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Things to Do in Skane

Skåne, Sweden … My home away from home. Simple and quintessentially Swedish in almost every single way. Before moving to Sweden, I had a lot of preconceived notions about Scandinavian countries. I’m sure you’ve head the stereotypes, too. Diverse nature. A great work-life balance. An environmentally-conscious, socialized, progressive culture. And these things are all true. But Sweden is so much more than just these stereotypes. And there are so many reasons why I love living in Sweden. And with so many wonder local things to do in Skåne, I feel like I could truly never get bored.

Skåne is a largely undiscovered paradise that many people still don’t know that much about. But I am convinced it is just a matter of time before this region becomes a booming travel destination. From the pristine beaches to the sprawling hiking trails, and a cutting-edge Nordic culinary scene, there seems to be never-ending things to do in Skåne. And after spending a whole lot of time travelling locally this year, I am ready to dish all the details on what Skåne has to offer.

the highlights: places to visit in skåne

» historic university town: lund
» stenshuvud national park
» skanör-falsterbo beach
» ven island
» hoganås, arild & mölle
» the best skåne farm shops
» ystad saltsjöbad spa
» holy smoke bbq
Lund University Wisteria
Ven Island Bike
Wisteria at Lund University (left); Bike on Ven Island (right)

sweden travel costs

Sweden – and Scandinavian countries in general – are notorious for being a bit expensive to visit. With taxes of 25% and high minimum wages, visiting Sweden doesn’t come cheap. However, I think many people are very intimidated by the cost to visit Sweden. However, it doesn’t have to be expensive if you know what to do – especially in Skåne. And good news! The Swedish krona is currently quite weak versus the euro and US dollar, which means now is a good time to visit.

Accommodation Cost in Sweden: Hotels in Skåne can be a bit expensive – but this depends on what you’re looking for. A typical farm hotel in Skåne countryside can set you back at least 120-150 EUR a night (although they often include breakfast). An Airbnb apartment to save money (especially if you just rent a room). Alternatively, hostels are a great options with beds as low as 25-30 EUR per night in Malmö. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, Sweden’s ‘Right to Roam’ law means you can set up a tent virtually anywhere in nature, as along as you aren’t interfering with private property or disturbing the environment around you. That makes camping in Skåne a really great option for cheap accommodations. . For more of saving money on hotels, check out this post.

Food Cost in Sweden: Eating out at restaurants is arguably the most “overpriced” part of living in or visiting Sweden. It can be a bit of a challenge to find a cheap meal in Sweden – but it is far from impossible. With the average dinner ranging from 15-20 EUR per person, the cost of food can add up quickly. A coffee typically costs 3-4 EUR. Good news is groceries are reasonable, if you’re keen on making your own food or picking up snacks. I’d recommend going to Willys – it is typically the cheapest grocery option. Pressbyrån is also a convenience store that offers some quick hot food options. And finally (my favourite) – street food! Did you know that you can find some of the best falafel in the world in Malmö for as little as 3 EUR? Read about my favourite restaurants in Malmö here.

Alcohol Cost in Sweden: Alcohol in Sweden is a luxury, and often one of the most expensive ticket items. A beer in a pub will typically set you back anywhere from 7-10 EUR, with a glass of wine typically starting at 9-12 EUR. Cocktails are often even more expensive, so normally I skip these options (unless it’s a special occasion). It is important to know that Sweden has an alcohol monopoly, which means you cannot buy alcohol with over 3.5% alcohol content in Swedish grocery stories. To buy your own alcohol, you’ll need to visit a Systembolaget location. Make sure to check the hours online (stores are closed on Sunday and have very limited hours on Saturday).

Activity Costs in Sweden: Activity costs, like everything else, can add up. The good news is that many of the best things to do in Sweden involve nature – and nature is free. Swimming at the beaches in Skåne, wandering around the charming towns in Österlen, hiking the Skåneleden trail – all free.

suggested moderate daily budget for visiting skåne: approx. 100-150 EUR per person

Rapeseed fields in Skane

things to do in skåne

visit the best farm shops in skåne

Skåne is home to all kinds of wonderful “Skåne gårdsbutik” or farm shops. These spots often grow, harvest, and make their own products and sell them in their shops. They are the perfect spots to pick up some unique products, and are great for souvenir shopping. Many farm shops also have wonderful restaurants attached so you can indulge in a meal made from locally-sourced ingrediants. Here’s a few of my favourites.

Ängavallen: Located just outside of Malmö in Vellinge kommun, Ängevallen is home to a farm shop, bed-and-breakfast, restaurant, and a beautiful property with animals. In the Ängevallen farm shop, you will find an assortment of goods made right on the farm – jams, cheeses, milk, and bread to name a few. I suggest staying for lunch and enjoying the farm-to-table experience. The ingredients are so fresh!

Hallongården: Also nearby Malmö, and minutes away from Ängevallen, you’ll find Hallongården (translation: raspberry farm). At this farm, you can visit in the late spring/early summer (around May and June) to pick your own raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. Then, head to the farm shop to indulge in a treat made from these local products. You can also take home jams and other goodies made from their farm-grown fruits.

Österlenkryddor: A favourite of mine in Österlen. “Kryddor” means “spices” in Swedish, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this shop. With a huge assortment of spices made in their on-site spice factory, Österlenkryddor is a must-visit. And in July, it is also home to the popular lavender fields in Skåne. Make sure you stop in for the award-winning lavender ice cream around this time of year.

Osterlenkryddor
Hallongarden fika
Hallongarden
Angevallen
Clockwise from top left: Österlenkryddor; poppies in front of Hallongården; Ängavallen farm; fika at Hallongården

indulge in skåne's booming culinary scene at the best restaurants in skåne

Copenhagen may be the original food capital of Nordic cuisine, but just across the bridge to Skåne you’ll find a innovative and unique Nordic culinary scene. In recent years, Swede’s have been moving to the Skåne countryside to start small organic farms, while chefs are flocking from larger cities to open up boutique hotels with next-level farm-to-table dining experiences. 

In Malmö, you can indulge at Bastard, a leading restaurant that uses local in-season ingredients to creative a unique tasting menu. But in the countryside is where things get real good. We recently stayed at Talldugens Gårdshotell (more on that here) and had one of my favourite Nordic meals ever made with only locally-sourced ingredients by a couple who left Stockholm to open a farm hotel. 

If you’re looking to splurge, Daniel Berlin Krog is another tiny but famous Michelin star spot hidden in the quiet village of Skåne-Tranås, where the head chef hunts and grows most of his own ingredients. Or you can head to Vollmers in Malmö for a Nordic Michelin star experience.

Breakfast at Talldungen
Dinner at Bastard Malmo
Breakfast at Talldungen (left); Dinner at Bastard (right)

the most picturesque villages in skåne

It’s hard to know where to even begin when recommending villages in Skåne to visit because there are so many beautiful ones that look like they are straight out of a fairy tale. Here’s a few of my can’t miss favourites.

Mölle: Mölle is a charming harbor town located on the northwest coast of Skåne. Stay at the iconic Grand Hotel Mölle, which sits atop the town, and use this spot as a home base for other charming towns, including another favourite of mine: the fishing village of Arild. And don’t forget to visit Kullaberg Nature Reserve for a beautiful hike and a swim at Josefinelust. In the afternoon, you must visit Holy Smoke BBQ for amazing, authentic southern BBQ in Skåne.

Ystad: Along the southern coast of Sweden, Ystad is a cost and picturesque town. Stop in to roam the historic streets, and pop into the many shops along Stora Östergatan. If you’re looking for a lunch, the popular Söderberg & Sara Ystad offers fresh baked good, tasty coffee, and on select days, stone oven pizza!

Simrishamn: Simrishamn is a lovely beach town along the Skåne east coast. It is home to tons of lovely local shops and a beach with orange-hued sand. Simrishamn is a great spot to enjoy a traditional Swedish lunch along the coast. And while you’re there, check out Barnens Bokhandel, which was the first specialty book store in Sweden for children. 

Kåseberga: Also along the southern coast, Kåseberga is a popular vacation spot for many locals. Here you’ll find a quaint fishing village, with the best seafood in Skåne. From the town, you can walk to reach Ales Stenar, which is said to be the remains of an ancient viking shipwreck. From Ales Stenar, you’ll also be able to take in some incredible views of the sea. You’re also sure to see lots of people paragliding around this area (which you can try too if you dare).

