You may never have heard of it but Hoi An, the ancient port city on the central Vietnamese coast, was voted one of the best cities in the world in 2022. So what makes it so special? Well, the lantern-lit streets and well-preserved architecture of the old town are a start. Add the vibrant riverside atmosphere, bustling markets, mind-blowing street food, charming people and the proximity to tropical beaches and get ready to start Googling flight prices.
Here’s the Hoi An travel guide covering the history, culture and natural beauty of this special place.
How to get to Hoi An
The international airport at Hoi An is 30km and an easy taxi ride away. If you have time or are coming to Hoi An from another part of Vietnam we highly recommend taking the train. Chat with fellow passengers, grab a banh mi and watch the world go by as you pass by rice fields, villages and a beautiful coastline. It's a great way to get a taste of the local way of life and a much more authentic experience than sitting in an airport and plane.
Best time to visit Hoi An
February to April is the dry season and the best time to head to Hoi An weather-wise. The temperatures are mid 70s to low 90s and humidity is lower than the rest of the year. May to August is peak tourist season, so if you want to avoid the crowds and can handle a little rainfall September to January is a good option. Hoi An is charming even in the rain.
Things to see in Hoi An
Hoi An ancient town is an incredibly well-preserved example of a 15th to 19th century international trading port. Winding alleys and streets of old merchants houses and temples are lit by lanterns at night, and it’s easy to imagine Hoi An as it was hundreds of years ago.
You’ll likely wander towards the Japanese covered bridge, which has become an emblem of Hoi An. Built by Japanese businessmen in 1590, it connected the Japanese and Chinese quarters of the city. Pay your respects to the monkey and dog statues that guard the entrance and visit the nearby temple which was built to ward off the monsters believed to live under the bridge.
Hoi An night market is found in the old town and the place to go for jewellery, crafts and food, food, food. Come hungry as there are more than 50 stalls selling incredible Vietnamese street snacks. Overlooking the river and lit by colorful lanterns, it’s as atmospheric as it sounds.
When you feel like you need a break from the crowds and traffic of the city, rent a bike and ride a few kilometers north for a complete change of scenery. Tra Que Vegetable Village is the place where all the herbs and vegetables that feed the city are grown. It’s a land of lush greens, buffalo and busy farmers. The produce is grown organically, and fertilized by the algae from ponds that is harvested everyday.
Keep riding past Tra Que and you will find An Bang Beach. Lined with palm trees and seafood restaurants, it's a large stretch of perfect sand and clear blue sea for swimming. It’s a place to really relax- beach side massages are popular.
The Lantern Festival of Hoi An
Every lunar full moon the old town celebrates ancient traditions and past ancestors. Fluorescent lighting is banned and colorful lanterns give a beautiful glow as the people of Hoi An make offerings at shrines, light incense, watch traditional performances and gather to play Chinese chess.
Three foods you have to try in Hoi An
The street food scene alone is enough to place Hoi An as the best city in the world. These are the top 3 big hitters.
An emblematic dish of Hoi An, reflecting the fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. Japanese udon style noodles, roast pork like Chinese Char Siu, raw greens, crunchy bean sprouts and a secret local sauce make this unmissable. And it costs less than $2 a bowl.
For a party in your mouth try this dish of turmeric-yellow noodles in a bone broth with meat, shrimp or eggs and fresh vegetables, basil, mint, cilantro and peanuts on top for crunch and flavor.
An easy to grab baguette, stuffed with meat, egg, herbs, crunchy veg, chili and a tangy sauce. It’s spicy, salty, crispy and sweet all at the same time.
Long Story Short...
We hope this Hoi An travel guide has given you a taste of why people consider it the best city in the world. Lip smacking food, history and culture, the dynamic mix of cultures and access to rural life and tropical beaches makes it a place you should arrange a trip around.
Written by Laura Sedlak