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How to Spend One Day in Hoi An, Vietnam

Sarah Lempa

Chicago, IL, USA

Narrow streets peppered with lanterns and cultural fusion make Vietnam’s ancient city of Hoi An a wondrous storybook to step into. The mélange of historical influences are evident in golden colonial-style buildings which house some of the best eats and local goods in town. Although tourism is booming (and understandably so), it doesn’t manage to detract from the dream-like atmosphere. If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in Vietnam, a day trip to Hoi An is the perfect place to start.

Start the morning with egg or coconut coffee

Hoi An Roastery Espresso
Hoi An Roastery, Hoi An, Vietnam.

Vietnam’s coffee is notoriously unique, and not to mention, ridiculously delicious. When French colonists introduced coffee, they probably never imagined that it might be adapted into new recipes including egg, coconut, yogurt, and fruit. Honestly, we can’t thank them enough because these varieties are excitingly delicious. Hoi An Roastery is right off the river and offers traditional Vietnamese ca phe, along with some pastries to jumpstart your morning. Perfect for locals and traveling coffee addicts alike.

Hop on a motorbike to Cua Dai beach

Cua Dai Beach, Hội An
Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam.

Cua Dai beach is about a ten minute ride from Hoi An’s center. This palm-lined beach has dealt with erosion in the past few years, resulting in a bizarre amount of oversized sandbags near the water to mitigate the situation. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to enjoy a fruity beverage and take in some sunshine. Motorbike and scooter rentals are available for a fabulous price. Pro tip: After a day at the beach, hop back on your bike and cruise up the coast on the legendary Hai Van Pass.

Get a bánh mì where Anthony Bourdain ate

Bánh Mì Phượng, Thành phố Hội An
Banh Mi Phuong, Hoi An, Vietnam.

Traveling foodies—or anyone who appreciates a damn good sandwich—listen up, because Banh Mi Phuong comes highly recommended by from the king of food himself, Anthony Bourdain. On the outside, this unsuspecting factory of deliciousness looks like any other street-side eatery, but it expands into a quirky interior with memorabilia-covered walls and mementos left behind by visitors. The menu is a novel of different banh mi options, so come hungry; you’ll probably want to try more than one.

Reassess your wardrobe and get something tailored

Vanda Tailors - Hoi an, Thành phố Hội An
Vanda Tailors, Hoi An, Vietnam.

Unbeknownst to many, Hoi An has a massive amount of tailoring services offering high quality for an incredibly reasonable price. If you don’t have any weddings coming up, it’s time to find one really quick. While there are tons of small shops, many of them aren’t listed on Google maps, but two well-known options are Vanda Tailors and A Dong Silk.

Try Cao lầu, the local noodles

Quán Cao Lầu Thanh, Thành phố Hội An
Quan Cao Lau Thanh, Hoi An, Vietnam.

The flavors of Vietnam are always delectable, but Cao Lầu really knocks it out of the park (or kitchen?). This dish is native to Hoi An, with thick rice noodles soaked in lye water from local wells, giving them a springy texture. Top it off with richly flavorful marinated pork and fragrantly fresh herbs and you’ve just found your new favorite dish.

Eat food on a stick

Central Market, Phong Tp. Hội An Sơn Phong Hội An
Central Food Market, Hoi An, Vietnam.

Hoi An’s Central Food Market is no joke when it comes to flavors. Most items hover around 20,000-25,000 Vietnamese Dong, which is less than one U.S. dollar. Every tropical fruit imaginable is up for grabs, along with a plethora of unique eats on a stick. English is scarce, but the smiles from locals aren’t. This market is by far one of the most underrated places in Vietnam. Grilled frog, anyone?

Go back in time on a walk down the Thu Bồn river

Japanese Covered Bridge, Phường
Cau Chua Pagoda, Hoi An, Vietnam.

The river is in the center of Hoi An, where most of the action takes place. At night, lanterns illuminate up and down the banks (and everywhere else in town too). It’s usually busy, but somehow calm in the midst of everyone sharing the promenade. Visit Phuc Kien Temple and then cross over Cau Chua Pagoda to continue wandering.

Get some banana pancakes for dessert

Cafe 43, Thành phố Hội An
Cafe 43, Hoi An, Vietnam.

This sweet staple of Hoi An can be found all over town from various street vendors. You’ll probably smell it before you see it and feel compelled to buy another once it’s gone. Try Cafe 43 for the “best banana pancakes” in the world.

Have a nightcap (or three) at a street bar

Central Market, Phong Tp. Hội An Sơn Phong Hội An
Central Food Market, Hoi An, Vietnam.

There isn’t a Google maps location for this, but if you see a pop-up street bar, it’s a worthwhile stop. When the streets quiet down dramatically after 10 pm, a few solo bartenders come out to mix drinks and play tunes from their boomboxes. There aren’t too many, but they’re more likely to be posted up around hostels and hotels that are just off from the main area. Good luck on your gin & tonic scavenger hunt!