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Arriving in Hoi An, Vietnam was like taking a deep, calming breath. We came from the buzzing city of Hanoi – and the contrast was unmistakable. Hoi An sits on a lazy river full of bobbing fishing boats. The old town – a UNESCO World Heritage City – boasts picturesque streets lined with fading yellow houses. Motorbikes still zip down the lanes, but not like in the anxiety-inducing streets of Hanoi. With an inviting vibe, we knew we were going to find plenty of things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam.
The Best Things To Do in Hoi An
Our list of Hoi An Things To Do includes attractions in the Old Town, as well as a few sights outside the city center. We provide links to more information for all of our recommended things to see in Hoi An. At the end of the post, we also offer valuable information on accommodation in Hoi An, how to get there, sample itineraries and a helpful Hoi An tourist map of sights.
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#1 Hoi An Attractions: Historic UNESCO Sightseeing
Wondering what to do in Hoi An? Start by exploring the attractions in Hoi An Old Town! The ancient town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due to the significant number of ancestral dwellings and historic buildings. Comprised of temples, assembly halls, communal houses, museums and living houses, the Old Town structures are the top things to see in Hoi An.
Tour Hoi An Old Town
To raise funds for Old Town preservation, a ticket is required for all guests entering the UNESCO World Heritage zone. The ticket costs 120,000 VND and allows entry into five of the 20 Hoi An sights. Visitors who want to see all 20 sights will need to purchase 4 tickets. On the other hand, visitors who do not want to visit any of the Hoi An tourist attractions, but want to walk around the Old Town, are still required to buy a ticket (although we were never asked to show ours).
During our visit, we only had sparse information about sights and temples in Hoi An. Rather than attempting to create a formal self-guided Hoi An city tour, we purchased our tickets (which we called a ‘donation’) and simply entered any of the sites we passed along our city wandering.
The top sights that we visited were: the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Phuc Kein Fujian Assembly Hall, Cam Pho Communal House, Quang Trien Assembly Hall and Quan Cong Temple. (You can find the location of each sight on the map at the end of the post.)
We were amazed by the intricately detailed carvings on the Hoi An temples, assembly halls and Japanese bridge. The Living House we visited has been owned by the same family for eight generations; relatives still reside in the house, which features original furniture, creaking wooden floors and an airy upstairs balcony.
Visitors who want to plan which places to visit in Hoi An Old Town can use this helpful link, which provides more information about the ticketing system, where to buy tickets and the sights included.
#2 Hoi An Shopping
Shopping is one of the top things to do in Hoi An – and shop-keepers are eager to get tourists in their doors. “Madam, buy from me;” “Lady, look in my shop. I have all colors, all sizes;” “What you looking for, Miss? I have everything, I show you.” These are the common phrases that followed us up and down the shop-lined lanes.
What To Buy in Hoi An
A Hoi An trip would not be complete without buying something from one of the many shops. The most common goods for sale are souvenirs, artwork, name brand knock-offs and tailored clothing.
Vietnam Souvenirs – Like elsewhere in Vietnam, T-shirts (with sayings like “Same Same But Different”) and chopsticks are hot items. However, lanterns are our top-pick for a Hoi An souvenir!
Artwork – Some of the most stirring photographs we have ever seen are images from Vietnam. The art galleries in Hoi An feature photographs, paintings, woodworks, sculptures and local crafts.
Knock-Offs – The counterfeit market in Vietnam is thriving. Shops overflow with knock-off designer brands, like Prada, Gucci, Ray-Ban and North Face. Unfortunately, most of the fake products are low-quality, but they can be fun while they last!
Tailored Clothing – Due to its location along the ancient Silk Trade Route, Hoi An has long been associated with tailors. The tradition continues today – and tourists flock to the numerous tailor shops for custom-made clothing at incredibly low prices. For fashionistas and businesspeople, getting a tailor-made dress or suit is a must-do in Hoi An. As full-time travelers, we weren’t in the market for new suits, but our friends from New Zealand were. We accompanied them to one of the shops (where he purchased five new made-to-order suits) and were fascinated by the process.
#3 Beaches in Hoi An
There are two Hoi An beaches…or rather, two beaches near Hoi An: An Bang and Cua Dai. The beaches, which sit side-by-side, are 4km (2.5 miles) north of the historic center along the shoreline of the East Vietnam Sea. The most popular (and most posh) beach resorts in Hoi An are located on Cua Dai (more on Hoi An accommodation in a minute!). Both beaches are easily reached by a 20-minute bicycle ride or via car (shuttle or taxi).
