View of ThuBon's River and Hoi An ancient town

Hoi An – Vietnamese Port City With a Dreamy Atmosphere

This post was last updated on February 21st, 2020 at 07:38 am


Everyone traveling through Vietnam will arrive in Hoi An sooner or later. This world heritage site is the ultimate combination of architecture, history, beaches and excellent food.

 

Hoi An was an important port city from the 16th to the 18th century and attracted many traders from China, Japan and Europe. These traders have all left their mark on the architecture.

 

The old streets of Hoi An are full of Chinese pagodas, Japanese trading houses, beautiful department stores and French houses and shops.

 

Due to silting of the Thu Bon river in the 19th century, the city was closed off from the trade route, which ensured that Hoi An was not involved in industrial development.

 

Absence of all the negative effects that this development would undoubtedly have entailed, Hoi An has, as it were, stood still in time, which makes it such a special tourist attraction.

 

It is not only the old center that leaves visitors in ecstasy. The area around Hoi An is also beautiful. The nearby Cham island group, the various beaches, and the impressive countryside can easily keep visitors busy for a week.

 

Best Time to Visit Hoi An

Wooden boats on the Thu Bon River, Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An has a tropical climate and has high temperatures all year round.

 

The best time to visit Hoi An is between February and August. This is good news for families traveling during the summer vacation. You can optimally enjoy the beaches and the sun during this period.

 

The rainy season in Hoi An starts in mid-August and lasts until mid-January. And when it rains, it rains hard. Very hard.

 

For more information read our article about the weather in Vietnam per region.

 

Average temperature and rainfall in Hoi An, Vietnam
Average temperature and rainfall in Hoi An, Vietnam

 

The Beautiful City Center

The town has around 60,000 inhabitants and is probably one of the oldest cities in Southeast Asia. Excavations show that the area was inhabited 2,200 years ago. The city center of Hoi An is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

The city center has been completely restored and is characterized by the narrow and small streets that are filled with atmospheric Japanese merchant houses, restaurants, museums, Chinese temples, old tea houses, and clothing stores. The city also has a market where you can buy many local products.

 

TIP – Did you know that Hoi An used to be called Hai Pho?

 

The locals have, of course, exchanged the real fishing life and agriculture for working in tourism, but luckily there is not much evidence of this. If you cycle something out of the center (cycling is the means of transport here), you will end up fairly easily at the beach where hotels and resorts are rising faster and faster.

 

ATMs

ATMs are scattered all throughout Hoi An. You won’t have any problems getting cash here.

 

Ancient bridge in Hoi An
The beautiful ancient bridge in Hoi An

 

16 Best Things to Do in Hoi An

Hoi An is one of the most visited cities in Vietnam. In every travel guide, there is a picture of Hoi An and every tour offers a number of days in this city. There is also much to see and do in this city, not only in the center but also around the city. These are the 12 best sights of Hoi An to visit. Are you missing Hoi An sights in this list? Let us know.

 

1. Visit Hoi An Ancient Town

The old city center, also known as Hoi An Ancient Town, is THE reason that travelers come here. The old center is filled with attractive buildings, restaurants, cafés, and colored streets. The French colonial houses and old canals is the street scene of Hoi An. You will also find many shops such as countless tailors, souvenir shops, art galleries, and cafés.

 

The center is not very big so you have more than enough time to see the most important parts in one day. It is especially nice to walk around and drink a nice cup of coffee here and there (they have very nice coffee here!). Also, don’t forget to go to the market.

 

It is advisable to plan a day to explore Hoi An on foot.

 

Before you set off, you must purchase an admission ticket to enter the buildings. The ticket gives access to a large number of old houses, shops, museums and factories. The proceeds are used for renovation purposes.

 

A good starting point for the walking route is the central market (Cho Hoi An).

Walk in this order:

 

  1. The Museum of Trade Ceramics
  2. The Tan Ky House
  3. The Japanese Covered Bridge
  4. The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
  5. The Canton Community House

 

TIP – Hoi An Ancient Town has an admission fee of 120,000 VND (US$4.75) for foreign tourists. Each ticket is valid for 10 days and covers access to Hoi An Ancient Town, six sights, and street entertainment (folk dancing, singing, and traditional games).

