11 Things you Must do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An (Vietnamese spelling: Hội An) is a darling little tourist attraction town located in Central Vietnam. The old town was a trading port from the 15th-19th century and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Today it boasts colonial French architecture, a quaint riverfront promenade, pedestrian-friendly streets, and the most unique feature – hundreds of colorful lanterns that light up the town every evening.

Hoi An is a must-visit destination for every Vietnam itinerary. Keep reading to find out our 11 favorite things to do in Hoi An!

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Visit the Old Town

Hoi An Travel Basics

Currency in Vietnam

The currency of Vietnam is the Dong (VND) and at the time of writing, the exchange rate was approximately 23,308 VND to $1 USD. So if we say that something costs 50,000 VND, that’s just about $2. And don’t worry about bringing a lot of cash, there are plenty of ATMs around Hoi An.

Getting to Hoi An

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Coco Box Coffee Shop
Coco Box Coffee Shop

Hoi An is located in Central Vietnam, about a 45 minute drive south of Da Nang which is home to a large international airport. You can book a car in advance, or there are plenty of options at the airport once you arrive.

Book an Airport Transfer to Hoi An

Hoi An is also near Hue, the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam. You can take the train from Hue to Da Nang and then hire a car to drive you the last 45 minutes. You can also book a van transfer all the way from Hue to Hoi An (or vice versa) which is quite a bit faster and every bit as scenic as the train.

When to Visit Hoi An

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Old Lady Selling Paper Lanterns

Hoi An has a tropical climate and is warm year-round. Temperatures in the summer months, May through August, are generally in the mid-90° F range. The winter months experience more mild temperatures, in the mid-70° F range, but the chance of rain is much higher. There is also the possibility of cyclones and potentially flooding.

The best time to visit Hoi An is February through May when temperatures are pleasant and the chance of rain is low.

Where to Stay in Hoi An

Hoi An River Town Hotel

Hoi An River Town Hotel is a relaxing and gorgeous hotel – the perfect place to spend a few nights while enjoying this darling town! There are 2 pools available for guests to take a dip during the heat of the day. The restaurant is absolutely divine. And rooms are spacious, clean, and well-appointed. You’ll never want to leave!

Check prices on Booking.com

Hoi An Odyssey Hotel

Hoi An Odyssey Hotel is a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of the old city, but guests can take advantage of the free bicycles or walk just a short 15 minutes. Not only do they have a beautiful pool but also a private beach accessible to guests via a free hotel shuttle. You’ll be treated like royalty in this darling, quaint hotel!

Check prices on Booking.com

Cozy Hoi An Villas Boutique Hotel

Cozy Hoi An Villas Boutique Hotel has the friendliest staff you’ll find in all of Vietnam! Rooms have the cutest decor and are incredibly comfortable. The pool area is small but very relaxing, and the complimentary breakfast buffet is delicious!

Check prices on Booking.com

11 Things you Must do in Hoi An, Vietnam

1. Visit the Mỹ Sơn Ruins

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Visit the My Son Ruins

About an hour drive west of Hoi An you’ll find the ruins of the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom between the 4th and 13th centuries – Mỹ Sơn. This is an interesting archaeological site that is unlike others in SE Asia as the spiritual origins are of Indian Hinduism rather than of Buddhist origin. Many of the temples were built to Hindu divinities – Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva.

While the area is smaller than some of the other famous ruins in SE Asia such as Bagan and Angkor Wat, the ruined buildings surrounded by lush vegetation are stunningly beautiful and most certainly worth a visit. There is a fairly flat loop trail that allows you to see the highlights of the area. Be sure you get to Mỹ Sơn early to avoid the crowds and the heat.

Book a Tour of My Son Ruins

2. Get a Tailored Suit or Dress

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Get a Tailored Dress or Suit

You’ll find tailors all over Vietnam but in Hoi An there is one on pretty much every corner. The city is known as THE place to get a something tailored. Tran Hung Dao Street is filled with shops that have large books filled with design and fabric options in every color and texture you could imagine.

Keep in mind that while you can get custom tailored clothes in Hoi An for far less than you’d pay in the US, the prices are still quite high by Vietnam standards. Expect to pay $120-200 USD for a suit and $80-100 USD for a dress. Dress shirts will run you about $30-40 USD.

Tips for Selecting a Tailor

  • Have a design in mind before walking into a tailor or you’ll be completely overwhelmed by options.
  • Shop around and check reviews before deciding on the right one for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price, but be willing to pay for good quality.

3. Lounge at the Beach

Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam: An Bang Beach

While Vietnam is not known for a being a beach destination, it does actually have quite a few beautiful beaches. There are two beaches near Hoi An that are popular with both tourists and locals alike – Cua Dai Beach and An Bang Beach. Sadly, much of Cua Dai was eroded in 2014 so most tourists opt for An Bang.

Rent a beach chair with an umbrella and spend the afternoon lounging. There are plenty of restaurants and bars all along the beach to keep you full and entertained for hours.

Or if you prefer snorkeling to beach lounging then book a boat tour to the nearby UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Cham Islands.

Book a Boat Tour of the Cham Islands

4. Shop at the Hoi An Night Market

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Shop at the Night Market

The Hoi An Night Market begins right on the river near the Cau An Hoi bridge and extends the length of Nguyen Hoang street all the way to the end of the road. Here you’ll find several picturesque lantern shops at the very beginning (where one medium-sized lantern should cost about 80 VND) and souvenirs galore as you continue further along.

Carts with delicious sweet and savory snacks are sprinkled throughout so be sure to save some room after dinner to sample the goods!

