12 Best Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam: Must-See Attractions

by Jem
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Ever stumbled upon a place that feels like a well-kept secret? That’s Hoi An for you. Nestled on Vietnam’s central coast, this town isn’t just another stop on the tourist trail; it’s a journey back in time. Picture this: lantern-lit evenings, streets echoing with age-old tales, and the Thu Bon River reflecting centuries of history.

But Hoi An is more than its postcard-perfect scenes. It’s where tradition meets modernity. Dive deeper, and you’ll find a vibrant world waiting to be explored. From sun-kissed beaches where fishermen haul in their morning catch to bustling markets alive with the aroma of local delicacies, Hoi An is a tapestry of experiences. The town’s rich tapestry extends to its countryside, where serene rice paddies paint a landscape of tranquility, and local artisans craft wonders in hidden workshops.

I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent meandering its alleys, tasting street delicacies, and soaking in its rich culture. Every visit feels like the first, with new stories to hear and adventures to embark on.

If you’re hunting for an authentic Vietnamese experience, look no further. Hoi An is where the heart of Vietnam beats loudest. Ready to uncover its magic? This guide’s got you covered. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Hoi An.

The nicest places to visit in Hoi An right now
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Best Places to Visit in Hoi An

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Hoi An? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this tranquil vacation spot in Vietnam. So keep reading to discover all these unique Hoi An places to visit.

Are you to explore ancient temples and lantern-lit streets, and savor delectable Vietnamese cuisine along the riverside? Or would you prefer to relax on serene beaches, cruise the river and engage in watersports and beach activities? Whatever you’re planning, this Southeast Asian gem can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Hoi An that you should know about.

1. Hoi An Ancient Town

If there’s one place that encapsulates the essence of Hoi An, it’s the Ancient Town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area stands as a testament to the town’s rich history. With its well-preserved buildings, timber-framed houses, and intricate pagodas, the Ancient Town offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s bygone eras.

Now, when you’re listing the best things to do in Hoi An, wandering through these historic streets is a must. It’s like stepping into a living museum. Every corner has a story, from the iconic Japanese Bridge to the vibrant markets where locals go about their daily business. As you stroll, you’ll notice the blend of architectural styles, reflecting the town’s multicultural past. Chinese temples sit alongside French colonial buildings, creating a unique fusion that’s hard to find elsewhere.

While it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of the place, don’t forget to interact with the locals. They’re the heart and soul of Hoi An, and their stories add depth to the town’s rich tapestry. Whether you’re shopping for handicrafts or sipping on traditional Vietnamese coffee, the Ancient Town promises an experience like no other.

The Ancient Town is the location that best captures the spirit of Hoi An.
The Ancient Town is the location that best captures the spirit of Hoi An.

2. Cao Lau at Hoi An Market

If there’s a culinary heartbeat in Hoi An, it’s pulsing at the Hoi An Market. Located in the center of town, this bustling market is a haven for food lovers. Cao Lau holds a special place here.

The market’s food section is lined with numerous stalls, each boasting its version of this iconic dish. But for an authentic experience, head to the older section of the market. Here, amidst the cacophony of vendors and the aroma of spices, you’ll find seasoned chefs. They’ve been perfecting their Cao Lau recipes for decades.

One particular stall is just by the market entrance. It’s often hailed by locals as the go-to spot for the best Cao Lau. Run by a family that traces its lineage back several generations in Hoi An, their Cao Lau has a depth of flavor that’s hard to match.

As you sit on the traditional low stools, you watch the world pass by. Every bite takes you on a journey through Hoi An’s history. It’s not just about savoring a dish; it’s about immersing yourself in a cultural experience that’s quintessentially Hoi An.

The Hoi An Market is the center of Hoi An's culinary universe.
The Hoi An Market is the center of Hoi An’s culinary universe.