Arild Sweden street
Simrishamn Sweden
Kaseberga Sweden
Molle Sweden
Clockwise from top left: Streets in Arild; Poppies in Kåseberga: Mölle harbor; Shop in Simrishamn

 

the best beaches in skåne

Did you know that Skåne is often called the Swedish Riviera? I wrote a post all about my favourite beaches in Skåne, including Sandhammaren Beach, Simrishamn Beach, Skanör Beach and more. You can read the full post here.

Skanor Beach
Sandhammaren Beach

things to do in österlen

The Österlen region is truly, in my opinion at least, the biggest gem in Skåne – which is why I am dedicating a full section to it. And others living in Sweden seem to agree, with many northern-dwellers owning a summer house in this area. There are endless things to do in Österlen, and I am going to share a few of my favourites.

Österlen Choklad: A lovely chocolate factory in Österlen with homemade chocolates and maybe the best hot chocolate I have ever tried.

Ales Stenar: An ancient viking shipwreck that can be equated to a mini Stonehenge, alongside a jaw-dropping scenic coastal background.

Stenshuvud National Park: A eastern coastal national park with beautiful walking trails, and diverse landscapes and views. You can read about my experience visiting Stenshuvud National Park here.

Kivik Musteri: An apple orchard and apple museum in Skåne, featuring lots of locally made apple goods. The best time to visit Kivik is in the fall during apple harvest season. I wrote about my autumn in Österlen experience here.

Hike & Bike: Biking or hiking in Österlen is an amazing way to get around. Visit Skåne shares a full guide to the Skåneleden Trails in Osterlen. Some of my favourite trails are located in Brösarps Backer (a hilly region near Brösarp) and Prästaskogens naturreservat (where you can find extremely rare twisted beech trees that look like they are from a fairytale).

Visit an Österlen Loppis: “Loppis” is the Swedish term for flea market or antique store. There are many of these scattered around Österlen, and the best way to find them is to just drive around and stumble upon them. However if you’re looking for a list, you can find one here. We loved the ones we found in central Brösarp, which had antiques dating back to the 1700s.

Osterlen Choklad
Twisted beech trees
Hiking in Skane
Osterlen Loppis
Clockwise from top left: Österlen Choklad; hiking at Brösarps Backer; Österlen antique shop: Twisted beech trees
Skåne Hiking Tip: Hiking trails around Skåne are well marked. You can visit the Skåneleden trail website for route maps, and then keep an eye out for markers like these ones (as well as spray paint markings on trees) to make sure you stay on track. While travelling around Skåne, you’re likely to run into these markers a lot. If you’re feeling spontaneous, just start following the path and see where you end up!
Skåneleden trail marker
Skåneleden trail

best fika in skåne

Olof Viktors: Located in Österlen, this is possibly the most famous cafe in Skåne – and for good reason. This award-winning bakery make all their baked goods and breads from scratch, and the quality is high. On a nice day, you’ll find a lovely courtyard where you can sit outside and enjoy a coffee.

Flickorna Lundgren: On the northwest coast of Skåne, you’ll find Flickorna Lundgren – a cafe that looks like it is straight out of a Pippi Longstocking novel. This historic cafe has been named best fika in Sweden before, and it is well deserved. The gardens of the property are beautiful, complete with farm animals and a pond, and the coffee and cakes are perfect.

Söderberg & Sara: With locations in both Malmö and Ystad, this is a local favourite. Their homemade breads are delicious, and they have some of my favourite coffee that I’ve tried in Sweden (and that’s saying a lot, because Swede’s love coffee).

Looking for the best fika in Malmö? Check out my Malmö Food Guide here.

Soderberg and Sara Malmo
Flickorna Lundgren
Söderberg & Sara (left); Flickorna Lundgren (right)

wineries in skåne

You might be surprised to know that Skåne is actually home to a few wineries. The winery scene is still quite new in Sweden, but there are a few spots that I would suggest checking out if you are interested in trying Swedish wine.

Organize a Kullaberg wine tour and visit Arilds Vingård, Kullabergs Vingård, and Södåkra Vingård in the Kullaberg region. And if you’re in Österlen, Nordic Sea Winery is a must visit.

best hotels in skåne

Best hotel in Malmö: Clarion Malmö Live is a relatively new hotel right in the city centre of Malmö. The rooms offer beautiful views of the harbour, and the service and facilities are premium.

Best Österlen gårdshotell (farm hotel): Talldugens Gårdshotell (check out my blog post on this spot)

Best Skåne spa: Ystad Saltsjöbad Spa is the place to go if you’re looking for a traditional Scandinavian spa in Skåne. It’s located along the water, has the most beautiful, clean facilities filled with hot tubs and saunas, and the dinner experience is lovely, too.

Most unique hotel in Skåne: Falknästet (Falcon’s Nest) in Mölle OR Glamping at Arilds Winery (in case traditional camping in Skåne isn’t your thing).

Stay at a castle in Skåne: Kronovalls Vinslott (translation: wine castle!). I haven’t been here yet, but if the interior is anything like the stunning castle grounds, then you are in for a real treat. If you don’t end up staying here, you should at least stop by. You can see some photos from my visit to Kronovalls here.

Kronovalls slott

Ready to Visit SKåne?

I’ll keep updating this post throughout the summer as I continue to enjoy my “hemester i Skåne” (staycation in Skåne). Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter for all the latest updates. And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for all my day-to-day adventures in Skåne.

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If you liked this Things to Do in Skåne guide, you should check out my other Sweden posts here.
Things to Do in Skane Sweden
Visiting Skane Sweden
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Ven Island Sweden has been on my radar since I moved to southern Sweden last year. This small island between Sweden and Denmark is a place where time stands still. With only 1300 residents, Ven island is home to kilometres of biking and trekking paths, cliff side landscapes, pebbled beaches, and diverse wildlife. It is easily one of the most beautiful places in Sweden, and a true hidden gem with a vast history that is largely unknown outside of Scandinavia.

If I had to recommend one day trip from Malmö (or even a day trip from Copenhagen), Ven island would be at the top. In fact, when we visited recently, we left feeling eager to visit again … and even talked about how it would be a great place to take visitors *hint hint.*

Ready to fall in love with Ven? Read on to find out everything you need to know about this beautiful Swedish island.

OKAY FIRST, A FEW KEY THINGS TO KNOW.

where is ven island sweden?

Ven is located between southern Sweden and Denmark. In fact, when you visit the island you will be able to see both coasts on either side. The closest major cities to Ven are Malmö and Copenhagen, with Landskrona being the closest Swedish town to the island.

how to get to ven?

Getting to Ven island is easy! From Malmö or Copenhagen, you’ll first need to get to Landskrona. the town of Landskrona is about 30 minutes north of Malmö, and easily accessible by public transit or car.

Getting to Ven by Public Transit: From Malmö, you can catch a train from Malmö to Landskrona from Malmö Central Station. Then from the Landskrona train station, you’ll take a bus (City Bus 3) to the ferry terminal. The easiest way to navigate this is to to put the final destination Landskrona Skeppsbron into the Skånetrafiken app

Getting to Ven by Car: If you are going to Landskrona by car, you put in the same destination (Landskrona Skeppsbron) and there is free parking at the ferry terminal. Alternatively, some people bring their cars onto Ven island. However, it isn’t a very car-friendly island so I would not recommend this. Plus, the island is so small it really isn’t necessary. If you’re staying overnight and worried about getting to your hotel, I’d suggest discussing options for a pickup at the ferry terminal with your hotel.

Ven Island Ferry: Once you have arrived at the ferry terminal, you can take the ferry from Landskrona to Ven. I would recommend booking your ticket online ahead of time, especially during the busy summer months. Ticket cost is 180 SEK (about 17 EUR) round trip per person.

ven bike rental

The best and most popular way to get around Ven is by riding one of the iconic yellow bikes. At the Ven bike rental shop, you’ll find a bunch of bikes to choose from: single bikes, tandem bikes, Christiania bikes – and tons of options for kids! Once you get off the ferry on Ven island, turn left and head up the hill to the bike shop, which is located at the top.

You can either rent a bike upon arrival, or reserve a bike ahead of time. Reserving a bike is a good option during peak season (July and August) or on public holidays.

