Oftentimes described as the Venice of the east, the charming city of Hoi An has the most unique mix of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Colonial architecture and it quickly won me over as soon as I set a foot on it. Hoi An has been one of the main trading ports in Vietnam throughout history. Today, the city is famous for the picturesque historic buildings, pagodas and riverside cafes, and of course hand-made clothing. In fact, you won’t be wrong if you say that Hoi An is the tailoring capital of Vietnam and that’s where we start this list of things to do in Hoi An.
But first things first.
Getting to Hoi An
If you’re coming via flight, the nearest airport is Da Nang. If you’re looking for a cheap flight to Da Nang throughout the year, use my Qatar Airways coupon to get up to 25% off on all flights to Vietnam.
From the airport, you can easily get a bus or private transport to take you to Hoi An. It’s only one hour away. The taxi costs between 300,000 and 400,000 VD (around 18 USD). There’s also a shuttle bus leaving from the airport from 5 AM to 11 PM every day. The price for it is only $5 USD. The cheapest way is the local bus that costs 25,000 VD, or around $1.5 USD. You just need to get from the Airport to the Central bus station in Da Nang.
The city also has a lot of buses coming from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Both are long journeys that take more than 12 hours but the tickets are pretty cheap. If you’re coming from one of these two cities, take a bus instead of a train because, for some reason, the train tickets were ridiculously expensive the last time I visited.
Best time to visit Hoi An
Northern and Southern Vietnam have slightly different climates. The North has the typical four seasons, while the South has only a dry and a wet season. Even though Hoi An is located in Central Vietnam, the city truly has just two seasons. The dry season is between February and August. And the wet season is between September and January. However, it’s pretty warm throughout the year with an average temperature of 29°C (84°F).
The warmest period of the year is between June and August when the temperature rises up to 35°C (95°F) and Hoi An turns into an unbearably humid place. Hence, the best time to visit Hoi An would be between February and May. It’s the driest time of the year, with low humidity and bearable temperatures.
With that being said, let’s start this list of the best things to do in Hoi An.
Admire and learn about local crafts
If you’re looking for an authentic souvenir, there’s no better place in Vietnam than Hoi An. So, even though I’m not the biggest fan of buying souvenirs while traveling, I strongly recommend you leave some space in your bag for the things you’ll buy here.
Get a tailor-made suit or a dress
Hoi An is worldwide-famous for its textile industry. In fact, a lot of visitors come to Hoi An particularly for buying cheap, but high-quality, tailor-made clothes. Around the city, you’ll find a myriad of great tailors that can design a personalized creation made of different types of textiles and silk. You can purchase anything here, from suits to sundresses and leather boots and the prices are pretty cheap too.
However, keep in mind that if this is something you want to do, you should stay in Hoi An for at least three days to give enough time to the tailor to complete your suit or dress. Additionally, if you’re looking for something that’s even more complicated, you might even stay up to a week.
But worry not, even if you’re staying for a week, there are a lot of exciting things to do in Hoi An (as you’ll see below).
Learn about local handicrafts
If you enjoy learning about local handicrafts while traveling, Hoi An has a lot to offer. In Vietnam, Hoi An is famous for two things; tailor-made clothes and local handicrafts and a lot of locals visit Hoi An to purchase locally-made products that are relatively cheap even for Vietnamese standards.
In addition to this, in the villages surrounding Hoi An, you’ll find a lot of handicraft villages where you can take a tour and learn about the historical background of most of the local handicrafts.
Overall, you can buy some amazing, authentic, and affordable handicrafts that make awesome souvenirs. In some villages, you can even participate in handicraft classes, such as calligraphy or Vietnamese ancient weaving.
Take cooking classes
Hoi An is arguably the best place in Vietnam to take a cooking class. The city is home to an array of cooking schools where you can learn how to make some popular Vietnamese dishes.
To make it even better, most of these cooking classes are combined with trips to the local farmer markets, so you’ll get to learn about the fresh ingredients used for making your food as well as the local cooking techniques.
I took a cooking class at Gioan’s Restaurant (they also have a cooking school) and it was awesome but I know that there are a lot of other establishments that offer cooking classes for visitors.
Visit Precious Art Gallery
Rehahn’s gallery that displays the culture and heritage of the ethnic Vietnamese tribes was one of my favorite places in Hoi An. Over a course of 8 years, the author documented the life of 51 of Vietnam’s remaining 54 tribes and the collection keeps growing. It’s a great place to learn about tribal culture and get a glimpse into the history of one of Vietnam’s society’s most important cultural segments.
However, if you are not a fan of shopping, there are a lot of other interesting things to do in Hoi An. Let’s start with…
Most important landmarks of Hoi An
This charming town is a great place to lay back and relax, in an otherwise chaotic country. The atmosphere in the city is soothing as it is, and on top of that, there’s a beach just 15-minute away from the Old town. Let’s see which are some of Hoi An’s most popular landmarks.