An Bang Beach
An Bang is the more popular Hoi An beach…mostly because it actually has sand. An easy-going beach vibe abounds in An Bang, where tourists can get out of the city and enjoy a day in the sunshine. Beach cafes offer seaside tables where they serve classic cuisine and beach-themed cocktails; they also rent out lounge chairs, umbrellas and towels. Active travelers can try surfing, body boarding or paragliding at An Bang, as well.
Cua Dai Beach
The Cua Dai Hoi An Beach has seen significant erosion in recent years, leaving little sand and mostly sand bags. It might not be the best beach in Hoi An, but many of the top Hoi An resorts are located on Cua Dai and visitors can still enjoy the shade from the grove of palm trees.
We absolutely love the markets in Vietnam! The vibrant colors, pungent odors and smooth-talking vendors make every stroll through a market an invigorating event. There are several markets in Hoi An where visitors can get a taste of local cuisine and a look at an array of products.
The Central Market is the thriving center of town, where locals and chefs really do buy fresh produce and meat; tourists come to get their morning coffee. We often spotted scooters slowing down and stopping in front of the sidewalk stalls just long enough to pick up what they need. Aromas mix together and waft through the humid air as we wandered by the heaps of fresh peeled grapefruit, fly-covered whole fish, live chickens in a bird cages and sugary, warm donuts.
Best Food Hoi An Market
At the center of the market, there are stalls serving fresh-made meals. We dined at the market several times and were never disappointed. However, many people claim that the best food in Hoi An comes from Stall E034, where the late Anthony Bourdain dined on Cao Lau.
Fish Market in Thanh Ha
The fish market used to take place near the Central Market, but it has moved to Thanh Ha, 3km west of the old town. The lively market kicks off at 5am (so set your alarm!) and is said to be quite the experience…but we opted to sleep in! Note: This is not a floating market but takes place on the riverbanks after the fisherman bring in the fresh catch of the day.
Nguyen Hoang Night Market (Lantern Market Hoi An)
Often referred to as the Hoi An Lantern Market, visiting the Nguyen Hoang Market is one of the top things to do in Hoi An at night. The night market is located on the islet across the river (use Cau An Hoi Bridge) and opens at 5pm. Street food and souvenirs are both for sale, but the highlight is the lanterns. Several stalls feature the iconic, glowing lanterns – they are a Hoi An Must-See!
Away from the market in the streets, women walk balancing a bamboo pole across their shoulders with woven baskets at either end. The baskets are filled with fruits, vegetables and other goodies that they sell to passersby (usually tourists). The girls (usually young women) practice excellent salesmanship, persuasively encouraging purchases by offering to let tourists take their photo or sample the fruit. It’s alright to negotiate; we usually paid about 20,000 VND…and the fruit was spectacular!
#5 Hoi An at Night
As charming as Hoi An is during the day, it’s even more appealing at night. Some of the city’s unsightly blemishes are concealed under the cover of darkness and the street lights create a golden hue. Wander the streets or follow the same day-time Hoi An sightseeing path to see the ornamental lanes illuminated by hanging lanterns. Make sure your route passes by the Japanese Covered Bridge, which is stunningly lit up at night. Assembly halls and temples are incredible nighttime sights, as well. Want a different perspective? Hop on a Hoi An boat tour at night – find out more!
#6 Bike Tour Hoi An
Cycling Hoi An is one of the best ways to get acquainted with the city and surrounding countryside. For several hours a day, the historic center is limited to pedestrians and bicycle traffic – and biking through the city is a wonderful way to see it! However, outside the city center is where it really gets interesting. Just beyond the historic center, visitors can get a glimpse of local life. Cycling around Hoi An reveals scenic landscapes, like rice paddies, farmland and meandering rivers.
The hotel we stayed in offered free bicycles, which made cycling in Hoi An an ideal option – but most bike rentals are not that expensive. Popular Hoi An cycle routes leave the city to the north, explore spacious scenic countryside and then continue to An Bang Beach before circling back to the city.