Ven bike rental cost: 110 SEK for a standard bike (and 60 SEK per additional day if you are staying for multiple days). You can read more about bike prices here.

If biking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of people who walk or hike around the island, too!

THINGS TO DO IN VEN

Truly the best things to do in Ven are wandering (biking) without a plan. The island is home to 7.5 square kilometres of nonstop nature, surreal cliffs, and beaches, and the best things are often just stumbled upon. With that being said, there are a few highlights you won’t want to miss! I’d recommend grabbing a map at the bike shop and using it as a guide while you wander.

When you leave the bike shop, you have the option option to turn right or head left back down the hill toward to the ferry. You’ll notice many people turning right, but I’d recommend starting left. From there, head toward the harbor and bike through the small path between the restaurant and the ice cream shop. This quiet little coastal path was one of the best we found on the island.

Below you’ll find a few must-sees.

alpaca farm

Easily a highlight for me, the local Alpaca farm is home to a bunch of these adorable furry animals. When we passed by mid-morning, we were greeted by the owner who told us all about the alpacas … who had just received their summer haircuts. After talking to the owner, it seems as if the alpacas aren’t always there alongside the fence, so I think we got a bit lucky. But, she also said that she does alpaca treks around the islands with guests. So if spending some time with these cuties is high on your list (and it should be), you should check out Ven Alpaca Trekking. In the main harbor, you’ll also find a store where you can purchase homemade goods made from the alpaca wool.

sankt ibbs gamla kyrka

Sankt Ibbs Gamla Kyrka in Ven (St. Ibb’s Old Church) is a beautiful 13th century medieval white church that sits atop one of the highest points on the island and looks out over the water. Here, you can visit the church and walk around the grounds, which we were shocked to see had tombstones that dated back hundreds of years.

Stjerneborg observatory

Ven island has a deep-rooted history that dates back many centuries. In mid-1500s, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe owned the island and built two observatories. Although Tycho Brahe was often famous for some of his outlandish antics (including getting his pet moose drunk), he also made some pretty revolutionary discoveries and it is really cool to see his reconstructed observatory in person. If you are interested in learning more about Brahe, you can also visit the Tycho Brahe museum.

Side story: I wasn’t super familiar with the Tycho Brahe story, but Sebastian and I went to a live taping of the comedy podcast The Dollop in Copenhagen last year, where their entire sketch was based on this crazy story. If you are looking for some entertainment, there is a recording of the podcast we attended here.

spirit of hven distillery

Spirit of Hven is a distillery operating on the island. It uses local products to distill it’s own Hven whiskey, and you can visit for various different tasting tours. The property is also home to a hotel, and pub/restaurant.

still need some convincing? here's some of my favourite ven island shots:

hotels in ven

Ven island is small, but it is still home to quite a few accommodation options, ranging from hotels and bed and breakfasts, to Airbnbs and camping. Next time we visit, I would love to stay overnight and if your schedule allows it, I would highly recommend considering this option. Here’s a few properties to check out:

  • Spirit of Hven Hotel: As I mentioned above, this popular distillery is also home to a hotel. Book a weekend package and make the most of this awesome spot with a locally-sourced dinner and whiskey tasting.
  • Camp Ven: Ven camping is another great option if you’re looking for an affordable and fun experience. While I haven’t stayed here, we rode by and the space looked great and was right by the sea. Choose from traditional camping, cabins, or – if you’re not much of a traditional camper like me – glamping!
  • Airbnb: Ven island is home to a bunch of Airbnb properties. After biking by so many charming cottages, I would absolutely look at this option.

Ven Sweden is one of those places that photos will never, ever do justice. As I continue to explore more of my own backyard in Sweden, I am continuously amazed that this place has been largely off the radar of most tourists. And Ven island is no exception. If you’re inspired by this content, don’t forget to check out some of my other Sweden blog posts.

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Vietnam Rice Fields
The Ninh Binh (pronounced Neeng Beeng) region is an area of Vietnam famous for it’s cascading limestone cliffs, with bright green rice fields winding in between the peaks. Often affectionately referred to as the “Halong Bay on land,” Ninh Binh is a very popular day trip from Hanoi. After seeing photos and hearing about the region from other travellers, I knew the region deserved more of my time than just a quick day trip. So, in the interest of my 2020 goal to travel slower and really immerse myself in local culture, we chose our home base in the middle of a Tam Coc rice field and began planning our 3 days in Ninh Binh itinerary.
Scenic views in Ninh Binh

planning to spend 3 days in ninh binh?
keep reading for all the details In this Ninh Binh itinerary...

but first, let's answer a couple important questions:

Where is ninh binh?

Ninh Binh is a city located roughly 1.5-2 hours south of Hanoi by car (depending on traffic, of course). In this article, you’ll hear me talk a lot about different spots in the “Ninh Binh region.” However, we didn’t actually spend any time in the city of Ninh Binh, itself. In fact, I’ve heard there isn’t much to see in the city from other travellers.

Most of our time in this region was spent in the towns of Tam Coc, Trang An, and in the rural rice fields and narrow roads zig-zagging throughout the area.

How to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh? You can get to Ninh Binh by train, bus, or private car. Rome2rio is always a great resource to discover the different ways to get from one city to the next in Vietnam. We hired a private car to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh and back because we were visiting during Tet (Chinese New Year) holiday, and transportation was limited during the holiday. However, this option was not cheap. We paid roughly 60-75 USD each way to get a private car from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, and back. Taking a train or bus would take a bit more time, but it would be significantly cheaper.

If you’re looking to book a group shuttle to Ninh Binh that can pick you up at your hotel instead of going from the Hanoi bus station, our hotel recommended this bus transfer company, Ninh Binh Excursion.

Coming from Hanoi? Check out my Hanoi City Guide.

Where to Stay in ninh Binh?

Ok, now that you know that you shouldn’t stay in Ninh Binh city, where should you stay? 

Ninh Binh or Tam Coc? In my opinion, the best – and most popular spot – to stay in the Ninh Binh region is Tam Coc. Tam Coc is full of restaurants and shops, and is a short bike ride or motorbike ride away from all the main attractions you’ll want to see. In Tam Coc, you’ll find a few hotels lining the main street, but I would suggest wandering off the main strip and staying in a traditional bungalow.

There are many of these bungalow properties scattered all over the region, and they are designed to mimic traditional homes of this region. Plus, they are often located with stunning views of the rice fields. We particularly liked our stay at Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalow. The price was affordable (we paid around 40 USD per night) and included a wonderful breakfast, and hospitable hosts who went out of our way to make us feel so special. The location was perfect, right off the main street, and free bikes were included which we used to get to all the spots in this guide.

Ninh Binh hotel with pool
Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalow

How to get Around Ninh Binh

One of our favourite things about Ninh Binh: Getting lost in the rice fields by bike.

The Ninh Binh region is very bike friendly, and many hotels offer bikes for free. Although, admittedly, the quality of bikes we came across seemed to vary in quality from mediocre to barely functional… but I guess that was part of the charm! Almost everywhere we went was easy to get to by bike. With that being said, there are some areas that are a bit difficult to get to by bike. We learned this lesson the hard way as we biked alongside a high traffic road while Viatnamese teenagers on motorbikes laughed at us. Therefore, in some cases, it might be safer or easier to take a motorbike, or hire a driver. More details on this in the itinerary below!

A note about bike parking in Ninh Binh: We were surprised when we were given our bikes at the hotel and there was no bike lock. However, we quickly realized that everywhere you go, locals have set up “bike parking” where you charge you a small amount (normally 10,000-20,000 VND or less than 1 USD to guard your bike). Many of these were not “official” in any way, but it was a small amount to pay to leave the bike and have someone keep an eye on it. So, make sure you have some small bills for bike parking when you are using a bike (this goes for motorbikes too).

See Also: A complete guide to Hoi An including bike map.

Biking in Ninh Binh
Where to bike in Ninh Binh

The Itinerary: Things to Do in ninh Binh

1. visit bich dong pagoda

One of the best things to do in Ninh Binh for me was visiting Bich Dong Pagoda. This famous pagoda is tucked into the side of a cliff with the most beautiful limestone peaks in the background. This is a popular spot, so I would recommend getting there early before the day trip tour buses arrive from Hanoi. We rode our bikes here (about 20 minutes away) just before 8:00 am and had the entire place to ourselves.

