Hoi An is a must visit destination as part of any itinerary in Vietnam. The Venice of Vietnam is filled with heady romance, colour and eclectic design influences. Read on to find our guide to visiting Hoi An to get the most from your trip.
- Why visit Hoi An
- Where to stay in Hoi An
- Where to eat Cao Lau in Hoi An
- Bars in Hoi An
- Coffee Shops in Hoi An
- How long to spend in Hoi An
- What to do in Hoi An
- What to do in Hoi An at night
- What to do in Hoi An in the rain/ Hoi An rainy season
- How to get to Hoi An
- Where to visit near Hoi An
Why visit Hoi An
Hoi An is a city in central Vietnam. For a small provincial city, it is famous for a number of things which make visiting Hoi An a pleasure.
Firstly, it is known as the Venice of Vietnam owing to the meandering river running through the city. The Thu Bon river is constantly thronging with boats travelling up and down filled with tourists enjoying the scenery.
Secondly, it is world renowned for being the capital of Vietnam’s tailoring industry. For this reason, tourists flock here to acquire made to measure suits and dresses. Anyone with a keen eye for design will love the colourful clothing stores around the city of Hoi An.
Hoi An is also known for it’s food and coffee. A bit like a trendy Shoreditch of Vietnam, it has a huge amount of specialist coffee shops. In terms of food, the big hit is Cao Lau, a noodle dish topped with crispy pork.
Finally, well, it’s just a romantic and beautiful city. For this reason, it has become popular with tourists, particularly couples travelling around Vietnam.
Where to stay in Hoi An
There are many accomodation options in Hoi An, whatever your budget. Although this is a small city, the decision as to where to stay when visiting Hoi An can be difficult.
For a central location on a budget
Little Town Villa in the centre of Hoi An old town, costs approx $40 per night. This is not the cheapest option in the centre but provides value for money and is of a very comfortable standard.
For luxury on a budget
If you are happy to stay slightly out of centre in Hoi An to get a spacious and luxurious room, we recommend the Island Town Villas. This was one of our favourite hotels in Vietnam, made even more special by the wonderful family who run this boutique hotel.
We were initially sceptical about the location, but we grew to enjoy the local neighbourhood, which feels more authentic than Hoi An old town. Plus, the hotel provided us with bicycles making getting around easy.
Where to eat Cao Lau in Hoi An
The river view restaurants in the old town are beautiful in Hoi An, but in our view, they are not the best place to eat especially if you’re looking for Cao Lau. Prices tend to be higher as you pay for the view and the Cao Lau is not so authentic. Instead, we recommend the following:
For authentic Cao Lau in Hoi An: Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh
This small restaurant a few streets back from the old town river front was by far our favourite spot for a quick bite of Cao Lau at lunch time. Being a little away from the river, it’s not immediately easy to find but this means that it is a not a regular tourist haunt. The fresh spring rolls here are also a treat, the host teaches you how to make them yourself so you can learn as you eat. You can find it here.
For a set meal with Cao Lau in Hoi An: Ms Hay
Our favourite area to eat dinner in Hoi An is here. This small stretch of 4 or 5 restaurants are close to the main bars but feel a bit off the beaten track. The hosts are super friendly and the food is some of the best we ate in Vietnam. Choose any of the restaurants here, but we loved Ms Hay. There’s a set menu for $8 which has 4 courses including Cao Lau and White Rose (another Hoi An speciality.)
For cheap Cao Lau in Hoi An: Quan An Ben Tre
On the island across the river from Hoi An, this place has the cheapest Cao Lau we found at 20,000 VND (less than $1). Not only that, but the portion size is huge and the spot overlooking the river is a delight. Quan An Ben Tre, has only one review on Trip Advisor which does not accurately portray its popularity as this a local lunch hotspot!
Bars in Hoi An
Here are our three favourite bars when visiting Hoi An.
Granted, visiting an Irish Bar in Hoi An may not be the most authentic experience, but we loved the free pool table and great live music in the Shamrock Irish Bar in Hoi An. If you’re looking for a late night spot to mingle the night away, this is a great one.
Hoi An Wine Bar
For something a little different, we really enjoyed the Hoianian wine bar in Hoi An. We love Vietnamese beer, but after 2 months travelling in Asia we were craving a nice cold glass of white wine. If you’re a wine lover, then head here to enjoy the happy hour offers and people watching.
Late night spot
If you are looking for a less busy late night spot for drinks, we recommend Ca Phe New Life, which is just over the large bridge from Hoi An old town. This bar has been around for 14 years and we loved it for the friendly owner, free to use pool table and American bar vibes.
Coffee Shops in Hoi An
Whether you’re looking for a spot to work or just a good place to curl up with a book and a coffee, these are our top three favourite coffee shops to visit in Hoi An.
Artbook Cafe and Bistro
The artbook cafe and bistro can be found a few streets back from the river and close to the Japanese covered bridge. This peaceful spot has good wifi and is a cafe/ bookshop, so you can browse as you drink coffee. Try the frozen coconut coffee and be sure to take a seat upstairs for the best design features and view.
Hoi An Roastery
For specialist coffee and espresso with a kick, look no further than Hoi An Roastery. We loved this coffee house for the unique roasts and fair trade ethics.
Hoi An Coffee Hub is a bit of a tricky one to find as it’s at the end of a small alleyway. Park your bicycle at the end and walk down, we promise it’s worth it. This place has hipster vibes and seems to be popular with trendy Vietnamese locals. We loved it for the salt coffee and vegan cakes on offer.
