Introducing Hoi An
Graceful historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befits its heritage, but the 21st-century curses of traffic and pollution are almost entirely absent. Whether you’ve as little as a day or as long as a month in the town, it’ll be time well spent.
Hoi An owes its easygoing provincial demeanour and remarkably harmonious old-town character more to luck than planning. Had the Thu Bon River not silted up in the late 19th century – so ships could no longer access the town’s docks – Hoi An would doubtless be very different today. For a century, the city’s allure and importance dwindled until an abrupt rise in fortunes in the 1990s, when a tourism boom transformed the local economy. Today Hoi An is once again a cosmopolitan melting pot, one of the nation’s most wealthy towns, a culinary mecca and one of Vietnam’s most important tourism centres.
This revival of fortunes has preserved the face of the Old Town and its incredible legacy of tottering Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and ancient tea warehouses – though, of course, residents and rice fields have been gradually replaced by tourist businesses. Lounge bars, boutique hotels, travel agents and a glut of tailor shops are very much part of the scene here. And yet, down by the market and over on neighbouring An Hoi Peninsula and Cam Nam Island you’ll find life has changed little. Travel a few kilometres further – you’ll find some superb bicycle, motorbike and boat trips – and some of central Vietnam’s most enticing, bucolic scenery and beaches are within easy reach.
Best places to stay in Hoi An
Spoilt for choice: Vietnam's best beaches
Vietnam might have been late to Southeast Asia’s beach party, but it was well worth the wait. The country boasts more than 3400km of coastline, with infinite stretches of powdery sand, coves, lagoons, impossible boulder formations and tropical islands ringed with yet more beaches.
Hoi An destination guides
Dining for a cause
Food for the body is good, but food for the soul is great. You have the opportunity to get both at these restaurants and cafés, which run vocational training programs for street kids. Good cause, good food, good idea.
Vietnam Express Southbound
Capture the spirit of magical Vietnam on this compact tour from the colonial charm of Hanoi to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. Sip coffee with locals in Hanoi and shop up a storm in the Old Quarter, cruise along emerald waters on a Halong Bay boat trip, travel through old-world Hue and Hoi An, and get lost in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City.
From south to north, Vietnam is a kaleidoscope of wonderful people and picturesque landscapes.
Vietnamese cooking courses Q & A
One of the best travel souvenirs you can bring home is the ability to cook some of the local dishes you sampled on your journey. Cooking courses are becoming more and more popular as a travel activity, so we asked Lonely Planet staffer Ellie some questions about her culinary experience in Hoi An, Vietnam.