This may be a popular spot to take photos, but make  sure you also go through the pagoda. If you go up the 40+ stone stairs that line the cliff side, you’ll be welcomed to another temple built right into the side of the limestone cliff. You can walk inside, and walk through the cave (although, admittedly, it was dark and this freaked me out a bit so we didn’t spend too much time in there).

Keep in mind that this is a religious landmark – make sure you are covering your shoulders and knees when visiting.

Bich Dong Pagoda Price: Free! And then we paid 10,000 VND per bike to park.

Bich Dong Pagoda
When to visit Bich Dong Pagoda

Dress shown in photos was made at Bebe Tailor in Hoi An.

2. climb the 500 step staircase to mua caves ninh binh

Mua Caves Ninh Binh is easily the most popular attraction in the Ninh Binh area. The over 500 uneven stone steps lead you to the top of a limestone peak, with the most beautiful panoramic views of Ninh Binh. It is breathtaking.

With that being said, I must warn you – Mua Caves is BUSY. And TOURISTY.

If I am being 100% transparent (and you know I always am), it was one of the most annoyingly busy and commercialized travel spots I’ve ever come across (dare I say comparable to Santorini at sunset). And while I feel like this was mostly just bad luck, because it was during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday week, a time when many Vietnamese families travel, it meant it was extra busy during the January off-season – even at 8:00 am.

Even though I was mildly annoyed as I elbowed my way to the top, the chaos did not take away from how spectacular the views were at the top. There was a reason why so many people were there. I get it. And despite the craziness, I would go again (maybe just not during Tet). My biggest  Mua Cave tip is to go early. It opens for sunrise at 6:00 am, and my only regret is that we didn’t go then. However, if you aren’t a sunrise chaser, I have spoken to plenty of other travellers, and seen their photos at around 8:00 am and at sunset, and most people don’t seem to have the same experience as we did.

Mua Caves Price: Being a touristy attraction, the price of this is a bit expensive by Vietnam standards at 100,000 VND (or roughly 4.50 USD per person), plus 20,000 VND per bike to park.

3. go for a boat ride through the rice fields

Our Ninh Binh boat ride was one of my favourite experiences during our time in the region. There are two places to take a boat ride in Ninh Binh: Trang An and Tam Coc.

I have heard from many travellers that the Trang An Boat Tour is the better choice compared to the Tam Coc Boat Tour option. It is longer (3 hours total), a better value, goes through more caves, stops at temples and let’s you get off the boat to explore, and has more spectacular views. We intended to take this boat ride, however again because of the Tet holiday in Ninh Binh, it was so busy. In fact, we were told by another couple that they arrived at 8:00 am when it opened and they had already stopped accepting people in the queue because it was too long. When we rode our bikes by, the entire scene was chaos and so we decided to skip it. However, it is not like this all the time so don’t be deterred. But, given the circumstances, we opted for the Tam Coc Boat Tour, which was located right by our hotel in the centre of Tam Coc.

And you know what – I loved the Tam Coc Boat Tour! Maybe this is a case of “not knowing what I’m missing,” but I really liked the ride. The tour is intended to be about 2 hours… Unless you have a beast of a rower like us. She was rowing with her feet and passing everyone, so the journey took about 1.5 hours. And truthfully, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any longer because our butts got pretty darn sore sitting on the hard wooden benches.

We rowed through the bright green rice fields, where we saw locals tending to their fields. We went through caves, and took in the surreal views. It is simply put – BEAUTIFUL.

Tam Coc Boat Tour Price: We paid 360,000 VND total for the whole boat ride (about 15 USD).

A note about scams: I have heard stories of the rowers stopping mid-way through the journey, and demanding more money in order to keep rowing. However, this was not the case for us and I did not see anyone else doing this to other tourists (our guide was friendly and told us stories about the region). With that being said, also keep in mind that 15 USD is a very little amount of money for two hours of hard labor (especially when only a portion of that goes to the actual rower). So be kind and, if you’re able to, don’t forget to tip. There are so many rowers looking to work. This means that in many cases rowers will only get to take one journey every few days. And a little bit goes a long way.

Tam Coc Boat Tour
Tam Coc Boat Tour
Tam Coc Boat Tour
Tam Coc Boat Tour

4. go for a bike ride - with no plans

My absolute favourite memories from Ninh Binh were biking around, aimlessly, with no plans (we spent at least two full afternoons doing this). We drove through the rice fields with no final destination and no plans… and without any other tourists in sight. This is when we were able to experience the REAL Ninh Binh. I witnessed some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen in my life. And my eyes were opened to why this region is so darn special.
Tam Coc Rice Fields
Tam Coc Fields
Some things to keep an eye out for in the rice fields that are likely to result in some pretty surreal memories:
  • When biking you’re likely to come across the water buffalo that call these fields their home. In one case we passed by a group with a small baby, and it was making a noise that sounded just like a crying human baby. It was so cool to see.
  • You will likely also come across goats (I’ve heard that sometimes there are goats at Mua Caves, and can be aggressive so keep your distance). In one case we witnessed a local woman herding the goats alongside the road by throwing small pebbles at them. Also, while on the topic of roadside animals, it’s not unusual for goats or water buffalo to run into the street, so keep your eyes open while you’re biking and remember to respect them and their home.
  • Follow the dirt or gravel roads that lead to seemingly nowhere – you’ll never know what you might find. In one case, we stumbled upon a beautiful small lake, surrounded by limestone cliffs. There was a local family sitting along the shore with their wooden boat, singing karaoke and celebrating the new year. They called us over and insisted we go for a solo ride in their boat – and wouldn’t take any money when we offered. This is why I love to wander without a plan – because sometimes you happen along these little perfect moments. Moments that remind me of EXACTLY WHY I TRAVEL. These are the moments that are packaged into memories in my mind that I will never, ever forget.
  • Make sure to say “hello” to the local children! They love to say hi, and will often put their hand out to give you a “high five” as you ride by. 
  • If you find a cool middle-of-nowhere restaurant, stop in and have a beer with a view
Want to know where to bike in the rice fields?
i've mapped a few of my favourite spots on the map at the end of this post.

5. visit the hoa lu ancient capital

Located about 10 kilometres north of Tam Coc, you’ll find the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, an ancient former imperial capital that is positioned through some of the most beautiful limestone landscapes. It was previously the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. Here, you can visit the ancient temples that are scattered throughout the rice fields and picture what life used to look like in this historical spot. I would absolutely recommend taking a couple hours to visit.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Price: 20,000 VND (or less than 1 USD) per person.

A note on how to get to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital: When we put Hoa Lu into Google Maps, we (naively) made the decision to bike there, as it was only 15 kilometres away from Tam Coc. Well we were, as a I said, very naive. The first half of the ride was a piece of cake – through rice fields, alongside quiet roads… Until we approached Trang An where we merged onto a higher speed, heavily trafficked BUSY road. Again, we naively thought this wouldn’t last long and kept pedaling while motor bikes zoomed past us. Spoiler Alert: It was this busy all the way to Hoa Lu. By the time we realized what was happening, we decided that we had already gone too far to turn around. But I wouldn’t recommend this biking route if you have a choice. We were wishing we had just hopped on a scooter instead.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
But, there was a silver lining in all of this madness. By venturing by bike instead of hiring a driver, we were able to stumble across so many cool places along the way. My favourite, the Động chùa Bàn Long Buddist Temple Pagoda, a beautiful pastel coloured temple built into the side of a limestone cliff. We saw it in the distance and drove up. There wasn’t anyone in sight except for a older Vietnamese gentleman who kept trying to speak to me in French. While I could understand what he was saying, in the moment of panic, the only thing that came to mind from my high school French classes was “je parle un tout petit peu de français” (I speak a little bit of French). And then quickly said “merci, au revoir.”
Động chùa Bàn Long Buddist Temple Pagoda
Động chùa Bàn Long Buddist Temple Pagoda
Another one of these spots was this impressive stick bridge and wheel. I have been searching high and low for the exact coordinates and can’t find them. But, if you ride alongside the road from Trang An to Hoa Lu, it will be impossible to miss on the left side of the road (on the way to Hoa Lu).
Stick Bridge Ninh Binh

other things to do in 3 days in ninh binh

We had a few other things we wanted to do in Ninh Binh, but we were at the end of our trip and were moving a bit slow. Plus, the crowds at some of these attractions were really crazy because we were visiting Ninh Binh during the Tet holiday. Here’s a list of a few other things we really wish we would have done:

Bai Dinh Pagoda: The biggest Buddhist temple in Vietnam is high on the list for many visitors to Ninh Binh. We planned on going, but after hearing about the Lunar New Year crowds we opted to skip it.

