Hoi An: experiencing the Magical City with kids

Hoi An is one of our favorite towns in Vietnam. It is the most beautiful and magical historical town, featuring fabulous white sand beaches, great food, and many resorts to stay. In this post, I will be outlining the standout spots I visited with my family in Hoi An.

Historic sites of the Ancient Town

A beautiful area of Hoi An

Hoi An’s ancient town is one of the most charming, old quarters in Vietnam. Its architecture is a mix of French, Chinese, and Japanese designs. This enchanted town has hundreds of colorful lanterns hanging everywhere, making it look magical day and night. Technically, everyone over the age of 16 has to buy tickets to see the old town. However, no one really checks it unless you visit historical sites, which are included with the card. The ticket fee goes towards funding conservation work in the old town. Tickets include entry to 5 out of 22 sites and a traditional performance held daily at 5 pm. My kids enjoyed this show!

Sightseeing

Sightseeing options include old-town architecture, Assembly Halls (the most famous one being Fujian Hall), French colonial houses (beautifully preserved), the iconic Japanese bridge, various museums, Buddhist shrines, Chinese temples, art galleries, old canals, ancient tea warehouse, and more.

Tickets to the old town are valid for ten days, so do not lose them!  The town center is small enough to get around on foot, and the traffic is nowhere as bad as in the other towns.  You can also explore the town on a bicycle. Our hotel provided bikes for us to borrow.

  • Paper lanterns lining the streets of Hoi An

Honestly, our favorite part was roaming in the old town, exploring the nooks and crannies, and just absorbing the beauty. We did not visit many historical sites of Hoi An Ancient Town; instead, we loved wandering around, trying cafes, an organic smoothie bar (we sound like tourists!), lounge bars, restaurants, and window shopping.

The town comes alive in the evening when hundreds of lanterns are lit, giving the town an enchanted feel. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must visit in Vietnam and our favorite. If you love these glowing paper lanterns, you definitely won’t want to miss the Full Moon Night Festival.

Full Moon Night Festival

  • A view of Hoi An

If you are planning a trip to Hoi An, try to plan it around the Full Moon Night Festival. Once a month, on the 14th night of the lunar calendar, the town on Hoi An is sparkling with this festival. In Vietnamese culture, the full moon is the time to pay respect to one’s ancestors.

The festival takes place in the area between the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge, as well as the surrounding areas. The roads along the Hoai River and the Old Quarter are closed after 6 pm for pedestrian traffic.  

One festival tradition involves buying a paper lantern from local sellers and releasing it into the river. This is known to bring prosperity, luck, and happiness. You can also take a small boat (sampan) ride on Hoai River, make a wish, and release paper lantern with floating candles into the water by hand. My kids adored taking this ride and releasing their lights. They were enamored by the view of hundreds of colorful paper lanterns in the water.  

The festival transforms the whole town into a magical world. Don’t forget to stop by the Hoi An night market, too. The lanterns in the night market, the engaging street performances, and more make this festival a can’t-miss.

Hoi An Night Market

  • Paper lanterns in Hoi An

The Hoi An night market starts around 5 pm to goes until 11 pm on Nguyen Hoang Street in the Hoi An old quarter. It is a famous night market in Vietnam, known for its numerous bright lanterns hanging along the street. These lanterns make the scene of night market very festive. The styles of these lanterns are endless — traditional silk, lace, paper, bamboo, hand painted, and so on. There are hundreds of bright lanterns for sale to buy as souvenirs in various colors, shapes, and sizes, all at very competitive prices.  

Because we didn’t want to lug the lanterns with us for the remainder of the trip, we didn’t purchase any. Still, we enjoyed taking pictures with them. What we liked the most was the market’s vast selection of street food like banh mi sandwiches, Banh Xeo (savory pancakes with quail eggs and seafood), and rolled ice (a favorite of our kids). Around the street market, there are many small hotels and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the atmosphere.   

Shopping

We found shopping to be much more affordable in Hoi An than other towns in Vietnam. Too bad we had already bought souvenirs!  

