The Heritage Design Hotels of Ho Chi Minh City

Nico Marco (Contributor) (The Philippine Star) - August 27, 2013 - 10:24am

Dare we say that Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most underrated destinations in all of Southeast Asia. Food’s superb, historic landmarks aplenty and the day-to-day cost of living is almost similar to Bangkok. It is easy for the unapprised to initially think of HCM City as grim and decrepit straight off Miss Saigon – that’s arguably the first impression ingrained on us by pop-culture anyway.

But let this not cloud a traveler’s judgment for a leisurely walk on HCM City’s District 1 is enough to arrest anyone’s architecture appreciation spirit. “Colonial Charm” is the easy (and much deserved) description to the atmosphere of HCM’s central urban area, but amid these French surface-inspired buildings and manicured promenades lie a design sensibility that is distinctly Vietnamese.

Perhaps nowhere else in the region has this concentration of grand, stately and heritage design hotels in one compact zone. Strolling past these hotels is a must in the HCM City tourist itinerary. And staying or – at the very least – dining in one of these hotels guarantee a memorable heritage travel experience.

Caravelle Hotel

First opened to the public on Christmas Eve of 1959, the Caravelle Hotel is just as grandiose and towering of a landmark as the popular Saigon Opera House next to it. Considered a modern marvel at the time, the hotel was designed by a French and Vietnamese architecture duo.

The history of the Caravelle Hotel is undoubtedly rich, having once served as home to the Australian Embassy and the Saigon bureaus of NBC, ABC and CBS. Now transformed to emphasize more on its French architectural splendor, the Caravelle is one of the most chic and luxurious hotels in Vietnam.

Customer rating on Agoda.com (as of August 2013): Fantastic 8.7

Click to book: Caravelle Hotel 

Rex Hotel Saigon

The Rex Hotel proudly dubs itself as a “monument to Ho Chi Minh City” – and rightfully so. For over 80 years, this corner landmark has stood witness to the ups and downs of historic Saigon. It was one of the first state-owned five-star hotels built and run by the Vietnamese. For ten consecutive years, it has been consistently voted as one of the “Top Ten Hotels” by the Vietnam Tourist Association.

The classic blend of old world and eastern charm, assorted by quirky décor, makes Rex a tourist favorite. Tip: The rooftop restaurant offers stunning views of the HCM City skyline and is a favorite hangout spot for both locals and tourists alike.

Customer rating on Agoda.com (as of August 2013): Fantastic 8.2

Click to book: Rex Hotel Saigon

Majestic Hotel Saigon

One glance from the Saigon riverfront can easily make one know that this hotel is a historic landmark of French colonialist design. Built in 1925, the Majestic Hotel Saigon has played host to famous authors, heads of state, the Japanese Imperial Army and even, espionage agents.

It is the first building on District 1’s most popular and chic boulevard, with an address of 1 Dong Khoi Street (a proof that other colonially charming structures were built around it or inspired by it).

Room Tip: one half of the building offers stunning views of the Saigon River.

Customer rating on Agoda.com (as of August 2013): Fantastic 8.5

Related: The best new hotel bars & restaurants in Bangkok, as recommended by Agoda.com

Click to book: Majestic Hotel Saigon

Grand Hotel Saigon

Standing on the riverside area, the Grand Hotel Saigon was built in 1930 and was then completely restored in 1997. It has recently undergone another round of renovations, with rooms now more equipped with modern facilities and furnishings, yet still keeping in touch with its gloriously crisp French colonial design. With its current price offerings, the Grand Hotel Saigon is perhaps one of the most value-for-money champions in the heritage hotel scene of Southeast Asia.

Restaurant tip: Its rooftop bar “Grand Café” just freshly reopened, and boasts of a fabulous view of the Saigon River juxtaposed with the recent HCM City skyscraper.

Customer rating on Agoda.com (as of August 2013): Fantastic 8.3

Click to book: Grand Hotel Saigon

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