Phat Diem Cathedral: This massive Catholic church is completely made of stone and mixed both Asian and European influences. I really regret not making our way to this spot, because I have heard it is beautiful.

Cuc Phuong National Park: I’ve heard amazing things about this national park, filled with beautiful greenery and – if you’re lucky – some really cool wildlife.

Sunset in Tam Coc

need help finding all my favourite spots in this ninh binh itinerary?
check out my ninh binh map below.

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Ninh Binh Itinerary
Ninh Binh and Tam Coc Things to Do
Ninh Binh and Tam Coc Itinerary
Things to do in Ninh Binh
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Skåne rapeseed fields

Skåne country, the southernmost part of Sweden, can be characterized by a few things. Little white churches, lots of green space, diverse coastlines, and – in the spring – the beautiful Skåne rapeseed fields.

Well, it’s officially rapeseed season in Skåne! The first time I saw these fields last spring I was literally blown away. These beautiful fields quite literally cover the Skåne countryside in a blanket of bright yellow. It’s impossible for drive a minute or two without seeing one. Over the past week or so I noticed they were beginning to bloom, so this weekend the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the clouds were the perfect amount of fluffy, so we set out to visit some of these fields and go for a hike.

After posting a few of the photos on Instagram, I received an outpouring of questions about my little day trip. So here it is… A quick guide to the Skåne rapeseed fields.

(Apologies in advance if it is a bit photo-heavy, I am really happy with how these shots turned out)

Skåne rapeseed fields

When do the Skåne rapeseed fields PEAK?

The Skåne rapeseed fields typically bloom in early May. However, this year (after a mild winter) they bloomed a bit earlier in late April. Generally, you’ll see peak bright yellow tones lasting only about 2-3 weeks.

Good news if that if you’re reading this around time of publish, the fields haven’t fully “peaked” yet – so you still should have a couple weeks to go out and snap some photos.

Skåne rapeseed fields
Skåne rapeseed fields with church

Where CAN I find the SKÅNE Rapeseed Fields?

The question should be where can’t find them, because they are literally everywhere. However, many of these fields may not be accessible from the main roads, which narrows down options a bit. Even still, if you take a drive through the Skåne countryside, you’ll be sure to quickly find one.

Don’t have a car? There are plenty of bike paths through the countryside and many should be accessible by bike from main cities.

Looking for rapeseed fields near Malmö? My friend Aurélie (Plume D’Aure) mentioned that there are some located near Malmö’s countryside suburb Hyllie (which is easily accessible by bus or train).

Skåne rapeseed fields

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Skåne rapeseed
Sweden rapeseed
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Early morning in Hoi An Old Town

Hoi An is a place that has be high on my list for a long time. I dreamed of seeing the iconic yellow-painted walls with bright pink bougainvillea hanging over them, the famous lanterns that are strung through the city, and the river filled with small wooden boats that cuts through the old town. That’s why I knew that this stop needed to be my longest in Vietnam – And so, I began planning my itinerary to spend five days in Hoi An.

When I began planning I realized there are endless things to do in Hoi An that you could spend weeks there. But since our itinerary allowed for five days in Hoi An, I was determined to make the most of it. And I came up with this comprehensive guide of all the things to do in Hoi An (and eat!).

See Also: A Complete City Guide to Hanoi.

how should you spend your five days in hoi an? read on to find out!

but first...
where is hoi an located?

Hoi An is in central Vietnam, about 45 minutes outside of Da Nang, along Vietnam’s eastern coast. Located close to the coast, it is also surrounded by mountainous terrain and you can easily see the mountains in the distance. This make for some seriously beautiful views.

how to get to hoi an?

Most people arrive in Hoi An via Da Nang. Depending where you are coming from, there are many ways to get to Hoi An. Here are some tips on how to get to Hoi An from some of Vietnam’s largest hubs:

How to get to Hoi An from Hanoi: We arrived to Hoi An from Hanoi by plane (via Da Nang). Because we only had two and a half weeks in Vietnam, we opted to fly because it was the most efficient way to get from Hanoi to Hoi An. We arranged for a driver to pick us up at Da Nang airport and drive us to our hotel in Hoi An for roughly 275,000 VND or 12 USD. Hotels are often eager and willing to help arrange these services, so reach out to your hotel to arrange it prior to arriving in Da Nang. Alternatively, you can take the bus or the train from Hanoi (it takes about 12-14 hours, so many people opt to take this journey overnight and sleep on the way – and you save on accommodations for a night!).

How to get to Hoi An from Ho Chi Minh City: You can arrive from Ho Chi Minh City the same way as Hanoi – by plane to Da Nang, bus, or train.

Between these major hubs, you can also hop on buses or trains (and in some places, planes). Generally speaking, with transportation in Vietnam, I have found that it is always best to consult your hotel or hostel to help you make these arrangements and to make sure you don’t get scammed when booking private cars, buses, or trains.

A note on taxi scams: I would advise against using taxis in Vietnam, especially with airport pickups, because they have been known to scam tourists. If you’re looking for a safe taxi service, download the Grab app (Vietnam’s version of Lyft or Uber). You can confirm your ride through the app to ensure you are getting a fair price for the service.

things to do in hoi an

wander through the old town

Let’s start with the most obvious one because reality is, you’ll likely spend tons of time in the Hoi An Old Town. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the epicenter of Hoi An is straight out of a Vietnam postcard. Wander around the yellow-walled streets, down the alleyways… and just get lost. Stumble upon temples and browse the shops. My favourite shop is Sunday, where they have the most perfect handmade goods (and very Instagram-friendly walls, shown below). If you’re interested in shopping, I also love Mui the Label. Make sure you stop to grab a Vietnamese coffee at one of the charming cafes, and just people watch. Hoi An Old Town is the perfect place to do it.

Where is the From Hoi An with Love Wall
Hoi An Vibes Only Wall

Price to Visit Hoi An Old Town: 120,000 VND or 5 USD per person. At the entrances to the Old Town, you’ll notice ticket booths. While they don’t enforce ticket sales, they will check that you have a ticket if you want to visit the temples scattered throughout the Old Town. Even if you don’t intend to visit temples, be a responsible traveller and buy a ticket. It is a very small price to pay that goes back into the preservation of the Old Town so others can enjoy it for years to come.

Yellow Walls in Hoi An Old Town
Hoi An Old Town
Boats along river in Hoi An
Bougainvillea in Hoi An Old Town

gets clothes tailored

My custom tailoring experience was one of my favourite memories in Hoi An. Because we were visiting during the Lunar New Year, many tailors were closed, and our options are limited. I decided to connect with Bebe Tailor, the most famous tailor in Hoi An. I was a bit skeptical to work with Bebe Tailor because they have been known to be a bit expensive versus other tailors. But, I decided to try it out and got two dresses made.

In the end, I am so happy I chose Bebe. They were true professionals and their attention to detail and level of craftsmanship was first class. They were able to create both dresses in 24 hours (with two fittings in between), using premium materials, they turned out perfect. Never have I ever had such perfectly fitting clothing before and they truly understood my vision.

The price tag wasn’t “cheap” at 200 USD for both dresses (Sebastian also got a custom shirt made for 40 USD). But compared to the cost of a custom service at home, this was still very reasonable. And the experience itself was so special. I’ve never loved a vacation souvenir more!

If you’re looking for cheaper options, here’s a few that others recommended to me: Yaly Couture, Ca Li Tailor, and IZI Wear.

Wandering Around Hoi An Old Town
Dress from Bebe Tailor
Shown: The two dresses I got made at Bebe Tailor (note the photo on the right was taken in Tam Coc, not in Hoi An)

visit the best hoi an temples

There are loads of beautiful temples scattered throughout the centre of Hoi An. They weren’t particularly busy while we were there in January (with the exception of the Japanese Bridge), but I have been told they can get really crowded during peak season… So make sure to head there early. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Cantonese Assembly Hall
  • Phuc Kien Assembly
  • The Japanese Bridge
  • Pháp Bảo Temple
  • Chùa Long Tuyền

Don’t forget that these are places of worship and please dress appropriately (that means covering your shoulders and knees).

