Adorned with colourful lanterns and studded with tiny silk shops, Hoi An will steal your heart before you can blink. It’s a place of beauty, elegance and good food.
Located on the coast of the South China Sea, it’s a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site to explore. You’ll find an abundance of things to do in Hoi An as well as neighbouring Da Nang.
From the iconic must-see Lantern Festival, ancient temple ruins to beaches and tailoring shops, this ancient town is full of surprises however long you stay here.
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The Best 15 Things to Do in Hoi An
We lived and worked in Hoi An for over 2 months and here’s our take on the top things to do in Hoi An and beyond.
1. Time Your Visit with The Lantern Festival in Hoi An
A must-see in Hoi An is the atmospheric Lantern Festival. It’s one of the most amazing things to do in Hoi An if you are planning your visit in February.
While the festivities take place on the 14th day of each lunar month, the first full moon celebration in the new year is the most impressive.
At dusk, the traffic stops and the lights go out transforming Hoi An’s Old Town into a fairytale. Only a few shops nearby leave their elaborate lanterns glowing in the dark.
This is the time to head towards the An Hoi bridge. All along the banks of Hoai River, locals bring out candle-lit lanterns to the streets. Releasing them into the river symbolizes wishes of hope, prosperity, and good luck for the future.
For a small fare, you can buy one of these lanterns and join the locals in their celebrations.
Where is the Lantern Festival in Hoi An?
The festival takes place in Hoi An’s Old Town near the An Hoi bridge and along the banks of Hoai River.
What time does the Lantern Festival start in Hoi An?
It starts at dusk and finishes at around 10 pm.
Here are the dates of the Hoi An Lantern Festival for 2020:
8th January, 7th February, 7th March, 6th April, 6th May, 5th June, 4th July, 3rd August, 1st September, 30th October, 28th November, 28th December.
2. Explore Hoi An’s Old Town at Sunrise
The Old Town at sunrise is a magical place in Hoi An. At this time, the light is soothing. As the soft golden glow slithers down the yellow colonial buildings, it creates a fascinating backdrop for your best photos of Hoi An.
There’s no rush on the streets yet. Locals are having breakfast outside their little shops, having a chat and getting ready for the day ahead. In a couple of hours, the streets will be flooded with visitors.
Of all the things to do in Hoi An, the sunrise tour will be the most memorable part of your trip to Hoi An.
3. Experience the Beauty of Silence at Reaching Out Tea House
Doing something that is fun and at the same time helps support the local community is a great way to travel. Such experiences enrich your travels and make you more aware of the surroundings.
If you are wondering what are those things to do in Hoi An, Reaching Out Tea House is your answer. It’s one of the best places to visit in Hoi An for experiencing authentic Vietnam.
The teahouse run by hearing and speech impaired ladies is unlike any other coffee place in town. Here, by using conversation cubes to place your order, you are encouraged to explore the beauty of silence.
4. Cycle the Vietnamese Countryside
As a small place, Hoi An is great to explore on a bike. Most of the guesthouses have bikes available for you to get around the town.
A couple of other great things to do in Hoi An with a bike include cycling to An Bang Beach and through the Vietnamese countryside. Spot the water buffalos, enjoy the bright-green rice paddies and wave away bats at dusk.
For a fun day of cycling, join a bike tour to the surrounding villages which includes a paddle in a round bamboo basket boat – one of the must-do things in Hoi An.
5. Visit the Ancient My Son Ruins
Another must-see thing in Hoi An is the My Son Sanctuary. Dating back to the 4th-12th century, the Hindu temple complex is even older than the Angkor temples site in Cambodia.
The 72 Champa Kingdom temples were discovered back in 1885 by the French but sadly, some of them were damaged during the Vietnam-American war.
During the war, The Viet Cong used the site as a military base and therefore the site was bombed by the Americans destroying the majority of the ancient monuments.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, the My Son complex is one of the top places to visit Hoi An. Be mindful when exploring the site and don’t stray off the marked path. Some unexploded mines still haven’t been cleared fully from the valley. Also, wear modest outfits as it is a religious site.
