Hoi An is a picturesque and colorful town, part of the UNESCO World Heritage. It’s a unique place in Vietnam, and you can easily spend hours just walking around and discovering all its cute spots.
The hype around Hoi An is there for a reason, but that means you need to be prepared for crowds. It’s one of the top destinations in Vietnam and there is a lot to do there.
Why Hoi An is a special place in Vietnam
Hoi An is the most unique town in the whole of Vietnam, and it’s undoubtedly because of its history of thriving communities of not only Vietnamese but also Japanese and Chinese.
Consequently, its architecture was heavily influenced by the Japanese and Chinese, as Hoi An integrated those culture’s elements. Still to this day, that is an integral part of the city’s looks and identity.
Top things to do in Hoi An
You can do endless things in or around Hoi An; however, here are some of the top things that you should not miss.
1. Fujian Assembly Hall
Fujian or Phuc Kien Assembly Hall is one of Hoi An’s few official assembly halls. It was built in the 17th century to serve as a gathering place for residents and travelers from Fujian, China. Afterward, they transformed it into a temple that worships the sea goddess Thien Hau.
Its beautiful gate stands out from the rest of Hoi An’s architecture with its pink color and ornate looks and makes it one of the most popular locations for taking photos in Hoi An. So expect a bigger crowd if you’re not there early in the morning.
2. Japanese Bridge (Chùa Cầu)
The Japanese Bridge is an icon of Hoi An, and it’s even pictured on the 20.000 Vietnamese Dong banknote.
The Japanese community constructed the Chua Cau bridge in the 16th century to link it with the Chinese quarters on the other side of the small river channel.
3. Ba Mu Temple Gates – Three gate pagoda
Ba Mu Temple Gates is the entrance to the 400-year old temple and worshipping area, which was recently restored to its original beauty. It is one of the most beautiful and iconic structures in Hoi An.
4. Take a stroll through the charming streets of Hoi An
As we’re sure you’ve already come to know, Hoi An is gorgeous, and walking in any direction will offer something new and exciting. So stroll through the streets full of lanterns, beautifully painted houses, doors, and many immaculately cared-for trees.
While wandering around Hoi An, don’t skip the riverside. Instead, go all the way from the Hoi An main market up to the Japanese bridge, and then cross over and continue straight to make a complete circle. You can also stop by and grab a drink or a snack at one of the countless small coffee shops along the way.
5. Cycle around Hoi An
Hoi An is surrounded by green rice fields and quaint little villages that you can cycle through. There are gorgeous rice fields on the outskirts of Hoi An, and most of them have well-maintained cycling paths. Go for sunrise or sunset to experience their magic.
The An Bang beach is also accessible by bicycle if you’re not comfortable riding a motorbike. You should be able to reach it in about 30-45 minutes.
Tip: Most of the accommodations in Hoi An will rent out the bikes for free or for a small fee. You can cycle around all by yourself to enjoy the freedom or join one of the many cycling tours with a set itinerary.
Is it possible to cycle through Hoi An’s Old Town?
We cycled through the Old Town in Hoi An, as there were practically no tourists when we were there. Otherwise, we can imagine that it’s not such an easy task to do.
Maybe try going around town in the early mornings, as even though the locals are already out and about, the masses of tourists might not be (unless everyone follows our advice 😅).
6. Shop at Hoi An Central Market (Chợ Hội An)
There are many markets in Hoi An, but the most iconic is the main one, very close to the old town and tourist attractions. The Central Market building itself is painted in a classic yellow color, and it looks beautiful.
You can find everything from fresh vegetables, fruits, spices, meat, fish, and flowers. It’s interesting to observe the local life, avoid beeping motorcycles trying to pass through, and the smells will be pretty intense.
BEWARE! This lady will always be very friendly and ask you to sit down next to her and take a photo with her. We didn’t want to do that, but we offered to take a picture of her instead, and she happily posed for it. The second we put our camera down, her smiley face turned mad/annoyed, and she demanded money from us. Of course, we refused to pay her. Later we found out from a friend that that’s her thing, and she has done it for a couple of years already. You’ll easily recognize her as she’s standing out from the crowds with her jewelry and clothing. If you genuinely want a photograph with a local market seller, try to ask them politely and offer something in return or buy something from them. 👍
7. Try the iconic Mot drink of Hoi An
While in Hoi An, you have to try the all-new sensation, the Mot drink, essentially a tea made of a blend of ginger, lemongrass, and lemon. It’s perfectly refreshing and costs around 12.000 VND or half a dollar.