 

2. Visit the Van Duc Pagoda

The Van Duc Pagoda dates from the 17th century. It is the place where the locals pray to Buddhist gods such as Amitabha Buddha, Địa Tạng Bodhisattva, and Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Hoi An and is equipped with three halls, detailed sculptures, paintings of gods, potted plants, and many shady trees.

 

The peaceful surroundings attract countless visitors who are looking for tranquility or who simply want to admire the well-preserved architecture. It is one of the best-known places in Hoi An and not to be missed if you are here. Also because it is a fairly large building!

 

3. Bia Hoi on the Hoi An Riverside

Hoi An Riverside is where all the fun takes place in the evening. It was once an important stopover for foreign traders between the 16th and 18th centuries due to its location on the banks of the Thu Bon river.

 

The waterfront is best known for its cozy bars, bistros, and restaurants, where you can enjoy fresh fish, a nice beer (bia hoi), cocktails, coffee, and cakes, but also local and international dishes.

 

There are plenty of boats for rent at the harbor, which you can rent for a day of fishing or sailing on the peaceful river. During the annual Full Moon Festival, hundreds of colorful hand-crafted lanterns illuminate the wooden bridges, terraces, and windows of storehouses. Really a must-see in Hoi An!

 

Laterns in a shop at Hoi An
In the evening you will see beautiful colored lanterns

 

4. Visit the Museum

If you want to learn a little more about the history and culture of this city you should definitely visit the museum. It contains relics that are more than 2,000 years old. Located near Quan Am Pagoda, it is one of the oldest buildings in Vietnam, built in 1653.

 

There are many interesting things on display such as traditional funeral rituals, photographs of local architecture, ceramics and pottery, and bronze temple bells and gongs.

 

The Hoi An Museum for History and Culture is a 10-minute walk from the Japanese covered bridge (see below).

 

TIP – It is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Entrance is included with the entrance ticket for Hoi An.

 

5. Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge

Japanese covered bridge, Hoi An, Vietnam

This is one of the most famous sights of the city. The Japanese covered bridge dates from the 18th century and is a special building. The bridge has a length of 18 meters and was built by the Japanese who lived in Hoi An in order to reach the Chinese quarter on the other side of the water.

 

The Japanese bridge is the only covered bridge in the world with a Buddhist temple. Unlike most other buildings in the old town, which are decorated in flamboyant Chinese and Vietnamese architectural styles, the bridge has retained a typical Japanese character, with subdued decorations and references to Japanese history.

 

TIP – Go as early as possible. It is always quite busy!

 

6. Try a Cooking Class

Hoi An is not only known for its atmospheric streets. They also have varied and excellent dishes here: a legacy of the many nationalities that have lived here, including Japanese, Chinese and Portuguese. Almost every restaurant offers cooking classes and we definitely recommend giving it a try!

 

There are many different classes you can book in the city. The one is not the same as the other. If you want a fun tour, try Thuan Tinh’s tour. With this tour, you will first go to the special market to buy ingredients. Then you board a riverboat and sail to Thuan Tinh Island near the river mouth.

 

During the last part, you will walk to a coconut forest and there, in the open air, you will cook the most varied dishes such as spring rolls, crispy pancakes, beef noodle steak, and classic pho.

 

A fun day out is to follow a cooking course to learn how to make this delicious food yourself. Some well-known and well-known cooking schools are:

 

  • Vy’s Market Restaurant and Cooking School
  • Green Bamboo Cooking School and Cafe
  • Gioan Cookery School

 

A cooking course in Hoi An usually consists of a visit to the local market to buy ingredients, after which you dive into the kitchen with your fellow chefs to make a delicious meal.

 

TIP – The class costs about $35 per person and can be booked via Cooking-Tour.

 

7. Rent a Bike

Bicycles parked beside the Thu Bon River. Hoi An, Vietnam

Cars and even motorcycles are not allowed in the center of Há»™i An, so a bicycle is the best way to explore the city and the surrounding area. Most accommodations rent bicycles to guests. Cycling through the center is fun to do.

 

The town is not large so you can easily visit the most important places in one day. You can also cycle to the beach.

 

In addition to cycling yourself, you can also book various cycling tours in Hoi An. You can not only cycle well in the city itself but also through the enchanting countryside and islands close to the city.

 

If you have the time, we definitely recommend renting a bike for a day or booking a tour to explore the area around the city. You will pass through traditional villages, green rice fields, and rickety floating bridges.