How to visit My Son Sanctuary
There are many ways you can reach the My Son Sanctuary. You can grab a bike from your guesthouse for a leisurely cycle. But it’s a 90-km trip so you might want to consider renting a scooter which costs around $8 per day.
There are plenty of operators in Hoi An who offer organised tours. Or you can pre-book a half-day tour online.
6. Play in the Sun at An Bang Beach
Hoi An is a beach destination and naturally, one of the top things to do in Hoi An includes a day out in the sun. Grab a taxi or hop on a bike to get there.
The white-sand An Bang beach is great for having some chill time and a paddle in the East Vietnam Sea. Take extra care when cycling to the beach though. The main road is narrow and can be busy with trucks and coaches going back and forth.
For even more fun things to do in Hoi An, escape the busy town and head to the Cham islands. There’s a speed boat service that picks you up from Hoi An and takes you to the secluded beaches and fishing villages.
7. Eat the Best Cao Lau in Town
Hoi An is known across Vietnam for its speciality, Cao Lau. It’s a delicious chewy rice noodle dish that usually comes with braised spiced pork (sometimes shrimp), pork crackling, greens and a spoonful of tasty broth.
You’ll find Cao Lau in most restaurants in Hoi An, but Restaurant 339 is the one place where we enjoyed the dish the most. The chef here kindly made a portion of Cao Lau with tofu instead of pork on several occasions.
The 339 restaurant is right on the main road to An Bang beach and makes it a great pitstop on the way there or back. Great mango smoothies too.
8. Try Delicious Veggie Food at Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant
We don’t normally recommend restaurants as must do things, but eating at Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant has to be one of the top things to do in Hoi An.
If you are a vegetarian or enjoy meat-free dishes, head to Minh Hien. It’s one of the best veggie restaurants in town. Actually, there are two of them.
The one located in the town centre (50 Trần Cao Vân, tp. Hội An) also runs cooking classes. The other one, which we visited almost daily during our stay in Hoi An, is located slightly outside the main tourist area, on a quieter street (30A Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoi An).
Try their delightful tofu with passion fruit sauce or the veggie version of the iconic Vietnamese dish, White Rose, which is traditionally made with pork and shrimp. The Won Ton here is also great.
9. Learn to Cook Mouth-Watering Vietnamese Dishes
Learning how to cook delicious Vietnamese food at a cooking class will be one of the most fun things to do in Hoi An.
With a good range of cooking classes available in Hoi An and nearby villages, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
During the class, you get to go to the local market to pick up the fresh ingredients, make dishes from scratch and then enjoy what you cooked.
Plus, most of the time in SE Asia, you get to cook in an open-air kitchen which adds even more authenticity to the experience.
If you love food but don’t enjoy cooking, you can always go on a street food tour around Hoi An. Food tours are a great way to get to know the local cuisine and try the traditional dishes.
Top tip: Take the food tour at the start of your trip so you know what and where to eat for the rest of your visit to Hoi An.
10. Update Your Wardrobe with Tailored Garments in Hoi An
Of all the things to do in Hoi An, having clothes tailored for you should be at the top of your agenda. You could have a whole new wardrobe customised for you for a very reasonable price.
That’s why Hoi An is considered one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for getting clothes made for you in no time.
You won’t be short of shops offering tailoring services. The competition is fierce. From suits to shoes to swimwear, you can have anything made to suit your style and taste.
During our visit, we had a lovely piece of clothing made for us within 24 hours at Lu Ly Couture. It’s located on the edge of the old town opposite the market (39 Hoang Dieu St., Hoi An).
11. Treat Yourself to a Spa Day in Hoi An
If you’re wondering what there’s to do in Hoi An when it’s raining, you can treat yourself to a blissful full-body scrub, facial, hot stone or an invigorating Vietnamese massage.
That’s exactly what we did at An Pandanus Spa on a stormy day in Hoi An. The place is not as fancy as the other spas in the Old Town, but the service is professional and much cheaper.
