Hoi An is one of the most beautiful of all the Vietnamese cities and a great addition to any Vietnam itinerary. Its old town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to the presence of around 800 historic buildings in the world. This certainly gives it a vintage look and takes you back in time as you explore it. The city is one of the lucky and famous cities to have escaped bombing during the Vietnam war.
Located on the Thu Bn River, you will see plenty of local markets and cafes along the banks at night and enjoy the views in the water. Explore the city by visiting museums, temples, and ancient homes. While doing so, don’t forget to munch on the local food.
If you have enough time, try and explore the surrounding countryside of Hoi An and plan a day trip to the amazing beaches or the ruined cities that have tons of history lessons. Here are some of the things to do and enjoy in Hoi An for a tourist:
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- Get a tailor-made suit ready for your next business meeting
- Watch a Hoi An water puppet show
- Visit My Son Sanctuary
- Discover the Old House of Tan Ky
- Walk around the Old Town
- Shop for local handicrafts
- Explore the Japanese-Covered Bridge
- Take a trip out of town
- Indulge in the Nightlife
- Drop by the Silk Village
- Kick back on An Bang Beach
- Admire the Fujian (Phuc Kien) Assembly Hall
- Drink a cup of Coffee
- Visit Tra Kieu
- Take a boat to Cam Kim Island
- Learn to make traditional Vietnamese dishes
- Trip to Da Nang
- Getting to Hoi An
Get a tailor-made suit ready for your next business meeting
Hoi An has a world-renowned textile industry. Many people visit Hoi An especially to get their clothes tailor-made. For this reason, you can find several talented tailors scattered all around the town. What type of suit you want depends on your requirements. Choose from a variety of silks, textiles, and patterns for customized creations. The tailoring industry is huge, which means that you can get the best deal through bargaining.
However, keep the timeframe in mind while doing so. You would need to leave around 3 days for getting your clothes stitched for simple designs and up to a week for complex designs.
Watch a Hoi An water puppet show
A great way to get under the skin of local culture, this re-creation of Vietnamese traditional village tales through the medium of vibrant puppets who seem to float on the water is a pure delight for all ages. An English-language narration helps you keep up with the light-hearted storylines. Make sure to pre-book – these hour-long shows (made up of several mini-tales) are deservedly popular.
Be a part of Hoi An water puppet show. This may seem like a childish idea, but trust me, it’s one of the best ways for learning more about the local culture of the city. This puppet show tells traditional village tales through puppets that look like they are floating on the water. The show is suitable for people of all ages and includes an English language narration. Don’t forget to pre-book your seat as the water puppet show is quite popular among tourists and locals alike.
Visit My Son Sanctuary
If you want to explore Hoi An’s history, there is no way better than starting off at My Son’s Sanctuary. The site is blessed with beautiful mountains and used to be the religious capital of the Champa people. This civilization dates back to 1300 years.
90% of the actual development was ruined during the Vietnam war by bombing. However, the remaining 10% still tells a good enough story to attract tourists from all over the world on a daily basis.
This site is a good alternative to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, built by Hindu civilizations. The Vietnamese authorities are working very hard to preserve such sights for future generations.
My Son Sanctuary is an hour away from the main town. When visiting My Son’s Sanctuary, don’t forget to catch the free cultural show that happens on a daily basis.
Discover the Old House of Tan Ky
Old House of Tan Ky is one of the most historically significant buildings in Hoi An. It was built in the 18th century for a Vietnamese merchant group, serving as a private home with family residing upstairs.
The architect took influence from the Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese building styles. Tour guides are also available on site. Hire them to explore the ornately-decorated, antique, and vintage-filled rooms. This would help you understand what life was like for 7 generations of merchants in Hoi An.
Walk around the Old Town
Hoi An, as discussed before, was one of the rare cities which managed to escape the horrors of bombing during the Vietnamese war. This is why you will find amazing architecture all around the town, some of which date back to 2000 years. This is also a reason why the old town has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shop for local handicrafts
For handicraft enthusiasts, a visit to the local handicraft shop would light up your day. In fact, Hoi An is quite famous for its local artisan and handicraft industry. You can easily shop for local products in the main central market. Most of the products can be presented as gifts or souvenirs to your friends and family. The production is mostly done by the local minorities.
A number of handicraft villages are located on the outskirts of the town as well. Feel free to explore these towns and learn all you can about the historical and cultural background behind these handicrafts. Classes to learn ancient weaving and calligraphy are also available.
Explore the Japanese-Covered Bridge
Explore the Japanese-covered bridge, situated in the center of the city. It is one of the main attractions of the city. The bridge stretches over 12 meters and is decorated with ornate carvings in the shape of money and dogs. The bridge is also considered as a romantic spot in Hoi An, with many couples seen taking photographs here.
Take a trip out of town
Consider exploring the outskirts of the town, since Hoi An is surrounded by the lush, green countryside. Various cycling and trekking tours are available to help you explore the rice paddies, villages, hills, and even beaches.