Price to Visit Hoi An Temples: You will need to buy a ticket at the entrance to the Old Town for 120,000 VND or 5 USD per person. With this, you can visit five attractions.

Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

bike around the hoi an rice fields

Biking around the Hoi An rice fields was so fun – in fact, we did it twice. The rice fields outside of Hoi An are beautiful, with paths zig-zagging throughout them so you can easy navigate your way through. We spent so much time biking through the lush green fields, stopping frequently to admire the horses, water buffalo and locals working in the fields – while rarely ever running into anyone else. It amazed me that this seemingly hidden gem, where locals lived their very normal lives tending to their rice farms, existed only a short bike ride from the busy city centre.

Take a look at this map below for suggested where to bike in the Hoi An rice fields, as well as marked locations of some of my favourite spots to capture photos. Note: If you put directions in Google Maps, they will lead you down the busy Ha Bai Trung street. Avoid this street and cut up through the rice fields through the entrances marked.

Biking Hoi An Rice Fields
Cow in Hoi An Rice Fields

visit the best beach in hoi an

On the other side of the Hoi An rice fields, you’ll find the best beach in Hoi An: An Bang Beach. By bike, you can easily reach the beach, where you’ll be able to rent a chair. We opted both times to rent our beach chairs at Seaside (we paid 60,000 VND, or less than 3.00 USD, and the spot also offered full-service beach side drinks and food, wifi, and a bathroom). 

An Bang Beach swing
An Bang Beach

While you’re at An Bang Beach, make sure you check out Sound of Silence Coffee Shop. I had heard a lot about this spot prior to visiting An Bang Beach, and this cutesy little coffee shop was a fantastic beach side escape for iced coffees. If you’re looking for a good photo spot on An Bang Beach, you can find the swing shown above outside the Sound of Silence beach entrance.

Note: I wasn’t able to locate Seaside on Google Maps, but I have pinned the location of it in the map at the end of this article. However, the easiest way to get there is to head to Sound of Silence Coffee Shop, and head down the pathway to the right side of the shop toward the beach.

Sound of Silence Coffee Shop

visit the hoi an night market

The Night Market in Hoi An is where the city comes alive. Here you’ll find stalls lit up with the famous Hoi An lanterns lining the side of the street. There are tons of vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs and many street food joints, too.

We bought a few souvenirs for friends and family here (make sure to haggle – we were typically able to knock 30-40% off the starting price). My only real regret is that I couldn’t fit a lantern in my backpack to bring home with me (if you’re travelling with a suitcase, buy one – they are beautiful).

While you’re visiting the Hoi An Night market, you can take a ride on the river in one of the beautifully decorated boats. I was skeptical to do this, because it looked very touristy. But then on our very last night this Vietnamese women followed us around for fifteen minutes trying to convince us to get into her boat. We were so impressed by her hustle game that we gave in and went for a ride (for roughly 100,000 VND or just over 4 USD). Seeing the river lit up at night was beautiful, but I honestly wouldn’t be quick to do it again. It was just as pretty looking at it from the shoreline.

take a class at the best cooking class in hoi an

One of my absolute favourite mornings in Hanoi was spending a morning with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class. The experience was hands-on and immersive. And I am still dreaming about the food! We’ve tried to recreate it at home… but it just isn’t the same (guess that means I need to book a flight back to Hoi An).

But seriously, I couldn’t imagine a more fun morning and it was an easy highlight. We made our own rice paper over a burning hot fire, rolled fresh spring rolls, fried sizzling pancakes, and just had so much fun. This was also an allergy-friendly cooking class in Hoi An for anyone travelling with nut allergies in Vietnam. If you have any allergies reach out and ask if they can accommodate. I was so impressed by their hospitality.

Important Tip: Use the correct link to book the class (there are some imitations out there that hotels will point you toward because they earn commissions). Make sure you FOLLOW THIS LINK to book directly with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class on their website (feel free to tell them that I sent you).

Hoi An Eco Cooking Class

get lost in the hoi an central market

We loved Hoi An Central Market. It was chaotic and fun and full of so many delicious smells. Walk up to any stall, ask them to cut open a piece of fruit for you, and just wander around admiring the sights, sounds, and smells. It’s a serious sensory overload.

If it were up to me, I would have made a pit stop for fresh dragon fruit and mangoes here every single day. Unfortunately, we were travelling in Hoi An around the beginning of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, and World Health Organization was strongly urging travellers in Asia to avoid visiting open markets. So, after the first day we listened to WHO’s orders and (albeit reluctantly) stayed away.

Fruit in Hoi An

get a taste of local life at tra que vegetable village

Right outside of central Hoi An lies Tra Que Vegetable Village where locals tend to their immaculate gardens. These farming village was so cool to see, with locals using traditional Vietnamese practices to harvest the land. We only had time to ride our bikes around the village and admired daily life. But, if I were to do it again, I would have opted for a more immersive experience at the farm by taking a tour.

If you’re interested in getting a full hands-on agricultural experience with the best Tra Que Vegetable Village tour, I’ve heard awesome things about this tour with Backstreet Academy where you get to be a farmer for a few hours. You even get to eat a meal made from the locally grown organic ingredients.

Tra Que Vegetable Village

visit the my son sanctuary

We loved the My Son Sanctuary, which is located roughly an hour from Hoi An. The ruins were spectacular. And while many have been kept in good condition, evidence of the Vietnam War was apparent in damage. In fact, there were craters surrounding the ruins from bombings. It is UNESCO famed cultural landmark in Vietnam that, in my opinion, should not be missed.

What is the best time of day to visit My Son Sanctuary? Most tours leave Hoi An or Da Nang around 8:00 in the morning, which often means that My Son Sanctuary is very crowded by 9:00 am. We originally planned to visit when it opened for sunrise, at 6:00 am, but I had heard that it has begun to get busier in the morning as a few tour providers have begun to offer sunrise tours. Based on this, we opted to visit in the mid-afternoon, before closing. We arrived at My Son Sanctuary at around 2:00 pm and it was not busy at all. JACKPOT. The only downside to this plan is that it is very hot at My Son Sanctuary. While the heat was tolerable for us in January, I am not sure I would feel the same way during the warmer months. If I were to return to Vietnam in the spring or summer, I would opt to visit My Son Sanctuary at sunrise.

How to get to My Son Sanctuary? We opted to pay for a private driver drive us to/from My Son Sanctuary because we weren’t interested in having a tour guide and wanted to explore at our own pace. This service cost us about 35 USD. Alternatively, you can book a group tour (this is by far the cheapest option). I wouldn’t recommend taking the morning tours that leave around 8:00 because the sanctuary will likely be very busy. In my opinion, sunrise is your best option for a tour. If you’re interested in a sunrise tour, check this one out. Alternatively, there are many people who ride scooters out to the sanctuary. After passing by many amazing local villages and wishing I could make a pit stop, I was envious of the people brave enough to make this journey by bike. But, we weren’t feeling personally confident enough to make this trek by scooter (maybe next time?).

