Our one day in Hoi An itinerary provides a plan for the perfect day in Hoi An, beginning with breakfast – in Hoi An your day has to start with banh mi – and ending with dinner, which we recommend you linger over at a riverside colonial-style villa.
You could easily spend a week in charming UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hoi An in Central Vietnam – and trust us on this, we went for a few weeks and stayed a few months – but unfortunately 24 hours is all that many travellers have, so let us help you make the most of those. And if you do decide to stay on a couple more days, see our 48 Hours in Hoi An itinerary, which you can simply add on to this.
This one day in Hoi An itinerary will guide you to the must-do experiences in this enchanting old port town – from taking in the bustle of the morning market to floating an offering on the Thu Bon River. It’s become a tad touristy, but it’s based on a local tradition. It also includes stops for coffee, tea and a spot of shopping, and sundowners overlooking the river.
To experience all of this in one day, we recommend heading out around 8am (or earlier if you can) to beat the day-trippers and tour groups. Having said that, Hoi An is nice and compact, so you’ll easily get to do everything at an enjoyably slow pace.
Before you go anywhere, you’ll need to buy a Hoi An ancient town tickets, which gives you admission to the myriad small museums, merchant houses, temples, and pagodas peppered around town. You’ll see booths dotted around town, but the tourist office also sells the tickets.
One Day in Hoi An Itinerary – How to Spend a Perfect Day in this Charming Town
WHERE TO STAY IN HOI AN
With only one day in Hoi An, you need to base yourself in Hoi An old town or ‘ancient town’ as it’s called, as the earliest settlement of Hoi An on the outskirts of the current city, was established by the Sa Huynh peoples, whose culture dates back to 1,000 BC. The Vinh Hung Heritage Hotel in the heart of the historic quarter is in a centuries-old timber merchant’s house and oozes history and charm. Book one of the front rooms so you can nab a spot on the balcony in the evening for a sip and people-watch before you go out to dinner. If you need a swimming pool then the colonial-style Anantara Hoi An, on the perimeter of the old town, is set in tropical gardens with a tranquil location on the banks of the Thu Bon River. It’s just a five-minute walk to the market and an easy fifteen-minute stroll to the Japanese Bridge and Hoi An’s other star sights.
BREAKFAST IN HOI AN
Breakfast in Hoi An has to be banh mi and as you only have one day in Hoi An then it has to be banh mi from the world-renowned Banh Mi Phuong (2B Phan Chau Trinh Street). While Vietnam’s famously crispy baguette sandwiches are thought to have originated in a Dalat boulangerie which sold Vietnam’s first pork filled rolls in the 1930s, Hoi An’s banh mi are arguably the best and Banh Mi Phuong’s are slathered with homemade mayo, pâté and chilli relish, and packed with pork, salad and pickles. Anthony Bourdain called them a “symphony in a sandwich” although they were beloved by locals long before that. Breakfast here is best, as you’ll be munching with locals rather than tourists who line up at lunchtime, and order banh mi op la with eggs, seeing it’s breakfast.
COFFEE IN HOI AN
You could order a traditional Vietnamese Robusta bean-based ca phe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) from Banh Mi Phuong or head to the excellent Hoi An Roastery next. There’s a branch on Bach Dang Street by Hoi An Central Market, which is handy for your next stop. Before Hoi An Roastery opened their first café in 2015 – they now have a seven coffee shops (at last count) in Hoi An – it was difficult to get a good espresso and impossible to find a decent French press or pour-over in the old port. Now coffee lovers are spoilt for choice. Hoi An Roastery’s coffee is brewed from premium quality fair-trade Arabica beans which they source from coffee growers in Dalat and roast on site in Hoi An. They also offer workshops on coffee roasting, cupping and brewing if, like us, you decide to stay on longer than planned in Hoi An.
A MORNING IN HOI AN
A one day in Hoi An itinerary would be incomplete without some market time. Make a beeline for Hoi An Central Market next, but before you slip into the covered market take a stroll by the waterfront fish market where vendors sell seafood that has arrived in the wee hours of the morning direct from fishing boats, and fresh fragrant herbs, fruit and vegetables from nearby farms. The early morning atmosphere, colour and action is unmatched.
After, head into the market for some shopping or street food snacking. Great buys include the stainless steel Vietnamese single-cup coffee filters and Hoi An’s famous chilli sauce although we recommend you head to the descendant of the original maker for that. In the market’s lofty-roofed food hall you’ll find rows of stalls selling Hoi An’s quintessential street food dishes, including cao lau and mi Quang, along with specialties from nearby Hue, such as bun bo Hue, a zesty beef soup, and banh xeo, crunchy turmeric tinted pancakes stuffed with small shrimps, minced pork, bean sprouts, and herbs.