Hoi An Bike Tours
Cyclists not keen on designing their own self-guided bike tour of Hoi An can join one of the many guided bike tours – like this one! This top-rated countryside bicycle tour delves into local life in the villages along the Song Thu river delta and includes craft demonstrations and lunch with a local family in their home.
#7 Hoi An Tours: Take a Day Trip
Of all the things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam, one of the best things to do is discover more of the region. There are numerous day tours from Hoi An, but the most popular options are: Cham Islands, My Son Sanctuary and Golden Bridge (the bridge that is held up by a gigantic hand).
Cham Island-Hoi An Tour
We joined one of the highly-rated speedboat day trips from Hoi An to the Cham Islands. Departing from Cua Dai Beach, we raced across the sea to the 8-island archipelago. We toured Cu Lao Cham Marine Park with a guide, visited cultural attractions, jumped off the boat for snorkeling, feasted on a delectable grilled lunch and spent time relaxing on the beach. Read details about our Cham Islands experience! Or read fellow traveler reviews for this tour.
My Son Sanctuary Hoi An Day Tours
Travel with a guide by bicycle to the ancient temples of My Son Sanctuary. Although the historic site is the destination, the ride through rice fields and small villages is a highlight for many! Find out more!
Golden Bridge Hoi An Day Trips
The best Hoi An excursions to Golden Bridge include so much more than just the bridge! Guests travel to Ba Na Mountain from the city, then ascend the mountain via cable car to the gardens and quaint village before visiting the famous Golden Bridge. This private tour, led by a Hoi An travel guide, includes a buffet lunch and all admission tickets. Get the details! Read about our experience at Ba Na Mountain at night!
#8 Hoi An Spas
After a long day of sightseeing, one of the best things to do in Hoi An is to indulge in a spa treatment! There are hundreds of spas in Hoi An – ranging from luxurious (read: expensive) to mediocre (read: cheap)…with plenty of options in between.
Kris doesn’t like going to the spas in Vietnam, but I can’t resist the affordable massages; foot massages, in particular, are my favorite. In fact, I think getting a foot massage is a must-do in Hoi An. Some spas only offer massages, while many others offer a full range of treatments (including waxing, facials and herbal steam sessions). Go ahead, pamper yourself!
#9 Fresh Beer: Bia Hoi
Unlike massages, drinking Fresh Beer is one of the Hoi An activities that Kris is fully on board with. Budget-friendly Fresh Beer – or Bia Hoi – is found at several bars near the riverside. We particularly enjoyed drinking at Sao Mai and loved the ambiance at Quan An 19, but just look for any restaurant with signs advertising Fresh Beer and find a seat with a view.
Bia Hoi is called Fresh Beer because it is literally brewed every day and delivered to the corner shops and restaurants in small metal kegs. The light – and oh-so-refreshing – beer is never bottled. And, when it’s gone, it’s gone until the next day. The best part about Bia Hoi is that it only costs about 5,000 VND (that’s equal to a US quarter). Both weary travelers and locals shuffle into bars late in the afternoon for a mug (or two!) of Fresh Beer.
Cheap swill is not our typical M.O., but it works in Vietnam. However, beer enthusiasts can also enjoy craft beer in Hoi An – a relatively new concept, but one that is catching on. Find the best bars in Hoi An on TripAdvisor.
#10 Eat at the Best Hoi An Restaurants
One of the top reasons to visit Hoi An is the food! While the Central Market is an excellent place to start, there are numerous restaurant options in the city. And – just like with the hotels, massages and beers – Hoi An restaurants range from basic (sometimes with questionable hygiene) to upscale (with pricey cuisine in formal settings).
Best Restaurants in Hoi An
Some of the best places to eat in Hoi An are modest and mundane establishments, where the chefs prepare incredibly good food using generations-old recipes. Likewise, some of the ritzy eateries are over-hyped…and over-priced.
For street food, we recommend following the local crowds to find top cheap eats. Searching for the best pho in Hoi An? Look for the most crowded street corners where every plastic stool is occupied. Want a fine dining experience? Ask your hotel for recommendations and read fellow traveler reviews on TripAdvisor.
Highly-Touted: Morning Glory Original
We heard time and again that Morning Glory was the best restaurant in Hoi An for authentic Vietnamese cuisine. It was highly recommended in Lonely Planet, which can often deter us, as the quality of food and service sometimes diminish after being rated in such a popular guide book. However, the food was fresh from market and better than promised.
