Ho Chi Minh may not be the capital city of Vietnam, but it definitely deserves the title of shopping capital! A modern metropolis in the making, Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it is still known to locals, has managed to shed its image as a war-torn city to become the bright beacon of economic freedom in Vietnam, gradually catching up to booming Asian cities like Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Numbering in as one of the top things to do in Ho Chi Minh, shopping can be found on every street and corner in Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh’s shopping scene is small, but what it lacks in terms of volume, it certainly makes up for in quality. The city’s top billing local designers jostle for space with international names on the glitzy street of Dong Khoi, whilst little lanes are crowded with an interesting array of local boutiques that draw attention to Saigon’s talented artisans and craftspeople.
Although Ho Chi Minh is made up of 24 districts, tourists rarely venture beyond districts 1, 3 and 5. And why would we need to? These districts alone are ample hunting grounds for luxury boutiques, cool concept stores, sprawling markets, antique streets, souvenir shops and more! Want to get on intimate terms with the city’s culture, people and hidden gems? Then get those walking shoes ready and read our quick breakdown to the key shopping precincts in Ho Chi Minh.
The locus of city life in Saigon, District 1 is where majority of the city’s commercial activity is concentrated. Home to most of the major sights and historical monuments such as the Reunification Palace and the Ben Thanh Market, the two most important items in your itinerary (shopping and sightseeing, in that order) can be conquered in one convenient sweep.
At the heart of it all lies Dong Khoi, a wide, picturesque street strewn with an intriguing mix of high-brow international stores, distinguished local designer boutiques and humble artisanal gift shops. Just off Dong Khoi, Mac Thi Buoi is a trendy little street housing some of Saigon’s top-notch local designers. Running perpendicular to Dong Khoi are the two main threads of Le Thanh Ton and Ly Tu Trong, both popular shopping grounds. One of the longest streets in the city, Hai Ba Trung runs from District 1 into District 3 and is riddled with shops and restaurants. Saigon’s renowned antique street – Le Cong Kieu, is also situated in District 1. Then there are a number of smaller shopping strips like Ton That Thiep and Thi Sach Street spread in fitful bursts all over town.
A largely residential enclave, District 2 offers a break from the non-stop frenetic bustle of District 1. A mere 20-min drive from the city centre, leaf-arched residential villas and large gated terrace houses dominate the scenery in District 2. Drawn by a healthy expat population, an outcrop of tasteful and contemporary shops has surfaced around the district’s popular international schools. Anchoring the area is the commercially busy street of Xuan Thuy. Here you will find a host of refined furniture and homeware stores and children’s and women’s fashion boutiques scattered along the street’s length. Trail off into Thao Dien Street and the neighbouring street of Le Van Mien for more of the same.
Close enough to be considered District 1’s backyard, District 3 enjoys a quieter pace of life than its overcrowded neighbour. Similar to District 1, leafy avenues skirt around a sprinkling of French colonial buildings and historical relics such as the War Remnants Museum, Jade Emperor Pagoda and Xa Loi Pagoda. Fashion boutiques and multi-label stores are a dime a dozen in District 3. The main arteries of Vo Van Tan, Le Van Sy and Nguyen Dinh Chieu offer plenty of great alternatives to shopping at the malls. Unfolding across District 1 and 3, Truong Dinh is worth an amble for its pretty lifestyle shops and jazzy cafes.