When you’re done, cross the road to exit the market through its main entrance on Tran Phu Street to visit Quan Cong Temple (24 Ð Tran Phu Street), pictured above. This compact and colourful Confucian temple was established in Hoi An in 1653. It’s dedicated to a Chinese general called Quan Cong, who has become a symbol of integrity, justice and loyalty, and that life-size statue of a white horse represents the general’s best friend. Out of respect, you should remove your shoes although they’re very forgiving of tourists who don’t. Admission: by one of your Hoi An Old Town tickets.
LUNCH IN HOI AN
A one day in Hoi An itinerary has to include Hoi An’s quintessential noodle dishes, cao lau and mi Quang. Stroll down Tieu La Street, take a left into Bach Dang Street which becomes Duong Phan Boi Chan Street, then continue until you get to Truong Minh Luong and hang a left for our favourite Hoi An noodle shop, where Mr Hai makes the town’s finest rendition of mi Quang, a bowl of silky yellow noodles served with plump sweet prawns, char siu pork, and quail eggs. Order a bowl and then order the cao lau, Hoi An’s famous rustic noodles with melt-in-your-mouth Cantonese-style pork and fresh fragrant herbs. Both bowls of noodles are drizzled with a spiced pork broth, which is created from the char sui drippings, and come with rice and/or prawn crackers. If they don’t, ask for them. 6A Truong Minh Luong.
AFTERNOON IN HOI AN
Walk off all those noodles and work up an appetite for your next meal on a self-guided wander around Hoi An’s ancient town taking in a few more of its charming historic attractions, the centuries-old merchants’ houses, Buddhist pagodas, Chinese temples, and small museums. Backtrack to Quan Cong Temple and then continue along Tran Phu Street, which is home to some of Hoi An’s oldest and best preserved buildings. First you’ll come to the Fujian Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, which is worth a look, then the fascinating Museum of Trade Ceramics, which history-lovers will like, the atmospheric Quan Thang Ancient House warrants a visit, as does the Sa Huynh Museum for the two thousand years old burial jars and ancient jewellery and glass beads. You’re near the pretty Japanese Bridge now, which is home to the Chau Cua Pagoda so pop over for a look. If you’re up for more, cross the bridge for Phung Hung Old House on your right, and the peaceful Cam Pho Temple a bit further down this shaded street of souvenir shops and art galleries. If you’re up for a cup of tea, backtrack along Tran Phu to your next stop.
AFTERNOON TEA IN HOI AN
If you need to retreat from the heat or simply rest your weary feet, head to the Reaching Out Tea House (131 Tran Phu Street). This lovely airy teahouse has low-slung retro-styled chairs that you can sink into and large round windows that channel cooling breezes through to the leafy courtyard out back. After you order a thirst-quenching pot of Oolong tea take a browse of the collection of handmade jewellery, ceramics and gifts crafted by artisans with disabilities at their nearby Reaching Out Arts and Crafts workshop. It’s easily accessed via the skinny alley beside the teahouse.
SHOPPING IN HOI AN
A one day in Hoi An itinerary has to include some shopping. Hoi An is famous as a destination for tailoring but you won’t have time to get anything made with only one day in Hoi An, so settle for a spot of shopping instead. Hoi An has an abundance of shops selling tourist tat but it also has some hiding treasures amongst the trinkets. Great buys include coconut lacquer bowls, colourful lanterns, silk scarves, throws and cushion covers, silver jewellery, and handcrafted leather goods. For edible souvenirs, we love rustic-chic Cocobox (94 Le Loi Street), a busy café and farm shop with a recycled wooden counter, crates full of organic local produce and sacks of coffee beans. Buy the coffee-flower honey, Marou chocolate bars, Dalat berry syrups, and highlands tea.
SUNDOWNERS IN HOI AN
Once you see the golden light on Hoi An’s yellow buildings, it’s time to start moseying back to where you started your day at the markets and zip upstairs to the Market Bar. This alfresco watering hole opened in April 2018 and is a welcome addition to Hoi An’s sundowner scene. Head to the corner of Bach Dang and Hoang Dieu Streets and look up and you should spot the blue lanterns hanging in the tree and the sign: ‘Market Terrace’ sign. Sink into a comfy sofa or snag a seat at the narrow bar that looks over the street and lively market action below and the serene river beyond. Order a Vietnamese craft beer or a bottle of very affordable wine, and, if you need a snack, a cheese and charcuterie plate.
DINNER IN HOI AN
With only one day in Hoi An, you have time for only one restaurant meal, so you better make it a feast of Hoi An specialties in the courtyard at riverside Mai Fish (45 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street), situated in a handsome, yellow French colonial style mansion filled with art deco furniture, and a courtyard garden dripping with bougainvillea. The menu includes dishes based on owner-chef Duc Tran’s mother’s recipes. We highly recommend the grilled lemongrass and sesame pork skewers served on a large platter with loads of aromatic herbs and vegetables, which you have to roll up in the soft rice paper sheets provided, then dip them into a delicious peanut chilli sauce. Wash it all down with superb craft beers from Pasteur Brewing Company.
Do let us know if you use our one day in Hoi An itinerary. We’d love to hear how you found it and would also love to hear of any gems you discovered.
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