The most famous store for custom tailoring is Bebe. Even though Hoi An is known for its custom tailoring of suits and dresses, as well as shoemaking, we did not have enough time to get anything made.

For us, it was just fun walking in the downtown area and window shopping for various handicrafts, art, and accessories. Plus, we loved exploring the Hoi An market. This market is a great place to visit and eat during your stay. At the market, you can purchase many varieties of spices, exotic fruits and vegetables, fresh and dried seafood, local handicrafts, and more.  

To get to the market, you need to pass the An Hoi Bridge then turn right and go straight for about 300 meters.

Eating in Hoi An

  • A restaurant in Hoi An

We found food great everywhere in Hoi An, from the street vendors at the night market to the yummy restaurants around the Hoai River and the old town. The are various cafes, bars, lounges, organic health food stores, and restaurants to explore. I tried Vietnamese egg coffee for the first time and liked it. Many bars and lounges provide a relaxing place to escape the heat. I highly recommend trying Morning Glory Original, a restaurant that specializes in street food and family recipes for both lunch and dinner. Plus, there are plenty of cheap street food options at the Hoi An market.

Eat early as most of the restaurants close before 9 pm. Such a beautiful, vibrant city that’s dead so early — our biggest disappointment!

Just Desserts

Boulevard Gelato Shop, Hoi An

Of course, no trip with kids is complete without ice cream! While not comparable to gelato in Italy, Hoi An has some really lovely ice cream shops. One such spot was Boulevard Gelato & Coffee. Decorated with beautiful paper lanterns, the quaint shop offered both gelato and sorbet.

Where to stay in Hoi An

  • Our room at the Allegro Hotel, Hoi An

We stayed at Allegro Little Luxury Hotel & Spa, less than a 10-minute walk to the old town. This location, just minutes away from shops and restaurants, was very convenient. Allegro Little Luxury is a fantastic hotel to stay if you are visiting Hoi An. I cannot recommend it enough. It is a new hotel with beautifully decorated rooms and bathrooms. Simply stunning!

The old town was less than 10 minutes away from the hotel. In fact, the shops and restaurants appeared right after we left the premises.

We arrived at the hotel at 9 AM from Hanoi. Our room was not available at the time of check-in, so the hotel invited our family to a lavish breakfast buffet, free of charge. That was a kind gesture by the hotel staff. One of the most memorable experiences of our stay was the courtesy and hospitality of the staff. From greetings us at the breakfast buffet to make sure all our needs were met during our meal, they did not disappoint. They also paid individual attention to the kids and knew them by name. My son forgot his laptop in the Hanoi hotel, and the concierge from Allegra coordinated to pick it up during her lunch break from the transfer facility. Seriously, we have never seen such generous staff before!

My kids getting massages at the Allegro Hotel, Hoi An

The hotel also had a great swimming pool where my kids enjoyed swimming every day. They also have an excellent happy hour, even providing free snacks with our drinks.

Plus, there was an excellent spa where my kids enjoyed massages and manicures tremendously.  My husband and I were never treated to such luxury at their age — am I spoiling them?

I highly recommend staying at Allegro Little Luxury Hotel & Spa if you visit Ho Ann with or without kids.

Visit the beach

  • Hoi An Private Beach

Our hotel had a shuttle to a private beach with an excellent restaurant. We spend a whole day at the beach, which was a great way to escape the heat. My kids loved jumping in the waves and building sand castles. There were tons of lounge chairs and umbrellas available. Additionally, there was a food and drinks service that we enjoyed tremendously. There were tons of water activities like parasailing, banana boats, and jet skiing at very reasonable prices compared to what you would pay in Western countries. I heard the public beach could get crowded, so if beaching is your thing, it’s a good idea to find a hotel with private beach access.

When to visit Hoi An

Do you want to experience the Full Moon Lantern Festival in Hoi An for yourself? Some upcoming dates are:

  • November 21, 2018
  • December 20, 2018
  • January 19, 2019
  • February 18, 2019
  • March 20, 2019

Additional dates can be found here.

 

 

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