Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, with a metropolitan population of more than 10 million people. The central part of the city, consisting of 19 districts, is still referred to by locals as Saigon. Most tourist attractions and sights are in District 1, in the heart of the city. This is also considered the central business district and is home to many offices and embassies. Please note that District 1 is quite large and an address within it does not mean you can walk to all the tourist sites. Transport is cheap and easy by bus, taxi or scooter, but traffic can be quite congested, making travel times long even over short distances.
Where to stay for luxury
The InterContinental Saigon Hotel is a high-rise luxury hotel in the core of District 1. It is located right next to one of the city’s must-see sights, Notre Dame Cathedral, built entirely from materials imported from France. There is a small shopping center in the hotel (with a food court) and even a branch of the Hard Rock Cafe. Rooms are large and well appointed with all the usual luxury amenities. The InterContinental has a second tower, the InterContinental Residences Saigon, which also offers hotel rooms. It’s an apartment building, so the units are quite large, with full kitchens. Prices are approximately 25 percent higher than room rates in the hotel building.
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The Reverie Saigon is Vietnam’s only member of the Leading Hotels of the World group of luxury hotels. The opulent property takes up the top floors of the iconic Times Square building District 1. The hotel’s Italian style is bold and almost exaggerated (think Vietnamese Versace), but the rooms are like showrooms of the best in Italian design. About 19 different top Italian suppliers are used, such as leather sofas from the company that supplies Ferrari for the car’s interior. Each of the hotel’s luxurious suites highlights the products of a different Italian company. There is a large and luxurious spa with several swimming pools and a fitness center. Like the InterContinental, The Reverie also has apartments, The Reverie Residence, and these larger units can be rented as hotel rooms.
Where to stay: Mid-range
The Pullman Saigon City Center offers quite a luxurious experience for a mid-range price. The hotel (part of the giant Accor hotel company) is close to the enormous Ben Thanh Market, a mandatory sightseeing stop for Saigon visitors. The large, modern rooms include luxury amenities such as a rain shower and a 40-inch flat-screen HDTV that fits your phone or tablet. You also get free high-speed WiFi, a large outdoor pool, and a nice gym. The hotel also features a full spa with a range of massages and beauty treatments. Although the hotel is in District 1museums and other attractions require a car or other transportation.
The Rex Hotel is one of Saigon’s historic Art Deco hotels, built in 1927 at the height of the French colonial period. The hotel is most famous as the site of the US military command (and daily press conferences) during the war between the two countries. Now run by the state tourism board, The Rex is a decent mid-range option in a great location in the core of District 1. The rooms are modern but can be a bit sparse. There are two restaurants: one serving delicious, authentic Vietnamese cuisine, the other presenting a dinner-show experience (think Vietnamese luau) with dancers and singers. On the roof there are two swimming pools and a café, with beautiful views of the city. There is a full fitness center and even a tennis court.
If you’re looking for something modern and contemporary, the Fusion Suites Saigon is a great choice. The all-suite property focuses on wellness, separating it from most bland mid-range options. Products, food and even the building materials are all carefully chosen for their benefit to guests and their impact on the environment. There is a very nice spa with a range of healing treatments. Foodies and vegans will enjoy the hotel’s restaurant (with a takeaway option) and a rooftop cafe, both serving extremely healthy, fresh local fare. The hotel has 71 suites. Try to get one of the 18 corner suites with two walls of windows. The hotel is very close to Ben Thanh market and a ten-minute drive from attractions such as the War Remnants Museum and the 19th-century Central Post Office.
With mid-range prices yet luxurious amenities, accommodations and service, Hotel Nikko Saigon is always a good choice. The Japanese hotel exudes the brand’s signature contemporary style, focused guest service and luxury. Rooms, some may be small, are all beautifully designed, with quality materials and finishes, making it feel like a much more expensive hotel. Dining options include a French brasserie, a casual Chinese café and a lobby lounge. The Nikko is connected to the city’s NowZone Fashion Mall, which has stores from most luxury brands. When it’s time to relax, exercise or be pampered, there’s a spa, fitness center and outdoor pool.
Where to Stay on a Budget
The Hotel Equatorial Ho Chi Minh City is typical of the many business, budget hotels spread across the city. The Equatorial is centrally located in District 1, near the historic Saigon Post Office. The air-conditioned rooms have a safe and a large HD TV. For that budget price, you also get a nice outdoor pool (with a separate kid’s pool), an Equinox fitness center with a sauna and a jacuzzi, and free WiFi. This budget hotel also has several dining options: a popular seafood restaurant, an all-day cafe, and a lobby lounge.
An interesting budget choice is the Alcove Library Hotel, which is of course perfect for avid readers. The boutique hotel is really a library, with walls of books in the pubic area. Guests are encouraged to take the books to their rooms to read during their stay. The rooms are simple, but very stylish and modern with nice extras such as a rain shower, free mineral water and snacks and a satellite TV with HBO and Cinemax. WiFi and breakfast are included, adding to the value. The hotel is located in the Phu Nhuan districtin the geographical center of Saigon, but who need a car or bus to reach the tourist attractions in District 1 a few kilometers away.
Hotel L’Odeon is a small, inexpensive hotel with a caring, helpful staff and clean rooms. You get a free breakfast and free WiFi in the room. Try to get a room with a balcony; the outdoor area is large and there is also a comfortable seating area. The hotel is located in District 7, known as Phu My Hung, and requires a 20-minute drive to District 1. Travelers should always remember that Saigon traffic can be horrendous and a 20-minute drive can take two hours. The area is suburban, and the hotel is next to a park and a ten-minute walk from a golf course and a lake with a lakeside recreation area.
Where to stay for families
The Sherwood Residence is inside District 3 but offers large, spacious apartments, with full kitchens and washers/dryers. These are great for families traveling together and cost about the same as a small hotel room in downtown Saigon. One, two and even three bedroom apartments are available. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to five different stops in District 1, departing every hour. Children will enjoy the large pool and large games room. Parents will love that breakfast is included.
Where to stay for romance
The Hotel Des Arts Mgallery introduces the concept of the hotel as an art gallery and is perfect for romantic getaways. The public areas and rooms are filled with impressive works of art and the overall design is high Art Deco. The rooms and suites have custom-made furnishings and also represent a beautiful Art Deco style with Vietnamese influences. The hotel offers a romantic getaway package that includes round-trip airport transfers in their luxury BMW, a couples massage, a dozen roses and chocolate cake on arrival, breakfast in bed and a late check-out. The location is also ideal, approx one block from Notre-Dame Cathedral.