Hoi An was by far my favourite destination in all of Vietnam. Filled with temples, pagodas, ancient homes, incredible shopping, white-sandy beaches and the most delicious food in all of Vietnam it is no surprise that Hoi An is the most popular tourist destination in the entire country.
Hoi An is an ancient seaside town that was once one of the main hubs for foreign traders. The traditional architecture – which has a mix of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Colonial style – dates back from the 17th century. It is so well-preserved that Hoi An, which was once named Hai Pho (meaning seaside town), was named a UNESCO world heritage city in 1999.
TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN HOI AN VIETNAM…
The Central Market gives you a glimpse into the authentic Vietnam lifestyle. The vendors sell everything from seafood, fresh produce, spices and handicrafts. Be sure to visit in the morning to see it at its busiest.
In my opinion the shopping in Hoi An is the best in the country. Not only will you find many stalls selling clothes, handicrafts and souvenirs around the city but you’ll also find some of the best tailors in all of Asia. If you need anything tailor-made, from suits to ball gowns to anything in between Hoi An is the place to get them made. Be sure to have a specific idea of what you want made with pictures etc so you get exactly what you want and ask around for the best Tailor recommendations and prices.
Also, be sure to check out Lifestart Foundation, which sell beautiful pieces like woven handbags, vases, gift cards etc that are all made by impoverished and disadvantaged locals. The members of the workshop receive 100% of the profits, so you can know that your money is helping those who need it most. You can also partake in a Lantern Making class whist there. Read more about it here.
GO TO THE BEACH
The two most popular beaches near Hoi An are An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach, both around a forty minute cycle out of the city. You can rent a bike pretty cheaply and the cycle is very flat and easy to do. Be sure to not listen to the men trying to tell you you have to pay to park your bike. Continue riding towards the beach where you’ll find places to lock them up for free.
Both beaches offer white sand and beachside relaxation.
Hoi An is the food capital of Vietnam without a doubt. It is here you’ll sample the most delicious cuisines the country has to offer. If you want to do a cooking class in Vietnam this is most definitely the place to do it.
The streets are lined with incredible restaurants so you will not lack options in places to eat. I recommend crossing the bridge to the other side of the river to find cheaper restaurant options as less tourists venture that way.
You can’t leave Hoi An without trying their specialty dish, Cao Lau. This delicious rice noodle dish is topped with pork, greens and fresh herbs in true Vietnam style. You can only get authentic Cao Lau in Hoi An as the dish uses only water from a special well in the city. We frequented the restaurant in the bottom picture a bit as it was very cheap and well located overlooking the river.
If you want dessert then The Cargo Club and Tam Tam were my favourite places for delicious French style desserts.
FULL MOON FESTIVAL
The most popular time to visit Hoi An is during the 14th day of the Lunar cycle each month as they celebrate with a full moon festival. The streets are shut down to traffic and are lined with beautiful and colourful lanterns. From sundown until around 9.30pm you’ll want to make your way to the riverside where you’ll see floating lanterns make their way down the river. The locals put on plays and play music in the streets and the atmosphere is very festive. If you can’t visit during this time worry not, as local businesses have to dangle lanterns from their facades by law so the streets of Hoi An are always looking magical.
Hoi An is one of the most walkable cities in Asia as majority of the streets are pedestrian only. Due to this the roads have far less traffic and pollution than the rest of the country. One of my favourite things to do in Hoi An was to just walk around, people watch, shop, look at the art galleries, eat until my heart’s content, admire the architecture and discover the cities most famous sites like the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Quan Cong Temple.
Hoi An is definitely a city I would return to if I ever visited Vietnam again. I spent almost a month in Vietnam along the entire coastline of the country and this city was most definitely my favourite, the ancient city has a magic like no other.