Hoi An’s richness in history and beauty makes it a must on any Vietnam itinerary. What used to be a bustling trading port has now become tourists' favorite getaway destination for those wanting to step back in time. Hoi An is also one of the most picturesque destinations in Vietnam. So if you're wanting to walk through the well-preserved buildings and streets, as well as experience the lantern-lit nights. Then, Hoi An must be on your list!
To help you plan your trip, here is your ultimate guide to the top 10 things you must do when visiting Hoi An, Vietnam. We’ve included everything you need to know including the best time to visit, how to get around, and where to stay in Hoi An. We’ve also added a lot of our top tips to help you discover and experience Hoi An better.
Table of Contents
1. Walk Around the Old Quarter
There is so much history and beauty found in the old quarter and the best way to explore is to walk around or rent a bicycle. One thing you shouldn't miss when in Hoi An is the Old Quarter. Discover the old town of Hoi An as you pass the small alleys and the colonial streets that make every corner full of photo opportunities. You can also find many souvenir shops, restaurants, street food, tea and coffee stalls within the old quarter. To avoid the crowd, try to visit on the weekdays or walk around early in the morning.
2. Visit the Night Market and Enjoy the Lanterns
What better way to see the lantern capital of Vietnam than experiencing Hoi An at night. As the sun goes down, the lanterns within the old quarter get brighter, bringing vibrance to the old streets. There's few things you can do in Hoi An at night. With most people hanging out along Thu Bon river, head across An Hoi bridge and discover the night market. You can find plenty of stalls selling souvenirs to take home, as well as local street food to enjoy.
You will also find the famous lantern shops lining the streets of Nguyen Hoang with hundreds of lanterns hanging on display. This is where most people take their obligatory lantern photos. Nowadays, shop owners ask around 20,000 VND (1 USD) for one person to take a photo. Other than that, you can also find lantern strings all around the old town.
3. Relax Along the River
There are many restaurants and coffee shops along the river where you can enjoy the night scene and relax. However, the best place to do so is at Madam Kieu’s restaurant. The prices are on a higher scale but we recommend grabbing a drink and sitting outside the restaurant. They have live music happening nightly and the atmosphere is very lively which matches their decor.
You can also take a tour on one of the colorful boats along the Thy Bon river. Tours go both day and night and the price for two people starts at 150,000 VND (7 USD) for a 30-minute ride. At night, the boats are lit with lanterns as they row slowly down the river. You will also find many vendors selling small paper boats with small candles for about 5,000 VND (0.20 USD) each. Locals like to set these flickering lanterns on the river as a ritual both for prayers of good luck and for their ancestors.
4. View the Old Quarter from Above
Have a different perspective of the old town as you view it from the highest rooftop cafe in the old quarter. Head to 92 Station Restaurant & Cafe and enjoy the view of the colonial buildings from above. Their menu also offers a variety of drinks but we loved their refreshing juices that are priced reasonably. It tends to get busy during day time and a bit more relaxed at night. They have multiple floors you can sit at but their rooftop is the place to go. It is decorated with many flowers, plants, and a platform to enjoy the view of the old town.
5. Visit the Precious Heritage Art Gallery
Discover more of Vietnam through the photographs of Rehahn, a renowned photographer, who spent his time documenting and photographing a glimpse of the lives of the northern ethnic minorities. Spend some time walking through the five rooms of the museum presenting hundreds of portraits, tribal songs, and over 60 ethnic costumes. What makes the museum worth visiting are the stories behind each photograph from the tribe or from Rehanh. Along with the costumes are also photographs of women wearing the exact same costume on display and have given it to the museum. The Precious Heritage Art Gallery is an incredible work of art that preserves and showcases the magnificent customs and traditions of Vietnam. The museum is free of charge and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You also get a chance to buy photo books and postcards at the shop by the entrance.
6. Get Tailored Clothes
Besides the lantern-lit nights and colonial streets, Hoi An is also famous for its textile industry. There are many tailors lined up in the old quarter where you can get a custom-tailored garment for a reasonable price. Depending on the items you want, make sure you have enough time as it can take 2 to 5 days for your clothes to finish.
7. Visit the Hoi An Market
Get a glimpse of the local life at the Hoi An Market with local vendors selling fresh produce in the morning. The market is divided into two sections - souvenir shops and food stalls. The hustle and bustle of the market make it worth a visit. You can bargain and try different local food for low prices. At night, you will find souvenir stalls on the street just outside the market. The vendors sell products ranging from local handicrafts to street food.
