BY MELISSA EARL
Vietnam’s former capital is jam-packed with cute, quirky, innovative cafes serving everything from strong black Vietnamese coffee to romantic rose tea lattes. It’s hard to pick favourites when you’re this spoiled for choice, but here are a few that are too cool to miss.
This hip café serves beautiful cupcakes, delicious sandwiches, and a good cup of Western-style coffee, but what makes it really stand out is the Urban Outfitters-esque shop downstairs. It’s worth stopping by just for a caffeine fix, but don’t be surprised if you leave with a cool new t-shirt, a locally designed board-game, and a tin of coconut oil mustache wax.
2. Nomad Café
Contrary to its name, this delightful little coffee shop is more of an afternoon study spot for Vietnamese students than a backpacker’s lair.
Even so, it’s a great spot to wile away a couple of hours with a good book – the walls are dripping with greenery, the staff are smiley, and the coffee’s strong and reasonably priced.
3. Café Gac Hoa
Tucked away down a tiny alley, this charming three-story shop is actually half café, half florist. It’s reminiscent of an antique store thanks to the pastel paintings and whimsical clocks that dot the walls, and its dreamy, romantic feel makes it the perfect rainy-day hideout.
4. Mockingbird Café
Hidden on the fourth floor of a decrepit apartment building in the city’s banking district, this tiny indie café is a gem worth discovering.
If you manage to find it, you’ll be rewarded with unpretentious staff, good coffee, and a bird’s eye view of the majestic State Bank of Vietnam.
5. La Rotonde
With its lofty ceilings, cream-coloured brick walls, and vintage art, this place is what coffee shops want to be when they grow up.
The interior is classy, spacious, and flooded with natural light, while the ca phe sua (Vietnamese iced coffee) is possibly the best in the city.
6. Café Tram
This lovely, plant-filled café is a delightful maze of tiny, cushion-filled rooms connected by rickety wooden walkways and slate stepping-stones. It’s definitely not a tourist spot – the staff will earnestly and unironically hand you a menu written entirely in Vietnamese – but the serene atmosphere and phenomenal coffee make it the perfect place to escape the city’s hectic streets.
7. Au Parc
Located in the heart of historic District 1, this trendy Mediterranean café has great coffee, tasty food, and superb views of the neighbouring park. It’s a popular spot, especially for lunch, but worth the wait. The Earl Grey crème brûlée is to die for!
8. M2C Café
The name of this designer café stands for “Modern Meets Culture”, and it’s appropriately filled with bizarre contemporary art and light fixtures made of magazine pages. The music is great, the coffee is better, and it’s a big enough place that the staff won’t mind you hanging out for hours if you feel like it.
9. Era Café
Walking into this place feels like stepping back in time; lighting is minimal, the music is an eclectic mix of classic rock and soft jazz, and the air is thick with the smell of cigarettes and coffee. There’s a no-laptop policy here, so grab a traditional Vietnamese coffee and join the crowd of moody youths there to read, write, and smoke the day away.
10. ID Café
Cool, comfy, and filled with the soothing scent of lemongrass, this is the perfect place for a mid-day breather. Come here for a great latte or coffee with Bailey’s, but don’t ignore the incredible dessert selection. The passion fruit and chili “spice cream” is out of this world!
11. The Morning Café
This cute little coffee shop is located on one of the busiest streets in the city, but you’re likely to walk right past even if you’re looking for it. It’s located on the second floor of a nondescript apartment building, but the décor is lovely and the coffee outstanding. The description on their business card – Writer’s Hangout, Book Lover’s Corner – is completely accurate.
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