The beguiling riverside setting of Hoi An befits its heritage as a port town that has attracted a melange of cultures and architectural styles over hundreds of years. Elegant buildings with Chinese, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Vietnamese influences range from mustard-yellow to rose-pink. Lantern-draped and reflected in the Hoian River, they make Hoi An holidays utterly enchanting.
This graceful, well-preserved settlement on Vietnam’s central coast retains a unique sense of history that makes it a true pleasure to explore. Wander through the shophouses, assembly halls and temples of the old quarter to gain an insight into Hoi An’s culture and beliefs. Taste food from different cultures and dishes that are a unique product of Hoi An’s melting pot. Stay a couple days, and the tranquil beauty of Hoi An holidays may leave you hopelessly enamoured.
History and commerce
A trading port that some believe dates back over two thousand years, Hoi An has rapidly become one of Southeast Asia’s, and particularly Vietnam’s, most popular tourist destinations.
The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is characterised by winding narrow lanes, Chinese shophouses and the hustle and bustle of shops, restaurants and cafes, all of which make it a particularly entertaining place when the sun goes down.
Wander through the narrow streets of a town that feels like a village, catching glimpses of traditional ways of life. I included it as one of my Top 30 things to see in Asia because Hoi An offers much more than the wealth of history lining the streets and riverfront.
Things to do in and around Hoi An
The best way to immerse yourself in beautiful Hoi An is to stroll along the riverbank, across the iconic Japanese Bridge, and plunge into the old quarter where colourful shops display a wide array of decorative crafts. You are always welcome to enter the shops and learn more about the craftspeople and their way of life.
Book onto a craft workshop and discover the traditions of this region with a friendly artisan as you create your own intricate silk lantern, learn how to cook classic pho, or discover wood carving.
One of the most popular things to do in Hoi An is to visit the tailors’ quarter and be measured for a bespoke outfit that will be ready overnight.
Take a rewarding day trip to the nearby ruins of My Son, a collection of abandoned Hindu temples built by the kings of Champa.
For those seeking more adventurous activities why not try a motorbike tour of the region. Travelling as locals do on a Minsk motorbike embraces the freedom of the open road, and the outstanding natural beauty of the Hoi An area leaves visitors breathless.
Hoi An beach time
Spend some time relaxing at the Hoi An beach area – it’s an easy cycle to An Bang beach where palm trees, cafes and sunloungers on soft sand await. Nearby Cui Dai and China beaches are busier but also offer the warm waters and golden sands of the central Vietnam coast. As well as swimming and sunbathing, windsurfing is popular on these beaches.
Should you want to explore underwater a little deeper, the coast of this region is blessed with an incredible array of corals and tropical fish, making a snorkelling or diving trip a remarkably rewarding experience. At just 21km from the city is the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, a collection of islands with some of the best underwater wildlife the South China Sea.
Where to stay in Hoi An
Hoi An offers a variety of accommodation options but for those wanting a little indulgence in a luxurious tropical hideaway, the Nam Hai Hoi An is hard to beat. Relaxing villas, elegant restaurants and its own spa and fitness centre ensure this luxury Hoi An hotel provides a slice of extreme comfort and the chance to recoup after a hard day’s sightseeing.
Eating out in Hoi An
Once a prominent Vietnamese trading port, Hoi An’s food specialities are the result of Chinese, French and Japanese influences.
Cao lau is Hoi An’s definitive dish, comprising thick chewy rice noodles, barbecued pork slices, beansprouts, croutons, and fresh herbs in a pork-based gravy. This local delicacy is only available in Hoi An because the noodles can only be cooked using water from hidden ancient Cham wells, while fresh greens are sourced from Tra Que Vegetable Village.
Cơm gà is the Hoi An version of Hainanese chicken, a legacy of the town’s historic Chinese influence.In Com ga the chicken torn into small pieces and mixed with fresh herbs and sliced onions to form a salad. Enjoy Cơm gà at Com ga Ba Buoi, 22 Phan Chu Trinh St in Hoi An.