The owner, Ms. Vy, learned to cook in her parent’s kitchen and now has several restaurants – including another one of our favorites, Mermaid (which at this time is temporarily closed for renovations). The concept behind the restaurants is to provide high-quality, traditional street food in a classy environment. Although, perhaps, not what some would consider a local Hoi An, Vietnam experience, the food exceeded our expectations…even if it is on the pricey side!
Eating in Hoi An restaurants isn’t restricted to the Old Town. For a less touristic taste of local food, we tried the fare at the riverside restaurants east of the city center. Away from the tourist crowds, we let the waitstaff guide us in ordering local specialties. We found the overall experiences to be much more memorable than at some of the highly-praised restaurants, which is why we think they are actually the best places to eat in Hoi An.
At Song Thu we ordered a recommended beef dish – and our waitress (who spoke very little English) patiently showed us how to properly consume it. At the end of our meal, we were treated to an exotic fresh fruit that we dipped into a mixture of spices.
When we dined at Nha Hang Vuon Hoang, where they have no English menus, I somehow managed to order the day’s fresh fish. What I got was an inch-thick, juicy tuna steak baked in a banana leaf with garlic, tomato and other spices that was priced at about 100,000 VND (about $4 USD).
Hoi An Highlights: Interacting with the Locals
Of all the activities in Hoi An, we think the most meaningful is conversing with the locals. You can check off a list of the top Hoi An places to visit, but nothing is more interesting than meeting the people who live there.
At the riverside restaurants where we ate, we often noticed the staff members were eager to practice their English with us. One girl showed us a bottle opener and asked what the word was…and then practiced it over and over, “Bottle opener. Bottle opener.” (Much like us trying to learn the correct pronunciation of simple phrases like, “Thank You” or, rather, “Cam On,” which is more difficult than we thought it would be!)
Although there are many places to stay in Hoi An Old Town, we opted to stay in a hotel along the river, which is surrounded by residences. The next-door neighbor is Mrs. Ha; she runs a pop-up sidewalk convenience store, arranges tours through her friends and hand-washes laundry for a mere 20,000 VND ($1 USD) per kilo.
Whenever we would come and go from the hotel, she was the first to greet us and her bright smile is infectious. She sells beer and water at half the price of the hotel, just 75 cents, and lets us sit at her table on the water’s edge where we can catch a late afternoon breeze and lovely sunsets. She would chat with us for a bit, but then laughing would excuse herself to get back to work. Always busy. Always smiling.
We’ve made an effort to connect with the local people; we formed friendships and continue to stay in touch with many of the people we met along the way.
Hoi An Hotels
There is no shortage of places to stay in Hoi An – from luxury beach resorts to center of town homestays – and there are a variety of price ranges to match. Both ends of that spectrum were a little too much for us, so we settled in the middle with a six-night stay at a mid-range hotel on the outskirts of the Old Town, Waterfront Hoi An Resort (formerly called Sun River). It had all the amenities of a contemporary hotel but was nestled in a neighborhood right on the Thu Bon River.
Where To Stay In Hoi An
Many people think the best place to stay in Hoi An is the city center, but we disagree. There are many hotels in Hoi An Old Town, but we thought it was better to stay away from the tourist crowds where we could get a different perspective of the city. By staying in a neighborhood, we experienced a more local atmosphere. Whether you are looking for the best hostels in Hoi An – or top-rated 5-star hotels in Hoi An – you can start your search online at Booking.com – like we do!
The Waterfront Hoi An boutique hotel was our favorite hotel in Vietnam. The hotel is about a 20-minute walk from the Old Town (10 minutes by bike) along a riverside path. The chic hotel rooms feature soft (or at least softer-than-normal-for-Vietnam) beds and a balcony that overlooks the river. They offer free use of bicycles and have a surprisingly refreshing swimming pool, which felt wonderful after a day of touring Hoi An top attractions.
One of the best amenities, however, is the delicious all-you-can-eat, made-to-order breakfast, which is served on a river-facing patio. As we ate breakfast in the morning, we watched fisherman put out their nets…and then while drinking beers with Mrs. Ha in the evening, we watched them gather them up again.
Beach Hotels in Hoi An
Visitors who want to stay in Hoi An beach hotels have ample choices, too. Sunrise Premium consistently ranks as the best beach resort in Hoi An, but there are many Hoi An, Vietnam hotels on the beach offering resort amenities at a range of prices. Start your search for the best priced Hoi An beach accommodation on Booking.com (where you can read fellow traveler reviews).