Visiting My Son Sanctuary

hop around to the best coffee shops in hoi an

It’s no secret that my coffee obsession is REAL. And Vietnamese coffee sits at the top of my list for some of my favourite coffee ever. That’s why I was so excited to visit Hoi An, which is really a coffee-shop-lovers paradise. Take some time to slow down and enjoy the best coffee shops in Hoi An. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • 92 Station: For the best views of the city, 92 Station is your spot. Head up to the patio on the third floor and be welcomed by the best rooftop views paired with a Vietnamese coffee or fresh juice (or both!).
  • Faifo Coffee: Faifo is a very popular spot in Hoi An for rooftop views, but if you ask me, my previous recommendation (92 Station) is better. Not only did 92 Station have better coffee, but it is a lot less busy than Faifo, which has been known to have people literally lining up to take photos on the roof. Even still, the rooftop patio here is great if you can manage to stop when it isn’t busy like we did.
  • Sound of Silence Coffee Shop: Located along An Bang beach, you can enjoy coffee next to beach at this cutesy spot. I highly recommend the mango-infused cold brew for a unique and refreshing coffee flavour.
  • Mot Hoi An: Not coffee, but Mot is home to Hoi An’s most popular iced herbal teas. Seriously – this iced tea is the real deal. You’ll probably notice groups of people lined up to grab a famous tea for only 10,000 VND (less than .50 USD), beautifully garnished with a leaf, rose petal, and bamboo straw.
  • Wake Up Coffee: Another great little coffee shop with big open windows, perfect for people watching alongside the busy Hoi An streets.
  • The Espresso Station: MY FAVOURITE COFFEE SHOP IN HOI AN. This spot is a bit hidden down an alleyway, and offers such a cool patio ambiance and really unique coffee and drinks that are seriously works of art. We spent a couple hours on the patio sharing four drinks between the two of us (because we couldn’t make our mind up about what we wanted). My favourite drink was ice cubes made of frozen coffee topped with cacao powder, and served with hot creamy milk that you pour overtop.
  • Reaching Out Teahouse: Also not a typical coffee spot, but I love Reaching Out Teahouse so much we went here twice. This traditional teahouse is operated by deaf workers and all communication is done through writing and the use of small blocks with words like “thank you” written onto them. The ambiance of this place is beautiful, and the tea is fantastic (and served with delicious homemade cookies and biscuits). I also loved the fresh juices here – you must try the lime juice and add a bit of liquid ginger to it.
Faifo Hoi An
92 Station Hoi An
Reaching Out Teahouse Hoi An
Shown here (clockwise from top left): Faifo Coffee rooftop; Reaching Out Teahouse; Views from 92 Station Rooftop; Espresso Station

take a trip to the Tam Thanh Mural Village

Full disclosure: We didn’t go here. But I really wanted to after hearing so many wonderful things about it. Since were in Hoi An during the Lunar New Year (Tet), it meant that many drivers and tour operators were taking time off with their families. So when we tried to arrange time to visit this village, it became too complicated to fit it into the schedule.

But, based on what I’ve heard, I would highly recommend visiting this spot. The local town is covered in murals and I’ve also heard the nearby beach is beautiful and not touristy. Located roughly an hour away, you can arrange a driver through your hotel, ride a scooter, or take a tour. Here’s a link to a tour that will take you out to the village (cost is only about 16 USD per person for a five hour excursion).

The Best Hotel in Hoi An

Maichi villa

Looking for the best hotel in Hoi An? How about a hotel in Hoi An with a pool? Or a hotel in Hoi An with free breakfast?

Well, I’ve got the perfect spot. MaiChi Villa was easily our favourite hotel (errr, should I say homestay?) we stayed at in Vietnam for so many reasons. It had a beautiful pool, massive rooms, and a huge breakfast all included in the price. The hotel only opened a few months ago, and it was brand new in every way. The facilities were beautiful, and the host family could not have been more sweet and helpful.

Finally, MaiChi Villa is also so optimally located, a quick 8-10 minute walk from the Old Town. And they provide free bikes so you can easily bike everywhere else you need to go. I seriously cannot recommend this hotel enough.

MaiChi Villa Hoi An Review
The Best Hotel in Hoi An: MaiChi Villa

Where to Eat in Hoi An

Hoi An is quite literally full of hidden gem restaurants and has so many must-local dishes that I couldn’t get enough of. Here’s a few of my favourites (and things you should try at each).

Mot Hoi An: famous for the herbal tea described above, but we loved the food here too!
Madam Khanh - The Banh Mi Queen: get the classic banh mi with pate - yum!
Banh Mi Phuong: anthony bourdain said this was the best manh mi in the world
LeFe dining place: mid-range but so good with accommodating sebastian's nut allergy that we went twice; try the "shrimp lettuce wraps" and fresh spring rolls, shown below
ganesh: if you're looking for something different, they have some of the best indian food ever
ben bi bubble tea: didn't eat here, but loved the matcha bubble tea
sea crab: looking for a lunch spot near an bang beach? this is a good spot for cao lau
Com Ga Ba Minh: a local favourite for the popular hoi an chicken and rice dish
white rose restaurant: for famous white rose dumplings
dingo deli: all day brunch and western food (like pizza)
rosie's cafe: very popular/trendy brunch spot searching mostly western brunch options

LeFe Dining Place Hoi An

find all my favourite spots for the perfect five days in hoi an.
check out the map below.

pro Tip: Google Maps does not pin locations in Vietnam with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, you should note the exact address of the location. Use Google Maps to Help you find the street, and then follow the street numbers until you find the exact address. also, google maps will often "auto-correct" the street name and lead you in the wrong direction. before you start walking, make sure you double check that you have the right street name (or else you might end up 15 minutes late for a food tour like us, lol).
Boats in Hoi An

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5 Days in Hoi An City Guide
Tips for visiting My Son Sanctuary
Things to Do in Hoi An Itinerary
The Best Beach in Hoi An
The Best Restaurants in Hoi An
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Busy Hanoi Street

Before we went to Vietnam, Hanoi was arguably the place I was least excited about on our itinerary. I’m not totally sure why… Maybe because it was the place I knew the least about. Or maybe it was the fact that I thought Hanoi was just a big, overwhelming city.

And I wasn’t wrong about that. Hanoi is a VERY big, VERY overwhelming city. But what surprised me most was that it was arguably my favourite stop on our Vietnam trip.

Why? Well, that’s a loaded question. And one that a blog post like this one could never totally answer. It’s a place you have to experience to understand. And should be treated as much more than an entry or exit point to Vietnam. In my opinion, you should spend at least three days in Hanoi (but if you ask me, the more the better). 

okay, now that i have your attention...
read about how to spend three days in hanoi with this itinerary.

THINGS TO DO IN HANOI

visit the temple of literature

I absolutely loved The Temple of Literature. The sprawling grounds are scattered with beautiful gardens, lakes and pagodas. The temple was built in 1070 and was home to Vietnam’s first national university. We visited before Tet (The Vietnamese Lunar New Year) and it was so cool to see the holiday decorations and preparations being made for the biggest Vietnamese holiday of the year.

Ticket price: 30,000 VND or just over $1 USD a person.

The Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi

walk around hoan kiam lake

Hoan Kiem is a cultural landmark of Hanoi and a major city attraction. The best time to visit Hoan Kiam Lake in the early morning before fellow tourists are out, and you can observe the locals enjoying the scenery and partaking in their morning exercise routines. We loved witnessing how the locals treasured this lake.

If you’re visiting early, pay a visit to Ngoc Son Temple, located across the bright red bridge in the centre of the lake. When we were there during midday, we didn’t dare to visit because the red bridge was piled with tourists. However, during our 8am lake walk one morning, we noticed it was quiet and decided to visit. The ticket price was cheap (30,000 VND or just over $1 USD a person). And we felt like we had the whole little island to ourselves.

Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi
Ngoc Son Temple Hanoi

wander around hanoi old quarter

The Old Quarter of Hanoi is like nothing I have ever seen before. It is buzzing with people – and scooters. People are everywhere, and the sidewalks are covered with scooters and makeshift street food joints, so you can forget walking on the sidewalk. It is easy to get lost for hours in the streets of the Old Quarter… and it was absolutely a highlight of my time in Hanoi.

Fun Fact: There are 79 streets in the Old Quarter and each corresponds with a specific type of merchandize or service, and most shops on the street correspond. For example, you can find the shoe street, the textiles street, the silver street, the coffee street, or an entire street dedicated to fixing scooters.

We loved wandering around the Old Quarter and eating ALL the Hanoi street food. We found some of the best food we had in Hanoi here. Many tourists are too afraid to eat the Hanoi street food, and too be honest, I don’t blame them – it looks like a food poisoning disaster waiting to happen. If you’re too scared to dabble in the street food scene, or don’t know where to start, check out my next suggestion…

Hanoi Old Quarter at Night
Old Quarter Hanoi
Woman bike with fruit Hanoi Old Quarter
Visiting Hanoi Old Quarter
On the note of scooters, you've probably heard about the madness of trying to cross the street in Hanoi. I was nervous too. I even googled "how to cross the street in Hanoi" before I arrived. But I promise, it isn't as scary as it seems to cross. Just walk across the street at a steady pace. Don't increase or decrease speed, and definitely don't stop. The scooters will gauge your pace and go around you. However, this is not the case for cars and buses. So, if you see a car or bus, stop on the side of the street and wait to cross.

take a food tour

I am a huge fan of the company With Locals that pairs you with a local who guides you on a private tour throughout the city. You can take one of their standard tours, or request a custom tour (which we did because Sebastian is allergic to nuts). On our first day in Vietnam, we took a tour with Hoa from With Locals who navigated us through Hanoi’s street food scene. We tried all kinds of local foods (often while sitting on tiny step stools on the side of the street). I couldn’t recommend this tour enough! It is and easy and fun way to find all the best street food in Hanoi. You can a Street Food tour with With Locals here (look for Hoa N).

