In the quarter’s slow-paced laneways, foliage tumbles from shophouse rooftops and residents pedal by on bicycles, unfazed by the heat. Come evening, rows and rows of silk lanterns glow against the inky sky.
And with a few more high-profile international hotels in the works, including the upcoming Alila Hoi An in 2020 and Rosewood Hoi An in 2021, the historic town of just 120,000 people is firmly on every savvy traveler’s radar.
A whole lotta history
Once a major player in the coveted spice trade, Hoi An served as a busy Asian trading port between the 16th and 19th centuries.
The city attracted merchants from Japan, China, Portugal and France, and the resulting cultural milieu remains visible in everything from the mustard-colored shophouses to dining traditions, folk crafts and robust coffee culture.
You can feel it at the major landmarks, too. On the western end of Old Town, narrow pedestrian streets give way to an 18th-century Japanese covered bridge while ancient ancestral homes, such as the Tan Ky House, mix together Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese architectural traditions.
Hoi An is commonly considered one of Vietnam’s best destinations for food lovers and it delivers on the hype.
You’ll devour every kind of food experience here — graze street food snacks from roadside vendors, slurp noodles on plastic stools, enjoy fresh seafood by the beach or shell out for a splurge.
You’ll find a kaleidoscope of tropical fruits and street food at the Central Market, while local signatures like white rose dumplings (made of shrimp or pork with shallots wrapped in translucent rice paper) and crispy cao lầu (a noodle dish starring pork belly and rice crackers) make appearances on most local restaurant menus.
There are few chain restaurants in sight. Instead, family-run cafes and restaurants are the norm — most of which have open-air balconies and no-frills furniture.
Let’s just say you might want to bring an empty suitcase.
There are high-quality souvenirs tempting you at every corner, from silk tailoring shops and custom leatherware workshops to coffee roasters, handmade ceramics stalls, beautiful bamboo lantern makers and contemporary home decor boutiques.
There’s nothing kitschy about these goods — in fact, you might treasure a suit tailored in Hoi An or a leather carryall for years to come.
Another area where Hoi An’s contemporary designers shine is homeware accessories.
Hoi An is more of a river town than a beach getaway, but sunseekers can easily reach the coastline.
About a 10-minute drive northeast, travelers will find themselves overlooking the East Sea with sweeps of sand running for miles in both directions.
Another safe bet are the beaches around the Son Tra Peninsula, a nature reserve about 25 minutes north by car, where the water’s clean and clear.
A biker’s paradise
Vespa Adventures offers travelers a chance to explore Hoi An from the back of a classic Italian scooter.
Courtesy Vespa Adventures
Whether you prefer to pedal around on a bicycle or zip off on a Vespa, Hoi An’s wide open country roads are ideal for exploring on two wheels.
The city just launched a new bike-sharing program in June and most hotels offer bike rentals.
It’s easy to gently cruise through Old Town, or you can cycle over to Cam Nam Village, the island just to the south across the river, for a peek at rural life.
On the back of a restored 1960s-era Italian scooter, these half-day excursions take travelers across Thu Bon River on a local boat, over a rickety bamboo bridge, across gleaming green rice paddy fields where water buffalo soak up the sun.
Often jumbled into a two-for-one vacation, Hoi An and nearby Da Nang — just 15 minutes up the coastline — play host to some of Vietnam’s most alluring hotels.
Brought to life by prolific resort designer Bill Bensley, the contemporary oasis spills across the hills of the Son Tra Peninsula, a nature reserve that’s home to rare red-shanked douc monkeys and pangolins.
As well as the Alila Hoi An coming up soon, the area will also welcome the Dusit Thani Hoi An as well as a beachfront Rosewood Hoi An in 2021.
Side trips galore
On a hillside in Vietnam, giant hands extend, holding a new steel bridge. Designed by TA Landscape Architecture, the bridge has attracted scores of visitors since opening.
And if you grow weary of Hoi An’s charms and grace? In that unlikely scenario, there are lots of side trips around the region.
If you’re into history and architecture, Hue — the imperial capital set on the picturesque Perfume River — deserves an overnight visit.
A three-hour drive north from Hoi An rewards history buffs with major sites like the tombs of the ancient emperors, various citadels and pretty pagodas.
Outdoorsy types will appreciate the Marble Mountains. Easy to access from either Hoi An or Da Nang, a set of stairs leads to Buddhist pagodas hidden inside the limestone grottoes.