Many people will be sitting around the little cafe and snapping endless photos (especially young Vietnamese) of this iconic drink. The cafe has some space inside, but it’s hard to find a spot there considering its popularity. So you might have to take it to-go or sit somewhere on the side of the road.
This is the exact location: 📍 Mót Hội An – Trà thảo mộc & Sả chanh
8. Indulge in Hoi An’s excellent food
Hoi An is aesthetically beautiful, but it also offers some fantastic and unique foods, like Cao Lau, a native dish to Hoi An, which can’t be replicated elsewhere because of its distinct local ingredients.
Tip: Make sure to eat Cao Lau from a street vendor, not in a restaurant, to get the best experience. The best food of Vietnam is in our rulebook, always found on the street. 🙂
9. Enjoy Hoi An’s delicious Banh Mi
Hoi An is regarded as the birthplace of Banh Mi, the classic Vietnamese baguette sandwich. Grab a bite on the street or enjoy a meal in one of the many great restaurants.
Two of the most popular Banh Mi restaurants in Hoi An and possibly Vietnam is Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen and Banh Mi Phuong. Banh Mi Phuong got immensely popular after Anthony Bourdain’s visit a few years ago.
We haven’t tried the best-rated ones, but we did have the best vegetarian Banh Mi right here in Hoi An, at the Banh Mi Hoi An Chay stall on the corner of Phan Chu Trinh and Nguyen Hue street. It’s crispy on the outside, juicy inside, and with the best chili paste ever. The chili paste made this banh mi stand out from others for us in Vietnam.
Vegan or vegetarian?You HAVE to read this! You will be surprised.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Vietnam.
10. Hoi An Night market
The night market in Hoi An is bustling, and you can find all kinds of foods and souvenirs here as it is mainly focused on tourists. It’s located on the small An Hội island that you get to by walking over the Lantern Bridge.
If you enjoy a crowded market atmosphere, this is the place!
Hoi An’s Night Market is generally open from 4:30 PM until 10 PM.
11. Admire Hoi An’s lanterns
Hoi An lanterns have been an icon of Hoi An since the 16th century when the Japanese introduced them. They are found all over town, especially on the night market. You can strike a pose and take a superb photograph amongst them for about $1, and honestly, it is well worth it.
Tips: There are many shops with lanterns at the Hoi An night market. Choose whichever looks best to you, and be prepared to wait in a possibly long line as this is a trendy photo spot. Plus, you have limited time to take your photo.
Visit Hoi An’s night market after 8 pm when its fewer people there for a better chance of the lantern stalls not being crowded.
12. Take a boat ride on Hoi An’s Thu Bon river
Hoi An was historically one of the most important port towns of the silk road, and it’s connected to the sea with the Thu Bon river that flows straight through the Old Town. So taking a boat ride in Hoi An is a must-do thing.
The best time for an enjoyable boat ride has to be during sunset or later at night when the whole town lights up. There are thousands of lights and lanterns all around, and even on the boats themselves.
2022 UPDATE: There used to be endless lanterns on the boats in Hoi An, but from February 2022, the local administration decided to remove them almost entirely and allow just 2 in the front and 2 in the back of the boats.
IMPORTANT: We kindly ask everyone to avoid lighting the candles and sending them down the river. This is a thing made purely for tourism purposes, and it’s hurting the local (and global) environment. In the mornings, we saw cleaners on boats trying to clean the river from these, and it was so many of them that there’s no way actually to clean it all up. It’s totally unnecessary.
13. Visit the Tan Ky house
Tan Ky House, translated to “Progress shop,” is an almost 300-year old house preserved by the family that has owned it for seven generations.
Though the Tan Ky house is not the oldest house like this in Hoi An, it’s definitely the most well-preserved one.
You can see the Japanese and Chinese influence in its architecture, and it’s a beautiful reminder of the times in the 17th century when Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese communities all thrived together in Hoi An.
14. Get clothes tailored at famous tailors of Hoi An
Hoi An is a well-known tailoring hotspot with its history going back hundreds of years when it was one of the most important international ports on the silk road. Many travelers choose to get their custom-tailored clothes done here, and for a good reason, as there are shops here that go back generations, and the owners are masters of their craft.
We didn’t get a chance to do it ourselves, but we plan to do it as soon as we get back to Vietnam. We have many friends who had many pieces of clothing custom-tailored in Hoi An, and they were delighted with the finished products, quality, and reasonable prices.
