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 14 favorite things to do in Hoi An!
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- 14 Things you Must Do in Hoi An, Vietnam
- 1. Explorer Hoi An’s Old Town
- 2. Visit the Mỹ Sơn Ruins
- 3. Get a Tailored Suit or Dress
- 4. Lounge at the Beach
- 5. Scuba or Snorkle the Cham Islands
- 6. Shop at the Hoi An Night Market
- 7. Take a Sunset Boat Ride on the Thu Bon River
- 8. Take a Vietnamese Cooking Class
- 9. Go on a Sunrise Photography Tour
- 10. Bike Around the Countryside
- 11. Buy a Lantern
- 12. Sample the Local Cuisine
- 13. Walk Across the Golden Hand Bridge
- 14. Sip Secret Cocktails
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
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.
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.
Getting around Hoi An
As with almost all cities in Vietnam, we recommend downloading Grab (iPhone | Android) on your phone and using it to get around. Grab is the most popular ride-hailing app in Southeast Asia and with it, you can easily get quick and inexpensive rides around Hoi An, Da Nang, and An Bang Beach.
Of course, you need internet access to take advantage of Grab so we also recommend purchasing a SIM card as soon as you arrive in Vietnam,
When to Visit Hoi An
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.
14 Things you Must Do in Hoi An, Vietnam
1. Explorer Hoi An’s Old Town
Hoi An is best known for its Old Town (also known as the “Ancient Town”) full of crumbling, yellow buildings. This charming little town actually has quite a long history, and you’ll find a mixture of influences from the French, Chinese, and even Japanese. During the American War in Vietnam, both sides agreed to avoid fighting in Hoi An due to its historical importance and beauty so thankful it avoided damage almost completely.
The Old Town is also a pedestrian-only zone so there are no cars or motorbikes allowed in after 10am. It’s a welcome respite from the usual onslaught of motorbike traffic you’ll encounter in Vietnam.
The centerpiece of the old town is the picturesque Japanese Bridge (pictured above), but you’ll also find dozens of well-preserved old wooden houses and Chinese assembly halls to explore. You’ll need to buy a ticket (120,000 VND) to enter the old town, though enforcement is somewhat lax if you’re just planning on strolling through the streets. If you want to enter any of the historic buildings, temples, or museums your ticket will almost certainly be checked.
Hoi An gets quite hot during the middle of the day, so we recommend getting up early and exploring the old city by foot or bicycle so you can beat the heat and the crowds. Or if you prefer to get a bit of history you can book a walking tour of Hoi An’s Old Town.
2. Visit the Mỹ Sơn 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. The My Son Sanctuary 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.
3. Get a Tailored Suit or Dress
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 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.
4. Lounge at the Beach
While Vietnam is not known for 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.
5. Scuba or Snorkle the Cham Islands
If you prefer snorkeling to beach lounging then book a boat tour to the nearby Cham Islands. This set of eight small islands is part of a Unesco Biosphere reserve and offers so of the best diving and snorkeling opportunities in Vietnam (though Vietnam is not exactly known for its diving or snorkeling). Hon Lao, the largest of the Cham Islands, has a beautiful white sand beach complete with calm clear water and a handful of vendors selling drinks and food.
The islands are located about 25 minutes off the coast of Vietnam. Most boat trips to the Cham Islands last about 7 hours (from 8am-3pm) and consist of a mix of swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing on the beach.
6. Shop at the Hoi An 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 80k 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!
7. Take a Sunset Boat Ride on the Thu Bon River
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!
8. Take a Vietnamese 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!
Nha Trang is also a great place to take a cooking class in Vietnam!
9. Go on a Sunrise Photography Tour
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!
10. Bike Around 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.
11. Buy 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.
12. Sample the Local Cuisine
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!
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!
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.
13. Walk Across the Golden Hand Bridge
Vietnam’s Golden Hand Bridge has become somewhat famous on Instagram recently. It’s set high in the mountains outside of Danang with commanding views of the landscape below and has the appearance of two stone hands rising out of the ground to hold a golden bridge aloft – you can see why it’s a popular place for photography.
What most people don’t realize is that this bridge is just a single attraction in a sprawling theme park known as Sun World Ba Na Hills. The entire park is modeled after a European Villages and you’ll find everything from a French wine chateau to a German-theme beer hall.
The different areas of the amusement park are linked by soaring cable cars, and there is a 3-story “fantasy zone” full of rides, arcade games, and even a rock climbing wall. Sun World Ba Na Hills is both weird and impressive, and it’s definitely a fun day trip from Hoi An if you have time for it!
You can reach Sun World Ba Na Hills on your own by motorbike (though it’s a bit far) or you can book a tour that picks you up and drops you off in Hoi An.
14. Sip Secret Cocktails
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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