What to do in Hoi An Vietnam? Taste All of the the Nightly Street Food Stalls, Take a Walk in the Historical Old Town, and much more.
Once a major player in the coveted spice trade, Hoi An served as a busy Asian trading port between the 16th and 19th centuries.
The city attracted merchants from Japan, China, Portugal and France, and the resulting cultural milieu remains visible in everything from the mustard-colored shophouses to dining traditions, folk crafts and robust coffee culture.You can feel it at the major landmarks, too.
On the western end of Old Town, narrow pedestrian streets give way to an 18th-century Japanese covered bridge while ancient ancestral homes, such as the Tan Ky House, mix together Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese architectural traditions.
1. Hoi An Ancient Town
What is it? A wonderfully preserved UNESCO-listed town with beautiful architecture.
Why go? Hoi An’s Ancient Town is a sprawling series of cobblestone streets lined by wooden houses and temples dating back to the seventeenth century. While individually these buildings are significant, as a whole they become unmissable. It’s easy to spend a day exploring the area by foot. The influence of Chinese, Japanese and French architecture styles are all around, so take your time. Start your day with a photo at the Japanese Bridge before strolling past the French colonial style storefronts and canals. The 200-year old Tan Ky family home and shrine, Chùa Ông pagoda and Chinese Assembly Hall are all worth a look.
2. Hoi An Night Market
What is it? A beautiful lantern market with top-notch shopping and food.
Why go? Hoi An’s very popular night market is a must-see for all aspiring photographers and foodies. Elegant paper lanterns line the paths as shoppers search for souvenirs. Come dinnertime, street hawkers appear out of nowhere to sell a staggering variety of tasty eats. Try the very affordable chicken, prawn, pork or veggie skewers with spicy peanut sauce cooked over small charcoal barbeques. Afterwards, head back towards the river to the Bridge of Lights for a small boat ride, popular with couples.
3. Fujian Assembly Hall
What is it? A traditional and very ornate Chinese hall and shrine.
Why go? Also known as Fukien Assembly Hall, this traditional Chinese temple built in 1690 has served many purposes over its long history, from being a place to socialise to a temple dedicated to Thien Hau, the sea goddess who protects sailors. These days the shrine is popular for those looking for prosperity, or in the case of young couples, fertility. An impressive and ornate gate leads to a colourful courtyard and the main temple containing decorative dragon statues and shrines.
4. An Bang Beach
What is it? A beautiful beach, only a short bike ride away.
Why go? For the sun and scenery. Most hotels and even some cafés offer bike rental, so once you’re kitted up, head towards the best local beach – An Bang. The easy 30-minute ride through fields of rice paddies will reward you with palm tree-lined open restaurants, golden sandy beaches and bright blue water. While you could just lie on your beach towel for free, we suggest taking a seat on one of the numerous shady beach beds, where servers will make it their mission to bring you as much delicious food and ice-cold cocktails as you can handle.
5. Tra Que Gardens Vietnamese Cooking School
What is it? The opportunity to cook (and eat) with locals on an organic farm.
Why go? Hoi An is renowned for its excellent fresh food, with culinary influences stretching back to the town’s former life as a trading post. Most good chefs in Hoi An source their vegetables from the nearby Tra Que organic farm, which makes it the perfect spot to learn some Vietnamese cooking skills of your own. You will get to walk around the vegetable and herb farm at your own pace, meeting friendly farmers along the way. When it’s time to eat, chefs will show you how to make your own Vietnamese spring rolls, salads and even a delicious peanut sauce. The best part is learning how to carve vegetables into decorative edible flowers – a simple touch that’s guaranteed to impress your friends back home.
6. Bars on the banks of the Thu Bon River
What is it? A lively waterfront area known for bars, food and people watching.
Why go? Once the go-to spot for traders to get a drink between voyages, the banks of the Thu Bon River are still the best meeting place for travellers to have a chat over a few tipples. Keep an eye out for Hoi An Artisan, a local craft brewery making some weird and wonderful beers. Their Mango Chili Pale Ale and Madnarin Saison are both good choices, though it’s hard to go past the Chocolate Mulberry Bock. All their fruits and spices are sourced locally. If beer is not your thing, then try some of the local rice wine ‘Ruou thuoc’ or ‘medicine wine’.
7. Madam Khanh, The Banh Mi Queen
What is it? Arguably the best Banh Mi in Vietnam from a lady who’s been making them for over 60 years.
