Ask anyone who has spent time in Hoi An, the popular UNESCO World Heritage former trading village located in the middle of Vietnam’s sprawling coastline, and they’ll likely give you many reasons why this should be your next travel destination: souvenir shops, restaurants, ancient places, hip-looking coffee shops, nearby rice paddies and much more.
Considering both Hoi An’s size and population, this picturesque town has quite a lot to offer to its visitors. Whether you are a traveler passing by for a few days or someone who wants to explore the ins and outs of this historical destination, you will have your hands full with all sorts of entertainment.
So, why should you include Hoi An in your travels around Vietnam? Here is a list of 8 compelling reasons that will make you wish that you’d never visited this town in the first place because you will not want to leave afterward!
- Tailor Shops
- Silk Lanterns
- Art Street
- Local Food
- Rice fields and Tra
- Que Village
- Hoi An Impressions
Map of Featured Places
When visiting Hoi An, you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of getting a bespoke suit, custom fitted shoes or a tailor-made dress. While needle masters in Savile Row (London) are quite renowned around the world, Vietnamese tailors also produce top-of-the-line designs that meet Western standards while using the finest fabrics. Yaly, Bebe, Kimmy and A Dong Silk are some well known Hoi An Tailors that offer quick turn around, and good service.
Silk lanterns are everywhere in Hoi An. The reason why has to do with the legacy that Chinese and Japanese left back in the 15th and 16th century when this town used to be Vietnam’s busiest trading port. Some locals will tell you they hang them in front of their homes to bring health, happiness and good luck. The truth is that lanterns give Hoi An a charming and distinctive character at night when visitors wander around Ancient Town admiring the gorgeous street lighting. Every month on the night of the full moon, the Lantern Festival takes place while all transports (even bicycles) are banned from roaming the streets. Our recommendation is to pre-book a table at a riverside restaurant to watch all the fun go by.
Originally named Courbert Street during the French times, Phan Boi Chau is considered the art and culture street in Hoi An. Once the main street of the French Quarter, the buildings along this avenue reflect French architectural styles with its shops and houses aligned in rows on a broad street. As a matter of fact, as you roam the numerous galleries and cultural spaces on Phan Boi Chau, look out for details of French architecture such as arches, pillars, balconies and the French-style wooden shutters. Here is a little secret: Mr. Duong who owns the house at 25 Phan Boi Chau has many stories to tell about the history of the area. You can ask at the March Gallery if he is available for a short tour.
Hoi An also ranks pretty high on the food scene since it showcases a handful of regional dishes that you won’t find anywhere else in Vietnam. Cao Lau is probably the most renowned local delicacy and will not be found anywhere else but Hoi An. Why? Apparently, the water used for cooking the broth comes from an ancient well (called Cham well) that gives this dish its scrumptious, unique taste. Regardless of the water source, this is a must-try meal that you won’t find anywhere else but Hoi An. Besides this bowl of goodness, other local must-try dishes are Bánh Bao Vạc (White Roses), Com Ga (Chicken Rice) or the Mango Cakes sold on the streets. However, our all-time favorite is Banh Mi Hoi An. Unlike other versions of the popular Vietnamese sandwich, this one seems to have an acquired taste that we haven’t found anywhere else. Apparently, the key to a great Banh Mi is in the owner’s secret sauce. If so, head to Banh mi Phuong at 2B Phan Chu Trinh and try it yourself.
One of the most common things to do in Hoi An is cycling around town. While riding your bicycle in the Ancient Town can be a daunting task depending on the time of the day, we recommend heading over the surrounding countryside and enjoy the colourful rice paddies that are just a short ride away from the city centre. If you want to witness the real local experience, do it during the early morning (6-7 AM) when the sunlight shines beautifully over the fields creating amazing textures and colours. If you ride your bicycle along Hai Ba Tung street for about 3km, you will not only find rice paddies but also discover Tra Que Village, a uniquely quaint area of Hoi An full of vegetable gardens and ponds. You will get a glimpse into the country life as you watch the farmers cultivate, care for and harvest their produce. Plus you will suddenly come to the realisation why local dishes taste so good: it’s all about the greens!
Like all of the above wasn’t enough, it turns out that this town is also a beach destination. In fact, if you keep cycling past Tra Que Village on Hai Ba Trung, you will end up at the nicest spot on Hoi An’s coastline: An Bang beach. Only 4 kilometres away from the city centre, head over here in the afternoon to cap off a busy day of sightseeing and souvenir shopping. Whether you want to sit back and relax under a sun umbrella or enjoy yourself knee deep in the water, this is the go-to beach in Hoi An since the once-popular Cua Dai beach is now suffering from severe erosion. On a clear day, you will be able to spot Da Nang’s coastline and its tall buildings, or even the mountains in Son Tra Peninsula if you get really lucky.
This picturesque town is a photographer’s paradise. It doesn’t matter whether you are an avid photographer or someone who recently started taking pictures, your camera will fall head over hills in love with Hoi An. Its colonial buildings with wooden structures, the quays and canals that make up the townscape and the locals hanging out at every other corner simply make the best scene for your shots. And if you don’t believe us, pay a visit to the French photographer Rehahn’s gallery/museum called ‘Precious Heritage’ (located on the aforementioned Art Street, Phan Boi Chau) where visitors can enjoy looking at his beautifully taken photographs of Hoi An (where he is settled) as well as the shots of the 54 ethnic groups scattered across Vietnam.
The latest addition to the entertainment scene, Hoi An Impression Theme Park is a long way off being finished but the lovely open-air theatre is already showing the play ‘Hoi An Memories Sceneries’. The show covers the history of this commercial trading port while offering a glimpse of what life would have been like from the 15th to the 19th century. Apart from the cast of over 500 actors and a 25,000 square meters, the lighting and sound put together an incredible show that makes this play an unforgettable experience that you don’t want to miss out.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the 8 reasons to Visit Hoi An! Once you’re done with everything on this list you might consider exploring the beautiful surrounding countryside! XO Tours offers an amazing morning motorbike tour and fun evening walking food tour that explores the island of Cam Kim, which has virtually been untouched by tourism. On both tours, you’ll get to each some delicious local food, while getting to meet the local people in their homes and places of work! You can book one or both of our Hoi An tours by clicking HERE. We hope to see you in Hoi An soon!