hoi an old town

Exploring Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, a charming town on Vietnam’s central coast, is a destination that seamlessly blends history, culture, and a relaxed atmosphere. Known for its well-preserved ancient architecture, vibrant lantern-lit streets, and incredible local cuisine, Hoi An is a must-visit for those seeking an authentic Vietnamese experience. I was lucky enough to stay here for 5 nights during my month trip in Vietnam and LOVED it! In this blog, I hope to provide tips on planning your trip to Hoi An; including how to get there, how long to stay, and the best things to do in Hoi An.

How to Get to Hoi An

Hoi An is easily accessible by various means of transportation. If you’re arriving by air, Da Nang International Airport is the nearest major airport, approximately 30km away. From the airport, take a taxi or a pre-arranged shuttle to reach Hoi An. This journey will take roughly 45 minutes.

For those traveling by train, the nearest railway station is in Da Nang as well. From Da Nang, you can take a short bus or taxi ride to Hoi An. If you’re travelling light, I’d recommend getting a grab taxi bike. That way you can weave through the traffic.

Although buses can take a little longer, cities like Hoi An are very well-connected to other major cities, like Hue and Da Nang, via a reliable bus network. I took the bus from Hue to Hoi An, which was a cheap and comfortable option. The bus had three rows of seats and were two-story – it looked quite intense when I first boarded. However, there’s space to lie down, so I snoozed and watched pre-downloaded Netflix shows.

How Long to Stay in Hoi An

The ideal duration of your stay in Hoi An largely depends on your travel preferences, interests and budgets. However, I’d recommend staying 3-4 days to fully immerse yourself in the town and explore its highlights without rushing.

This timeframe allows you to stroll through the ancient streets, savour the diverse culinary offerings, and take part in any cultural events or activities that might be happening during your visit. Additionally, it provides ample time to venture beyond the town and explore the surrounding areas. Hoi An was truely one of my favourite places to visit in Vietnam, so i’d recommend allocating a few days here.

Best Things to Do in Hoi An

The Ancient Town of Hoi An

Hoi An’s Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the heart of the city and a treasure trove of historical architecture. The town’s well-preserved buildings, dating back to the 15th century, showcase a unique blend of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese influences. The narrow, winding streets are best explored on foot or by bike, allowing you to appreciate the intricate details of the architecture and the atmosphere of the town.

While exploring Ancient Town, make sure to visit the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, a symbol of Hoi An. Originally constructed in the 1590s, this bridge connects two districts and is adorned with a small temple. It’s a testament to the town’s historical significance as a trading port.

The whole area is stunning, but especially so at night, when the Ancient Town comes alive with lanterns and lights. There are many eateries and bars around this area, so it’s definitely worth coming here to eat. You’ll also find a few street markets stalls around here selling local delights and desserts, which are worth checking out. Throughout my stay in Vietnam, I never had any stomach issues. Although, I appreciate people can get nervous about eating street food, it appeared safe!

Central Food Market

Hoi An has a few different markets worth checking out, however as a foodie, my favourite was the Central Food Market. This market is an excellent place to try a variety of Vietnamese street food. From Vietnamese classics, like pho or banh mi, to more unique foods, there’s a variety of things to choose from. As it’s very reasonably priced, I liked coming here a try a little of everything to see what I liked. You’ll be able to get a glimpse into the vendor’s daily life, selling fresh produce, spices, and handmade crafts.

An Bang Beach

An Bang Beach is a serene stretch of coastline, located a short bike ride or taxi from the town center. Compared to other beaches in Vietnam, An Bang offers a much quieter atmosphere, making it an ideal spot to unwind. You can rent a beach chair, sip on coconut water, and enjoy the sound of the waves. The beach is dotted with small seafood restaurants where you can indulge in fresh catches of the day. My hostel offered bicycles to rent for the day which I’d highly recommend doing! You can find bicycle rental shops dotted around the city, offering really reasonable day rates.

Get Some Clothing Tailored

Hoi An’s Ancient Town has become famous for being a great place to get high quality, tailoring done quickly, and at affordable prices. With over 500 tailors, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Hoi An. I didn’t get anything tailored personally. However, I met many backpackers who were staying in Hoi An for a few days, whilst they got clothes tailored. This include people getting authentic Vietnamese dresses made, all the way to a guy getting his wedding suit tailored! Recommendations I got from other travellers included shopping around, instead of sticking with the first shop you walk into. Additionally, get to the tailors early in your trip, so they have enough time to get your clothing made.

Yoga and Wellness

If you’re looking to unwind, there are a range of gyms, yoga and wellness studios dotted around Hoi An. My hostel was located near a few good gyms which offered cheap day passes. This was the perfect chance to do a few workouts after weeks of just eating! Hoi An is also home to some great yoga studios. I went to Om Factory several times and loved the welcoming atmosphere and relaxing sessions, after busy days of sightseeing.

A Day Trip to My Son Sanctuary

For those wanting to learn more about the area’s history, consider doing a day trip to My Son Sanctuary. Located about 40km southwest of Hoi An, My Son is a cluster of abandoned Hindu temples dating back to the Champa Kingdom. Despite the damage caused during the Vietnam War, the site still holds archaeological and historical significance. I’d really recommend doing a guided tour! The guides are very knowledgable and help provide good understandings of the rich cultural heritage of this ancient religious center.

The Food!

Hoi An is renowned for its incredible cuisine, and no visit is complete without sampling some of the local dishes. From the savoury cao lầu noodles to the iconic white rose dumplings, the town’s culinary scene is worth spending a few days exploring! Here are some dishes not to miss if you’re in Hoi An.

Reaching Out Teahouse

The Reaching Out Teahouse was a very special place during my visit to Hoi An. Despite being located within the bustling streets of the Old Town, the Reaching Out Teahouse is a serene, peaceful environment. What makes it so special, are the people who work there. This teahouse only employs individuals with speech and hearing impairments and it encourages a quiet environment. There are traditional Vietnamese tea and coffee tastings to enjoy, along with great cookies! Such a lovely atmosphere and I sat here twice to take in the peaceful environment.

Cao lầu

Cao lầu is a noodle dish unique to Hoi An, featuring thick rice noodles, slices of pork, and crispy croutons, in a tasty broth. The dish is then topped with fresh herbs and greens. You’ll be able to easily find this dish throughout Hoi An’s Ancient Town and it’s definitely worth a try.

White Rose Dumplings

White rose dumplings are made from translucent rice paper and are filled with a mixture of minced shrimp and spices. They’re lightly steamed and often served with a dipping sauces – so tasty! Again, these are a speciality in Hoi An, so you should be able to find them quite easily. I first tried them at the Hoi An Central Market and had them again at the White Rose Dumpling Restaurant.

Banh Mi

Banh Mi is a popular Vietnamese sandwich that you’ll see throughout Vietnam. It’s effectively a baguette, with a variety of fillings (grilled pork, pate etc) and veggies. I lost count of how many I ate during my month in Vietnam, but the best one I had was at Banh Mi Phuong! This spot has risen to fam for its incredible Banh Mi, and it’s worth visiting if you’re travelling here.

Hoi An was one of the most magical places I visited during my trip to Vietnam. With its rich history, cultural diversity, and amazing food, is a captivating destination filled with authenticity and charm. Whether you’re exploring the ancient streets, savouring local delicacies, enjoying the quiet beaches or soaking in the laid-back atmosphere, Hoi An offers something for everyone! Another must-do in Vietnam, is the hidden gem of Tam Coc!