Last week I made a long walking tour in downtown Saigon and looked back to the days I spent here as a tourist, one year ago. What if I had only some hours to do shopping here and to find nice souvenirs and gifts to my family? Where should I go to spend those few hours as effectively as possible?
Saigon is the shopping capital of Vietnam. You find everything here, from luxurious shopping malls to traditional street markets. I will make a review of the main shopping spots in District 1 and list some of my own favorite stores for souvenir shopping.
There are two big malls and at least three department stores in District 1. They are nice places to escape the heat, and they also have good, clean toilets and big food courts!
If you are looking for Vietnamese products and souvenirs, you will not find them in these malls or department stores. They are full of international brands and fast fashion chains. Also Japanese and Korean brands are well represented. The prices are very high compared to average Vietnamese price level.
Vincom Center, 70 72 Le Thanh Ton
Zara, Marks & Spencer and H&M are here, as well as other Western brands and stores. In the upper floor, there is a movie theatre, which shows also latest Western movies with Vietnamese subtitles. A huge food court and a grocery store VinMart are located in the lowest floor.
In the second lowest floor, in the far corner, there is a bookstore, which sells also books in English: travel guides, bestsellers and books about Vietnam.
Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi
This is the most modern shopping mall in downtown Saigon. Even if you are not interested in malls, go and check the decorations in the main entrance hall. Before Christmas and the Lunar New Year (Tet), they are fabulous!
Saigon Centre has, among others, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Gap and Mango. In the ground floor you find a gourmet grocery store. The fourth floor hosts several home decoration and kitchenware stores, and also a bookstore with a good selection of books in English.
In my opinion, department stores in Saigon are quite boring. They sell Western and Asian high quality brands, sales persons are really polished and interiors are beautiful. But there is not much that would interest me.
Takashimaya, Saigon Centre
This Japanese department store is full of beautiful and high quality items in many floors.
Parkson, 35-45 Le Thanh Ton, next to Vincom Center
Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh is often mentioned as a number one shopping place in Saigon, and one of the main tourist attractions. Well, it really is a matter of taste! It is true that Ben Thanh Market is a must-see place for a traveller, but I think it is far too crowded, noisy and hot to be a nice shopping place. And there is nothing there, which you cannot find in many other stores and markets in Saigon. All the common souvenirs are found also in stores along Dong Khoi street.
Tanh Dinh, Hai Ba Trung (Official address 48 Ma)
This is a smaller, local market place, not a tourist trap. When you go there, you also have a chance to visit the famous “Pink Church” which stands on the opposite side of the Hai Ba Trung street.
Saigon Square, 81 Nam Kỳ Khoi Nghia (neighbor of Saigon Centre)
If you need anything to wear from underpants to winter jacket, or a bag or a watch for a very low price, go there! This place could also be called as “Fake Heaven”. All those fake brand products are sold very openly, which confuses me a lot! This is very common all over Vietnam.
Russian Market, 328 Vo Van Kiet Street
This market is specialized in warm winter clothing and sportswear.
My favorite shops
When shopping, I try to avoid all hassle, heat and crowds. I like shopping in smaller stores that have fixed prices. I appreciate wandering around a store without any pushy salespersons following me. These are my recommendations for nice and relaxed souvenir shopping. All these shops have fixed prices.
Ginkgo Concept Store, 92-96 Le Loi
Ginkgo has 11 stores in Vietnam. The concept is based on high quality materials, eco friendliness, creative designs and well arranged stores. The collection includes t-shirts and other easy-to-wear clothing, bags and mugs. Prices are much higher than at street markets, but the quality is at a totally different level, too.
Ginkgo designs are widely copied and sold cheep in several markets. This is unfortunately a very common phenomenon in Vietnam. If somebody develops something new and extraordinary, it doesn’t take much time for the copycats to have their low-quality products on the market.
Duy Tan, Saigon Artisan, 74-76 Le Loi
This cute shop is very close to Ginkgo Concept Store. The entrance doesn’t have big signs and it is too easy to walk by and not notice the shop at all.
Their selection includes many kinds of handcrafts made by local artisans and products made of recycled materials. The items are well crafted and unique – there are many products that you can’t find anywhere else in Saigon.
Mekong Quilts, 68 Le Loi, upper floor
This shop is in the same block than Ginkgo and Duy Tan. That part of Le Loi Boulevard is very interesting and worth visiting! Mekong Quilts sells products made by poor women in rural areas in Cambodia and Mekong Delta area. The main products are quilted bedspreads and pillow covers, also for children’s room. One specialty is bamboo bikes!
L’Usine, 151 Dong Khoi, 19 Le Thanh Ton, 70B Le Loi
This is a fashionable lifestyle concept store with three locations in District 1. There is also a nice café or bistro under the same roof.
Saigon Kitch, 43 Tôn Thất Thiệp
This is actually a quite ordinary souvenir shop, but the atmosphere is nice and the store is well set out.
TRI Books, 158ED Dong Khoi Street
It looks like a bookstore, but it’s much more than that. You can’t see it from outside, but the store is big and has a good selection of souvenirs, too. Here you can find Vietnamese dictionaries, cookbooks and photo books as well as English novels.