How long to spend in Hoi An
Hoi An is a captivating city and it’s easy to see why so many people love it. In our view, there’s more than enough to do in Hoi An for three days. If you don’t have that time, you could get a good measure of the place in 48 hours. However, if you also plan to visit Da Nang and neighbouring areas, we suggest spending longer than this to make the most of your visit to Hoi An.
What to do in Hoi An
For such a small city, Hoi An has so much to offer any traveller. Here’s our pick of top 4 things to do when visiting Hoi An.
1/ Explore by bicycle
In our view, a bicycle is the best way to explore Hoi An. Many hotels will offer these for free or you can easily rent them. The size of the city and quiet roads make this a great place to explore by bike. Hoi An has a few small islands connected to the main town by bridge, be sure to explore as far and wide as you can on your bicycles. Perhaps stopping for a beer or coffee as you roam.
2/ People watch by the river
Bars and restaurants line the river in Hoi An. Perch in one of these to enjoy some people watching. If you’re on a budget, grab something from the market or a drink from the supermarket and sit right on the river bank instead as you watch the colourful boats bob past.
3/ Explore the market
Whether you’re looking for fresh food and produce, snacks or clothing, head to Hoi An market to explore it all. This is truly a treat for the senses. Be sure to haggle and do not accept the first price offered. As a general rule, we expected to pay around 50% of the original asking price in markets and some shops.
4/ Get some clothing made
Hoi An is world renowned for the expert and inexpensive tailoring. You’ll need to allow at least 3 days if you’d like to get something bespoke made, but you could have something completely unique made just for you. Kimmy Tailor comes highly recommended.
What to do in Hoi An at night
Hoi An is truly special at night, with the lanterns and twinkling candles on the river, it’s easy to see why this is such a romantic destination for couples visiting Vietnam.
1/ Take a boat tour
There is nothing more iconic when visiting Hoi An than taking a night time boat tour. This is the ultimate in romantic night time experiences as you’ll be surrounded by colourful lanterns, candlelight and other travellers having a wonderful time. You don’t need to book, just head to the river and you’ll be offered a boat trip by one of the many boat owners.
2/ Enjoy a happy hour cocktail
There are lots of places in Hoi An to drink, but for a happy hour cocktail early evening, we recommend Lenco Cafe. This spot serves delicious drinks with Spanish music and a fab view of this temple.
3/ Head to the night market
There are two markets in Hoi An serving food in the evening but this one – google maps link here – is the best for food selection. For a late night snack, you can find anything you want. We loved the delicate banana pancakes served with Nutella.
4/ Take in a theatre show
Hoi An boasts a pretty iconic bamboo theatre, the Lune Centre. Every evening there is a 18:00 showcase of Vietnamese music and dance. If you like the arts, this promises to be a unique experience. Book here.
What to do in Hoi An in the rain/ Hoi An rainy season
When it rains in Hoi An, it really does rain. Whatever the weather it is still a beautiful city, but if you find yourself in Hoi An during rainy season, here is our suggestion of the best things to do in Hoi An in the rain.
1/ Take a cooking course
One of the most fun things you can do in Hoi An is take a cooking course. There are lots of options for courses you can take. Many can be booked in advance or online. For the most authentic and personal experience, we recommend finding a restaurant you love and asking to take a cooking course with them. If it’s raining, perhaps just opt for a cooking class under cover rather than taking one of the classes that comes with a basket boat ride!
2/ Learn how to make a lantern
You can learn how to make one of the iconic Hoi An lanterns at any time of the day with the Lantern Lady. Just drop in and you’ll soon be making your own colourful lantern for less than $10.
3/ Enjoy coffee in one of the specialist coffee houses
We’ve never seen so many coffee shops in one small city. Hoi An is a coffee lovers paradise. If you find yourself stuck in the rain, try one of the famous coffee houses and try a Salt Coffee, Egg Coffee or Coconut Coffee (so many options!)
4/ Hide from the rain in an Irish pub
If you do get caught in the rain and need to wait for it to pass, we highly recommend the Shamrock Bar. While away a few hours dancing under the cover of the terrace or playing pool.
How to get to Hoi An
Travelling from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An
It’s a long way from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An. You can get a train that takes 35 hours! You could also travel to Nha Trang and take an 18 hour train journey from there. However, if like many people you choose to visit Hoi An and then travel directly to Ho Chi Minh, we would recommend taking a short domestic flight. There are two airlines flying this route and it’s extremely regular throughout the day.
Travelling from Hanoi to Hoi An
To get from Hanoi to Hoi An, or Hoi An to Hanoi, there are a few options. A train (via Da Nang) will take approximately 18 hours, and a bus will take a similar length of time. Domestic airlines fly this route frequently and cheaply however, and it takes around 1 hour 20 minutes.
Where to visit near Hoi An
Many travellers visiting Hoi An also choose to visit Da Nang. The city of Da Nang is only 30km from Hoi An and can be easily reached by taxi, scooter or regular bus service. Da Nang is a costal city and larger than Hoi An, so offers a good contrast. We visited Vietnam during the rainy season and therefore did not visit Da Nang, but we met many people who have travelled their and loved it.
The ancient city of Hue is only around 150km away from Hoi An and can be reached by a 3 hour bus ride. Hue is a very different experience to Hoi An, quieter and more historical. It perhaps doesn’t have the romance of Hoi An, but for history buffs, it’s well worth a visit. Find out more about Hue here.