 

A nice day activity is to go cycling on Cam Kim island. It seems as if time has stood still on the island. The residents of Cam Kim Island are known for their wood carving and you can buy it here for a good price. View the Rusty Compass for more information about the island.

 

The ferry to the island departs from the boat stop at the Bach Dang quay but you can also cycle directly to the island over the Cam Kim bridge.

 

8. Visit the Chuc Thanh Pagoda

The Chuc Thanh Pagoda was founded by Monk Minh Hai in 1454 and is the oldest Buddhist pagoda in Hoi An. The temple is a mix of Vietnamese and Chinese architecture and houses a marble statue of Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy), detailed statues, painted pillars, and 16 burial towers of eminent monks.

 

The Chuc Thanh Pagoda is considered the birthplace of the “Thien Tam Te” religion, where ancient ritual objects such as a 200-year-old stone gong, a wooden gong in the shape of a cart, and various bells are still in use.

 

9. Explore the Fujian Assembly Hall

Gate of Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, Hoi An, Vietnam

The 17th century Fujian Assembly Hall is one of the largest buildings in Hoi An. The hall is built as a social and sacred space for the Chinese community of Hoi An. It features an enormous entrance gate decorated with colorful engravings of Chinese mythological figures and an impressive courtyard.

 

Not only tourists come here to view the special entrance, but also locals. They come here to pray in the Fujian Assembly Hall when they want happiness for their children. It is in the center of the city so is easy to visit.

 

TIP – It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

10. Visit the Night Market

Near the water and the city center, you will find one of the best night markets in Vietnam. These days Night Markets are not that special, but the ones in Hoi An, are. First off, the streets are incredibly beautifully illuminated with the familiar lanterns and they also sell these lanterns in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are made from the famous Hoi An silk and can be seen almost every evening.

 

It is nice to take such a lantern home as a souvenir, but the sight of thousands of lit lanterns in the dark is already a reason to go here! You can also buy other things such as souvenirs or delicious street food. The night market is definitely a must-see.

 

TIP – The market is on Nguyen Hoang Street every day from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

 

11. Drink a Delicious Cup of Coffee

The coffee in Vietnam is of top quality everywhere. In Hoi An we actually found The Espresso Station by accident. The first cup of coffee immediately tasted like more. It is rather hidden between the clothing stores, so look carefully when you go searching for it.

 

A friend from the hostel took us to this cafe. We actually ate our breakfast here every day, for 4 days. Both the breakfast and the coffee is delicious.

 

12. Visit My Son

Remains of My Son Sanctuary, an Old hindu Temple Complex

40 kilometers southwest of Hoi An you will find the ruins of My Son. The ruins were rediscovered by French archaeologists in the 19th century and are now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

The My Son Sanctuary dates from the 4th to 13th centuries BC and is related to Hindu culture from India. Today, the complex is quite small after many bombs caused damage during the war.

 

My Son can be reached from Hoi An by scooter, bus or taxi and takes just over an hour to complete. You can also join one of the many tour buses that leave early in the morning. These can be booked through your hotel.

 

13. Bay Mau Coconut Forest

This coconut forest is one of the most visited tourist destinations around Hoi An. Step into a bamboo basket boat and sail through the small waterways along the bamboo and learn about traditional fishing techniques.

 

14. Cantonese Assembly Hall

One of the most popular sights in Hoi An is the Cantonese Assembly Hall. As the name suggests, the meeting room was built in the 19th century by Cantonese settlers.

 

15. Diving and Snorkeling at the Cham Islands

Image of: View of the beach on the Cham islands, Vietnam

Depending on the time of the year you can go snorkelling and diving very well not far from Hoi An.

 

The Cham Islands, off the coast of Hoi An is a true paradise full of coral, tropical fish and golden beaches. Day trips are popular but there is also the possibility to spend the night on the largest island.

 

There are a number of guesthouses and there is the possibility to camp on the beach.

 

The diving season usually starts in March and runs until mid-October. The best conditions are in the months of July and August.

 

16. Visit the Tan Ky house

The most famous traditional building in Hoi An. The house is built around a courtyard and is a mixture of Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese architectural styles.

 

The Tan Ky house was inhabited by several generations of a trading family and also partially served as a storehouse for merchandise. This storage place is still in its original state as well as large parts of the outside consisting of tiles and bricks. You should definitely take a look at the beautiful courtyard.

