It really is no surprise that Hoi An is on everyone’s Vietnam itinerary. The lanterns, the beautiful old streets, the fóód! While some people say they could easily spend a week in Hoi an, we found a 3 day stay (without day trips elsewhere) good enough. The riverside town is endlessly charming, but also the most touristic place we visited in Vietnam. Don’t let that stop you though! It’s busy for a reason. Below are the things we enjoyed most about Hoi An!
Wander Hoi An old town and the ancient houses
The ancient town of Hoi An is a UNESCO heritage site and the well preserved streets are lied with colorful houses, little cafe’s and tons of shops. Whether you do a walking tour or not; visiting some of the old houses is a must! Most of them were built in the French colonial times and offer a glimpse of what life used to be like. Our favourite houses were Duc An and Tan Ky. To visit the houses, you’ll need to buy a ticket at the entrance of town. To wander around no fee is needed. Stroll around little streets, have riverside drinks and gawk at all the tailor shops.
If you’re considering having clothes made, do your research! We both had a few items made and even though we both still wear most of it and the quality is reasonable, I’m not sure I would recommend our tailor.
Visit the Day and Night market
Hoi An’s night market is quite famous, and it should be! The food is great, you can shop for souvenirs and this is where all the cute lantern photos come from!
But did you know there’s a day market as well? At the end of the ancient town is the market where locals buy their meats and groceries. It’s not a huge assault on the senses, though the display or raw meats and all that comes with it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. At the back is where little food stalls are. We had lunch there twice, everything was just so good!
Get a massage
There’s always an excuse to get a massage, right? There are so many spa’s in Hoi An it’s hard to make a (good) choice. Do a little research, but also trust your own judgement. So many spa’s are not registered online. See if it’s clean, inviting and do they wear a spa uniform? Another tip; peak hours are late afternoons and evenings. Booking in for the morning or lunchtime will save you a bit of cash.
Our favorites were Ylang Ylang Spa located 15 minutes outside of the old town (ride your bicycle there) and La Luna Spa at walking distance.
Cycle to Cam Kim island
Just a short bike ride and bridge crossing away, is Cam Kim island. We cycled over not really knowing what to expect, and we landed in beautiful rural scenery. All of a sudden you seem far removed from the hustle and bustle of old town Hoi An, and its rice paddies, corn farms and small town living. We cycled around without a plan and ended up in a tiny tea shop, small local restaurants and met the friendliest locals. It really is a prefect escape for an afternoon or so.
Don’t feel like cycling back? There are still some small fishing boats that will take people and their bikes back to the old town for just a few dollars.
Visit An Bang beach
No visit is really complete without the beach! While the beach isn’t super special, the 4km bike ride there is pretty nice! You can take a detour through the rice paddies and if you’re lucky, spot buffalo’s! Don’t fall for the ‘come take a photo with my buffalo’ scam, unless you don’t mind paying well for that picture! Once you end up at An Bang, cycle through the village and it will automatically land you at the beach. We were lucky with a gorgeous day and spent it lounging at The Deck House beach club drinking cocktails. They even took music requests!
The beach itself is a nice white sand beach with chairs and umbrellas lined up at the different beach clubs. we found the water quite chilly!
Where to eat
Vietnam is a foodies paradise, and Hoi An is no different. It’s common knowledge that Anthony Bourdain found the best banh mi here, but there’s so much more! We enjoyed the following places:
- Morning Glory. There are 2, pick the one in old town. A little touristy, but the food is good, especially the signature dishes
- Nu Eatery. Environmentally friendly and good, wholesome food
- Mango Mango. Contemporary Vietnamese dishes
- Mix. If you’re looking for a change, this Greek restaurant does not disappoint. The owner is Greek and treats everyone like family.
- Night Market. Honestly.
- Rosie’s Cafe. For a good, Western breakfast!
Where to stay
We stayed at NGO House Villa, just across the river by the night market. They have aircon, a swimming pool, and a good breakfast! They rent out bicycles as well and were just super sweet. We paid $16 a night for a room with balcony.
It pays off to shop around, and also consider staying at a home stay!
We loved Hoi An, and even though it was busy and at times felt like an entry level place to Asia, it will never not be charming. If you’re considering day trips to My Son, Da Nang or Ba Na Hills, you could easily spend a week.
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