The Japanese Bridge
The old Japanese Bridge is one of the city’s focal points and one of the first things you’ll notice when walking around the city. The 12 meters-long bridge is famous for its mesmerizing ornate carvings decorated with elaborate carvings of different animals. There are also two small statues of a dog and a monkey; they symbolize the start of the building of the bridge (year of the dog) and its finalization (during the year of the monkey).
This bridge dates back to the 18th century when the Japanese residents of Hoi An built it in order to be able to get to Chinatown, thus connecting the Japanese neighborhoods with the Chinese Quarter. Today, the bridge stands as a peace symbol of Hoi An. Today, the bridge is one of the most beautiful and romantic places in Hoi An.
Dating back to the 17th century, Fujan Hall is one of the most grandiose buildings in Hoi An. The building was constructed by Hoi An’s Chinese community as a place of worship and is considered to be a sacred place even today. The hall is surrounded by a beautiful green courtyard and decorated with interesting carved figures of Mythical Chinese deities. If you’re interested in Asian/Chinese architecture, this is one place you shouldn’t miss.
Hoi An Museum of History and Culture
If you think that you can’t fully experience a new city without learning some history first, a trip to the Hoi An museum is one of the best things to do. Inside the museum, you’ll find a rich collection of stories, images, and artifacts that tell the story of Hoi An from the Cham era until modern times.
You can see a lot of interesting galleries, paintings, ceramics, ancient relics, photos, paintings, and perhaps the most interesting artifact; the large bronze temple bells that date back to the Cham era.
Hoi An Silk Village
Located in Hoi An’s outskirts, Silk village is a great idea for people who want to see and learn about the ancient weaving techniques the city is famous for. The village is home to artisans who will teach you how to design and create beautiful silk pieces. You can also wander around and even feed the silkworm and watch their cocoons unravel. Moreover, if you’re looking for some great silk souvenirs, that’s another reason to visit.
The Old Town
The UNESCO-listed Old Town is definitely the best part of the city. The absence of cars from the historic streets make the Old Town a wonderful place to spend some time, kick back, relax, and enjoy some amazing food.
The Old Town looks like a normal Southeast Asian city with some influence of Colonial architecture during the day but when the night comes down, the real magic begins to happen. As the light goes down and all that is left is the candle lights in the streets and on the boats, you begin to really discover the beauty of this town. “It’s sights like this that traveling is all about”, I thought when I witnessed the magical nights of Hoi An.
In the late 19th century Thu Bon River was silted up which seriously affected commercial shipping. The port was moved to Da Nang and this was a big hit for the small town of Hoi An. Fortunately, its old buildings somehow survived WWII and the beautifully preserved Old Town has been the heart and soul of the Vietnamese tourism revival. Hoi An today is a commercial center again, visited by thousands of tourists from all around the globe.
Tan Ky Family House
Tan Ky is one of the most important historic buildings in Hoi An’s Old Town. The house was built in the 18th century by a family of merchants but what makes it significant is the mix of Chinese, Japanese, and traditional Vietnamese motifs that combine the architectural heritage of the three ethnic groups that left the biggest mark on the city.
Quan Cong Temple
Founded in 1653, this temple is dedicated to a famous Chinese general who was admired in all parts of Asia because of his loyalty, integrity, and principles. The temple also houses an interesting, partially-covered-in-gold statue of the general but the main reason to visit Quan Cong temple is definitely the exterior’s architecture. With its vibrant colors and imposing, towering gates, the temple is one of Hoi An’s most striking and glamorous buildings.
Phung Hung Old House
Located right next to the Japanese bridge, this old house with a colorful entrance and picturesque entrance is one of the most photographed buildings in Hoi An. The house is a very well-preserved historic home with all of the original furnishings in place, giving visitors a chance to see how a traditional local house looked like back in the days.
Markets in Hoi An
Speaking of things to do in Hoi An, we have to mention a few of the city’s most famous markets.
Hoi An Central Market
Located at the banks of Thu Bon River, Hoi An’s Central Market is probably best shopping market in the whole city. Here, you can find anything from pretty, authentic handicrafts, silk pieces, spices, textiles, and last but not least, perhaps the best street food in Hoi An! As I always say, if you truly want to discover a city and get to know it, visit its largest market.
The night market
The towhead of An Hoi in central Hoi An is home to arguably the most beautiful night market in Asia (alongside the main Chiang Mai night markets). You can find almost anything you’ll find at the Central Market but you should visit it just for the experience. Even if you’re not into shopping, visiting the night market is a must. You might think night markets are all the same everywhere in Southeast Asia but trust me, Hoi An is an exception.
