Hoi An had been on our must visit list since our first time in Vietnam as on that trip we spent time in Hue but didn’t make it to Hoi An. Since then everyone who has been to Vietnam had said it was a must and on this trip talking to any Vietnamese they said that it was the most beautiful place in the country.
We fell in love with the town, it is a world heritage site and there are over 800 buildings in the old town that have been preserved by Unesco decree. Much of the town looks as it did centuries ago, with Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples, family chapels and an incredible market area. The setting on the river, the lantern lit streets, the buildings make this a truly stunning place. The town is surrounded by rice fields and the beaches are only ten minutes from the old town.
We were delighted to return on our most recent visit to Vietnam and spend more time in Hoi An, as it become increasingly busy with visitors it is still possible to get away from the crowds and as many only visit for the day the evenings are much less busy.
Danang is the nearest travel hub with a large airport and internal flights from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and other cities, it is also a major stop on the Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh railway, almost midway between the two. Hoi An is about 45 minutes away by car and hotels will arrange pick ups.
Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.hotels.com.The first time we stayed in Can Nam Island but found the walk across the busy bridge and the lack of bars & restaurants on the island a drawback. This time we stayed the other side of the Japanese Bridge which was a more pleasant stroll into town and also handy for An Hoi island and its many bars, restaurants and night market. Personally I think whatever hotel you choose there are two essentials, a swimming pool and a beach shuttle. Given the heat it is also easy to pick up a very cheap taxi to take you from one side of town to the other.
Hoi An is known as a culinary highlight of Vietnam and there are many specialities of the area which you must try such as white rose dumplings and crispy savoury pancakes.We loved the food and there are so many choices of places to eat and we ate the best food of the trip in Hoi An.
Morning Glory, 106 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, is a must on most visitors lists and we went on our first night of our first visit and loved the food and atmosphere, You may have to wait for a table at busy times but there is a bar area and the staff deal efficiently with allocating tables. We returned on the first night of our second visit and again had an excellent meal.
Vy’s Market, 3 Nguyen Hoang Street, An Hoi Island, is owned by the same lady as Morning Glory and we have enjoyed it on both our visits. It is like a food market with various cooking areas around the edge big eating area, lots of choice and you can see dishes such as fresh noodles being made. The food is excellent, really good service and you should try the ice creams sold in the shop area after dinner.
The Noodle House, 13 Bạch Đằng, is a new addition and it has a great riverside location just by the market. It also has the best noodle dishes I have had in Vietnam, the Duck Pho and Seafood Bun, both soup noodle dishes were fantastic. It is owned by the same people as Lantern Town and the quality of service and food is top notch.
Rice Drum, 75 Nguyễn Thái Học, really enjoyed the food and service here, so much so we went back twice, good food, very reasonably priced and lovely staff.
Secret Garden, Phường Minh An, is well known and had been recommended by a friend, we booked in advance but were disappointed when we went by the service and the food was fine but not outstanding, yes it has a lovely setting but the quality v price ratio was poor in comparison to other Hoi An restaurants.
Bazar Café & Restaurant, 36 Trần Phú, lovely setting for a meal or just a drink, e ate lunch there and really enjoyed the dishes we chose and the service. It is also great for a drink especially for a cocktail during happy hour between 4pm & 8pm.
Ms Ly Café, 22 Nguyen Hue Street, is highly rated on many web sites and is therefore very popular, we were lucky enough to get a table with only a 30 minute wait, time for a quick beer nearby. The food was top notch, the fish in banana leaf was fabulous. The owners are a local lady and her New York husband who told us some really interesting things about Hoi An history.
Hai Café, 98 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, was a spur of the moment decision for lunch and we had a lovely meal,the food was top notch and the service lovely. We also enjoyed an excellent bottle of French wine at a very reasonable price. Hai Café is part of the Red River cooking school which gets very good reports.
