Vietnam’s Historic Hotels
The first hotels in Vietnam were built to cater to the needs of colonial French administrators and their families, and not so much to tourists. The Continental Hotel opened in Saigon in the 1880’s and long reigned as the city's foremost hotel. In Hanoi, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi opened in 1901 as le Metropole and endures today as the country's foremost address in hospitality.
Since the opening of the Continental Hotel in 1880 many hotels have come and gone and as Vietnam’s hotel and resort industry continues to evolve, we’d like to take a look at some of the most historic and iconic hotels in the country that have catered to discerning business and consumer travelers since the Continental Hotel opened almost 140-years earlier.
DA LAT PALACE HOTEL
The Dalat Palace is an historic luxury hotel in Da Lat, Vietnam. Originally called the Lang-Bian Palace Hotel, it was completed and opened in 1922, at the height of an economic boom, and was designed to be a site of colonial leisure and power. 'The hotels monumentalism, modernity, luxury and location made it a conspicuous symbol of French domination over the Indochinese central highlands. When economic circumstances changed in the 1920s, most plans for government structures in Dalat were abandoned, leaving the town with the Palace Hotel as its monumental centerpiece.
As a luxurious establishment it could act also as a serene base from which to explore highland minority villages or conduct big-game expeditions, and meant to compete with the poshest colonial hotels of Southeast Asia, such as the Oriental Hotel, Bangkok and the Raffles Hotel, Singapore. It initially featured thirty-eight luxury rooms, as well as an orchestra, a cinema, tennis courts, private fruit and vegetable gardens, a dance hall, riding facilities, gymnastic equipment and a French restaurant.
The Lang-Bian / Dalat Palace became the Dalat Palace after the Second World War, although earlier uses of the latter also exist. In the early 1990’s reclusive tycoon Larry Hillblom set out upon a lavish restoration project - a rather plain dining room was converted into a grand restaurant for example, and the hotel was aimed at attracting high-end tourism. Hillblom, (the 'H' of the DHL courier empire), invested $40 million USD into reviving the hotel, that had languished since the end of the American-Vietnam war in 1975.
DU PARC HOTEL DALAT
The Du Parc Hotel Dalat, has since 1932 embraced and received travellers, from the colonial administrators, hunters, adventures, traders of the turbulent past, to the modern travellers and historians, in search of answers to the riddles of our past and the transitions of history.
The hotel was graced with elegant décor, high ceilings, reverent wooden floors, that have recorded the stays and paused steps of the noble and illustrious travellers such as the Poignant Thomas Ennis, The Progressive Alexandre Varenne, Jean Delacour, Morgan Sporetes and the narrative of Madam Marguerite Duras, all caretakers and Storytellers, of the incredible “Human Voyage” through history and time.
The Hotel Du Parc reopened in 1997 under the name of Novotel Dalat, and was then renamed the Du Parc Hotel Dalat in 2010 after an extensive two-year renovation program. A unique feature of the hotel is the metal-caged see-through elevator synonymous with elevator designs in the 1930’s.
SOFITEL LEGEND METROPOLE HANOI
The colonial French were the first to exploit Vietnam's natural wonders for tourists. In the grottoes of world-renowned Halong Bay, passengers on the bay's excursion boats carved their names in limestone 100 years ago.
The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, originally named The Grand Hotel Métropole is a five-star historic luxury hotel that is located in the Hoàn Ki?m District of Hanoi. The hotel was opened in August 1901 by André Ducamp and Gustave-Émile Dumoutier and is designed in the French colonial style. The hotel has a rich history and a century long tradition of welcoming ambassadors, writers, heads of state and entertainers. Guests who have stayed in the hotel include Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, George H. W. Bush, François Mitterrand, and Jacques Chirac.
Following Vietnamese independence in the 1950’s, the Metropole was renamed the Thong Nhat Hotel (Reunification Hotel) by the Communist government. In the 1960s’, a bomb shelter was constructed to protect guests during American air raids. In 2011, the forgotten war bunker was rediscovered during renovations to the hotel's Bamboo Bar. Since 2012, tours of the bunker have been available to guests staying at the hotel.
