How To Spend 48 Hours in Hoi An, Vietnam

You might want to take a basket boat cruise along the Thu Bon river to soak up the magic of this vibrant Vietnamese city
You might want to take a basket boat cruise along the Thu Bon river to soak up the magic of this vibrant Vietnamese city | Courtesy of Marek Okon / Unsplash
Tara Tadlock

The lantern-lit streets of Hoi An have long been adored by tourists, though the Unesco World Heritage town has plenty of other attractions including rice fields, beautiful beaches and skilled tailors. Only got 48 hours? Here’s what you should do.

Contemplating a trip to Hoi An? You can visit with Culture Trip and enjoy a guided walking tour as part of our specially curated 12-day Vietnam adventure, led by our Local Insider.

Day one

Dive into the Central Market

The early hours are the best time to stroll through the Central Market, when there are fewer tourists and lower temperatures. It’s a fantastic introduction to Hoi An culture, with street food and hand-crafted products available – remember to haggle.

Head to the Central Market for your first taste of Hoi An street food

Get custom-tailored clothing

After brunch, stop by one of the expertly skilled tailors for which Hoi An is best known. They produce top-quality custom-made clothing in no time. Dropping in as soon as you arrive in Hoi An guarantees you’ll have your new threads packed in your suitcase before you head to your next destination.

Wondering where to start? BeBe Tailor has one of the best reputations in town – and is known specifically for its attention to detail and incredible customer service.

Drop into a tailor to get some custom-made clothing

Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge

Near the centre of the Ancient Town is the Japanese Covered Bridge that dates back 300 years. You have to pay to walk across the bridge and enter the Ancient Town, but the minimal fee is well worth the step through history.

The minimal fee to cross the Japanese Covered Bridge is well worth it

Try Anthony Bourdain’s favourite banh mi

Refuel by trying Vietnam’s national sandwich, the banh mi. This Vietnamese delicacy consists of a flaky baguette, pickled carrot, chilis, cucumber and minced pork. You can grab yours from a number of sandwich shops in Vietnam but Hoi An is home to chef Anthony Bourdain’s favourite – Banh Mi Phuong.

Banh mi is a Vietnamese delicacy, and some of the best is found in Hoi An

Learn about Vietnamese cuisine by taking a cooking class

Vietnamese cuisine is packed with flavour, so you’d be remiss not to learn how to cook traditional Vietnamese food with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class. It includes a trip to the local market to shop for ingredients and a ride in a bamboo basket boat – along with guided instructions on how to make local specialities such as pho bo (beef noodles) and banh xeo (crispy pancakes). By the end of your class, your belly will be filled and you’ll have learned a thing or two about Vietnamese cooking.

Head to a cooking school to rustle up flavour-packed Vietnamese dishes

Get a taste of Vietnamese culture

After enjoying the fruits of your endeavours, you deserve to kick back and enjoy a show like you’ve never seen before. Lune Productions hosts circus performances that sell out regularly. Expect anything to happen – even occasional power outages. Book your tickets online in advance to guarantee your seat for the show.

Day two

Go for a morning swim at Ang Bang Beach

Start your morning with a cycle north through rice fields for a swim at Ang Bang Beach. This stretch of waves is increasingly popular with tourists due to the erosion of Cua Dai Beach. Ang Bang was once a sleepy stretch frequented primarily by locals, but it’s increasingly becoming a hippie haven of bamboo beach huts and vegan restaurants.

Stop for breakfast at Sound of Silence Cafe

Since Sound of Silence is right on the beach, why not stop for your morning meal while your toes are still sandy? Think pancakes with fresh fruit, authentic Vietnamese coffee and the sound of the ocean – a perfect start to the day.

Start your day off right with a chilled post-beach brekkie

Take a lantern-making class

Hoi An Handicraft Tours holds classes on how to make the city’s signature silk lanterns. This hands-on workshop includes all 11 steps in the lantern-making process – including how to make the bamboo stakes that create the lantern’s shape and how to apply the delicate silk outer layer. Taking two hours out of your afternoon will result in a souvenir you’ll want to keep forever.

Take two hours out to learn about the delicate process of making lanterns

Drop by the night market

The night market is reminiscent of most Southeast Asian evening bazaars – spices, silks and souvenirs are on sale from stalls under tarp covers. Unlike other night markets, however, Hoi An’s is a 300m (985ft) long display of silk lanterns and string lights. It’s open daily from 5pm until 10pm.

Hoi An night market is a picturesque spot to spend your evening

Try Hoi An speciality, cao lau

Cap your time in Hoi An by tasting one of the delicious dining specialties local to Hoi An, cao lau, which is made with pork, local vegetables, bone broth and hand-cut noodles. Wash it down with a local beer along the riverside, the banks of which are illuminated by twinkly lights and lanterns as the sun sets over the city. Whether you hunker down on a plastic stool streetside or find yourself sitting at one of Hoi An’s more renowned restaurants, you’re sure to have a fantastic final night in Vietnam’s yellow town.

For your final meal, tuck into local delicacy cao lau

This is an update of an article by Matthew Pike.

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