3. An Bang Beach

Among the coolest things to do in Hoi An is taking a break from the town’s historic charm and heading to An Bang Beach. Just a short ride from the town center, An Bang offers a refreshing contrast to the bustling streets of Hoi An. With its golden sands stretching for miles, it’s a picturesque view. The gentle waves of the East Vietnam Sea lap the shore, making it the perfect spot to relax and soak in some sun.

But An Bang isn’t only about lazing on the beach. The area is dotted with local seafood joints where you can indulge in some of the freshest catches of the day. Think grilled fish, succulent prawns, and other seafood delights, all prepared with local herbs and spices.

For the more adventurous, there are water sports on offer. From paddleboarding to jet skiing, there’s plenty to keep the adrenaline junkies engaged. And as the sun sets, the beachside bars come alive, offering a chance to mingle with fellow travelers and locals alike.

In a town steeped in history, An Bang Beach reminds you of the simple pleasures that Hoi An has to offer.

Exploring An Bang Beach and escaping the town's old-world charm.
Exploring An Bang Beach and escaping the town’s old-world charm.

4. Yaly Couture

When talking tailoring in Hoi An, it’s hard to miss the name Yaly Couture. Located in the heart of the town, this tailor shop stands as a testament to Hoi An’s rich tailoring tradition. Established years ago, Yaly Couture started as a modest family-run business. Now, it’s one of the most sought-after tailoring destinations in the city.

Stepping into their spacious showroom, you’re greeted with a vast array of fabrics, ranging from luxurious silks to durable cottons. The staff are attentive and knowledgeable. They guide you through the process, ensuring every detail, from fabric choice to design nuances, matches your preference.

What sets Yaly Couture apart is its commitment to quality and craftsmanship. Their in-house tailors, many of whom have been with the establishment for years, bring a blend of traditional techniques and modern design sensibilities. And while the shop has seen countless international visitors, they’ve managed to retain that personal touch, making every customer feel special.

For those seeking a genuine Hoi An tailoring experience, Yaly Couture is a must-visit. It’s not just about getting a garment; it’s about experiencing a piece of Hoi An’s artisanal heritage.

It's difficult to overlook Yaly Couture while discussing tailoring in Hoi An.
It’s difficult to overlook Yaly Couture while discussing tailoring in Hoi An.

5. Thu Bon River

The Thu Bon River is more than just a body of water flowing through Hoi An; it’s the lifeblood of the town. Historically, this river played a pivotal role in establishing Hoi An as a bustling port, attracting traders from far and wide. Today, it offers a tranquil escape from the town’s busy streets and a window into the daily lives of its residents.

As day breaks, the river comes alive with fishermen casting their nets and vendors setting up their floating markets. A boat ride here isn’t just scenic; it’s an immersive experience. You’ll pass by traditional wooden boats, witness locals trading goods, and maybe even get a wave from children playing by the riverbanks.

Among the unique things to do in Hoi An, an evening boat ride on the Thu Bon River stands out. As the sun sets, the town lights up, and the river reflects the glow of hundreds of lanterns. It’s a sight to behold. Whether you’re on a romantic getaway or a solo adventure, drifting on the Thu Bon River is special. Especially during the lantern festival, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

The town's vital source is the Thu Bon River.
The town’s vital source is the Thu Bon River.

6. Hoi An Night Market

When the sun dips below the horizon in Hoi An, the Night Market comes alive, turning the town into a luminous spectacle. Located on Nguyen Hoang Street, this market is a feast for the senses. Rows of stalls light up, each adorned with colorful lanterns, creating a mesmerizing glow that can be seen from a distance.

The market is a shopper’s paradise. From handcrafted jewelry to intricate souvenirs, there’s something for everyone. But it’s not just about shopping. The food stalls here offer some of the most delectable Vietnamese street food. From Banh Mi sandwiches to skewered meats, every dish is a burst of flavor.