15. Visit the ‘Hoi An vibes only’ at the Sunday in Hoi An boutique shop
There’s this pretty shop called Sunday in Hoi An, and it has this cute baby pink colored room with a sign saying “Hoi An vibes only,” which has become an attraction in itself in Hoi An.
Almost everyone that visits here comes in for a quick photo, as it’s lovely.
The shop sells impressive home decor, so check it out while you’re there.
This is the exact location: 📍 Sunday in Hoi An
Tip: Don’t hesitate to get in and ask the sellers if you can come for a quick photo. Everyone does it, and they have no problem with it.
16. Admire the beautiful walls of Hoi An
Hoi An LOVES the color yellow, and countless beautiful walls serve as the perfect background for beautiful photos. However, there are a few famous walls constantly used by tourists for the iconic Hoi An wall photos.
The most famous yellow wall pictured below is right across the Japanese Covered Bridge, and it really stands out.
Another wall that speaks Hoi An is the more orangey one you can find by walking along the riverside towards the Hoi An Market.
17. Enjoy a day at the An Bang beach
Don’t forget the beach while in Hoi An! An Bang beach is one of the most famous beaches in the area, and one of the best beaches for swimming in Vietnam if you ask us (and we’ve been to many). So enjoy a coconut in one of the beach bars and enjoy this piece of sandy paradise.
The best time to visit is for sunrise, as it’s truly magical. Although beware, you won’t be alone. The beach will be crowded for sunrise, as Vietnamese wake up super early for exercise.
18. Join a Hoi An Cooking Class
Unsurprisingly, Hoi An also offers some great cooking classes because of its delicious cuisine. You can partake in different kinds, and even a few strictly vegan ones exist, which is a fantastic thing because the vegan food of Vietnam is exceptionally delicious and does not skimp on the taste and variety at all.
19. Ride in a traditional basket boat
If you go cycling around Cam Thanh Coconut Village in Hoi An, you’ll notice many round boats along the river. Those are Thung Chai – traditional round basket boats made from bamboo, and you can see them all over Vietnam. Here, you can experience how it is to ride in one of these and learn more about making them.
Unfortunately, these tours weren’t operating when we were there, so we couldn’t experience it. But it looks fun.
20. Visit Réhahn’s Precious Heritage Museum and Art Gallery
The gallery of the fantastic photographer Réhahn is an excellent place for everyone who wants to learn something more about Vietnam. Situated in a 19th-century French house, Réhahn’s Hoi An museum has five different rooms where you can discover Vietnamese culture through hundreds of portraits, costumes, and tribal songs of all 54 ethnic tribes of Vietnam. It took Réhahn almost a decade to build this museum.
The entrance to Réhahn’s Museum is free of charge.
We have not managed to visit the museum yet, but following his work on Instagram for years, we can only imagine the attention to detail that has been put in telling Vietnam’s story.
21. Day trip to Da Nang
Da Nang is a fabulous city, and very easy to visit from Hoi An, as it takes only about 45 minutes to reach it by car.
Here are some places to visit in Da Nang:
- Dragon Bridge
- My Khe beach
- Son Tra Peninsula and Lady Budhha
- Marble mountains
- Pink Cathedral
- Golden Bridge
22. Day trip to My Son Sanctuary
A great day trip from Hoi An is My Son Sanctuary, a complex of some of the most numerous preserved temples of the Kingdom of Champa only discovered in 1889 and constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries. My Son Sanctuary is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and one of the most outstanding examples of the Champa civilization that inhabited the area between Da Nang and Binh Thuan province (Phan Thiet City).
23. Day trip to Tam Ky’s Mural Village
From Hoi An, you can visit the Mural Village near the town of Tam Ky. It’s full of beautiful murals, and you can spend some time walking through the village to find all of them. Most are seen directly from the street, but some are hidden in the back alleys.
24. Day trip to Hue
Hue is about 120km and 3 hours away from Hoi An and still an excellent option for a day trip. We highly recommend visiting Hue, as it’s another unique city full of important historical sites and incredible architecture.
Hue is also known for its delicious food because it used to be the capital of Vietnam for 150 years and thus a melting pot of various cuisines and cultures.