8. Taste the Famous Hoi An Bahn Mi
Do not miss the chance to have a taste of the most famous Bahn Mi in Vietnam. For 20,000 to 30,000 VND (0.90 to 1.30 USD) for a Bahn Mi, decide for yourself if Bánh Mì Phượng lives up to its fame. As described by Anthony Bourdain, it is a “symphony in a package.” The bread is crunchy and crispy on the outside and airy and fresh on the inside. It is also loaded with lots of fillings to choose from. This includes fresh pate, pork, beef, chicken, cheese, egg, and an assortment of fresh vegetables. Because of its fame, the stand gets quite busy with long lineups so expect to wait.
9. Try Hoi An’s Food Specialty: The Cao Lau Noodles
Cao Lau is a local dish that is exclusively made in Hoi An which is known for its thick and chewy rice noodles. Because the noodles are soaked in lye water, it has a grayish-brown color and a distinctive flavor. The dish also comes with slices of barbecue pork, pork crackling, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and is finished with a spoonful of stock.
As you can only find this dish in Hoi An, legend says that the water used in boiling the noodles must come from the Bá Lễ well located only in the town. For the best place to taste Hoi An’s Cao Lau dish, go to Thanh Cao Lau Restaurant. This small local restaurant specializes in Cao Lau noodles as it is the only dish they serve. They tend to get very busy, so head there early or after lunch rush hour.
10. Explore the paddy fields and countryside on a motorbike
There’s so much more of Hoi An than the ancient town and the best way to discover it is on a motorbike. You can find many locals working on the farm or you can discover expansive rice fields that can go as far as your eyes can see. Exploring on a motorbike can help you discover more of the local culture as you drive in the small alleys. Drive along the river to find local fishermen heading out for the day or women sewing colorful fishnets. Getting out of the usual tourist area opens up a lot of learning opportunities and gives you a better glimpse of the local's lives.
Best Time to Visit Hoi An
Hoi An has two distinctive seasons. The dry season starts from January to August and the rain season is from September to November. With that said, the best time for hitting the beach is from April to August when it’s the hottest. While the best time to stroll around the old quarter is from December to March when the temperatures are mild.
How Many Days Should you Stay in Hoi An
We recommended visiting Hoi An for at least 2 to 3 days. This will help you enjoy the ancient town without rushing. Depending on the weather and season you are visiting, it might be too hot or too busy to be walking around the town the whole day. Visiting in 2 to 3 days will allow you to fully experience both the lantern-lit streets at night and relaxed days in the old quarter. If you wish to have your clothes tailored, you will need to stay for up to 5 days or return later to pick up your clothes.
How to Get to Hoi An
The closest airport to Hoi An is in Da Nang city which is around 30 km away. From Da Nang International Airport, you can take a taxi or GRAB to Hoi An which takes about 45 minutes. Expect to pay around 300,000 VND to 400,000 VND (13 to 18 USD).
Where to Stay in Hoi An
There are many accommodations available in Hoi An that fit every traveler. Depending on what you want you to do and see in Hoi An, there are a few areas you can stay at. If you wish to be within walking distance from the ancient town, pick your accommodation within the old quarter. You will also be close to most of the restaurants and bars in the area. There are also plenty of hotels and restaurants available on the island where the Hoi An Night Market is located. But if you wish to stay closer to the beach, a great area to stay in is around Cam An.
During our trip, we have stayed at Little Riverside Hoi An. While it’s only a few minutes away from the old quarter, the hotel is located next to the river in a quiet setting. The hotel also has friendly and helpful staff. The rooms are clean and spacious and the beds are comfortable. The hotel also has a rooftop pool overlooking the river where you can watch the sunset. We also recommend trying out their hot stone massages at their spa.
You can check their availability here.
How to Get Around in Hoi An
To fully experience the old quarter, explore on foot or on a bicycle. Most of the hotels in Hoi An offer free bikes to use for exploring the old town. If you want to explore further into the countryside, rent a motorbike at your accommodation. While rentals vary, expect to pay around 140,000 VND (6.15 USD) for day's rent.
And there you have the best 10 things to do in Hoi An!
We hope this list has helped you plan your trip and make you love exploring the old town as much we did. Hoi An is one of our favorite destinations in Vietnam and we would like for you to get the same experience as us or even better!
Let us know in the comments down below which of the top 10 things to do in Hoi An is your favorite.