The city gets a completely new look when it puts its nightgown on. And one of the main reasons for it is the night market and the atmosphere and positive vibrations coming from it. The sight of hundreds of lanterns lighting up in the dark and floating on the river is one of the most mesmerizing things I’ve seen. In fact, I can go a step further and claim that Hoi An at night is the most romantic place I’ve ever seen in my life.
Ba Le Market
The Central Market and the Night Market are great but they are tourist-oriented. If you want to visit a local market where the majority of the people doing the shopping are locals, head to Ba Le Market. The prices are a lot cheaper too.
Leisure activities in Hoi An
If you’re looking to catch a break from exploring the city or just want to relax here are the best relaxing things to do in Hoi An.
Visit the coffee shops
Vietnam is famous for its coffee and Hoi An is one of the best cities in Vietnam when it comes to coffee variety and supply. There are a lot of cute coffee shops on the river promenade where you can relax, unwind, and observe local life while taking a break from exploring the city’s busy streets.
An Bang Beach
Hoi An is very close to the coast and there are a lot of beaches around the city but the most beautiful one is probably An Bang. The beach has white sands and pristine surrounding and crystal blue waters and there are a lot of restaurants and tourist facilities around.
The best and cheapest way to get to the beach is by bicycle. It will take you not more than 15 minutes of cycling through Hoi An’s charming countryside to reach the beach.
Get a massage
With so many things to do in Hoi An, things can get overwhelming and nothing can relax you like a soothing Vietnamese massage. Vietnamese massages derive from traditional Chinese techniques that have been refined throughout the years. Local practices mainly consist of kneading and applying pressure on the muscle knots and this can feel painful at times but after the massage, you’ll feel like a new person and will gain a lot of energy for exploring the city.
Find best Banh Mi in Hoi An
Vietnamese might not like the French but the French colonial era left some marks not only on their cities but on their life too. Hence, just like a lot of other towns in Vietnam, baguettes are very popular in Hoi An and here, you’ll find perhaps the best Banh Mi in Vietnam. Banh Mi is a baguette sandwich filled with meat, cheese, a few optional ingredients, and a lot of Vietnamese herbs and spices.
Tip: wash down the tasty sandwich with some ice-cold bia hơi (Vietnamese draught beer).
If you’re looking for some more exciting things to do in Hoi An, here are the most exciting adventure activities you can indulge in.
Take a free bike tour
My favorite thing about Hoi An is that you can cover the entire city with a bicycle and renting a bicycle is super-easy. A lot of locals use them for commuting too. If you’re uncomfortable cycling on your own or are afraid of getting lost, you can always join a free bike tour run by volunteer students who want to practice their English skills.
Alternatively, if you don’t like joining tours, you can rent a bicycle for 20,000-30,000 VND per day and explore Hoi An with a bike. You can cover the whole city cycling. A lot of people explore the city with bicycles and in a city like this, you might think that the risk of a potential cycling accident might be very likely, it’s actually not; I didn’t witness a single accident in all my time in Hoi An.
Related: Tips for traveling Vietnam with a motorbike.
Another great thing about Hoi An is that only a short bike ride away from the city, you’ll discover a new world of lush, rolling countryside with an endless stretch of rice paddy fields. Don’t get me wrong, Hoi An is a beautiful, picturesque town, but nothing compares to the beautiful countryside and the opportunity to see wild nature at its finest.
Hoi An is surrounded by lush countryside and it would be a shame not to see that if you’re already here. If you’re feeling adventurous you can cycle your way out of the city. I did that and I saw some amazing landscapes on the way. Alternatively, if you want to get off the beaten track, check out my article about hidden gems in Vietnam.
Beware: Stay away from locals who encourage you to click a picture with their buffalo. Some of them will try to scam you and ask you for $5-$10 just for clicking a picture.
Float on the river in a basket
Taking a river ride on a traditional Vietnamese basket boat is an amazing experience. Trying to navigate these bamboo baskets is quite difficult and you can end up spinning in circles because of the peculiar shape of the ‘boat’. However, if you’re not that adventuristic, you can always hire a local rider to navigate for you. It’s still an interesting experience.
Visit the Nipa Palms
Rolled deep in Thu Bon River, the mystical Nipa Palms will take you to Hoi An’s unfrequented oasis that will make you feel like you’re in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. The palms are located a few kilometers away from the city and the only way to reach is by paddleboat or a kayak but if you like adventure activities, it doesn’t get any better than this.
If you like seeing local shows and performances, here are a couple of suggestions for your upcoming trip to Hoi An.
See the water puppet show
The recreation of traditional Vietnamese tales through the vibrant puppets who seem to float on the water is a great way to learn about Vietnamese culture. Most shows also have an English narration, so you don’t have to worry about not understanding the story.
Most tales last around one hour and feature several different mini-tales.
