For a post-work wind down
13th floor, Sun City Building, 13 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Stepping off the elevator and into Celio13 feels like entering a glass bubble that has perched itself on top of the city. There aren’t many buildings above the 13th floor in central Hanoi, and the bar and restaurant have sweeping glass windows which curve around the front of the bar, offering expansive views across the city’s smoggy skies.
The décor is fun and imaginative. Old fashioned black and white faces peer at you from the back of the bar stools, and above the circular bar hangs a mass of red lanterns which send a soft glow across the room. There is a small, glass-encased dining room to the left and a terrace stretches around the front. With jazz playing quietly in the back ground, candles flickering on tables, and the sun sinking into the hazy horizon, this is a great spot for a post-work drink.
However, there is one vital aspect missing at Celio13 and that is a good cocktail. The attempts at drink creativity, such as the Lovestruck, made with fresh cucumber, and Celio Martini, which adds a wasabi kick, are indistinguishable among the bucket load of sugar that is added. However, cocktails aside (there are many other options on the menu), it is hard to beat the architecture and interior design of Celio13, and at this height, the view speaks for itself.
For a splashy night out
11th floor, 18 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Immediately upon entering Lift Bar, it is clear that no one comes here for the view. Despite being on the 11th floor, the one room club all but ignores the large windows that look out across the city.
On a Friday night the place is packed with a young, wealthy crowd who are there to enjoy the bass driven 1990s pop and bottle service; there is no standing around nursing a beer at this place. If all you’re after is a single drink then you can head to the bar, but it’s not popular and it is generally expected that you will find a table and stay there.
Despite the noise level cancelling out any hope of an actual conversation, dancing is not overly popular and the majority of people seem content standing around, bobbing their heads and snapping Instagram photos. It is a good spot for people watching and a bit of a dance if you don’t mind going it alone. What Lift Bar does do well is birthdays and it’s not uncommon for the DJ to play Happy Birthday while a waterfall of fireworks cascade down the windows (the only time anyone actually looks towards them), and those celebrating a birthday sip from bottles of Moet & Chandon with sparklers in the top.
Check out the different themed nights before you go as the club regularly puts on specials such as Candy Land (which includes free candy) and Teddy Single Night at which teddy bears are the guests of honour.
For the second date
19th floor, Pacific Place, 83 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Depending on which elevator you catch to the 19th floor of the Pacific Place building, you are either greeted by an impressive wall of wine bottles, or by what can only be described as a service closet. If it is the latter, persist past the piles of spare chairs and pressed linen, and you will be greeted by floor-to-ceiling windows with uninterrupted views across the city and quite a wine collection.
The Rooftop is one of Hanoi’s better-known bars with a view, and it delivers on its promise. The lounge and restaurant are tastefully, if not very imaginatively, decorated, and if you come to eat it would definitely be worth booking one of the dining tables that sit against the windows, although those suffering from vertigo may wish to reconsider. Refreshingly, The Rooftop do not use the view as an excuse to overcharge and the food, while nothing to rave about, is quite tasty and very reasonably priced.
Unfortunately, like many other bars in the city, the cocktails fall far short of expectations and as usual the sweetness overpowers all other flavours. Given the display, it’s perhaps wiser to stick to the wine.
As a whole, The Rooftop makes for a nice place to enjoy dinner or drinks but keep in mind that the restaurant closes early (9pm), at which point the music will be turned up to a deafening level, so be sure to get all the talking in before then. Luckily there is a narrow terrace on which to escape and enjoy the evening… and the view.
For the candlelit dinner
23rd Floor, Centec Tower, 72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3, Ho Chi Minh City
Although the ascent up to the 23rd floor of the exceptionally non-descript Centec Building wouldn’t suggest it, Shri oozes a sophistication and subtle glamour that few other rooftop bars can come close to. It’s split into four distinct areas — a bar and lounge area, a dining area, a surrounding patio and a glass-walled dining space at the end of the patio. If it were not for the harmony of the décor with its rich jewel-tones and hazy glow, the compartmentalization would be a drawback. Instead, the separation lends to the aura of each space. The dining room feels intimate despite its surrounding walls of windows, and the patio balances natural elements like trees and water with the same vivid scarlet and plum accents of the indoor lounge area. Together with staff speaking just above a whisper, Shri feels less like a restaurant and more like a place to come to relax.
Although happy hour from 4.30pm to 6.30pm brings in a healthy amount of guests enjoying a post-work cocktail, the best time for Shri is dinner. The impressive menu draws in an average of 100 reservations a night and nearly as many walk-ins after sundown, and when the weather is clear, most prefer eating on the patio and taking in the view. Most of the tables are for two, since a majority of the diners are out for a romantic meal over candlelight. It’s clear that Shri is made for romance, since even the cocktail selection hints at the establishment’s true intention, with clever names like Sex on the Roof, Blue Job and Café XXX. The tasty cocktails and the hazy romance make Shri the perfect place for a romantic date — spending a few hours here would certainly put anyone in the right mood.