Why go? There’s no shortage of places to try Vietnam’s iconic sandwich, but there’s only one Banh Mi Queen. A quick 15-minute walk out of the old city, this unassuming street stall has only one thing on the menu: banh mi. The owner, nicknamed Madam Khanh is an 80-year-old lady who has been perfecting the sandwiches for most of her life. Each crispy, sweet roll is stuffed with pork, pâté, fried egg, pickles, vegetables, herbs, chili and soy sauce, as well as her closely guarded secret sauce. A vegetarian option of egg and vegetables is available, as are a very limited amount of seats.
8. Kimmy Tailor
What is it? One of the best places to get a tailor-made outfit.
Why go? Choosing which tailor to visit for your one-of-a-kind suit can be an overwhelming process. Among the hundreds of shops that offer the custom service, (and the multiple scams running) there are still plenty of good tailors who can get you looking sharp. The rule of thumb is you get what you paid for and the faster the deadline, the more it will cost. Kimmy Tailor is one of Hoi An’s oldest tailors, and caters to men and women. Making your choices from the seemingly endless options is made slightly easier with a cocktail in hand from the bar upstairs. Make sure you get a seat on the balcony as it has some great views.
9. Mia Coffee
What is it? The best place to try Vietnamese coffee, strong drip coffee mixed with super sweet condensed milk.
Why go? Vietnamese coffee is a must-try, and Mia Coffee offers everything you would expect from a great café. Their Old Town outpost is in a wonderful wooden building with a shady balcony, perfect for people-watching over cake and coffee.
10. Worthwhile souvenirs
Let’s just say you might want to bring an empty suitcase.There are high-quality souvenirs tempting you at every corner, from silk tailoring shops and custom leatherware workshops to coffee roasters, handmade ceramics stalls, beautiful bamboo lantern makers and contemporary home decor boutiques.
There’s nothing kitschy about these goods — in fact, you might treasure a suit tailored in Hoi An or a leather carryall for years to come.
When it comes to tailoring, shops such as Sam Ao Dai, Hung An Cloth Shop (653 Hai Ba Trung) or Sewing Bee Tailors can turn around an order the next day. But if you’re not in a hurry, we’d suggest allowing time for alterations.For a more couture experience, Yaly Couture and A Dong Silk specialize in bespoke, luxurious apparel that would be appropriate for everything from boardrooms to ballrooms.
Another area where Hoi An’s contemporary designers shine is homeware accessories.
The light and airy Sunday in Hoi An boutique, for instance, is full of beautiful hand-painted tiles, bamboo furniture, eco-friendly apparel, bedding and bath accessories.
11. A biker’s paradise
Whether you prefer to pedal around on a bicycle or zip off on a Vespa, Hoi An’s wide open country roads are ideal for exploring on two wheels.
The city just launched a new bike-sharing program in June and most hotels offer bike rentals.
It’s easy to gently cruise through Old Town, or you can cycle over to Cam Nam Village, the island just to the south across the river, for a peek at rural life.For countryside tours, Vespa Adventures is your best option.
On the back of a restored 1960s-era Italian scooter, these half-day excursions take travelers across Thu Bon River on a local boat, over a rickety bamboo bridge, across gleaming green rice paddy fields where water buffalo soak up the sun.
12. World-class hotels
Often jumbled into a two-for-one vacation, Hoi An and nearby Da Nang — just 15 minutes up the coastline — play host to some of Vietnam’s most alluring hotels.
For starters, there’s the remote InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort.Brought to life by prolific resort designer Bill Bensley, the contemporary oasis spills across the hills of the Son Tra Peninsula, a nature reserve that’s home to rare red-shanked douc monkeys and pangolins.
Then there’s Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai along the coastline, where you can dine on upscale Vietnamese street food at beachfront restaurant La Sen or splurge on a spa treatment.
Nearby, Fusion Maia has become synonymous with wellness paradise, promising guests unlimited (and all-inclusive) spa treatments.
As well as the Alila Hoi An coming up soon, the area will also welcome the Dusit Thani Hoi An as well as a beachfront Rosewood Hoi An in 2021.
13. Drink bia hơi
After doing the sights in town (temples, ancient houses, chapels, the covered bridge) head south over the central footbridge to An Hội islet, whose riverfront is lined with bars offering ice-cold glasses of the daily-brewed refreshing lager called bia hơi at cheap prices (less than 20p a half pint). It’s delightfully light, with only around 3% alcohol, so it’s easy to while away a couple of hours sipping and watching boats without feeling worse for wear. Try The Island (Dong Hiep Entertainment Area, Hội An 51000), at the eastern point of the islet, for Thu Bồn river views and waterside tables. Spend a few dong on a packet of little, salty, locally grown peanuts from a street vendor, and you’re all set.