Hoi An, a small yet captivating city nestled along the central coast of Vietnam, exudes an undeniable charm that leaves visitors enchanted. Known for its ancient architecture, vibrant culture, and stunning scenery, Hoi An offers a unique glimpse into Vietnam’s rich history and fusion of influences from various Asian cultures.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city offers a harmonious blend of preserved heritage buildings, bustling markets, and picturesque waterfronts. Whether you are strolling down the lantern-lit streets, exploring centuries-old temples, or indulging in mouthwatering street food, Hoi An promises an unforgettable experience that effortlessly captures the essence of Vietnam.
Getting to Hoi An
If you’re wondering how to get to Hoi An, the town is a 45-minute drive from Da Nang (where the closest airport is located). Most visitors make a day trip to Hoi An from Da Nang. However, we decided to stay in Hoi An to discover the old town and its attractions.
Recommended Hotels in Hoi An
But first, check out these amazing hotels in Hoi An for your trip.
Vietnam is a very tourist-friendly country. And getting a visa is relatively very simple for almost all passport holders.
Now let’s start!
Top Things to do in Hoi An
Our 3 days in Hoi An were jam-packed with things to do, and places to visit. The town is unusually cheap and fun, and there’s just so much touristy and non-touristy stuff it offers. So, whether you’re staying in Hoi An for 3 days, or making a day trip from Da Nang, here are some things that you must do.
1. Discover the Ancient Town
The ancient town (or old town) is synonymous with Hoi An. Although a small part of Hoi An, it’s probably the largest attraction.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hoi An ancient town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a small-scale trading port that was active between the 15th and 19th centuries. Think of it as a living museum of old houses, temples, and community halls. The city’s architecture is a fusion of French-colonial, Chinese, and Japanese influences. Have a look at my photos.
To preserve its authenticity, cars are not allowed in its narrow streets. So, visitors must alight from their taxis outside the ancient town and walk on foot. However, you can ride your bicycle into, and around the old town.
The best way to discover the ancient town is on foot.
Day or night, the ancient town looks exceptionally beautiful. However, during the day it can be very hot and humid. That’s why most people prefer seeing the ancient town at night. Fortunately, we didn’t mind the heat. And we found that the lack of visitors during the day gave a better chance to explore the ancient town. Also, the entire town was covered in a bloom of bougainvillea which was so beautiful!
Within the ancient town, there are plenty of attractions, from preserved old houses to community halls. Although there is no entrance fee for the old town, to enter any of the attractions you must purchase a ticket booklet. The booklet costs VND 120,000 per person and allows access to any 5 attractions.
Ancient Town Main Attractions
Here are a few of the most beautiful attractions (in my opinion) inside the old town (in no particular order).
1. The Japanese Covered Bridge
A beautiful wooden bridge featuring elaborate carvings & a pedestrian passageway.
2. Cantonese Assembly Hall
Located right next to the Japanese Covered Bridge was my favourite assembly hall – the Cantonese Assembly Hall. An ornate, building with a garden, statues and a fountain with a dragon made of pottery.
3. Duc An Old House
A beautifully preserved old house built in the 19th century featuring antiques ranging from oil lamps to furnishings.
4. Fujian Assembly Hall
A Chinese-style temple was founded in 1692 and upgraded by Fujian traders in 1759.
2. Get Enchanted by the Ancient Town At Night
The ancient town truly comes to life at night. And I’m not only talking about the throngs of visitors who come to visit it after sunset. I’m talking about how the whole town is lit with thousands of lanterns, of different shapes, sizes, and colours. It transforms itself into something out of a fairy tale. See the pics for yourself.
The epicentre of the action is on the banks of the Thu Bon River. From here, you can see the other side of the bank completely lit with lanterns; lantern-lit boats that ferry tourists along the river, and the Bridge of Lights. It’s easy to walk around the whole town at night and admire its charming beauty.
3. Savour Amazing Local Food
Hoi An is often referred to as the food capital of Vietnam. It earns its reputation from its exclusive local dishes, the raw ingredients for which are exported all over Vietnam.