For a kick-back cocktail
20th floor, Sofitel Plaza, 1 Thanh Nien Road, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
There is no denying that the Summit Lounge, on the 20th floor of the Sofitel Plaza, has the best view in Hanoi. The prime location affords sweeping views, not just across the city but also over West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. From this vantage point you’re able to really appreciate the twists and turns of the city, and it is hard not to be charmed by the colourful reflections of the lights in the dark water of the lakes.
The Summit Lounge’s biggest asset is its large terrace and the clear glass barrier that ensures the view is not interrupted, even from the low lounge seating. It is the place to be for a sunset drink on a warm evening.
Inside, the lounge and bar area are very tasteful, with large windows to ensure you don’t miss the view. There is a DJ to provide good music and the Summit Lounge has a reputation for throwing lavish parties. The cocktail list is extensive and it can be hard to choose from the special house creations, which cost about VND180,000. What is even more exciting than a good sounding cocktail list is a good tasting one and the drinks at the Summit Lounge are refreshingly mild in sweetness, allowing you to taste the drink, not just sugar. With a stunning view, great drinks, and good service, The Summit Lounge is defiantly top of the roost in Hanoi’s bars above the tenth floor.
Eon 51’s Heli Bar
For the one-up
52nd Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City
It’s easy for Eon 51 to take the crown as one of the most impressive bars in the city. Encompassing three floors of the Bitexco Tower — including two restaurants, a cocktail and cigar bar, and a VIP lounge — the Heli Bar occupies the top floor. Towering above its rooftop bar counterparts on the 52nd floor, Eon 51’s Heli Bar continues to be the highest watering hole in Vietnam, a theme that factors into the very design. It takes not one, not two, but three separate elevator rides to get to the bar, and once you get there, it’s clear that the focus is simple: the unparalleled view. Even the bartenders’ backs are faced toward the panoramic windows so the patrons can sit on chairs uniformly facing toward the sprawling city below.
A quick stroll around the bar and you’ll find a heli pad — it isn’t in use, but remains an impressive aspect of the décor — and surprisingly sparse decoration. Subtle touches of brushed metal, marble and windows stretching to the floor offer no distraction from the panorama, and those daring enough to sit near the edge risk a mean case of vertigo. The experience draws in a steady trickle of tourists and locals alike, and mostly everyone spends the first few minutes doing little more than staring out at the streets below.
The bar is lounge through and through, and its eclectic soundtrack of pop and Top 40 keeps it classy without being pretentious. Although not a spot for the stingy — a cocktail will set you back at least VND200,000 — Heli Bar doesn’t feel like a place that demands your highest heels and smartest threads. But for the nights you feel like taking it to the next level, Heli Bar does this magnificently, and literally.
Level 23 Nightspot and Wine Bar
For a weekend pick-me-up
23rd Floor, Sheraton Hotel, 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City
Level 23 Nightspot’s perch on top of the Sheraton Hotel certainly doesn’t have the most inventive name, but it boasts one of the better locations in Ho Chi Minh City — just off the tourist hub of Dong Khoi. Set a stone’s throw from heart of downtown, Level 23 Nightspot overlooks some of the city’s more iconic locales. But although it has the potential to be a literal breath of fresh air in chaotic downtown, the focus is on the interior, and not the patio bar. Set side by side, the open-air patio is small, and if you’re sitting at the squatter tables and not the lifted seating that surrounds the overlook, it can be difficult to appreciate the view.
Nevertheless, the interior is set against the far corner of the hotel, and opens onto a spectacular view of the glittering Bitexco Tower and the buzzing city streets. The bar in the back corner of the room glows vivid neon and lends plenty of the space to the decidedly energetic atmosphere. Surprisingly, most of the clientele are either hotel guests or office workers, but the regular live bands keep things interesting in an otherwise laid-back atmosphere.
The menu provides a healthy selection of classic cocktails along with some unusually named signatures — Age Pirates and Show Me your Pink are two particularly odd gems — as well as a few standard eats to satisfy a grumbling stomach. Although not a top pick for a cozy date or an exceptionally rowdy night out, Level 23 Nightspot is great for an outing that’s something in between a kick back and an all-out extravaganza.
For the pre-party dinner
30th Floor, Pullman Hotel, 148 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City
Cobalt is new on the scene, only opening with its brand new hotel home early last month. Yet it’s already one of the more alluring rooftop destinations in Ho Chi Minh City.
Perched on the 23rd floor of The Pullman Hotel, Cobalt’s name suggests its décor colour palette — a collection of slate greys and dusty blues. Even the floor is a matte concrete, accented only with dancing overhead lights and ornate chandeliers. It feels hyper-modern and borderline industrial — the main materials are metal, glass and concrete — but quirky design elements like tweed lounge chairs and bare light bulbs lend Cobalt a certain youthful edginess.