 

The Tan Ky house can be found at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc street. For a detailed description you can read more on Lonely Planet.

 

Have a Suit Tailored in Hoi An

You must have heard of it. Tailoring clothes in Vietnam is cheap and of excellent quality. Hoi An is famous for its wide range of excellent tailors. But what if you are approached by many locals who say they can take you to the best tailor in town? There are so many that it would take you days to pick the right one.

 

In Vietnam everyone can get a commission for everything. And this definitely applies to the tailor scene of Hoi An. Hotel staff, taxi drivers, tour guides and many more people can get a commission if they take you, a tourist, to a certain tailor.

 

It is not surprising that the tailors include these commissions in their pricing, so that you end up paying too much. Many of these tailors are no more than a showroom and outsource the actual tailoring to a factory.

 

As a result, a piece of quality control is lost that can make the difference between a fantastic tailor-made suit or a mediocre one.

 

Fortunately, the best tailors do not participate in this committee circus, which means that you get better materials and better craftsmanship for your money. These respected tailors have their own workshops and have years of experience combined with excellent customer service.

 

The best tailors in Hoi An with their own factory:

  • Ba Be
  • Yaly
  • A Dong Silk
  • Kimmy

 

Count on two or three days to have sufficient time for fitting and any adjustments that need to be made.

 

Full Moon Festival in Hoi An

Thuy Anh, Akisoto with Lanterns in Hoi An

Every 14th day of the Month (Lunar Calendar) the Full Moon Festival takes place in Hoi An. A long-standing tradition in which electricity and traffic are shut off throughout Hoi An and the entire city is turned into a fairy tale.

 

Everywhere you look you see beautiful lanterns, candles and illuminated pagodas.

 

For the Vietnamese this is the evening to honor their ancestors. You see people offering food, flowers and incense at specially decorated altars in their houses. A ritual that you also see during TET, the most important festival in Vietnam.

 

As a visitor there are a number of activities that are very worthwhile. The temples and pagodas in the city are full of people who come to pray.

 

A very interesting spectacle! Perhaps the most striking are the thousands of floating lanterns in the water of the Thu Bon river. You can also buy a lantern yourself and let it float into the river. According to the sellers, this brings good luck and prosperity.

 

If you want to see the beautifully lit Hoi An from the water, you can take a sampan trip. The costs are around 150,000 VND (US$6.45) depending on your negotiation skills.

 

During this festival, the city is illuminated by hundreds of lanterns in the evening and you will find yourself in a true fairyland. You won’t find a more atmospheric and romantic scene!

 

The festival starts at nightfall and usually lasts until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. Since you probably do not have a lunar calendar, the dates for the Full Moon Festival in 2020 follow below. Try to tailor your visit to one of these dates because it is a true spectacle.

 

Hoi An 2020 Lantern Festival Dates

January 8th, 2020
February 7th, 2020
March 7th, 2020
April 6th, 2020
May 6th, 2020
June 5th, 2020
July 4th, 2020
August 3rd, 2020
September 1st, 2020
October 30th, 2020
November 28th, 2020
December 28th, 2020

 

The Best Beaches in Hoi An

In addition to the beautiful city center, Hoi An has even more to offer. The city is in fact close to the sea and has several beautiful beaches where you can recover from all your earlier impressions. The beaches are easily accessible by bike or scooter and are among the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. If you have time for some relaxation then one of these beaches is definitely recommended.

 

Cua Dai Beach

A beautiful morning in Cua Dai Beach - Vietnam Seascape

One of the best beaches in Hoi An is Cua Dai Beach. The attractive thing is that with 3 kilometers it is a very long beach. This means there is sufficient space and a place for everyone to relax.

 

Because Cua Dai is relatively quiet, you can perfectly recover from a long (round) trip. In addition, it is very easy to reach from Hoi An because it is only 5 kilometers from the city. You can easily reach the beach with both a taxi and a bicycle.

 

TIP – Read more about this beach on our Cua Dai page.

 

An Bang Beach

Instead of Cua Dai, you can also go to An Bang, especially if you want some peace and want to get away from hordes of tourists. Just north of Cua Dai is An Bang. This beach has vast unspoiled white sandy beaches and beachfront restaurants. Visitors can even choose to stay in a beach villa.

 

Food and Drinks

It is not difficult to find good restaurants in Hoi An; the old center is packed with quality restaurants. The food here is classified as the best that Vietnam has to offer.