Although I am a huge fan of pho, it was nice to try out some local dishes such as:
- Cao Lau (Rice Noodles With Barbecued Pork, Greens And Croutons)
- Banh Bao Vac (White Rose Dumplings)
- Com Ga (Chicken Rice)
- Mi Quang (Vietnamese Turmeric Noodles) and
- Banh Xeo (Crispy Pancake)
We ate at numerous restaurants during our trip, but I would recommend Mr. Son, Morning Glory, and MOT.
The best thing about food at most of the restaurants is how cheap it is! Of course, you could go to the more touristy restaurants on the main streets or head to one of the smaller food courts where Mr. Son is located.
4. Attend A Cooking Class
In Hoi An not only do you get to eat delicious food, but also learn how to make it. Cooking classes are a big attraction in the city. We saw that almost every restaurant offers a cooking class! However, it’s good to know that there are cooking classes and cooking classes that combine a lot more local experience.
We went with the Eco Cooking Class Tour which took us first to a local market to learn about the ingredients. Then we went crab fishing, and boating through a coconut grove before we started cooking.
During our class, we were taught a variety of dishes from spring rolls and banh xeo, to salad and pho. We even used a lot of traditional methods of cooking which was a lot of fun! I highly recommend the Eco Cooking Class tour. It’s less touristy than some of the other cooking classes in the main town.
However, if you don’t have a day to spare in Hoi An, you can always approach your favourite restaurant in the ancient town. I’m sure they offer cooking classes.
5. Get Tailor-made Clothes
Hoi An is an extremely popular destination for tailor-made clothes. There are hundreds of skilled tailors in the city who will be happy to make your dresses, suits, shirts, pants…you name it! And they’ll do it within a day or two, at a very reasonable price. Not cheap, but reasonable.
My wife got a couple of dresses made for herself and also picked up numerous coats. Each item was very reasonably priced and delivered within 48 hours. We were required to come back to the store for a first fitting, and then a final fitting. And we were both surprised at the quality of the work.
Keep in mind that if you plan on getting bespoke clothing in Hoi An, you must stay in the city for at least 2–3 days.
The tailors that we recommend are BeBe Tailor (they have multiple outlets) and Peace Tailor.
6. Shop for Custom-made Leather Products
Hoi An is an equally popular destination for shopping for leather goods as it is for clothing. For every tailor shop, there is a leather shop that sells everything from luggage, wallets, bags, belts, satchels, shoes, jackets and anything else that can be made from leather. Once again, since it’s all hand-made, good quality, at cheap prices.
And as with tailor-made clothes, you can even get custom-made leather products. Many choose to get custom leather shoes, because why not? I picked up a pair of custom-made leather slippers for which I got to pick my colour combination.
7. Visit An Bang Beach
There are a couple of beautiful beaches close to Hoi An, and An Bang Beach is perhaps the most famous of them. The beach is easily accessible by all modes of transport, including cycles.
An Bang Beach is fairly commercial with many establishments (restaurants, shops) in the vicinity. The best time to go to the beach is in the mornings. Also, avoid weekends. We unfortunately went to An Bang Beach on a Sunday evening. I’d never seen so many people on a beach before! Crowded was an understatement.
8. Cycle Around Town
Most hotels and accommodations in Hoi An allow their guests to rent cycles from them for free. Cycles are also available to rent for numerous shops inside and outside the old town.
Cycling is a great way to discover not just the ancient town, but also the non-touristy countryside. Because Hoi An is relatively small, it’s easy to go from the ancient town to the rice fields in less than 30 minutes.
There are a couple of cycling tours in Hanoi. One of the more popular biking tours is called Bike and Bite. It combines biking through the city and discovering local cuisine along the way. Great way to hit two birds with one stone!
If you do decide to cycle around town, keep in mind that Hoi An is hot and humid most of the year.
We hope that this blog gave you a good idea of what Hoi An is like, what to expect, and what you must experience. We enjoyed our 3 days in the city. Not once did we think that there wasn’t enough for us to do, see, shop, or eat!