Cobble stone streets lined with old yellow buildings covered in bougainvillea, Hoi An, Vietnam has a beautiful historic European feel to it. Nestled between the East Vietnamese Sea & Thu Bồn River, canals run through this small town reminiscent of Venice, Italy...
I found myself here spontaneously, after changing my flight out of Hanoi to be a week later than I originally planned. I was falling in love with Vietnam, the food culture, the night markets, and the buzz of the city...but as soon as I heard from a few other travelers about this magical place down the coast, I couldn't resist. As soon as I arrived in Hoi An I knew exactly what they were talking about. Around every corner are custom tailor shops, leather shops, open air markets, and art stores selling handmade goods from all over Vietnam (AKA my personal heaven). Read below to learn about all of the incredible meals we ate for under $3, what we did in our free time, and the clothes I made during my trip!
hoi an ancient town
A UNESCO world heritage site, Hoi An Ancient Town has preserved it's original architecture and beauty dating back the 18th century when it was Asia's main shipping port. Reflecting a mix of eras and styles, this beautiful seaside town was heavily influenced by it's Chinese, Japanese, and French history. Walk through the cobblestone streets to find local coffee shops, talented tailors, and craftsmen selling handmade pottery, baskets, textiles and art. Streets and small alleyways lined with Vietnamese lanterns light up the sky at night, giving this melting-pot town a romantic reminder of it's Vietnamese roots. And if that's not enough, Venice-style canals run through the town, connecting at the Thu Bồn River, where the historic Japanese Bridge connects one side of Hoi An to the other.
Rent bicycles from your homestay or hotel! There are no cars allowed in the center of town, which is really nice, so a scooter or bicycle are the ideal modes of transportation.
An Bang BEACH
JUST OUTSDE OF hoi an
Take a trip outside of Ancient Town and catch some rays (and maybe a Pina Colada?) at An Bang Beach. Only 15 minutes from the center of town, this picturesque beach is lined with umbrellas and restaurants that make for the perfect afternoon hang. Stop by Soul Kitchen for sunset cocktails, a hip yet low-key setting with daybeds and wooden structures reminiscent of beachside bars in Bali or Tulum. And if you’re working remotely, like me, they even have a steady Wifi connection which makes it easy to get some work done in a dreamy setting.
thu bon river
Running along one of the main strips of Ancient Town, Bach Dang Rd, lies a gorgeous river filled with colorful boats and gondolas. During the day take a stroll along the river's edge and cross over the bridge to explore the other side of town, and at sunset be sure to take up one of the locals offering a gondola ride - you won't regret it. Each night, hundreds of lanterns are lit and sent down the river, creating a magical, twinkling setting. Most gondolas will have them for you to light, or you can pick one up along the shore from one of the street vendors for a few cents.
MADAM KHANH - THE BANH MI QUEEN
You've never really had a Banh Mi Sandwich until you've tried Madam Khanh's. There is a reason they call her the Banh Mi Queen! Her baguettes are lightly toasted - perfectly crunchy on the outside, while pillow soft on the inside...And her menu offers the traditional pork and pate option, as well as a chicken or tofu options which is nice for vegetarians. I typically eat vegetarian when I'm at home in Bali, but I found it really difficult to keep up in Vietnam (plus, I'm all about getting the full experience when I travel). The chicken one was the winner for me, I ended up going back for it three times in one week. The sweetest part of the whole experience is that Madam Khanh sits at the doorway and you pay her directly after your meal. It's pretty cool to see the vintage photos of her in the shop and meet her in person afterwards.
BANH MI AROUND $1 / EACH
ALLEY COFFEE AT ALLEY ARTIST HOUSE
Dylan and I stumbled upon this artsy little shop when we followed a hand-painted wooden sign that said "coffee" down an alleyway. This tiny shop is located in an artist house, where local artists are working on paintings and other creative projects. Serving coffee out of a window, they've lined the alleyway with artwork and sitting areas that are perfect for hanging out and enjoying one of their delicious iced lattes.
