With all its historical buildings and charming, relaxed atmosphere, Hoi An has become the favorite destination for many tourists visiting Vietnam. It has had a long history as a trading port, and the street layout and many of its buildings, dating from as early as the 16th century, have been notably well-preserved over the centuries, making Hoi An a really unique historical town. In 1999 it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hoi An’s lovely old town is just perfect for strolling around, but the beach is also within an easy reach, and these, combined with great restaurants, nice cafes and exciting shops arguably make Hoi An the most pleasant tourist destination of all Vietnam’s cities. When you have discovered all its picturesque pagodas and historical buildings, watch a stunning sunset over the Thu Bon River or on the beach, and enjoy a delicious dinner of local food.
Things to see and do in Hoi An
The old town
The old town of Hoi An is a little gem with gorgeous pagodas and hundreds of ancient buildings to discover. The charming narrow streets with tons of colorful hanging lanterns have a magical ambiance and strolling around will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the 17th century. The nighttime scenery when all those lanterns are illuminated is also stunning.
The old town has some 800 beautifully preserved historical buildings, 18 of which are open to the public and offer an intriguing insight into what life was like centuries ago. To enter the old town, you need to purchase a ticket, which entitles you to enter the area as many times as you wish (just make sure you keep the ticket for the whole length of your stay) and also allows access to five attractions of your choice and a traditional music show. If you’re as lucky as to arrive during one of the full moon festivals (held on the 14th day of each lunar month), when the whole district is illuminated with the colorful lanterns only and lit candles are floating down the river, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. Enjoy traditional Vietnamese music and dance with the locals!
Japanese Covered Bridge (Cau Nhat Ban)
This ornate little bridge is considered the symbol of Hoi An. It was constructed in the 16th century by the Japanese community and although it was rebuilt several times over the centuries, it was finally restored to its original shape in the 19th century and has been carefully preserved since then. Its unique structure and ornamentation combine elements of Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese architecture. Having a small temple attached to it, it has also been an important scene of religious activities.
Fukian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien)
Phuc Kien was established in the late 17th century as an assembly hall for the largest Chinese ethnic group in Hoi An and later transformed into a temple dedicated to the sea goddess Thien Hau. It’s a stunningly colorful complex of buildings with beautiful statues, a mosaic fountain and other artifacts inside. One of the interesting features of the assembly hall is the great variety of animal representations, which all have symbolic meanings in Chinese culture.
What to Eat in Hoi An
Vietnam is famous for its delicious and inexpensive food, but Hoi An is renowned for its cuisine even within Vietnam, so you really mustn’t leave the place without tasting its local delicacies. The single most famous of traditional Hoi An dishes is “Cao Lau”, a dark soup with slices of pork, vegetables, thick yellow noodles and crispy croutons. What is very special about it, is that the noodles are always made with water from one of the ancient Cham wells, and it also contains some greens that are only grown in this area. No restaurant in Hoi An can miss this delicious dish from its menu. Com Ga Hoi An (Hoi An Chicken Rice), the White Rose (a special white dumpling with shrimps which is bunched up to look like a rose) and Quang Noodles are also enticing dishes you should try while in this culinary paradise. On hot days, the terrific smoothies and pressed juice offered all around town can be a great refreshment.