The drawback of the interior is the sound. The music often gets uncomfortably loud and the lack of anything soft fills the place with echo. It would make sense in a nightclub, but not for what is mainly geared to be a dining establishment. Yet, for a younger crowd that treats dinner more like a pre-party, the glamorous energy and decent array of classic cocktails makes Cobalt a great dinner location with something a little different. Plus, there’s both an open-air terrace and an enclosed lounge area, so a breath of fresh air doesn’t mean having to put up with gusting winds.
For your best threads
26th and 27th Floor, AB Tower, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City
Chill Skybar only recently celebrated its two-year anniversary, and has already cemented itself as one of the most glamorous destinations for more extravagant evenings. Before even jumping in an elevator, guests are greeted at ground floor reception, and those not in their nicer threads might be turned away. The fact is, Chill Skybar is unapologetically high-end, and draws in crowds that are often out not just to see the stunning panoramic views, but also to be seen by the city’s ‘it’ crowd.
Yet, upon entering the glitzy and sleek bar with a glowing open-air terrace, it’s easy to see why the upper echelon of Saigon’s social scene would regularly come to Chill. Hosting some of the more opulent events — including Gold Fridays which feature DJs, fire shows and ladies dubbed ‘Golden Angels’ — Chill Skybar has some of the best mixologists in the business, a few routinely flipping bottles over their heads in spectacular shows of ‘flair’ bartending. At Chill, nothing is done by half, and the impressive collection of cocktails features some of the most inventive signature concoctions with equally impressive price tags.
If you’re prepared with some nice new clothes you’re itching to show off, and a hefty paycheck you’re looking to spend, Chill Skybar is a great place to spend an evening. Careful, though, since along with your hangover might also come a surprise when you inspect your wallet the next morning.
For a cozy conversation over drinks
20th Floor, Novotel Hotel, 176 Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Ho Chi Minh City
Since onTop Bar is set outside of downtown Saigon, the Novotel Hotel rooftop spot doesn’t quite have the kind of view that you’d expect. It overlooks Hai Ba Trung and, unfortunately, sits just across from another building with a superior height, which blocks what could be a spectacular view. The cozy bar with an extensive menu of small eats and full meals, though, makes up for the lack of a view with a great take on the rooftop experience.
The area is small, with the open-air terrace nearly matching the size of the interior dining area, but the space is designed in such away to avoid the square footage affecting the aesthetic. The bar and kitchen runs along the back wall, and the massive blackboard hovering above the bartenders’ heads is chock-full of cheese, meat and fish dishes. And although the drink list isn’t particularly varied, the creativity in the signature cocktails is second to none, with many of them featuring fresh fruit elements — the surprisingly tart onTop cocktail has both blackberry liqueur and fresh blackberries.
Novotel’s onTop Bar has an inventiveness that sets it apart, and its limited square footage but cozy atmosphere establishes it as a great place for dinner and drinks. Plus, the cocktails and food isn’t outrageously expensive, so onTop could easily become a regular spot for a night out.
For the young and miserly
8th Floor, Duc Vuong Hotel, 195 Bui Vien, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City
The young and thrifty don’t have to travel too far — vertically — to find a rooftop that fits the price range. Duc Vuong Hotel’s rooftop hotspot is only eight floors up, with elevator access only extending to floor seven, but it’s the best view you’ll get on Bui Vien.
It used to be a quirky secret, with service only possible by picking up a front-desk-connected phone, and an army of lonely deck chairs. Beer was often the only thing on the menu. About a year ago they went through a renovation, and with it came green-tinted floodlights, a new sound system and a full-service menu of which the website boasts, “Best Food and Drink ever”.
The droves have come out, and competent DJs occasionally utilise the space. Beer is still the same street-side price: VND12,000 for an ice-cold Saigon. The wicker and wood surrounds garden patches with trees and climbing vines, and the crowd is an educated mix of young and old, tourists and locals.
Though its eighth-floor view doesn’t quite eclipse all the neighbouring rooftops, the pittance you’ll pay will at least give you sightlines to the city’s better-positioned roof restobars.
For dinner and a show
Rooftop, Silverland Central Hotel, 15-17-19 Nguyen An Ninh, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City
The newly opened OMG Bar’s name doesn’t stand for what you think. Although the 9th floor view of Ben Thanh Market and the surrounding chaos is impressive, the name applies to its three best qualities: original, musical, and gastronomic. The perch is on the top floor of the Silverland Central Hotel, and thanks to the shape of the building, is a roomy L-shape. The innermost section is enclosed with a glass rooftop and open-air barriers, surrounding the inner bar and a few squat tables. The terrace extends out to another bar and seating with no roof, and the walls are thick with tropical foliage and scattered ruby lights. Although there are some colourful elements like the ornate jewel-toned armchairs and a backlit bar area, the central theme is the lifted stage for live music.
The drinks menu offers an impressive array of wines, standard cocktails and signature concoctions, and some creative takes on French-inspired dishes to enjoy while taking in the scene. While most other rooftop bars focus on the view and open air, OMG Bar’s stage and design seems to establish it as something of a neighbourhood bar — a place to go for some great live music in the city centre. Of course, the fact that it has a few floors on its event-space counterparts certainly adds to its appeal.