In 1987, the French Pullman Hotels chain entered into a joint venture with the Vietnamese government to restore the hotel to international standards. The hotel was completely rebuilt, regaining the name Metropole and reopening on March 8, 1992, as the Pullman Hotel Metropole. The hotel later moved from the Pullman to the Sofitel chain, and was placed in their exclusive Legend division as the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. The new 135-room Opera Wing was added in1996, along with the Metropole Center office tower. The offices were converted to additional hotel rooms in 2008.
Sofitel Metropole was chosen as the Best hotel in Vietnam, and was one of only two Vietnamese hotels entering Best hotels throughout the World by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine in2007. The hotel was also used as a venue for the second meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un on 27 and 28 February 2019.
In popular culture
The Metropole was the first venue in Indo-China to show motion pictures. Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Parlour at the hotel. Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard spent their honeymoon at the Metropole in 1936 after getting married in Shanghai. Graham Greene stayed at the hotel in 1951 while writing The Quiet American.
CARAVELLE HOTEL SAIGON
The Caravelle Hotel is located in Ho Chi Minh City and was opened to the public on Christmas Eve 1959, when the city was known as Saigon. The hotel’s modern design was the work of a Vietnamese architect, Mr. Nguyen Van Hoa, a graduate of Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Hanoi. The original ten-story building is now adjoined to a 24-story tower that forms the bulk of the new property. However, the Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar has changed little since 1959.
During the 1960s, the Caravelle was home to the Australian Embassy, the New Zealand Embassy, and the Saigon bureaus of NBC, ABC and CBS. As a hub of communication, it played an important role in the American-Vietnam War. It also became part of Vietnam fiction and non-fiction literature, such as in Danielle Steele's novel "Message From Nam" and Morley Safer's memoir "Flashbacks".
Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, the hotel was taken over and operated by the government and renamed the Doc Lap (Independence) Hotel. This name remained until 1998, when the Caravelle name was relaunched following refurbishment.
HOTEL CONTINENTAL SAIGON
The Hotel Continental is a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City that was built in 1880 during the French Colonial Period. The hotel was named after the Hotel Continental in Paris and is located on Dong Khoi Street, next to the Saigon Opera House, in District 1, the central business district of the city.
In 1878, Pierre Cazeau, started building the Hotel Continental with the purpose of providing the French traveler a French style of luxury accommodation after a long cruise to the new continent. This project took 2 years, and in 1880 the Hotel Continental was inaugurated.
In the same period, many of Saigon's major colonial buildings were constructed including the Notre Dame Cathedral on Rue Catinat completed in 1880, the Postal and Telecom Service on Rue Catinat completed in 1891, and the Hotel de Ville completed in 1898. The Continental was the leading location in the social and political life of Saigon during the French Colonial Era.
During the Vietnam War era the hotel was renamed the Continental Palace and became popular with journalists who nicknamed the ground floor bar the Continental Shelf. Newsweek and Time magazines each had their Saigon bureau on the second floor of the hotel.
Following the Fall of Saigon in April 1975 ownership of the hotel was taken over by the Ho Chi Minh City Government and T? Do Street was renamed Dong Khoi Street. The hotel was closed in 1976 and reopened again in 1986 as the Dong Khoi. The hotel was closed again and then completely restored from 1988-9 and reopened in 1989 as the Hotel Continental.
HOTEL GRAND SAIGON
The Hotel Grand Saigon is located in downtown Ho Chi Minh City and is a modern 5-star hotel housed in classical French architecture building from the period of the 1930’s.
In 1928, Mr. Henry Edouard Chavigny de Lachevrotière received an official license to open the “Grand Hotel Saigon” and in 1930 the hotel was opened. In 1937, the hotel changed its name and became the Saigon Palace Hotel.
Between 1995 -1998, the new managers for the hotel, Saigon Tourist Holding Company began renovating the hotel so with 107 rooms upgraded during this period. In 2003, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism certified the hotel as a 4-star property.
