurant with authentic Japanese cuisine. In addition, the hotel has the biggest outdoor swimming pool in Ho Chi Minh City and other facilities including a state-of-the-art fitness club and a sauna to meet the needs of guests on a trip.
Address 2A-4A Ton Duc Thang Street District 1, Ho Chi Minh
Inquiry +84-28-3823-3333
January 2020 Editor:Kim Hyewon
Writer:Ahn Jina

Where to stay?

  • January 2020
  • Editor: Kim Hyewon
    Writer: Ahn Jina
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