Lantern Town, 49 Nguyễn Thái Học, having read good reports we booked this for our last night and asked for a garden table. When we arrived we were given a lovely table and the food was very good and the service excellent, definitely one to recommend.
Green Mango, 54 Nguyễn Thái Học, stopped for a drink and stayed for lunch, very good quality food and service, one to try again.
Pho Xuo, 35 Phan Chu Trinh, a very small and very popular place for Pho noodles, lovely service and incredibly cheap.
Home, 112 Nguyen Thai Hoc, we had read great reports about Home and booked for dinner on our last night in Hoi An. The restaurant is very smart and more formal than most of the places we had eaten in, the service was attentive, perhaps too attentive. The food good but didn’t wow us, they also have a top rated restaurant of the same name in Hanoi.
White Marble, 98 Lê Lợi Street, is a very cool wine bar and restaurant, the wine is on the pricey side but beer, cocktails and spirits are very reasonably priced. The food on offer looked good but didn’t sample any.
Hill Station, 321 Nguyễn Duy Hiệu, had to be visited as we loved their bar in Hanoi, this lacked the atmosphere when we visited but still a pleasant bar for a beer, wine or cocktail and great value at Happy Hour.
Dive Bar, 88 Nguyễn Thái Học, is an incredibly popular bar with a huge variety of drinks and happy hour offers, they run diving trips hence the name, not a reflection of the type of bar.
QBar, 94 Nguyễn Thái Học, another cool bar with a very extended happy hour on certain cocktails from 11am to 7pm also good for a beer or a wine.
Mr Duc’s New Life Bar, Just over the bridge from the market on Cam Nam island, this is a super friendly bar, great owner who rents bikes and a lovely dog. It’s a bar where you can’t help but meet pleasant fellow travellers.
Cong Cafe, 64 Công Nữ Ngọc Hoa, we love Cong Cafe in Hanoi and were delighted to find one in Hoi An, fabulous coffees, lovely staff and also serves beer with a generous Happy Hour.
Market Terrace, (Market Bar), Số 02, Bạch Đằng, this terrace bar is above the main market building on the river side. The wine is very reasonably priced, it only opens in the evening and was quiet when we went there but it is a great location.
Hoianian Wine Bar, 38 Phan Chu Trinh, has a great name for the food and service, we only stopped for a beer but the service was top notch, a small glass of fizz as a complimentary drink and a snack of prawn crackers, wish we had been able to return to sample the food but one for next time.
Hoi An has some lovely bars and while not a late night place you will find some great places before and after dinner. There is lots of choice with a good local beer called Larue from Danang which is excellent, cocktails are very popular and there are some great places to sample them especially during Happy Hour. Good quality spirits are very common and reasonably priced and wine is always available.
Craft beer is also readily available in many bars and restaurants, this has really taken off in Vietnam and there are many choices these days.
Vietnam does produce a wine called Dalat, the ordinary one is like an average table wine, there are some better quality ones in the range these days which are good and reasonably priced particularly the reds. There is also plenty of imported wines mainly from Australia, Chile and France in restaurants. Imported wine prices can vary hugely from restaurant to restaurant.
Coffee is also a major drink as you would expect from the second largest coffee producing country and there are some lovely cafes to relax in with an iced coffee, very popular, or a regular coffee, Hoi An has some lovely cafes and Hoi An Roaster are very good.
There are 22 heritage buildings which require a ticket to visit, these include assembly halls, family houses, family chapels and museums, tickets can be bought from any of the various offices around the town. One ticket costing around £4 entitles you to entry to 5 buildings and the money from the tickets goes towards preserving the buildings.
There are numerous boats offering river trips and in the evenings when lanterns are floated in the river smaller boats ferry people across the river.
The nearby beaches are worth visiting and many have excellent seafood restaurants.
Hoi An is also famous for its tailors and your hotel will recommend it’s favoured shop, worth doing some homework on what you want made beforehand.