 

The best experience is to stroll around the old center and follow your nose. Below you can see some popular restaurants in Hoi An but there are too many to mention.

 

  • Now Eatery
  • Minh Hien
  • Ho Lo Quan
  • Red dragon

 

Bowl of traditional Vietnamese noodles
A delicious bowl of fish noodles that we ate

 

Hoi An Nightlife

Hoi An Night Market

The Hoi An Night Market, in the center of the city, consists of more than 50 local sellers who sell a variety of local snacks, clothing, jewelry and accessories. Set in a 300-meter long street overlooking the Thu Bon River, it is illuminated by hundreds of colorful lanterns, making it a popular place for photography.

 

An Hoi Backpacker Bars

Across the river lies an area known as an An Hoi, a popular place for backpackers. There are quite a few options here. They fluctuate from night to night and are easy to find. You can get there by turning right after crossing the bridge. Tiger Tiger is often the most crowded.

 

Best Bars in Hoi An

  • Dive Bar: The Cham Island Diving bar is a popular place for tourists to have a drink with occasional live music.
  • Mango Mango: After dinner, the upstairs is a nice place for a cocktail. There’s often live music downstairs.
  • Tiger Tiger: One of the most famous bars in all of Hoi An. Every evening you can find a cozy atmosphere with both locals and tourists with (live) music and plenty of drinks to choose from.
  • Dublin Gate Irish Pub: Most evenings there’s live music, with sports on TV screens and a cozy atmosphere.

 

How to Get to Hoi An

Hoi An is perfectly connected with all important places in Vietnam. Wherever you come from, buses, trains and domestic flights ensure that you can get there quickly.

 

Below you can read how to get to Hoi An from the most obvious places.

 

Arriving in Da Nang

Da Nang airport is only 30 kilometers from Hoi An and is connected to pretty much all the other airports in the country. Tickets are generally very reasonably priced and a one-way ticket will not cost you more than US$50 in most cases.

 

You can reach Hoi An from Da Nang in 40 minutes by taxi.

 

From Hue to Hoi An

The cheapest way to get from Hue to Hoi An is by bus. However, it is much more fun to turn this journey into a special activity.

 

You can go through the beautiful Bach Ma National park, over the famous Hai Van Pass to go the last part along the beautiful coastal road between Da Nang and Hoi An.

 

From Phong Nha to Hoi An

Do this if you skip Hue. You can take the bus from Phong Nha to Hoi An which takes about 6 hours in total.

 

The alternative is by train from nearby Dong Hoi to Da Nang and the last bit by taxi. Very nice because you can take one of the most beautiful routes in the country.

 

From the Da Lat or Nha Trang region to Hoi An

Vietnam airlines has connections from Da Lat to Da Nang and is, in our opinion, the best option. Buses always have a stopover in Nha Trang and you are on the road all night long.

 

Do you have plenty of time? Consider stopping in the beautiful Quy Nhon. This relaxed seaside resort is located exactly between Nha Trang and Hoi An.

 

Hoi An Hotel, Hostel & Homestay Guide

Hotels are scattered throughout the historic center, the surrounding countryside and beaches. The choice of a specific location (naturally) depends on your preferences.

 

No matter which location you choose, you are always close to the old town center. Most hotels located outside the city, have a shuttle service or bicycles available.

 

The Old Center

Here, you will find Hoi An’s most famous and iconic sights, including the covered Japanese bridge, colorful shophouses and streets decorated with lanterns.

 

At An Hoi (yes, it’s reverse Hoi An!), south of the center, you can find great night markets and this is the best place for a vibrant nightlife.

 

Tan An is also fairly close to the old center, but you need a bike to reach the city (many hotels and homestays offer this). Cam Nam is another option close to the old center, but again, a bicycle would be useful.

 

Best Budget Hostels & Homestays in Hoi An

 

Best Mid-Range Hotels in Hoi An

 

Best High End Hotels & Resorts in Hoi An

 

If you really want luxury:

 

Our Favorite Hotels

Some of our favorite hotels where we had a great time:

  • Hoang Trinh Hotel âžœ a cozy hostel with lots of greenery and modern, large and clean rooms.
  • Ha An Hotel âžœ a beautiful hotel surrounded by a beautiful green garden. 10 minutes from the center.

 

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