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Of all the places to visit in Vietnam, Hoi An is one of my favorites.

This old Vietnamese city has a magical aura that'll leave you wanting more.

I first visited Hoi An in September 2018. I was only going to stay a week and ended up staying six! Since then, I have returned several times and still can't get enough.

Most travelers I met only spent a few nights in Hoi An.

But to truly appreciate Hoi An, you need at least a week to soak it all in.

Just sitting on the pavement outside a coffee shop in Hoi An's Ancient Town is an experience in itself.

Matt Hallowes sitting outside a Hoi An coffee shop in Ancient Town
Sitting outside a Hoi An coffee shop in Ancient Town - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

The sounds of traders conversing in Vietnamese, the odd bicycle bell chime, lanterns swaying in the breeze overhead, food smells infused with insense, and the hustle and bustle of people walking the narrow streets. At the same time, you enjoy a slow cup of coffee, soaking it all in.

Vietnamese traders going about their day in Hoi An Ancient Town
Vietnamese traders going about their day in Hoi An Ancient Town - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

That simple experience you won't get anywhere else on the planet.  And it's why I love to spend time in Hoi An.

Here are seven more reasons why you'll love Hoi An too.

Hoi An Ancient Town

Rare empty streets of Hoi An Ancient Town during 2020 border closures
Rare empty streets of Hoi An Ancient Town during 2020 border closures - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

There is more to Ancient Town than just sitting in a coffee shop, of course :).

Day and night, this central part of the city is alive with excitement.

Day and night, you can walk the narrow streets exploring the many shops and stalls for clothes, trinkets, art, and much more. There are also plenty of restaurants and coffee shops to keep you fueled.

At night, Ancient Town becomes more festive. Tourists and locals fill the streets, exploring the many shops, posing for pics, or just hanging out on the sidewalk. The colorful lanterns lining the streets and canals create a romantic ambiance.

If you're lucky enough to visit Hoi An during a full moon, you'll witness hundreds of colorful lanterns released in and around the canals.

Hoi An Ancient Town is a sensory treat you would be mad to miss!

Hoi An Tailors

Hoi An is most famous for its tailors, producing just about any tailored garment of your choice within 48 hours.

You have to be careful where you go as some tailors are better than others, and some will rip you off! Also, some tailors specialize in different garments like men's suits or even woman's lingerie.

I would go with a recommendation from your homestay or hotel. They usually know a friend or relative in town with an excellent reputation. Google reviews are another way to filter out the best tailors in Hoi An.

I have several tailored shirts and shorts from Hoi An. The quality is excellent, and they happily made a couple of alterations until I was completely satisfied.

You'll also find plenty of leather tailors able to make custom bags, wallets, purses, belts, shoes, and more.

Hoi An Boat Ride

Tourists on gondola boats in Hoi An Ancient Town
Tourists on gondola boats in Hoi An Ancient Town - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

Hoi An has several canals and rivers throughout the city. Boat rides and tours are a great way to see Hoi An from a different perspective.

You have the option of either a gondola-style or traditional Vietnamese wicker boat. Some tours will even teach you how to row the wicker boat, which can be challenging but lots of fun.

I highly recommend taking an evening boat cruise in the canals around Hoi An Ancient Town.

Hoi An Beaches

Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An with Cham Island in the distance
Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An with Cham Island in the distance - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

Hoi An has some of the best beaches in Vietnam. The most popular of which is An Bang Beach. There is always a festive vibe at An Bang Beach, which plenty of seafood restaurants, beach loungers, massages, and warm water to swim in.

If you want to avoid the An Bang Beach crowds, the beach in front of Sound Of Silence Coffee Shop and Cua Dai Beach (Bãi biển Cửa Đại) to the south are recommended.

Hoi An Free Bicycle Tour

Tourists riding bicycles through the streets of Ancient Town
Tourists riding bicycles through the streets of Ancient Town - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

Since Hoi An is a small city, you can get around pretty quickly on a bike. Most homestays offer a free bicycle with your stay, but it isn't expensive even if you have to hire a bike.

On a bike, you can ride through Ancient Town and the islands around central Hoi An. You can also venture out into the rice fields around Hoi An, giving you a different perspective of this beautiful part of Vietnam.

If you're visiting in summer, make sure you have a hat, long sleeve shirt, and sunblock because after 9am, the sun is scorching in Hoi An.

Hoi An Cooking Class

Another popular tourist attraction in Hoi An is a Vietnamese cooking class. There are several restaurants and cooking schools in Hoi An offering cooking classes.

Some cooking schools include a package deal with a boat ride, market tour, and other cultural experiences in Hoi An.

Cookly is a great place to book a Hoi An cooking class. You can even choose your class based on your dietary requirements (vegan, vegetarian, organic ingredients, etc.). Also, check with your hotel or homestay for recommendations.

Cham Island

Cham Island ferry port and town
Cham Island ferry port and town - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

The biggest regret I have about visiting Hoi An is that I didn't go to Cham Island until my third visit.

Cham Island is just off Hoi An's coast, easily spotted from any of the beaches. Most people who visit Hoi An or Da Nang never make the trip to Cham Island, and it's such a mistake!

Boats arriving at Cham Island's main beach
Boats arriving at Cham Island's main beach - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

You can visit the island on a day tour or spend the night. I chose to spend the night at Monkey Bar & Homestay, the best place to stay on Cham Island.

The beaches on Cham Island are beautiful, but getting to the island's eastern side is an absolute must! The views on the east coast are spectacular, and with no development, eerily quiet and peaceful.

Drone pic looking out over the South China Sea from Cham Island's east coast
Drone pic looking out over the South China Sea from Cham Island's east coast - Image credit: Matt Hallowes

Conclusion

If you're only in Hoi An for one or two nights, then Ancient Town is the one thing you have to do. Forget all the cultural tours; most of those can be done in other parts of Vietnam.

But if you have a few nights or a week in Hoi An, I recommend the full Hoi An experience and attempt all of the above.