For $12 you can get a 60-minute facial. A 70-minute full-body massage costs just $14. They also offer a 3 to 5-hour personalised pampering packages. We can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy day in Hoi An.
12. Cross The Japanese Covered Bridge
The iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, locally known as Pagoda Bridge (Chua Cau) is a must-see in Hoi An.
It looks especially stunning at night and glows beautifully once the sun goes down. It was originally built in the 1600s to connect Hoi An with the Chinese Quarter.
According to the Japanese legend, the bridge was built as a way to prevent earthquakes in Japan. Inside the bridge, check out the temple dedicated to the weather god, Tran Vo Bac De. Locals still leave offerings to this god in the hope that he’ll subside any looming earthquakes.
Also, look out for the dog and monkey statues as you cross the bridge. The animals represent the year of the dog (1593) when the construction was started and the year of the monkey (1595), when the bridge was finished.
13. Take a Scenic Day Trip to Ba Na Hills
Located around 70 km northwest from Hoi An, Ba Na Hills close to Da Nang is a newly discovered destination in Central Vietnam for its iconic Golden Bridge.
Opened in 2018, the 150-meter long pedestrian bridge suspended between two giant hands has been designed to connect the world’s longest cable car station with Jardin D’Amour.
Similarly to Dalat in the central highlands, this place has a European vibe to it. It’s like Vietnam’s Disneyland.
Some of the main things to do in Ba Na Hills include a ride in the world’s highest and longest cable car, visiting an ancient French village in the hills, wine cellar, wax museum, Fantasy Park, and, of course, the world-famous Golden Bridge.
How to get to Ba Na Hills from Hoi An/Da Nang
The site is open from 7.30 am – 9.30 pm and costs $33 per adult. You can buy tickets on arrival.
You can arrange a taxi to get to Ba Na Hills from Hoi An or take a bus from Da Nang. Also, if you have a Vietnamese sim card, downloading the Grab app could be a good option. It’s like Europe’s Uber car service.
For convenience, you can also arrange a tour with pick up from your hotel in Hoi An and bus transfer to the hills. The tour price also includes the cable car ride, refreshments, lunch and an English-speaking guide.
14. Experience the Art of Silk Weaving at Hoi An’s Silk Village
If you ever feel stuck for ideas of what to buy in Hoi An and don’t mind splashing out, buy silk crafts. Hoi An is known across Vietnam for its long-standing silk-production traditions. And the silk village is one of the best places to visit in Hoi An for luxury shopping.
Here, apart from shopping, you’ll learn all about the Hoi An silk creation, from seeing and feeding the silkworms to witnessing the silk being transformed into beautiful garments. It’s truly a must-see place in Hoi An.
The silk village set in a beautiful location within the Hoi An Silk Village Resort and Spa is only 1 km away from Hoi An’s Old Town. It offers daily tours and workshops where you can try your hand at weaving silk to understand the process better.
If you stay at the resort, you get a complimentary silk weaving tour. Otherwise, book a tour via local operators or online. This highly rated Silk Tour offers a half-day experience at the silk village including pick up, tickets to the silk showroom, lunch and an English-speaking tour guide.
To support the local artisans, pop into the silk shop to buy a beautiful and very reasonably priced silk souvenir.
15. Sip Ice-Cold Beer by the River Thu Bồn
Enjoying Vietnamese beer by the river every other day to us was one of the top things to do in Hoi An. Mainly because we could mix with the locals. They have it all set up there.
Sit at one of the tables, order Bia Saigon or the local Biere Larueand and enjoy the quietness away from the Old Town along the river to the east.
While in Vietnam, you also need to try Vietnamese fresh beer. It’s one of the must-do things in Hoi An. Fresh beer can be cheaper than water and is available at Minh Hien Restaurant for a mere 3,000 VND ($0.13 USD!). Have a go and try it, it’s refreshing.
Hoi An Travel Tips
Is Hoi An worth visiting?
Absolutely yes. Hoi An is worth visiting for its unique ancient architecture, great food scene, artisan silk crafts and opportunities to update your wardrobe with tailor-made garments.