5. Take a Sunset Boat Ride

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Take a Boat Ride at Sunset

The Thu Bon River runs through the center of Hoi An town and as the sun goes down you won’t be able to walk more than 20 feet along the riverfront without being sold a boat ride or a candle lit lantern. Sunset is the ideal time to take a short, 15-minute boat ride (don’t pay the inflated asking price, you’ll need to negotiate) as the sky is turning pink and the floating lanterns are glowing.

You can also buy a floating paper lantern to release into the river while making a wish!

6. Take a Cooking Class

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Take a Cooking Class

There are a multitude of cooking classes offered in Hoi An. Generally they include a trip to the market to purchase your ingredients and learn about varietals that are common in the region. Your class may also include a bike ride through the countryside. No matter what cooking school you choose, you’ll be eating a big meal so be sure you come hungry!

Our Favorite Cooking Schools in Hoi An:

Tra Que Water Wheel – the cooking class will start with a market tour where you will learn about the different local fruits, vegetables and herbs. Then you can either bike or drive (depending on your preference) to the lovely property in the countryside. The chefs are hilarious and really fun which makes the entire experience enjoyable. Groups are smaller so the experience is more intimate than some of the other Hội An cooking school options.

Green Bamboo Cooking School & Cafe – you’ll have a much larger group at Green Bamboo as it is a very popular cooking class in Hội An. But you’ll also have the opportunity to meet new people and you can choose the dishes that you prepare from a massive list.

Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School – Red Bridge offers a daytime cooking class in the countryside (complete with boat ride!) or an evening class in their cafe in the center of the old town. Whatever option you choose, you’ll enjoy learning about the local cuisine and getting valuable cooking instructions that you can try on your own back home!

Nha Trang is also a great place to take a cooking class in Vietnam!

Book a Cooking Class in Hoi An

7. Go on a Sunrise Photography Tour

Hoi An Photography Tour, Vietnam: Vietnamese Lady Illuminated by Rays of Sunlight

A sunrise photography tour is a great way to improve your photography skills while exploring a small village outside of the touristy Hoi An Old Town. Plus you’ll come away with some spectacular photos from your trip. Read all about our photography tour experience here!

8. Bike Around the Countryside

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Water Buffalo in the Countryside

Most of the hotels in Hoi An have free bicycles available for their guests to enjoy. And if you book a cooking class in the countryside it may include a bike ride from the market to their tranquil property. You’ll love the views of the massive rice paddies, grazing water buffalo, and the friendly locals waving at you as you pass.

If you’re afraid of going on your own, you can also book a guided bike tour through the countryside.

9. Buy a Lantern

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Purchase a Lantern

Hoi An is known for the hundreds of lanterns that are hung in trees throughout the old city, as well as used as decor at most of the nearby hotels. You’ll love wandering around the streets at night, marveling at the vibrant, colorful lanterns surrounding the pedestrian-friendly riverfront.

If you choose to purchase your lanterns at the stalls in the night market, plan on spending about 80 VND for a medium size. Arguably it’s worth it to be able to snap a photo without angering the stall owner.

If you plan to buy quite a few lanterns, you’re better off shopping at Tuoi Ngoc HandMade as they have lower prices (~60 VND for the same medium size) and a larger selection. If you’re feeling crafty they will also show you how to make your own lantern for around 150 VND.

10. Sample the Local Cuisine

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Buying Herbs in the Local Market

You’ll find that the cuisine in Vietnam is exceptional, no matter what region you are in. But it’s worth sampling the local flavors when you get the opportunity. Hoi An is known for two dishes in particular – “white rose” dumplings and cao lau noodles. You’ll only find them here so you better give them a try!

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Eat White Rose Dumplings

You can get “white rose” dumplings at many restaurants in Hoi An, or you can go right to the source – White Rose Restaurant. There are only two things on their menu; white rose dumplings and Hoi An Pizza. The dumplings are pretty standard but it’s very interesting to see the women putting them together at a large table in the back of the restaurant.

The Hoi An Pizza is to-die-for! It consists of fried wontons topped with seafood and drizzled with tomato sauce. A must-try!

Things To Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Eat Cao Lau Noodles

Cao lau noodles are famous in Hoi An as they have a unique taste and texture due to the fact that they use water from the ancient Ba Le well in their cooking process. These thick noodles are served with pork and local herbs and can be found at many of the food stalls in the Central Market.

11. Sip Secret Cocktails

Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Secret Cocktail Tour with SecretEats

SecretEATS is known for organizing unique dining experiences in secret locations around the world. And they’ve recently added a Cocktail Experience to their list of tour offerings in Hoi An. You’ll sip custom drink concoctions in 5 different secret spaces. The locations and the cocktails are ever-changing so you won’t know where you’ll be going or what you’ll be drinking until you actually arrive.

While sampling the refreshing, curated cocktails, you’ll be served some delicious traditional snacks and learn about the history of the space you’re sitting in. Tours start at 5:00pm and finish at around 8:00pm. It’s a fun way to make some new friends, try some unique drinks and snacks, and learn a bit more about Hoi An!

We hope you enjoy your trip to the darling little city of Hoi An!

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11 Things You Must do in Hoi An Vietnam

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Excellent article about Hoi An, Valerie. We live just along the road in Da Nang, and love Hoi An so much we’re hosting our travel writing retreat there in December. Our group will be doing most of the activities on your list. You did justice to these attractions. Love the food there!

  2. dansontheroad says:

    That’s a great tour of Hoi An! How easy would it be for the lanterns to be packed into your check-in luggage though?

    1. Nick Wheatley says:

      The lanterns collapse and are surprisingly durable. We took 5 back to the USA in a bag we checked and they all survived fine. And our friend just took another 3 home – also in a checked bag – with no breakage or issues.

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