Hoi An, Vietnam Map
Use this link to Google Maps for our Hoi An Attractions Map.
How Many Days in Hoi An?
Now that you have all of our tips on what to see in Hoi An you are probably wondering how long to spend in Hoi An. We ended up staying in the city for a week – extending our initial 6 days to 7 days in Hoi An. While we had no problem filling our time in Hoi An, we think most visitors will want to limit their stay to 1 to 5 days in the city.
Hoi An, Vietnam Itinerary: 1 to 5 Days
Use our recommended itineraries that include the best things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam to plan your trip.
1 Day in Hoi An
With just One Day in Hoi An, we recommend you start with the best things to see in Hoi An: Old Town sights. Dine at one of the top-recommended restaurants for lunch. In the afternoon, rent a bike to tour the area on two wheels; go all the way to the beach if you have time! End the day at the Night Market where you can shop for souvenirs and feast on the best street food in Hoi An.
2 Days in Hoi An
You can see a lot more if you stay in Hoi An for 2 days! On the first day, explore the buzzing Central Market before you begin your all-day tour of the top Hoi An, Vietnam attractions in the Old Town. (You may need to purchase a second Hoi An sightseeing ticket so that you can see up to 10 sights). Cool off at your hotel swimming pool, then head out for an early evening Fresh Beer. At night, go to the Night Market and try some of the best things to eat in Hoi An from the food vendors.
On the second day, go biking in Hoi An. Cycle through the countryside to the north beaches. Eat a seaside lunch and lounge around the beach or partake in one of the adrenaline activities, like parasailing or surfing. Get back to the city in the afternoon to visit one of the custom tailors in Hoi An and get fitted for a new dress or suit. For dinner, dine at one of the riverside restaurants and stroll through the Old Town after dark to see the ancient city lit up.
3 Days in Hoi An
We think spending three days in Hoi An is ideal! For a 3-Day Hoi An Itinerary, we recommend following our above advice of what to do in Hoi An for 2 days, then on the last day, take one of the all-day trips from Hoi An, like a boat trip to the Cham Islands.
4 Days in Hoi An
Planning what to do for 4 days is no problem! Start by following our tips for what to do in Hoi An for 3 days. On your last day get an early start and visit the famous Fish Market, then spend the rest of the morning visiting more Hoi An must-see attractions or simply wander the picturesque streets and revel in the charm. For lunch, eat at one of the Central Market kiosks. In the afternoon, get a pampering spa treatment – either a massage or herbal bath…or both! For dinner, make reservations at one of the Hoi An’s fine dining establishments or mix it up and go explore the many great food options in Da Nang!
5 Days in Hoi An
Use the above outline for how to spend 4 days in Hoi An – and on Day 5 add another tour or cultural activity. Join a Hoi An local guide for the bike tour to My Son Sanctuary or take a trip to Golden Bridge – or stick around for one of the tours in Hoi An, like a chef-taught cooking class.
Tips for Your Hoi An Trip
Just a few more tips for your trip to Hoi An, Vietnam!
Getting To Hoi An
Hoi An can be reached by bus or car. There is no airport in Hoi An, so visitors who book flights to Hoi An will land at the Da Nang airport, which has domestic connections and international flights from major Southeast Asia cities. Start your search for the best deals on Hoi An flights on SkyScanner!
Da Nang to Hoi An
If flying, getting from DaNang to Hoi An is easy; just hop in a taxi (expect to pay about $20 USD), take the bus, arrange transportation in advance through your accommodations OR book a transfer on Viator.
Hoi An Weather
The weather in Hoi An is tropical; meaning it is hot most of the year – especially in July, so don’t forget the sunscreen and a travel hat. The rainy season is from September to December – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to visit! Just be sure to bring a travel umbrella and packable raincoat!
Hoi An Guide Book and Map
When we traveled through Vietnam, we used a Lonely Planet travel book, which was very helpful! We did not, however, have maps of the cities we visited – and we wished we had! Buy the Lonely Planet book and a map for your trip!
We think travel insurance is essential – especially when traveling to places like Vietnam! Be sure to travel protected with a comprehensive plan, like the ones offered by World Nomads.
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