Additional renovation took place during the late 2000’s and in 2012 the hotel was expanded and upgraded to 251 luxurious guestrooms and suites with panoramic views of Saigon River and Ho Chi Minh City. In 2015, The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism officially recognized the Grand Hotel Saigon in downtown Ho Chi Minh City as 5-Star hotel.
HOTEL MAJESTIC SAIGON
The Hotel Majestic is a historic luxury hotel located in Ho Chi Minh City that was built by local Chinese businessman Hui Bon Hoa in 1925 in a French Colonial and classical French Riviera styles. The original design of the hotel had three stories and 44 bedrooms and overlooks the Saigon River.
In 1948, Mathieu Franchini, head of the Indochina Tourism & Exhibition Department bought the ground and first floors of the hotel and rented 44 rooms in the building for the next 30 years. The hotel was expanded in 1965; two more stories were added based on the design of Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu.
The hotel is located at 1 Dong Khoi Street, formerly rue Catinat. After the American-Vietnam war ended in1975, the hotel name was changed to Mekong Hotel (Khách S?n C?u Long) and it became a government guesthouse. After the hotel was renovated in the 1970’s, the six-story building was given a 5-Star hotel ranking and renamed again to its original name.
THE REX HOTEL SAIGON
The Rex Hotel Saigon (Vietnamese: Khach San Rex) is a famous luxury and business hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Constructed in 1927, for French businessman Bainier, during France's colonial rule of Vietnam, the building started out as a two-story auto dealership and garage complex, called "Bainier Auto Hall". The building showcased Citroën and other European cars.
From 1959 to 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Ung Thi renovated the building into the 100-room "Rex Complex" hotel, which featured three cinemas, a cafeteria, a dance hall and a library. The first guests in the Rex came in December 1961, while it was still in its final construction phase when 400 U.S. Army soldiers were billeted in the hotel for 10 days.
After the American-Vietnam War ended in 1975, the Saigon Tourism Bureau took ownership of the hotel and renamed it the Ben Thanh (City Port) Hotel. The hotel was used as the location for the press conference announcing the reunification of Vietnam in 1976. In 1986, the hotel was renamed The Rex Hotel.
SAIGON MORIN HOTEL (HUE)
The story of The Saigon Morin Hotel begins at the end of 19th century when Arthur Morin and his brother, Aimé Morin went to Bac Ky (Northern Vietnamese) for military service. When they finished their army service, brothers decided to stay at Vietnam to establish their business.
The family company was very prosperous and they became the owners of the Grand Hotel Guerin de Hue, which was built in 1901 and regarded as the most outstanding hotel in Hue at that time.
The Grand Hotel was the center of commerce, culture and tourism in Hue city during the Nguyen Dynasty. The hotel’s location was a key element of its success, situated at the center of Hue city, facing the Huong River and Truong Tien Bridge and only a short walk to the public buildings, Western leisure center, sports club and Indochina bank.
Many famous people stayed at the hotel in the early 1900’s including Marshal Joffre, Marshal Foch, André Malraux, Sylvain Lévi, Rev. Léopold Cadiere, Governor Pierre Pasquier, Charlie Chaplin, Lao King Sisowath, Louis Finot, J.Y. Claeys, and Paul Reynaud.
The first Cinema Morin in Hue was in this hotel (the meeting room at present). The library here also attracted many readers in town.
From 1951 to 1995, the building is continuously ruined by the weather and wars, and there were no renovations on the building or fixtures during this 45-year period. In 1989 the Morin hotel was transferred to Thua Thien Hue Tourism for use a hotel. After massive renovation, the hotel reopened in 1997 and was renamed the "Saigon Morin Hotel". The hotel now has 180 guest rooms, 4 restaurants and various recreational facilities. Since it’s reopening, the Saigon Morin has been widely acknowledged as the most luxurious hotel in Hue and welcomed many celebrities and distinguished travelers on their visit to Hue.