Hoi An is probably the biggest tourist trap in Vietnam. And I still thought it was great, although I’m usually rarely enthusiastic about such places. Hoi An was very different from what I had seen of Vietnam so far. At first glance, the old town of Hoi An is a mix of crowded tourist stronghold and highly polished attraction that has little to do with the rest of Vietnam.
Nevertheless: I had such relaxing days. In this article I share with you my best tips and locations for Hoi An and give you 8 reasons why you should not miss Hoi An on your Vietnam trip!
1. Hoi An: Paradise in Vietnam
You will probably follow the usual itinerary on your Vietnam trip, that is either from north to south or vice versa. Hoi An is located almost exactly in the middle of Vietnam. This makes it perfect for a few quiet days after an exhausting trip through cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. If you have been traveling in Vietnam for some time, you will notice the loud noise level on the street and may get on your nervesxha Because the Vietnamese love their horn! People honk all the time, when overtaking, at traffic lights, when turning. And the streets are full of motor scooters, which are particularly popular in Vietnam.
Hoi An is a welcome exception: only bicycles and non-motorized rickshaws are allowed in the old town center; cars and motor scooters are prohibited. The whole old town is one pedestrian zone! You can explore the old town on foot in peace and quiet, without fearing that you will be knocked down by the next scooter driver. The old town is quite clear. All the sights in Hoi An are close to each other. You can stroll leisurely through the streets and stop at the pretty cafes and restaurants. Many houses are also open to the public: there are often benches in the courtyards: just sit down and let yourself drift.
2. the history of Hoi An and the historical old town
Hoi An was founded by the Cham in the 4th century. That’s how old the city is already! Between the 16th and 19th century the city gained more importance. The port became one of the most important trading ports in the South China Sea until it was replaced by nearby Da Nang. The old buildings remained, however, and since Hoi An had completely lost its strategic importance, the old town remained completely untouched even during the Vietnam War. Good for us, because so Hoi An today is a magical place full of history!
Although the old wooden houses in the old town have been hit by floods several times, they are still in very good condition. Most of them are still in the family for generations and many of the houses can also be visited from the inside. Most of the houses in the old town of Hoi An are even inhabited, which should be taken into account when choosing clothes. Vietnamese are not very permissive: covered shoulders and knees are always a good and respectful choice when entering a private home.
Scattered around the old town are small ticket booths where you can buy a 3-day ticket for 120,000 dong. With this ticket you have free entrance to all sights in Hoi An.
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3. food in Hoi An: Vietnamese cuisine at its best!
Hoi An is probably the dream of all foodies! For every budget there is good food on every corner. Whether it’s small snacks on the street or elaborate menus at one of the many fancier restaurants, I haven’t had a single bad meal in Hoi An! Vietnamese cuisine is very fresh and aromatic anyway, but in Hoi An there are again a lot of innovative cafes and restaurants with great interpretations of Vietnamese specialties.
Cooking course in Hoi An
If you want to know how to recreate the dishes at home, simply book the matching cooking course. Many restaurants also offer such courses, usually including a visit to the market. So you can get familiar with the ingredients right away!
You will find cooking classes in many countries in Southeast Asia! I highly recommend doing one while you’re there! You’ll learn a lot about the exotic ingredients and cooking at home won’t be that hard anymore!
➜ Here you can find a detailed report about my cooking course in Thailand
Restaurant Tips for Hoi An
It doesn’t always have to be a restaurant either: street food in Hoi An is also super tasty everywhere!
4. cafes in Hoi An: Ca phe sua da & Co!
As much as I wanted to, eating all day was still possible. But at over 35 degrees in the shade, I developed quite a fondness for Cà phê sữa đá, the typical Vietnamese coffee – but in iced. And there are quite a few cafés in Hoi An!
My two café favorites in Hoi An:
You can find even more travel inspiration for Vietnam ➜ ! here!
5. shopping in Hoi An: tailor stores on every corner
Hoi An is famous for its tailor shops, throughout the old town you can find small ateliers where you can have suits and dresses tailored to your body. I didn’t buy anything there because I wanted to save weight in my luggage again. What I have heard, however, is that tailors in Hoi An should be more expensive than in other places – it is, after all, a mega-touristy place. I would also take a close look at the quality of the fabrics: I often had the impression that savings are made there as well, and nothing is more disappointing than when you invest money and effort in a beautiful piece, which then only looks like from the discount store due to poor fabric quality.
As for souvenirs, I then limited myself to tea, weighs less – and the tea was really great. And if you’re lucky, you can even taste your way through lots of different varieties at an original Vietnamese tea ceremony.
6. nightlife in Hoi An: lanterns, street food and balmy nights
Hoi An is really beautiful in the evening, when the colorful lanterns shine everywhere in the old town. The streets fill up and everyone enjoys the balmy nights with a fresh cocktail or dinner at one of the many fantastic restaurants. If you like, you can buy your own paper lanterns at the night market.
7. relaxing on the beach – An Bang Beach
Enough of the old town? Nearby, just 20 minutes away by bike, is An Bang Beach – and it’s a great place to relax from all the sightseeing. The beach is clean and wide, the water warm. And just like in the old town, you don’t have to worry about food and drink: The beach is full of vendors who unobtrusively provide you with snacks and ice-cold water for little money.
8. off to the countryside!
If you’re in the mood for some country air and want to experience a bit of life around Hoi An, you should book one of the many day tours offered throughout the city. Many tours are made by bike and in some cases you can visit the small production sites where, for example, the famous paper lanterns are made. Or you can take the opportunity to pet some water buffalo!
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