But what truly sets the Hoi An Night Market apart is its atmosphere. The soft hum of bartering fills the air. The aroma of grilled delicacies and the sight of lanterns reflecting on the water make the atmosphere memorable. It’s a place where travelers and locals converge, sharing stories and making memories.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Hoi An’s vibrant nightlife, the Night Market is ideal. You can also pick up some unique souvenirs during your visit. It’s a snapshot of Hoi An’s culture, all under a canopy of lights.

The town is transformed into a brilliant sight as the Night Market comes to life.
The town is transformed into a brilliant sight as the Night Market comes to life.

7. My Son Sanctuary

Just outside Hoi An, My Son Sanctuary waits. It’s not your typical tourist spot. This ancient Hindu temple complex, once the heart of the Champa Kingdom, is a raw dive into Vietnam’s past. Forget the polished streets of Hoi An for a moment. Here, it’s about worn-out bricks and overgrown jungles.

Walking through, you’ll see temples that have stood the test of time, and some that haven’t. The carvings? They’re tales of old, of gods and battles, etched for eternity. And the construction? It’s mind-boggling to think these were built without mortar. The Cham people weren’t just builders; they were artists, and their legacy is evident in every corner of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

The sanctuary also holds a significant spiritual importance. Even today, locals come to offer their prayers and pay respects to the deities, adding a layer of authenticity to your visit.

If you’re jotting down Hoi An things to do, My Son needs a spot. Go early, beat the crowds, and let the morning mist add to the allure. It’s not just a sightseeing stop; it’s a step back in time. And in a world that’s always rushing forward, that’s a rare find.

These are legends from the past, immortalized stories of gods and wars.
These are legends from the past, immortalized stories of gods and wars.

8. Cam Kim Island

Just a short ferry ride from Hoi An’s bustling center lies Cam Kim Island. The island offers a peaceful escape and a glimpse into authentic Vietnamese countryside life. It’s a favorite spot for those wanting to swap the town’s lantern-lit charm for serene rice fields and traditional handicraft villages.

Once you hop off the ferry, rent a bike and start your journey. The island’s quiet roads, surrounded by lush greenery and winding waterways, are perfect for cycling. You’ll pass by artisans who craft traditional wooden boats. Kids play by the roadside, and farmers work in the fields. Their conical hats can be seen bobbing in the distance.

One must-visit is the Kim Bong Carpentry Village. Here, skilled craftsmen have been creating intricate woodwork for centuries. Stop by, watch them in action, and maybe even pick up a souvenir.

But there’s more to Cam Kim than just its crafts. Sample some local delicacies at a roadside stall, or join a local family for a traditional meal. The island’s cuisine, fresh and flavorful, is a delightful experience in itself.

For travelers wanting a deeper dive into local life, Cam Kim Island is a top pick. The island is not just about the scenic views; it’s about the people, the traditions. There are unexpected moments that make travel truly unforgettable.

A tranquil getaway and an insight into real rural Vietnamese life.
A tranquil getaway and an insight into real rural Vietnamese life.

9. Tra Que Vegetable Village

Just a stone’s throw from Hoi An’s main attractions, Tra Que Vegetable Village offers a unique experience that’s both educational and hands-on. This isn’t your typical tourist spot; it’s a working farm where age-old Vietnamese farming techniques are still in play.

Start your visit with a stroll through the neatly arranged plots. The vibrant greens of basil, lettuce, and mint contrast beautifully with the rich brown of the soil. It’s a visual treat, but there’s more to it. Roll up your sleeves and join the farmers. Whether it’s planting, watering, or harvesting, they’re always keen to show you the ropes.

Local eateries around the village serve dishes made from the very produce you see growing. Fresh, organic, and bursting with flavor, it’s Vietnamese cuisine at its best. And if you’re a cooking enthusiast, some places offer classes where you can whip up local delicacies using the fresh produce.

Among the best things to do in Hoi An, spending a day at Tra Que Vegetable Village ranks high. It’s a blend of culture, hands-on fun, and gastronomy, all set in a picturesque landscape.

A singular encounter that is experiential and instructive.
A singular encounter that is experiential and instructive.

