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.
Hội An is a must-visit destination for every Vietnam itinerary. Keep reading to find out our 9 favorite things to do in Hội An!
- 9 Things you Must do in Hội An
The currency of Vietnam is the Dong (VND) and at the time of writing (August of 2018), the exchange rate was approximately 23,164 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 Hội An.
Hội 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.
Hội An is also near Huế, the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam. You can take the train from Huế 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 Huế to Hội An (or vice versa) which is quite a bit faster and every bit as scenic as the train.
When to Visit Hội An
Hội 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 Hội An is February through May when temperatures are pleasant and the chance of rain is low.
9 Things you Must do in Hội An
1. Visit the Mỹ Sơn Ruins
About an hour drive west of Hội 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 Ankor 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.
2. Get a Tailored Suit or Dress
You’ll find tailors all over Vietnam but in Hội 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 Hội 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
There are two beaches near Hội 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.
4. Shop at the Night Market
The Hội 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
The Thu Bon River runs through the center of Hội 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!) 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
There are a multitude of cooking classes offered in Hội 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!
7. Bike Around the Countryside
Most of the hotels in Hội 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.
8. Buy a Lantern
Hội 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.
9. 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. Hội 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 Hội An, or you can go right to the source – White Rose Restaurant. There are only two things on their menu; white rose dumplings and Hội 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 Hội 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 Hội 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.
Enjoy your trip to Hội An!
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