June 21, 2020

City Guide: See and Explore Hoi An in 3 Days

Hoi An is a charming port town in Vietnam that brims with colours, flavours, and culture that make it one of the best and most beautiful cities to visit in the country and the world. Anyone who comes to Hoi An will be fascinated by its colonial buildings, a wide array of bars and restaurants, shopping and tailoring opportunities, and a really lively atmosphere.

Hoi An lights up at night and turns magical thanks to an array of colourful lanterns lining the sidewalks and lighting up streets and night markets. Its streets are small but bustling with traditional shophouses that have turned into tailor shops, galleries, restaurants, hotels, and bars. As you enjoy leisurely walking along these streets, you’ll find yourself salivating from the aroma of dripping Vietnamese coffee, Cao Lau or Hoi An noodles, and spring rolls.

Another fact that makes Hoi An even more enticing is how its locals love to eat. The restaurants are endless and street food is just everywhere! You may even find yourself talking to your stomach to let it know that it’s time to eat again!

Best time to visit Hoi An

Like most Southeast Asian countries, Hoi An has two seasons—rainy and dry. The rainy season falls between October and February, while the dry season is from March to September. This makes April the best time to visit the city because the weather is pleasant. It is also important to avoid travelling between October and mid-December as it is the typhoon season and flooding is very common.

Hoi An has very welcoming and accommodating locals which is why it is becoming a very popular tourist destination among travellers from all over the world. The ideal number of days to stay here is five to seven days. However, you can bring it down to 3 days and pack each day with sites to see to enjoy the best of Hoi An. For this, we have come up with this 3-day itinerary that you can follow to see the best in the city. Feel free to tweak it to suit your preferences.

Day 1 Tailor-made clothes at Peace Tailors, Ancient Town of Hoi An, Japanese Covered Bridge, and tasting Banh Mi

Hoi An: tailor-made dresses

Hoi An is synonymous to tailor-made clothes, which is why a visit to the Peace Tailors should be a top priority. In fact, tailors can be found at almost every corner and street. When you come here, you can look at styles in their galleries or you can present your own idea for reference. It usually takes 3 days to finish your request, which is why this should be among your first stops during your excursion.

From here, you can proceed to explore the famous Ancient Town of Hoi An. You can rent a bike to explore it, or you can also opt to walk and have more chances to stop at sites that catch your senses. Conquer small streets and alleys that ooze with tradition and architecture that are worth capturing on your cameras. Make a stop at one of the shops and enjoy a relaxing cup of traditional Vietnamese coffee while watching the world go by. Admire the locals as they go about their day or try befriending them to get first-hand insights into what they do. Remember though that motorbikes and scooters are prohibited from driving down these roads between 8:30 and 11 AM and 3 and 9 PM to give way to tourists in exploring the Ancient Town on foot.

Hoi An: Aerial view of Ancient Town

Then, get going and proceed to one of the most iconic landmarks in the centre of Old Town, the Japanese Covered Bridge, which was built by Japanese craftsmen during the early 17th century. What makes this worth including in every Hoi An tour is the fact that it sits between two sides that feature French buildings. In fact, it offers a nice spot from where to admire such beautiful buildings.

Japanese Covered Bridge from afar

Banh Mi is a popular local food in Hoi An and should be checked off everyone’s bucket list. If you want to taste the best Banh Mi as per the recommendation of Anthony Bourdain, head to Banh Mi Phuong located just outside of Hoi An Ancient Town. You won’t miss it because it always has a long line of people in front of it. You can either eat in or take out, so you simply go inside and find a nice spot to sit on. If you’re used to having pickled daikon and carrots in your Banh Mi, be surprised to see none of that in your Hoi An version. After all, it’s the original.

Hoi An: delicious Banh Mi

Day 2 Cooking Class, Massage, and Night Markets

One of the most popular activities for tourists in Hoi An is the cooking class. Before heading out, make sure to eat a good and hearty breakfast to keep from munching on your ingredients for the cooking class. It starts early, usually at 8 o’clock in the morning, and it’s best for all food lovers in Hoi An. You can choose from a variety of cooking classes but among the favourites is the Hoi An Eco Cooking Class, which is a half-day tour that finishes at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

The cooking classes are no ordinary classes because you will visit local morning markets, enjoy a ride in a classic coconut bamboo boat, and learn the many tricks about the Vietnamese cuisine.

Hoi An: hands of someone making a Vietnamese dish

After the class, you can enjoy a relaxing, 60-minute body massage. There are many options in Hoi An but we recommend the White Rose Spa because it is clean and the massage is excellent. This will give you enough time to recuperate and re-energize for a night of exploring the night markets and street food scene in Hoi An.

Typical Vietnamese massage

Roam around the Old Town where your eyes can feast on the beautifully coloured lanterns. Don’t be surprised to see tons of lanterns in the city because Hoi An is the lantern city! In fact, you can visit many shops that allow tourists to watch the craftsmen who have been doing it for many years—many of them third and fourth-generation lantern makers.

Then, stroll through the night market over the river and buy for yourself a souvenir to remember this vacation by. Aside from eating street food, you can also visit bars and restaurants that offer Mexican and Greek dishes.

grilled octopus in street markets

Day 3 My Son or Cham Islands

On your third day in Hoi An, you can choose between visiting My Son or the Cham Islands. My Son is a popular historical destination among tourists, which is why there are numerous tours offered that can take you there. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Cham Empire’s most important remains. The UNESCO site says it dates back to between the 4th and 13th centuries and traces its roots to Indian Hinduism. The good news is that these tours are cheap, so if you prefer hassle-free excursions, joining one is a great idea. These tours also make a side trip to the Kim Bong Carpentry Village. However, if you prefer to DIY, you can rent a motorbike and research more about it to get there.

a scene in My Son

The other option is a visit to Cham Islands believed to be the islands where the Cham people first settled in. It has 8 small islands that are part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

Hoi An: white sand beach of Cham Islands

Other sites to see in Hoi An

As there are many interesting sites to visit in Hoi An, below is a list of those that you can see anytime. You can tweak the above itinerary and replace some with those that you find more interesting.

  1. Te Dahr Show

The Te Dahr Show is an epic show in Hoi An that tourists shouldn’t miss. It talks about the culture of the Vietnamese highlanders that displays a spectacular show of modern dance and acrobats on bamboo structures.

  1. Basket boat and fishing village

If you’ve got more time and an adventurous spirit, a basket boat tour should be in order. You’ll be taken to a palm-fringed village where you will learn how to paddle and navigate this unique kind of boat. It’s an immersive tour that lets you try out a traditional fishing method, visit craft shops for bamboo products, and watch traditional shows where locals perform on the boat.

Hoi An: basket boat experience

  1. Hoi An beaches

Beaches abound in Hoi An, among which is An Bang. You can easily reach it by motorbike and it only charges for the parking fee. It has powdery white sand and a massive empty sea.

Hoi An: white sand beach of An Bang

Hoi An is indeed a beautiful place to visit. Our only advice is that you stay for more than three days to really experience everything that it offers.

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