How do you quench a thirst in unrelenting tropical heat and humidity? The Saigonese, residents of Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, have the perfect remedy: coffee - iced, cold brewed, filtered, you name it. Coffee is what Saigonese run on to not only beat back the climate but keep the city’s energy going. Throughout the day and even late into the night, Saigon’s coffee shop scenes are a whole subculture. Guaranteed, within an 800-metre radius, there will be at least one (if not a minimum of two) coffee shop. Now, while you can drink at any coffee shop in Saigon (or even the awesome street vendors), those in the know have long kept the hidden coffee shops of Saigon a treasured secret to themselves. So, in a city where good coffee is on every corner, what is the appeal of these places? Well, they just have extra charm, more mystery, and a thrill to discover and go to these elusive hotspots. And as a Saigon resident, I am here to spill to you the secrets to some of the best-hidden ones.
This is by no means an exhaustive list - just the ones that have lasted the test of time (as new coffee shops are always springing up in Saigon) for you to enjoy. Since I live in Saigon’s District 1, these are secret favourites mostly from my neighbourhood.
Address: 122 Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Charming is what comes to mind when you step inside Okkio after climbing its precarious maroon iron-swirl stairwell. The aroma of its coffee greets you as soon as you open the door to an oasis of cool turquoise tiles, leafy plants and light jazz music. My go-to order? I usually drink their creative signature lattes which rotate throughout the season with flavours like ice banana latte and almond latte. There is a cosy backroom with seductive red seatings for you to hide away or tables along the window to look out into the city’s bustle below. Okkio also supports LGBT and local artists, from photographers to illustrators, so along with great coffee, there is also usually a display of some wonderful pieces. Vegan or just enjoy non-dairy milk? Okkio has oat milk (from Oatly, of course) that you can request to be used to make your drinks at no extra charge.
Okkio, Hồ Chí Minh City122 Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
The Old Compass Cafe and Bar
Address: 63/11 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
This coffee house is located in a derelict building where you will have to walk down a narrow alleyway of yummy street food vendors to get into. Once inside, you will be teleported to a Saigon of days past, with hints of French colonial architecture alongside a variety of coffee classics. I love sitting by the bar in the back, where there is a stash of books that the coffee shop has collected over the years. The books range from stories about Saigon to photography coffee table books on Vietnam. The Old Compass Cafe and Bar also host a lot of cultural events that showcase local authors, artists and photographers based in Saigon. So if you are in town for these talks, definitely attend to get to know the budding creative scene of Saigon!
The Old Compass Cafe and Bar, Hồ Chí Minh City63/11 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Rang Rang Coffee - Hồ Tùng Mậu
Address: 25 Đ. Hồ Tùng Mậu, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
This coffee shop in Saigon is easy to miss since it is well hidden inside a nondescript building. The first time I actually circled the block to try to find the entrance! But once you discover it, you will be surprised, just like I was, at how huge it is - taking up an entire floor of the building with an outdoor area that has a tree in the middle. Inside the coffee shop, the use of sleek metal, and steel surfaces, gives off a well-design industrial look that compliments the exposed brick corners. What I also love about Rang Rang Coffee is the selection of cold brews they have as well as a variety of pastries that complement each sip. One of the most Instagrammable places in Saigon? Whether it is the terrace views of the Bitexco Financial tower or their Brooklyn-inspired interior design, you bet it is photogenic.
Rang Rang Coffee - Hồ Tùng Mậu, Hồ Chí Minh City25 Đ. Hồ Tùng Mậu, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
The Workshop Coffee
Address: 27 Ngô Đức Kế, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Walking into the building will take you back to the heyday of the French industrial revolution transforming the once small fishing village of Saigon. Red-brick chipped walls, iron-wrought stairwells, and gigantic factory-like windows will lead you to the Workshop Coffee. Working remotely or from a cafe? The name lives up to the place as the workshop cafe with designated tables for you to type away. If you come early, you can nab a table by the windowsill - my favourite spot in the house is the one in the corner, where you can look out at the glorious well-preserved French colonial architecture of Hotel Grand Saigon. The Workshop Coffee is one of the best coffee houses in town that offers a variety of coffee - so this is where you can try chemex, V60 pour-over, and more.
The Workshop Coffee, Hồ Chí Minh City27 Ngô Đức Kế, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Address: 10 Phan Kế Bính, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000, Vietnam
A book lover’s dream is a floor-to-ceiling library space stacked to the brim with books. Add a climbable ladder to that bookshelf, and one may never want to leave. Soo Kafe created a space just for that, where you can pluck any book from its shelves and just hide away with some great coffee. Have you ever heard of Vietnam’s legendary egg coffee? While the egg coffee originated in Hanoi, the country’s current capital, Soo Kafe, makes a great cup of the creamy, custardy drink. A terrace overlooks the Ben Thanh Market, so you will know that you are in the heart of it all - while still hidden away above the city.