COFFEE AROUND $2 / EACH
VIETNAMESE LUNCH OR DINNER
Get your fix of delicious local foods at Pho Xua. Of course, they have Pho, but after a week straight of eating Pho in Hanoi (which I'll post about soon!) I opted for the Bun Cha and White Rose Dumplings to try something new. Bun Cha is a super yummy dish that originated in Northern Vietnam (likely Hanoi) and it's comprised of grilled pork in a dipping sauce with a side of greens and rice noodles. My all-time favorite Bun Cha was at Bun Cha Dac Kim in Hanoi, but this was a pretty good rendition that definitely hit the spot. The White Rose were also really good - these shrimp dumplings are a local dish to Hoi An, they're definitely worth trying while you're in the area.
LUNCH AROUND $2 / PERSON
WESTERN BREAKFAST & BRUNCH
Rosie's was like a cozy home away from home for us while we were in Hoi An. Run by two very well-traveled local girls, this cafe brings fresh and healthy western favorites to Vietnam - from avocado toast to acai bowls and even breakfast burritos. They did such an amazing job with the menu and interior decoration, it's a MUST for anyone visiting Hoi An. There aren't many great breakfast options so we went here every morning to start the day off with coffee, breakfast, and to get a little bit of work done.
BREAKFAST & COFFEE AROUND $5 / PERSON
HOI AN ROASTERY
For all my coffee lovers - There are 3 locations of this local roaster sprinkled throughout Hoi An Ancient Town, each with a little bit of a different setup, but all with the same great coffee. Don't expect much from the food, but the pour over V60 is delicious, as well as coconut milk iced lattes. This is a great place to hangout in the morning or afternoon with reliable wifi for anyone trying to get some work time in. Plus, their fresh coconuts are some of the best I've ever had (even better than Bali!).
COFFEE AROUND $2 / EACH
Quán Cao Lầu Thanh
Cao Lau is a traditional Vietnamese dish that is only found in Hoi An. Comprised of chewy noodles, smoky pork, fresh greens, and crunchy croutons, this local dish is a must-try in Central Vietnam. The flavor behind the dipping sauce is different from any of the flavors of dishes in Hanoi, perhaps relating back to Hoi An's melting pot roots of a Chinese-Japanese fusion. There are several street food stands that serve this simple dish so it's pretty easy to find, but this one was really good!
LUNCH AROUND $2 / PERSON
WESTERN-VIETNAMESE FUSION DINNER
Nu Eatery was very high on our list - as should it be on yours! Super fresh ingredients make up this creative menu, a subtle fusion of Vietnamese and Western dishes. Try the Pork Sliders and Beet Salad - you won't be disappointed. They also have their own rendition of the Bahn Mi Sandwich which we didn't have a chance to try, but my guess is that it's delicious too. P.S. They have a decent wine selection too!
DINNER & wine AROUND $8 / PERSON
ganesh indian restaurant
Indian food is one of my all-time favorites (I eat it religiously in Bali), so naturally we had to make a stop at Ganesh while we were in Hoi An. Unfortunately it was late, dark, and what can I say - I was more in the mood for eating than taking photos :) But I still wanted to make sure I included this spot in my travel guide because it was incredible. The butter chicken is TO DIE FOR and just absolutely melts in your mouth. The garlic naan is massive and delicious. And the yellow lentil dal really hits the spot. Portions are very generous, so it's easy to over-order, but try as many things as you can.
DINNER AROUND $6 / PERSON
Hoi An wouldn't be what it is today with the influence of the Japanese, but to my surprise I didn't find many Japanese restaurants in Ancient Town - until I stumbled upon Samurai. They don't serve sushi, but those who know and love their Japanese food know that there are hundreds of other types of delicious Japanese dishes. Samuri focuses on Rice Bowls, Udon, Ramen, and Soba. I loved my cold soba and tempura combo!
DINNER AROUND $8 / PERSON
HOI AN STREET MARKET, BACH DANG
fresh produce, flowers, & handmade goods
From Sunrise to Sunset, walk along the river on Bach Dang road to shop the local street market. Here you can find everything from fresh fruits and veggies to handmade purses and home goods. We picked up some delicious dragonfruit and mango for an afternoon snack while I shopped for a new purse :)
home goods, fashion & accessories
Sunday Hoi An is what interior dreams are made of. They have the most tasteful selection of goods that are all made in Vietnam - from super-soft linen sheets (wish I had room in my suitcase!) to baskets, pottery, and even some pretty fashion items. There are a few different locations that you will probably pass by as you stroll through Ancient Town - definitely take a peek in one of them when you do!