As a side note, did you know that that the reason everyone sit street-side on buckets and step stools in Vietnam eating street food is because eating on the street is technically illegal? So, locals buy cheap “chairs and tables” and scatter the streets with them. If the authorities come and take them away, it’s a minor loss (although it doesn’t seem like this happens very often). Also, these tiny pieces of furniture are easy to gather and quickly bring inside if authorities are close by.

Vegan or Vegetarian? Backstreet Academy offers a great Vegan/Vegetarian food tour that you can check out here. 

enjoy the vietnamese coffee scene

Hanoi has one of my favourite coffee scenes of any city I have ever been to. I loved it so much that I wrote a detailed post about all my favourite coffee shops in Hanoi, and what you need to try at each.

If you’re a coffee lover like me, I highly recommend Backstreet Academy’s “Coffee Lovers Walking Tour.” We did this tour in Hanoi and it was an easy highlight of my time there. You can find out more or book the tour here.

visit hanoi's famous train street

Okay, I know what you’re thinking… Is the Hanoi train street still open? Both yes and no. The “street” is closed but the restaurants that line the tracks are still open. Here’s a bit of backstory if you haven’t heard about this popular Hanoi landmark.

Hanoi’s train street is a set of tracks that goes right through central Hanoi. Over the years, many coffee shops and restaurants have opened up shops along the tracks, serving mainly tourists. Visitors would walk up and down the tracks and visit the restaurants. The catch – the train is still operating. So, as this tourist spot became more and more popular, it became a safety concern with thousands of tourists standing alongside the tight tracks as the train passed by. So, the government of Hanoi stepped in and has barricaded entrances to the tracks, closing it to tourists. 

While this is a necessary move for safety reasons, many local businesses have been massively affected since last October by this closure. Therefore, the owners often stand along the entrance to the tracks and ask you to come to their restaurant. If you go with a restaurant owner, with the purpose of buying something from the restaurant, the guards will let you in. This initiative has cut back on crowds in a massive way. When we visited the landmark, there were very few others there.

We unfortunately were not able to visit when the train went by because we were only in Hanoi on weekdays (the train only operates in the evening on weekdays and it was too dark by then during the winter months… so if you’re spending three days in Hanoi in the winter, try to make sure one of the days you visit is a Saturday or Sunday). 

Here’s the Hanoi Train Street Schedule. However, like many things in Vietnam, it is subject to change. The restaurants lining the tracks will be able to provide you with a schedule in case there is a change, but this is the Hanoi train schedule currently:

  • Monday to Friday: 7 pm, 7:45 pm, 8:30 pm, 10 pm
  • Saturday and Sunday: 6 am, 9 am, 11:20 am, 3:20 pm, 5:30 pm, 6 pm, 7 pm, 7:45 pm, 8:30 pm, 9 pm, 11 pm

If you’re looking for the best location to enter the train street, I have marked it on the map below.

Hanoi Train Street
Hanoi Train Street

visit a spa

There are spas on every corner in Hanoi, but many of them are not paying fair wages and may be using unethical practices, so do your research before blindly wandering into one. If it is insanely cheap, it is probably a red flag. While moderate in price, the best spa in Hanoi that I found was at La ÉnMay Spa in the La Sinfonia Del Rey Hotel and Spa. And if you book between 10-12 am, you receive 30% off services. You can find out more here. 

La ÉnMay Spa Hanoi

see a water puppet show

I’ll admit, I was skeptical to visit this. I questioned if the famous Hanoi water puppet show was worth it or a gimmick. I thought it would be touristy and just not my thing. But, I went because everyone says it is something you’re “supposed” to do in Hanoi. And I am so glad I went.

The show was beautiful and so impressive. The whole play is done in Vietnamese, but it doesn’t matter. Can you pretty easily follow along with the simple storyline. And even without understanding every detail it is such a cool cultural experience.

I recommend visiting the most popular water puppet show in Hanoi at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. If you’re interested in skip the line tickets, you can find them here. Alternatively, you can visit the onsite kiosk to grab tickets, but I have been told that during peak season, tickets can sell out well in advance, so this is an easy online way to secure your seats.

Tickets start as low as 100,000 VND per person (or about $4.30 USD) and the price increases depending on how close to the stage you are. We opted for the tickets priced at 150,000 VND and found it was close enough to the stage, but it might be difficult to see the details of the show if you were seated near the back.

take a cooking class

I didn’t personally have time to take a cooking class during my three days in Hanoi, but I am really disappointed I didn’t. We did a cooking class in Hoi An and it was a highlight of our time in Vietnam. If I could go back, I would have made it a priority.

If you’re interested in cooking, this is a must do. I’ve heard VERY GOOD things about this particular cooking class where you get a hands-on cooking experience in the home of a local!

have more than three days in hanoi? here's some other things you can do.

visit the west lake (the biggest lake in hanoi)
visit hoa lo prison (this is another thing I really wish we made time for)
walk across long bien bridge
visit the museum of ethnology
visit the ho chi minh mausoleum (best to visit at end of day before it closes to avoid morning crowds)

Where to stay in Hanoi

luxury: la sinfonia del rey hotel & spa

Because we were in-and-out of Hanoi as a “home base” for our trip, we decided to “splurge” one night at La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa. A big splurge at this hotel will set you back about 1,700,000 VND or $75 USD per night, and I can confirm that this brand new hotel was easily one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. The entire hotel was covered in black marble, the rooms were premium comfort, the bathrooms luxurious, and the breakfast was just WOW. Not to mention the location could not be better, located right across the street from Hoan Kiem Lake.

La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa
La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa Hanoi

Mid-range: centraltique downtown

Looking for a mid-range hotel Old Quarter Hanoi hotel? Centraltique was beautiful. It is located in a historic French Colonial building in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle. The rooms were large and clean, and we had a front street-facing balcony with great views. Keep in mind, it is located in the middle of all the chaos and therefore can be loud all hours of the night. For me, this was part of the charm. But if you’re looking for a quiet nights sleep during your three days in Hanoi, I would look outside of the Old Quarter.

Centraltique Hotel Hanoi

Where to Eat in Hanoi

Where do I even start? Hanoi was home to easily the best food I had in Vietnam, and has officially positioned itself as one of my top favourite food cities in the world. I ate at so many places I loved, including some amazing street food gems. And I wrote a Hanoi food guide all about my favourite spots!

MUST TRY dishes IN HANOI:

Bún Thang (local vietnamese noodle soup)
Bún chả (grilled fatty pork and noodles + dipping dauce)
Bánh Cuốn (vietnamese steamed rice rolls with pork)
Cháo sườn (porridge with pork ribs that is said to cure you if you have a cold)
Nem Nướng (grilled pork sausage)
phở bò (beef noodle soup)
coffee: traditional vietnamese drip coffee, coconut coffee, egg coffee
Iced lime tea with sunflower seeds

Hanoi Vietnam flowers

find all my favourite spots for the perfect three days in hanoi.
check out the map below.

pro Tip: Google Maps does not pin locations in Vietnam with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, you should note the exact address of the location. Use Google Maps to Help you find the street, and then follow the street numbers until you find the exact address. also, google maps will often "auto-correct" the street name and lead you in the wrong direction. before you start walking, make sure you double check that you have the right street name (or else you might end up 15 minutes late for a food tour like us, lol).

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Things to Do in Hanoi
Three days in Hanoi City Guide
Three days in Hanoi Itinerary
The Best Hotel in Hanoi
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As a reminder, I only recommend products and companies that I stand behind 100%. Thanks for supporting Madeline Rae Away.
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