25. Day trip to Cham Islands (Cu Lao Cham)
In 30 minutes by speedboat from Hoi An you can visit the Cham Islands (Cu Lao Cham), a biosphere area protected under UNESCO. The islands are famous for world-class diving and snorkeling because of their rich marine life and their rainforest and mountainous landscape. The Cham Islands are also a perfect place for beach lovers, as they offer beautiful sandy beaches.
Hoi An Old Town Ticket
If you want to visit some of Hoi An’s most famous historical sites, you’ll need to purchase a Hoi An Old Town Ticket. All the money from these tickets goes for the preservation of the town. The Hoi An Old Town Ticket price is around $5 and can be bought at one of the many ticket stalls around the town.
Note: The Hoi An Old Town Ticket is not needed for walking around the Old Town, but only if you want to visit specific sites like assembly halls, museums, and restored houses.
Where to eat in Hoi An
Hoi An has endless food options, from street vendors to Vietnamese and Western restaurants. You can find almost anything here.
Here are some restaurants we loved in Hoi An:
- Quan Chay An Lac Vegetarian Food: The lady working there cooks delicious, cheap, and diverse vegan Vietnamese food.
- Rosie’s Cafe: great Western food, vegan/vegetarian options, the best and biggest smoothie bowls we had in Vietnam
- Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant: great vegetarian food
- Banh Mi Hoi An Chay: delicious vegetarian Banh Mi stall
- Dingo Deli: a popular western-owned restaurant & bakery with a wide variety of delicious meals, also an excellent spot for working
How to get around Hoi An
The best way to explore Hoi An is on foot if you only plan to be in the Old Town, and by bicycle or a scooter if you plan to go around as well. We’d suggest a scooter while in Hoi An, as it’s the most convenient type of transport.
Note: Driving a motorbike inside the Old Town in Hoi An is forbidden during certain times of the day, so if you come by scooter, you’ll need to park somewhere. The best place to park is at the bigger official parking spots around the Hoi An Old Town. The price should be around $1. Don’t even try to park around someone’s house as random people who don’t even live there will try to come and charge you an extremely high price.
Where to stay in Hoi An
Hoi An offers many different accommodation options, and it all depends on your budget and what you want. You can stay in the old town, by the beach, or somewhere in-between. We’d recommend staying somewhere in-between, so you’re close to both the beach and the old town. The price will also be lower.
We chose Sol’s Villa for our base in Hoi An (super kind host). We also had a short stay at War and Peace homestay, a unique place in Hoi An, but we wouldn’t really recommend staying there for a more extended period.
How to get to Hoi An
Even though Hoi An doesn’t have an airport, it is pretty easy to reach. The nearest airport to Hoi An is in Da Nang, about a 45-minute drive away. There are daily flights to Da Nang from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and now even some international flights are available, so Hoi An is definitely well connected.
You can also reach Hoi An with a sleeper bus or a train to Da Nang and then a taxi for the last part. Both buses and trains from almost all big cities connect with Da Nang.
To reach Hoi An from Da Nang, you can take a bus or a taxi (use Grab for a better price).
Taking a taxi or private transport from Da Nang to Hoi An should cost about $15.
Best time to visit Hoi An
The best time to visit Hoi An is from February to July. Try to avoid the months between September and January because the rainy season in Hoi An has been pretty intense in the last few years and resulted in awful flooding. If you can’t avoid the months between September and January, check the situation before visiting.
In the summer months in Hoi An, be prepared for high temperatures and high humidity.
Also, try to avoid traveling to Hoi An during the Tet holiday, as that’s the biggest holiday in Vietnam, and everything will be double or triple the price. Tet in Hoi An also means it will be crowded as Vietnamese travel a lot at this time.
Is Hoi An worth visiting?
Yes, Hoi An is definitely worth visiting, as it’s the most unique town in Vietnam. Hoi An offers plenty for any traveler, from interesting historical sites, art, culture, delicious food, and even a great beach and nightlife. However, the main tourist attraction in Hoi An is the Old Town District, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved towns in all of Vietnam.
Hoi An is on top of (almost) everyone’s bucket list, so expect it to be super crowded, as there are endless tours and independent travelers who visit daily. Just have that in mind while planning your trip.
Is Hoi An Safe?
Yes, Hoi An, as well as Vietnam in general, is a very safe destination. Locals here are extremely friendly and always ready to help with anything. So if you’re traveling solo or with a family, there’s nothing to worry about in Hoi An. Just follow the standard safety recommendations, and you’ll be fine. 🙂
Have we inspired you to visit Hoi An? Let us know in the comments below.