Southeast Asia cannot be fully understood without its mythical hotels, whether they are unmissable monuments or old-fashioned palaces. They were once an important international crossroads, witnesses to a part of colonial history, its splendor and decadence. We’re taking you to the Majestic Hotel in Saigon today.
The Majestic hotel is one of the most elegant and well-known hotels from Saigon’s French colonial era. The hotel has always been talked about because it is located at the intersection of the ex-famous Catinat street, today called Đồng Khởi and the street Myre de Villers today Ton Duc Thang Street. Indeed, The Majestic has seen the handsome world: Heads of State, famous artists, war correspondents, and so on, but it has remained synonymous with great comfort and the emblematic refinement of a historic, cultural, and charming Saigon throughout its rich history.
The land welcomed a small hotel: the Hotel d’Annam, a few different businesses, and a tavern known as « Mere Maillard » 65 years before the hotel’s construction. The Majestic was designed in 1925 by a French architect and built by the Hui Bon Hoa Real Estate company. It began as a five-story French colonialist building with a rooftop bar. In the 1930s and 1940s, he hosted one of Saigon’s first and most opulent cinemas.
Used during the Second World War by the Japanese Imperial Army as a barracks, the Majestic was then invested by war correspondents around the 60s. Graham Green, a British author, visited Saigon four times as a war correspondent and stayed at the hotel on several occasions between March 1952 and June 1955. He wrote “A Quiet American” there, which was adapted for the screen twice, once in 1958 and once in 2002, depicting the Majestic as the place where Thomas Fowler, the hero of his novel, went every day around 7 p.m. for a cocktail to enjoy the cool breeze of the river Sài Gon.
Catinat Street was once again the rendezvous of Saigon and the center of all the city’s intrigues and gossip at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s. The hotel was sold again in 1948 and was purchased by the Tourism and Exposition of Indochina Company, who rented it to Mr. Mathieu Franchini in 1951, who reopened it as a hotel and remodeled the facade.
When this concession expired in 1965, the Tourism Office refused to renew the contract with Mr. Franchini because diplomatic relations between France and Vietnam had broken down. With the help of the famous architect Ngo Viet Thu, two more floors were added in 1968.
After being bombed in 1975, the hotel was renovated in the style of Renaissance architecture in 1994 by Saigontourist, who initiated a $5.5 million refurbishment to restore the hotel. A new 8 store was added to the original structure, and the hotel was expanded into another block.
In 1997 and 2007, The Majestic was awarded a 4 and 5 stars standard respectively, the first of its kind invested and managed by the Vietnamese.
The Majestic Hotel in Saigon is still located downtown, in district 1, less than two kilometers from Notre Dame Cathedral and Ben Thanh Market. While half of the building now overlooks the pool, the other half overlooks the Saigon River. The hotel has eight restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues that serve everything from European and Asian cuisine to cocktail parties. The rooftop bars and restaurants offer breathtaking views of the Saigon River, while a swimming pool in the first-floor courtyard provides relief from the city’s heat.
What has remained? An elegant Art Deco fantasy of marble, glass, and gold in an imposing gilded marble room with vases of erupting white flowers on elegant tables facing a central dome of stained glass sparkles in green, red, white, and blue. Ornate arched windows, winding staircases, an old elevator (Vietnam’s oldest), tinted glass and brass domes, retro bathrooms in black and gold marble, polished wood, and so on…
Since his opening in 1925, the rooftop bar with its breathtaking views of the river has remained a popular spot for sunset cocktails. Gone are the days when we could smoke a Cohiba or a Hoyo de Monterrey on the terrace while sipping a cognac or a 7-year-old Havana Club…
Majestic Hotel – 1 Đồng Khởi, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh