On Vietnam’s central coast and just south of Da Nang is the charming and authentic Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As with most cities that make the list, Hoi An is quite touristy. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth your time! Strolling through the streets of Hoi An is a treat for the eyes, and we have compiled a list of the things you should definitely see while visiting this Vietnamese coastal city.
Hoi An Ancient Town
This old centre of Hoi An is a well-preserved reflection of what a typical Vietnamese coastal village looked like in the past. A stroll through the small alleys will bring you back to the 15th – 19th century when the trading port was actively in contact with the rest of the world. As an international commercial port, the Ancient Town reflects a mix of cultures, both indigenous (Japanese, Chinese, European) and foreign, that during several centuries shaped what has now become a UNESCO listed heritage centre.
Japanese Covered Bridge
The Japanese Covered Bridge is probably Hoi An’s most iconic landmark. This charming and picturesque bridge brings you back to the sixteenth century when Hoi An’s Japanese community constructed the bridge to create a link with the Chinese quarters of the city. Crossing the bridge makes for great pictures, as inside you’ll find a temple of the God of the Weather, Tran Vo Bac Do.
Try Egg Coffee at Hoi An Roastery
If you love coffee and you happen to be in Hoi An, go to a Hoi An Roastery coffee house. Try a traditional Vietnamese coffee (had 3 of those every day, not kidding) or their egg coffee. Yes, egg coffee. It’s robusta coffee with foam made of egg yolk, sugar and condensed milk. I was skeptical at first but now it has probably become my favorite coffee drink. I have yet to master it myself.
Quan Cong Temple
Besides Japanese and European influences that make Hoi An unique, the city was also impacted by Chinese culture. This colorful 17th century Quan Cong Temple was dedicated to a Chinese general who shares the same name and is a nice example of Chinese craftsmanship and artwork.
Vietnamese Cooking Class
Another common thing to do in Hoi An is to participate in a cooking class that teaches you the basics of Vietnamese cuisine. We did the same thing and returned home with some classic Vietnamese recipes. After having travelled through Hanoi, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), the Mekong Delta and Hoi An, and having indulged in all that the country has to offer, we can say without a doubt that Vietnamese food has become our favorite kind of cuisine. From the aromatic cilantro topped noodle soup Pho to richly filled Banh Mi sandwiches or the classic spring rolls, every ingredient is so fresh and tasty that I could see myself living on a Vietnamese diet. And these cooking classes are a push in the right direction!
Hoi An Central Market
Now that you have mastered some Vietnamese kitchen techniques, you can go straight to Hoi An Central Market to buy the freshest ingredients in the city. This big food hall located next to the riverside is full of excellent food and spices at great prices. As a foreigner, local food stall owners will always ask for a higher price, so don’t forget to bargain!
Design Your Own Clothes
Bring your designs to life at one of Hoi An’s many tailors. The city is not only renowned for its abundance of tasty foods, it is als known as tailor heaven. So while you’re in Vietnam, try to fit in some fittings to get that perfect garment you always wanted! We personally like Yaly Couture, because they offer high quality and excellent service towards their customers.
Rent a Bicycle
A great way to explore the local culture in and around Hoi An is by bike. Plan a guided tour around the city with a local and learn everything about Hoi An’s history, traditions and nicest spots. Different tours are available, for half a day or a whole day, by bike or motorcycle, it’s up to you!
Plan Around the Lantern Festival
The only evening we spent in Hoi An, we were quite lucky to have experienced the Lantern Festival, a traditional full moon celebration that pays tribute to people’s ancestors. In the evening, thousands of lanterns start lighting up the ancient city, giving it an even more magical feel. The best place to enjoy this monthly tradition is next to the riverfront, where hundreds of people are selling colorful moon lanterns. We decided to hop on a little boat to send our lanterns down the river for good luck.
Cam Kim Island
If you’re more of a nature person and you want to escape the hectic city traffic or souvenir sellers, then a trip to this rural island is the way to go! Classic images include rice paddies, water buffalos, bamboo bridges and overal picture perfect pastoral landscapes. Renting a bicycle to explore the island is also highly recommended.