Indulge in the Nightlife
The island of An Hoi is famous for its nightlife due to the presence of night markets. Most of the shops are seen selling lanterns in different shapes and sizes. The sight of hundreds of lanterns light up in the dark makes for a beautiful view across the river.
Apart from lanterns, you would also find trinkets, jewelry, clothes, and other accessories. Local stalls selling delicious local food are also a part of the market.
Drop by the Silk Village
There is a Silk Village resort that not only gives the perfect package for staying in but also helps you experience traditional silk-making first-hand. The local guide would tell you all about how the silkworms are raised, how their cocoons are harvested, and the production of creative silk designs.
You will be amazed at the skill and effort needed for arranging the dye threads in the silk room to form a single garment. You can go for a buffet dinner after your visit to the silk room.
Kick back on An Bang Beach
Go for a sunbath at Hoi An’s An Bang beach, which, although it is less famous compared to Cua Dai, is another beach that has a peaceful seaside. Explore the white sands, beachfront restaurants, and the romantic beachside villas.
Admire the Fujian (Phuc Kien) Assembly Hall
Fujian Assembly Hall is one of the grandest buildings in Hoi An. It was built in the 17th century and served as a social and sacred space for the Fujian Chinese community in Hoi An.
The gateway is decorated with carvings of Chinese mythological figures. It also includes a courtyard. The site is famously visited by couples who want to conceive. This is also why 12 midwives statues are also seen among the other statues that are carved throughout the grounds.
Drink a cup of Coffee
Vietnam as a country is famous for its mind-blowing coffee and Hoi An is no different. It is one of the best cities to try a cup of coffee. Mia Coffee is a famous coffee point as they serve the allegedly “most delicious espresso in the city.” You will also find roasted beans on their menu.
Coffee variety varies according to the season. The best thing is that the coffee beans are handpicked to produce the freshest cups of coffee. The beans are also available for sale which is a fantastic idea to take as a souvenir back home.
Visit Tra Kieu
Known as the Lion Citadel, Tra Kieu was the capital of the Champa Kingdom for 4 centuries from the 4th to 8th centuries.
Explore the ramparts and other spots in the area such as the mountain church that lies at the top of Buu Chau Hill. You will also find Tra Kieu church, quite old – dating back to the 19h century – and a museum that is home to priceless artifacts.
Take a boat to Cam Kim Island
When in Hoi An, don’t forget to visit Cam Island. It is located half an hour away from Hoi An and can be accessed through a local ferry from D Bach Dang. The island is famous for artisan wood carvers who have carved some of the prominent public buildings in Hoi An.
You will also find historic homes of many woodcarvers in Kim Bong village on the island. You can shop for these wood carvings to take as souvenirs back home to cherish your trip.
Learn to make traditional Vietnamese dishes
The Gioan Restaurant and cooking school teaches traditional regional Vietnamese specialties which are passed on from one generation to the other.
If you love cooking, you can be a part of these classes and learn all the dishes. You will have to take a trip to the local market for buying all the ingredients and would be taught by the charming in-house chef. Famous dishes include pho noodles, banh xeo, spring rolls, and the green papaya salad.
You can always choose the dishes you want to learn. The lesson concludes with you munching on your newly cooked food. You would also get a recipe book to refer to whenever you want to cook the regional Vietnamese dishes back home.
Trip to Da Nang
Hire a driver for a day and visit Da Nang – home to some of the most breathtaking natural beauty such as Marble Mountains, Son Tra Peninsula, and Can Thanh coconut forest. It is located just 40 minutes from Hoi An. This is one of the best places to be if you want to spend a day out of the city.
Da Nang is famous for its beaches, which are also peaceful compared to Hoi An’s beaches. It has a rural look and you would love sunbathing here for an entire day without getting distracted by any background noise other than the ocean waves. Indulge in some water sports such as snorkeling and swimming. The beaches also have a stream of seafood restaurants that are worth trying on your trip.
Getting to Hoi An
Hoi An is only accessible by road as it has no airport or train station.
Getting to Hoi An by Plane
If you are still choosing to fly to Hoi An, you can do so through Da Nang International Airport. It lies 30 km from Hoi An. From the airport, you can then get to the city by bus or car.
Getting to Hoi An by Train
The nearest train station is also located in Da Nang. Again, you will have to get to the city by car.
Getting to Hoi An by Bus
Bus companies or private buses are available to take you to Hoi An. This is the best option as it also saves time and money. A private shuttle bus is an effective way of getting to Hoi An and costs only $6.
Getting to Hoi An by Car
Taxis are also available in Da Nang. Many taxi booking companies operate in Da Nang and would usually only charge you $20 for the entire trip to Hoi An. The trip would take about an hour of drive due to traffic congestion at certain timings.
Travelers from the U.S. and most countries will need an eVisa to visit Vietnam. A visa is good for a 30-day stay and a single entry into the country. It is possible to extend an eVisa (more information here).
Hoi An has something to offer everyone. From the cultural buffs, history enthusiasts to nature and food lovers, it covers everything. From the bridges, mountains, temples, and beaches, You have everything to explore. A mix of different cultures in this little town make it a truly unique and amazing city.