Abandoned Apartments Transform Into a Vertical Urban Food Court in Vietnam

It’s not often that you can choose from dozens of cafes situated high above a crowded urban plaza, gazing out at the landscape from a table on the balcony, all for the price of a coffee. In Ho Chi Minh City, such views come cheap thanks to a highly unusual reuse project transforming a 1960s apartment complex into a sort of vertical food court. Set along the city’s pedestrian street, 42 Nguyen Hue finds a new purpose for a formerly abandoned concrete building that’s no longer well suited for habitation, inviting passersby to come up and explore.


After passing through the ground-floor motorbike parking lot, you’ll be charged VND 3,000 (about thirteen U.S. cents) to use the elevator, which is refundable if you make a purchase at any of the places above. Then, navigate floor after floor of cafes, boutiques and jewelry shops, taking a moment to look outside each time. There’s Vietnamese cuisine, of course, but also sushi, Hawaiian poke and more.



Thinker&Dreamer Cafe
Boo Cafe

In the ‘60s, the building was a hip new place for important people to live, and its residents included government officials like the first secretary of the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, according to Asia Life Magazine. People who can recall living or growing up there are often amused to learn what their old apartments have become. The interior layouts are much the same as they used to be, but the interiors are often divided between several businesses, with the living rooms offering prime spots with balcony access.


The particular mix of cafes and shops at 42 Nguyen Hue is meant to appeal to millennials, and if Instagram is any indication, it’s working. The apartments are all over the #nguyenhue and #nguyenhuestreet tags. Given its condition, particularly compared to the gleaming buildings adjacent to it, it’s hard to say how much longer this experiment will last, but it’s a cool idea that could easily transfer to other vacant buildings in big, busy cities. You can find a guide to the building at Vietnam Coracle.

Top image via Vietnam Tourism Board – Facebook