Recommendation: Water Puppet Show and Magic Hoi at Night
See the Bamboo Circus
The famous Bamboo Circus is the local version of the worldwide-famous Cirque Du Soleil. The circus regularly performs at Hoi An Lune Center for the Performing Arts. Here, you’ll see bold acrobats, gifted dancers, and amazing visual artists that make an unforgettable entertaining show.
What to eat in Hoi An?
Bahn Mi- The French-Vietnamese baguette sandwich we mentioned above.
Banh xeo- A crispy rice-flour pancake stuffed with pork, onions, shrimps, and beans, spiced up with turmeric powder.
Cao lao- Fat, chewy noodles served with pork, rice crackers, broth, and beans sprouts.
Com ga- The local version of rice chicken cooked in an array of Vietnamese herbs and spices, garnished with thin slices of onion served with a bowl of delicious broth.
Banh vac- Steamed rice flour dumpling stuffed with shrimps that looks a lot like a rose.
Mi Quang- thick rice noodle that chewy, slippery, and soft at the same time. It’s served with (again) broth and is topped with fresh lettuce, herbs, roasted pork, boiled eggs, peanuts, and shrimps.
Day Trips from Hoi An
Now that we covered the most exciting things to do in Hoi An, let’s see which are some of the best ideas for day trips from Hoi An.
My Son Ruins
An hour away from Hoi An lies My Son: is a Hindu temple and another UNESCO heritage site that’s actually older than Angkor Wat. If you combine the visit to My Son with stopping by a village or two on the way, you’re going to have a memorable trip.
The site spreads across 140 acres and some of the Hindu temples here date back to the fourth century and the beginnings of the Champa Dynasty. Unfortunately, most of the temples were heavily damaged during the Vietnam War but there’s still a sense of peacefulness and historic greatness surrounding the temple. If the war never happened, we would probably be debating which is the greatest temple complex in Southeast Asia; Angkor Wat or My Son.
A short, 30-minute ferry ride away from D Bach Dang will take you to the ultimate tropical paradise of Cam Kim Island. Mainly, people come here for two reasons; beautiful beaches and world-class diving. Yes, believe it or not, Hoi An has that too!
Tra Que Village
Hoi An is famous for producing some of the finest fruits and vegetables in Vietnam and Tra Que Village is a perfect chance to see the fresh, organic produce used for cooking your food on the spot.
You can observe the local life in the village, learn a thing or two about gardening, take a cooking class, or even try a foot massage with local medicinal herbs. The village can be easily reached by a short 2—minute bike ride from Hoi An’s Old Town.
Marble Mountains are a popular trekking spot and a renowned pilgrimage site. Some of the caves in the region are important religious shrines. If you want to climb to the top, get ready to climb hundreds of stairs. Even though it might sound like an exhausting task, as soon as you see the views of Non-Nuoc Beach, Son Tra, and Cham Island will make you forget all about it.
Recommended: Mountain Marble and Sculpture Village half-day tour
You can also visit the Imperial city of Hue, which is 3 hours away from Hoi An. This used to be the capital during the Nguyen Dynasty. That was the last ruling dynasty in Vietnam before the communism. Klook and Kkday offer private tours to Huế for USD 72 and USD 46 respectively. It might be a bit tough, but one day is completely enough to cover the imperial city.
Is Hoi An Worth Visiting?
Absolutely yes! Vietnam wasn’t my favorite country in Southeast Asia, but Hoi An was the most beautiful town in Southeast Asia I saw during my journeys. The charming old town, especially at night is something words to little justice to and you just have to experience for yourself.
How Many Days in Hoi An?
Whenever someone asks me this, my answer always is ‘as long as possible’. However, if you have the luxury of choosing and you’re not running on a tight schedule, try to aim for at least three days. As you could see, there’s more than enough things to do in Hoi An for the time being.
Where to Stay in Hoi An?
Hoi An offers all kinds of accommodation for every traveler’s budget. Here are some of our favorite recommendations.
If you’re looking for a luxury option, the Silk Sense River Resort is probably the best option in town. The resort is located on the riverfront in Old Town and it has its own private pools!
Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, you can still find amazing accommodation for less. For less than $30 you can stay in a hotel near the beach with its own pool and Booking.com rating of 9.5. If you choose to stay at An Bang Beach Hai An Villa, you won’t regret it. Golden Bell Hoi An Boutique Villa is another great option.
Useful resources for visiting Hoi An
For cheap flights to Vietnam, use my Qatar Airways coupon to get up to 25% off on all flights to Vietnam.
For budget accommodation options in Hoi An, this Booking coupon will get you 10% off on all hotels in Hoi An.
If you need a great budget-friendly tour in Vietnam, get 10% off on all Vietnam tours by Contiki on this page.
For the best deals on buses from and to Hoi An, use Bookaway.
Finally, if you don’t have travel insurance, check out some of World Nomads’ offers.