The Hotel Continental Saigon is situated on Dong Khoi Street, one of the oldest and most central streets in Saigon. In the old days, Saigon’s streets were simply named by ordinal numbers. Starting from the Saigon River bank, Dong Khoi was the Sixth Street. In 1865, the French Commander De La Grandiere renamed these roads and Sixth Street became Rue Catinat, a busy place, especially during the French Colonial Era. "Rue Catinat" at one time was a very bustling and crowded place, especially with the French. Later on, across the street from the Continental the first foundations and floors for factories were built, the first one for Denis Frere. Next was the first drugstore in Saigon, the “Solinere Pharmaceutical,” which opened in 1865.
In 1878, Pierre Cazeau, a home-appliance and construction material manufacturer, started building the Hotel Continental with the purpose of providing for the French traveller, a French style of luxury accommodation after a long cruise to the new continent. This project took two years, and in 1880 the “Hotel Continental” was inaugurated.
The same generation that saw the Hotel Continental Saigon being built also saw: Notre Dame Cathedral, under-construction in 1880 (only a 5 minute walk from the hotel), the Postal and Telegraph Office, built in 1886 (which is now the Saigon Central Post Office), and the Hotel de Ville, built in 1898 (which is now the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City). The latter was design similar to the Paris City Hall.
In 1911, the Continental was sold to Duke Montpensier. In 1930, the hotel had a new owner, Mathier Francini, a gangster from Corsica, who ran the hotel until 1975. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Saigon Government commanded all signboards be written in the Vietnamese language; therefore the name “Hotel Continental” was changed to "Dai Luc Lu Quan".
However, it is the Continental that holds its place in Saigon history, not its past owners. It continue to hold its fame through out time.
By the beginning of World War II, the Hotel Continental hosted the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (who won the 1913 Nobel Prize for literature), the award-winning writer Andre Malraux, whose “Man’s Fate” won the 1933 Prix Goncourt, and then the British writer Graham Greene (long-term guest in room 214) who wrote the well-known novel “The Quiet American” about the transitional period between the French Colonialnist and the United States of America in the Vietnam War. The Continental features prominently in “The Quiet American” in both the film and book. The Continental also is a central locale in the movie “Indochine” which won two Academy Award and one Golden Globe.
The Hotel Continental was frequently referred to by the phrase “Radio Catinat”, since this was the rendezvous point where correspondents, journalists, politicians and businessmen talked about politics, the business news, and current events. It’s not by coincidence that the phrase, if the walls of the Hotel Continental could speak, they could tell you many stories.
During the American period, Catinat Street was known as Tu Do Street. Following liberation in 1975, the name "Tu Do" was changed to "Dong Khoi". This history turned to a new period, and many outstanding people such as Jacques Chirac (Mayor of Paris during that period), the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, and many other politicians have stayed at the Hotel Continental to exchange views on the future of a new Vietnam.
Nowadays, the Hotel Continental remains nestled among the classical buildings of old Saigon such as the Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, facing the future without forgetting the past. While Dong Khoi Street continues to hustle and bustle, the Hotel Continental Saigon still maintains the charm and majesty of its classical past. Inside this venerable building, a new generation of staff are dedicated to offering travellers a peaceful and relaxing stay in Ho Chi Minh City, one that they will remember fondly for a long time.
On 28/04/2012, the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee issued Decision No. 2210/QD-UBND that recognized Hotel Continental Saigon as Monument Architecture Arts of the City.
According to the Board of Monuments of the city's review, Hotel Continental Saigon was built in 1880, with characteristic architectural features, such as, a tile roof, thick brick walls, spacious bedrooms and public areas, and four-meter high ceilings to avoid the heat of the tropics and to make use of the wind and natural light. The design of hotel is in the form of a rectangle, in the center is a large garden with three frangipanies planted in 1880 and still flourishing today, these features create a unique feeling of peace and quiet in the midst of this dynamic city that can only be found at the Hotel Continental Saigon.
From the very beginning, this three-storey building has always been painted white to minimize heat absorption in summer. The white paint alleviates the heaviness of the building and at the same time emphases the regal and luxuriousness of the hotel. Although a century has passed, the Hotel Continental Saigon has still retained its original architecture.
In terms of harmony in the city's architectural ensemble, along with the Municipal theatre (1898), Notre Dame Cathedral (1880), City Post Office (1891), People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City (1898), ReunificationPalace (1966) and Ben Thanh Market (1914) the Hotel Continental Saigon is a focal point in the architecture of the downtown area, maintaining the past historical period in the formation and construction of Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City.
Hotel Continental Saigon's environmental policy
The Hotel Continental Saigon is a green hotel that has achieved a certificate for complying with the requirements set by ASEAN Green Hotel Standard (2008-2012). In order to develop a stable green tourism, the Board of Directors of the Hotel Continental Saigon undertake with a commitment:
To fully comply with local environmental laws and stipulations promulgated by the other concerned organizations.
To fully improve the measures in order to reduce harmful risks to people and environment, to deal with any problem or urgent situation as it might arise.
To make use of the energy source at its best, through conscientious practices without affecting customer service in quality as well as to manage harmful wastes to the environment.
To update the new environmental laws, to plan our training and educational programs for the entire staff in order to enhance awareness of environmental protection.
To be determined to maintain and develop the environmental management system of the hotel in accordance with ISO 14001 standards.
You are invited to cooperate with us to protect our environment by saving water, electricity and limiting the use of chemical consumption during your stay at Hotel Continental Saigon. Your participation is highly appreciated.