43 Factory Coffee Roaster
Address: 178a Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Baristas who know their craft yet are not intimidating? Welcome to 43 Factory Coffee Roaster. The sleek black and white interior design with bursts of green plants is a lush escape into the world of speciality coffee. This is a place where you will be able to support local coffee farmers from around the world - you can choose your beans from different regions in Peru, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Uganda and have tastings. From the outside, you may have to do a double take even to recognize that this is a coffee shop since there is only a discreet black till that you must order before entering. It adds to the mystery since you can not even see who you are talking to from the shaded screen! Once you choose your coffee, you will be welcomed on a fantastic journey, including the main floor of the space with a long rectangular design encompassing different fauna and flora.
43 Factory Coffee Roaster, Hồ Chí Minh City178a Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Address: 14 Tôn Thất Đạm, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Steps from the Chuong Duong Ward, a building right across from the State Bank of Vietnam, stand as a long spot for mixed-use. You will find speakeasy bars here, local coffee shops, and of course, long-time residents who go about their daily life. Walking inside the building and up the wide crumbling staircase will evoke a feeling of East Germany during the Soviet era, which lends this building its characteristic. Look for a little red corner wall, and push open the wooden doors to enter Refined Saigon. It will feel like you have stepped into a British gentlemen club, with leather sofas, dark and intimate mahogany furnish and a speakeasy bar that is a coffee shop during the day.
Nest by AIA
Address: Bitexco Financial Tower, Tầng 2, 02 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
As a person who frequently writes, reads and works from coffee shops and different cafes, Nest by AIA is a great spot above Saigon that provides everything one can ask for. Great espressos? Check. Comfy seats? Check. A variety of corners to choose from? Yep. Natural lighting? Oh yes. Aesthetically designed space? You have come to the right place. It is an unexpected place at that, too, tucked away on the second floor of the Bitexo Financial Tower. I love the many bookshelves here, along with the step seats in front of them. Coconut coffee is one of Vietnam’s signature drinks, and this cafe does it so well. They also have a variety of playful pastries that verges on artistic designs, so if you get peckish, these bites will make for a great pairing with your drink.
Bitexco Financial Tower, Bitexo Financial Tower.Tòa nhà tài chính Bitexco, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
District Eight Sai Gon Showroom
Address: 33 Đồng Khởi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000, Vietnam
Tucked away inside a luxury Scandinavian furniture showroom is District Eight, an espresso bar and minimal coffee shop. There is a small seating era, quite chic with its dark marble table tops, which match its black coffee-making space. This space will really remind you of the cosy coffee shop spots founded all over northern Europe, which is fitting because you will be able to casually walk around the nordic showroom with its stylish furnishing. While this coffee shop is right on the city’s historical and traditional streets of District 1, not many may even notice the elevation of its contemporary space behind the designer furniture.
Padma de Fleur
Address: 89/12 Hàm Nghi, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
If you do not know about this place, it will certainly be a hard gem to find - as this coffee shop is actually inside a flower shop. Combining Vietnamese love for florals, bouquets and fresh cuts, Padma de Fleur is like stepping into a Studio Ghibli film with great coffee. Whenever you order a drink here, they are served on a wooden tray with attachments to flowers, adding to the ambience of the florist shop.
The Cafe Apartments
Address: 42 Đ. Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
I had a little self-debate on whether to include The Cafe Apartments on this round-up, but alas, this was one of the very first cafes I ever visited when I first moved to Saigon. So for sentimental reasons, as well as being hidden but not quite so hidden, I would recommend The Cafe Apartments! The thing is, while The Cafe Apartments is located right in the centre of the whole city on Nguyen Hue Walking Street (literally packed with locals and travellers alike), it is a great experience to wander through this derelict building. The whole building looks like something that should have been torn down decades ago (and actually, it keeps facing demolition threats), but the creative coffee culture of Saigon prevails. Different coffee shops have set themselves up throughout the apartment, turning what was once rundown concrete shacks into vibrant hangouts serving the city’s tastiest drinks.
The Cafe Apartment, Ho Chi Minh City42 Đ. Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Bâng Khuâng Café
Address: 2nd floor, 9 Thái Văn Lung, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Is this an old factory in Brooklyn? An abandoned squat in Berlin? Nope, it is just Bâng Khuâng Café, tucked away on the second floor of a seemingly neglected residential building. Its exposed brick interiors with a city bicycle hung up as an art piece would have you guessing otherwise, but indeed it is a special hidden coffee shop of Saigon. Given its central location, the coffee is affordable,e and the full Vietnamese dishes that they also cook in-house are delicious and cheap too. It is also quite a quiet place - which makes it perfect if you want to get lost for a couple of hours in a book, on your laptop, or just slip away from the constant hustle of the city.
