Hoi An Vietnam is a town frozen in time. Dating back to the 15th century, Hoi An exudes medieval charm. Located in the center of Vietnam, Hoi An is definitely worth a stop whether you are traveling from North to South or South to North. Hoi An's Ancient Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and you must buy a ticket to enter (120,000 Dong or about $5 USD at the time of writing). The ticket includes entrance to up to 5 of 21 attractions in Hoi An. We had a great time exploring Hoi An and found that it was an excellent respite from Vietnam's frenetic urban centers like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Here are ten reasons why I think Hoi An is a must-see destination in central Vietnam.
The Old Town Lanterns
Hoi An simply lights up after the sun goes down and the town's colorful lanterns are its most defining feature. Even by day, the festive lanterns add to the historic atmosphere of the place.
B1G1F Cocktails and People Watching
Hoi An has a decent bar and restaurant scene. Many places offer two-for-one cocktails in the early evening. Sit outside and do a bit of people watching.
Great Places to Get a Coffee with a View
Vietnam as a whole is known for excellent coffee and Hoi An is no exception. There are many fun places to get a cuppa in Hoi An. Make sure to seek out one of the places along the main shopping streets with an upstairs balcony.
Hoi An's Stunning Temples
Historic and Well-Preserved Merchant Houses
Hoi An is a historic trading port and thus features a number of merchant houses. The merchant houses were sturdily built and feature opulent furniture.
The Japanese Bridge
Hoi An's iconic Japanese Bridge is well-known to visitors. You'll have to use one of your attraction tickets to cross the bridge. The bridge itself features a small temple and guardian dogs at each end.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Want to know the best thing we did in Hoi An? We left the city behind and did a ride through the countryside with Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours.
You Can Learn How to Cook in Hoi An...
Hoi An is known for amazing food. You can even learn to cook Vietnamese cuisine at one of many cooking schools in town. We booked ourselves a lunch-time cooking experience at Gioan Family Cookery.
We started by cycling to the market to check out the various ingredients on offer. We didn't actually buy anything though. Our hosts at the cooking school had bought all the freshest ingredients at about 5 am that morning. You snooze, you lose in Hoi An!
Over the course of two hours, we cooked a four course meal with Vina, our quirky host. We learned to make spring rolls, papaya salad, fish in banana leaf and pho. We got started at 12:30 pm and had the place mostly to ourselves. Many guests come earlier in the morning so the food is ready at a more traditional lunch hour. We ate our amazing meal around 3 pm and there was no need for dinner later!
...Or Just Eat Cau Lau
Cau Lau is the signature dish of Hoi An. We sampled delectable noodles and pork with cracking on top at a small, unassuming restaurant that doubled as someone's house. The dish is simply delicious.
You Can Walk and Cycle in Hoi An
Crossing the street in Vietnam's major cities can quickly become an exercise in running for your life. Hoi An was a refreshing change. The streets of the ancient town were car free and the surrounding streets were less crowded as well. We had much less fear of being mown down by a car or motorbike in Hoi An than we did elsewhere in Vietnam.
You Can Spend the Afternoon at An Bang Beach
An Bang beach is just a short taxi or Grab ride away from the center of Hoi An. Voted one of the top beaches in the world, we sipped a drink and watched visitors frolick in the water or sun themselves. An Bang beach is a relaxing spot to spend an afternoon outside of Hoi An.