10. Japanese Covered Bridge

In the heart of Hoi An, the Japanese Covered Bridge stands as a testament to the town’s rich history and cultural fusion. Built in the 1590s, this bridge was constructed by the Japanese community. It has become an iconic landmark and is a favorite spot for both tourists and locals.

The bridge’s architecture is a blend of Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences. The ornate carvings, the weathered wood, and the vibrant red hues give it a distinct charm. At either end of the bridge, you’ll find guardian statues. There are dogs on one side and monkeys on the other, believed to offer protection to the bridge and its visitors.

Strolling across, you can’t help but feel the weight of history. The creaking wooden planks set the tone. The soft glow of lanterns in the evening, combined with the gentle hum of the river below, creates an atmosphere that’s tranquil yet evocative.

For anyone visiting Hoi An, crossing the Japanese Covered Bridge is a rite of passage. It’s not just a bridge; it’s a journey through time, a connection between cultures, and a reminder of the town’s storied past.

A proof of the town's multiculturalism and rich past.
A proof of the town’s multiculturalism and rich past.

11. Phung Hung House

Ever wondered how the wealthy traders of Hoi An lived back in the day? Phung Hung House has the answers. This isn’t some fancy museum; it’s a real, lived-in house that’s been standing for over a century. And it’s got stories to tell.

Walking in, you’re hit with a mix of architectural styles. Think Chinese wooden beams next to Japanese lanterns and Vietnamese design elements. It’s a melting pot, just like Hoi An was during its trading heyday.

The house’s “triple-beam” structure is a genius move. It’s designed to outsmart the floods, showing just how crafty the locals were. And while the architecture is cool, it’s the glimpses of daily life that steal the show. Old trading documents, antique furniture, and even traditional music performances in the courtyard – it’s like stepping into a time machine.

But there’s more. Engage with the descendants of the original owners, who still reside there. Their personal anecdotes and family stories add a layer of authenticity that no guidebook can capture.

For a raw, unfiltered look at Hoi An’s merchant past, Phung Hung House is a must-visit. It’s a testament that Hoi An is one of the best places to live in Vietnam.

It's an actual house that has been inhabited for more than a century.
It’s an actual house that has been inhabited for more than a century.

12. Reaching Out Teahouse

One of the unique things to do in Hoi An is to visit the Reaching Out Teahouse. Nestled in the heart of the town, this isn’t your typical teahouse. It’s a serene oasis where silence is golden, and the experience is about more than just sipping tea.

Operated by hearing and speech-impaired staff, the teahouse promotes a quiet environment. Communication happens through notes and wooden blocks with words inscribed on them. It’s a refreshing change from the usual hustle and bustle, allowing you to truly savor the moment.

The interiors are traditional, with wooden furniture, ceramic teapots, and an array of aromatic teas sourced from all over Vietnam. As you sip on your chosen brew, you can’t help but feel a deep sense of calm. The gentle clinking of cups, the aroma of fresh tea leaves, and the silent, attentive service make it a meditative experience.

Beyond the tea, the teahouse also offers traditional Vietnamese snacks, perfect to nibble on as you relax. A visit to Reaching Out Teahouse isn’t just about the beverages. It’s a journey into Hoi An’s soul, offering a moment of reflection. Additionally, it stands as a testament to the town’s inclusive spirit.

Visiting the Reaching Out Teahouse is one of the most distinctive things to do in Hoi An.
Visiting the Reaching Out Teahouse is one of the most distinctive things to do in Hoi An.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Hoi An

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Hoi An? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Hoi An:

What’s the best time to visit Hoi An?

Hoi An is captivating all year. However, February to April is ideal. The weather is pleasant, and tourist numbers dip. This period avoids the monsoon rains, ensuring your explorations aren’t dampened. Early mornings in these months are especially magical.

Is Hoi An touristy?

Yes, Hoi An is a tourist magnet, particularly the Ancient Town. But here’s a secret: explore during early mornings or late evenings. The crowds thin out, and the town’s authentic charm emerges. It’s a different, peaceful world then.