BẢN Cà Phê
Address: 38/7 Lê Lợi, P. Phú Thuận, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 70000, Vietnam
Ban Ca Phe is like a little nest for dreamers, book lovers and those who enjoy a more analogue way of life. Adorning the warm-wood shelves of this cafe are film cameras, little postcards from Saigon’s French colonial days, as well as a whole wall of bookshelves that reach all the way up to the cafe’s second floor. Getting to this cafe, you will pass by tons of residential apartments (and can definitely peer inside them if their doors are open and take a quick peek into what a local living room looks like). Ben cafe’s second floor has little wooden cards scribbled with wishes and dreams of its cafe goers, all hung up in pretty yarn.
Hẻm 113 Võ Thị Sáu
Hẻm 113 Võ Thị Sáu is actually an address of an alleyway in Saigon’s District 3 neighbourhood. This alleyway is a wonderful walking passage that is lined with different types of coffee shops. So you have your tea houses, your traditional Vietnamese coffee spots, and of course, the Instagrammable spots. The alleyway is also a nice peek into a quieter side of Saigon, even though right outside of it is one of the city’s busiest streets. These are the coffee shops you can find in this hidden alleyway:
Hẻm 113 Võ Thị Sáu, Hồ Chí Minh CityHẻm 113 Võ Thị Sáu, Vo Thi Sau Ward, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Lucid Sai Gon
Address: Hẻm 113 Võ Thị Sáu, Phường 6, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Coffee just deserves to be paired with the best pastries - and at Lucid Sai Gon, the in-house baking team knows how to make the most fluffy cakes. Also, try out the cold brew with orange juice or the coconut cream coffee, both are divine.
The Hummingbird Café & Roastery
Address: 103BIS Đ. Võ Thị Sáu, Phường 6, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
"Coffee is a language, and its most essence of communication is Espresso" is the mantra that the Hummingbird Café & Roastery live by, so you know their drip will be tasty. In different seasons, they also host free espresso profiling events, which are community masterclasses in the art of espresso. On regular days, I love their pastries to accompany my drink whenever I stop by this quaint roastery with ever-so-passionate baristas.
Be Mind Cafe
Address: 230F Pasteur, Phường 6, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 72400, Vietnam
A great spot for tropical design meets urbanism - Instagram friends would love this spot. There is also a private garden where coffee guests can sit and feel how zen Saigon can be. They have over 30 different drinks - ranging from classic brews, coffee, and teas, so no matter what you choose, there is always something for everyone here.
BeMind Cafe, Hồ Chí Minh City103BIS Đ. Võ Thị Sáu, Phường 6, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Address: 230/8 Pasteur, Phường 8, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Right at the entrance into the alleyway is a spot that younger Saigonese loves going to. This two-story coffee shop blends what the electric youth of Saigon loves so much into one space: nostalgia and retro design. Old-school record players are wafting throughout the cafe, with a section where you can choose whichever record to put on and play. This adds an air of romance to the cafe, so expect to see at least one canoodling couple in a corner.
Address: 115/30 Lê Văn Sỹ, Phường 13, Phú Nhuận, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tapping into Saigonese love for the past and nostalgic longing for eras that have long gone - Small coffee is like a time capsule of a cafe for those curious about the previous generations. Many locals feel like Saigon is getting modernized so quickly that its heritage and traditions are simply vanishing more and more between each generation. Small coffee preserves a tiny bit of history with a collection of old radios, old TVs, past money, film cameras, and records. In all honesty, Small coffee deserves to be somewhat of a museum itself - along with serving great traditional Vietnamese coffee.
Vietnam’s coffee culture inherently ties back to French colonial days when the country introduced its cafe scene by France. Even the Vietnamese word for coffee, ca phe, is a monosyllabic breakdown of the word café. As Saigon is an ever-growing city, there is a mixture of rundown buildings - some marked for demolition, some abandoned. That is until coffee aficionados decided to move in and set up shop and a whole scene of hidden coffee shops now exists in Saigon. Saigon is not an easy in-your-face city to uncover, it takes a little digging, but once you do - you will see why we locals love it so much. This includes the hidden coffee shop culture, the secret speakeasy, and hopefully, with my hand-picked recommendations, you will experience another side of the city. You will have to climb up decaying stairwells, graffiti corridors, and generally, just very sketchy-looking dim-lit alleyways, but you will soon find out that they open into the most gorgeous, intimate, and cosy hidden coffee shops of Saigon.
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