How many days should I spend in Hoi An?

Ideally, allocate three days. This duration lets you delve into the town’s heart, relax on the beach, and even join a local cooking class. But a word of caution: Hoi An’s allure might make you wish for a longer stay.

Is 1 day in Halong Bay enough?

One day in Halong Bay can be enough to get a taste of its beauty, but it might feel rushed. Halong Bay, known for its stunning limestone karsts and emerald waters, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Vietnam’s most iconic destinations. Here’s what you can expect from a one-day visit:

Pros of a One-Day Trip:

  1. Scenic Cruise: Even with limited time, you can enjoy a cruise through the bay, witnessing some of the most famous sights and karsts formations.
  2. Basic Activities: Shorter cruises usually include a visit to one or two key attractions, such as a cave (like Sung Sot Cave) or a floating village.
  3. Seafood Lunch: Most day cruises include a meal, often featuring local seafood, which is a highlight for many visitors.

Cons of a One-Day Trip:

  1. Limited Exploration: Halong Bay has over 1,600 islands and islets, many of which have their own unique attractions. A one-day trip only scratches the surface.
  2. No Time for Leisure Activities: Activities like kayaking, swimming, or spending time on one of the bay’s beaches are usually reserved for longer itineraries.
  3. Rushed Experience: Considering travel time to and from Hanoi (if that’s your base), a significant portion of your day will be spent in transit.
You may find yourself wishing you were able to remain longer in Hoi An.
You may find yourself wishing you were able to remain longer in Hoi An.

Is Hoi An expensive?

Relative to other Vietnamese destinations, it’s a tad pricier. Its fame does hike up costs. However, with abundant street food and budget-friendly stays, you can manage expenses. Just be discerning and prioritize your spending.

Can I rent a bike in Hoi An?

Definitely! Biking is a favored way to discover Hoi An. Many accommodations provide bikes either complimentary or for a nominal charge. It’s an experience you shouldn’t miss. Just ensure you secure your bike when parked.

What is Hoi An known for?

Hoi An is renowned for its well-preserved Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where lantern-lit evenings create a magical ambiance. The town boasts a rich tapestry of history, evident in its architecture—a blend of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses to colorful French colonial buildings. Additionally, Hoi An is a hub for tailor-made clothing, with countless shops crafting custom garments.

Can you do a day trip to Hoi An from Da Nang?

Yes, you can definitely do a day trip to Hoi An from Da Nang. The two cities are quite close to each other, with a distance of about 30 kilometers, making Hoi An easily accessible for a day visit. Here’s your travel options:

  1. Taxi or Private Car: The most convenient way to travel. It takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic.
  2. Motorbike Rental: For a more adventurous experience, you can rent a motorbike. This gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace.
  3. Local Bus: There are local buses running between Da Nang and Hoi An, which are very affordable but may take longer.

Is Hoi An worth visiting?

Absolutely. Hoi An offers a unique blend of history, culture, and charm that’s hard to find elsewhere. Beyond its iconic lantern-lit streets, you’ll discover rich culinary traditions, serene beaches, and nearby rice paddies. The town’s laid-back vibe, combined with its historical significance and natural beauty, makes it a must-visit. Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or beach lover, Hoi An delivers.

Closing Thoughts on Exploring Hoi An

Wrapping up a trip to Hoi An leaves you with a backpack full of memories and a desire to return. This town, with its lantern-lit streets and historic charm, offers a travel experience that’s hard to match.

From tailor shops ready to craft your next favorite outfit to the mouthwatering local dishes that’ll have you craving more, Hoi An is a traveler’s delight. And let’s not forget the nearby beaches, perfect for those lazy afternoons.

So, if you’re looking for a destination that combines history, culture, and relaxation, fly to Vietnam, because Hoi An should be high on your list. Until next time, Hoi An!

The top things to do in Hoi An for all types of travelers
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