How many days do you need in Hoi An?
Plan at least 3 days to visit Hoi An. Add another day or two if you’d like to visit nearby Da Nang and see the world-famous Golden Bridge in Na Ba Hills.
What is the best time to visit Hoi An?
February-July is the dry season in Hoi An. We stayed there from May-July and had plenty of sunshine and just a couple of rainy days.
How do I Get to Hoi An?
It’s easy to travel to Hoi An from within Vietnam or the surrounding countries.
Da Nang International Airpor is conveniently located in central Da Nang.
From the airport, you can take a 10-minute taxi ride into the town at around 60,000 VND (15,000 goes towards the airport entrance/exit fees). From Da Nang, you can either take a local bus to Hoi An or a taxi.
To take the hassle out of your trip to Hoi An, You can now also arrange an airport shuttle transfer in advance. That’s one way to arrive at the ancient town in style and sweat-free.
The most comfortable and fastest way to get to Da Nang from Hue is by train. It takes just under 3 hours.
To find the best ticket, use the friendly and efficient 12Go Asia website. We used this website extensively during our travels in Vietnam and found it super reliable. Plus, you don’t have to worry about printing tickets, just show them on your smartphone.
Da Nang to Hoi An
Make sure you catch a green taxi, they have the meter running. However, the price to Hoi An might be set as it’s a long drive from Da Nang. It should cost you around 320,000 VND ($17-$18).
By Local Bus
Frequent buses between Da Nang – Hoi An run every day, with the last bus leaving Da Nang at around 6 pm. It takes around 45 minutes to get to Hoi An, depending on the traffic.
The bus ticket should cost 16,000 VND ($0.70) but check the price on the yellow sticker inside the bus and have the exact change.
Where is the bus station?
Once you step outside the train station, locate Pizza Hut nearby. A few doors away (outside house number 299) you’ll see a bus stop. That’s where you can catch a bus (#1) to Hoi An which goes every half an hour.
Where to Stay in Hoi An
You won’t be short of accommodation options in Hoi An. But if you want to stay in beautiful locally-run villas and guesthouses, stay outside the Old Town.
These are the villas in Hoi An we stayed and loved:
Jolie Villa Hoi An Homestay
Just a few streets north of the Hoi An bus station, on a quiet side street you will find Jolie Villa.
Complete with clean crisp sheets and big comfortable beds, it’s a great place for relaxing after a day’s explorations in the buzzy Old Town. Try getting a room with a balcony.
Breakfast is not included, but it can be arranged for a few extra dollars. Plus, there are lots of good local restaurants located nearby.
The villa sits on a lovely quiet street, close enough to cycle into the town. Bikes are included in the room rate.
Full House Homestay
Around the corner on a parallel street to Jolie Villa, you will find Full House Villa. It’s a lovely guesthouse with beautiful rooms and generous balconies facing the beautiful street.
The rooms are clean and spacious. Good breakfast is included in the room rate and here comes a perk, it’s served all day! Bikes are included in the room rate.
Renting an Apartment in Hoi An
For a longer stay in Hoi An, consider renting an apartment. It’s easy to arrange a viewing with the local estate agent.
The best way to find up to date information about renting an apartment in Hoi An is to join the ex-pat community on Facebook.
We rented a 2-bedroom flat a 15-minute cycle away from the Old Town. It was fully furnished and came with super-fast internet.
Comfort Food in Hoi An
If you’ve been travelling around SE Asia extensively, this section is for you. While Asian food is delicious, we know how much you can crave some comfort food once in a while.
Here are some of the best western places we’ve come across in Hoi An.
This Aussie restaurant/bakery is amazing. A great working space too. It’s a little pricey but the food is fantastic. Good Vietnamese coffee.
Try their Fish & Chips, Sunday roast in a bun or make your own deli sandwich. Check out their specials board too, they always have something good going on.
3 Dragons Gastropub
The 3 Dragons gastropub by the river serves the best burgers in town. Trust us, we’ve done the research. Again, a bit pricey, but worth the visit if you are feeling slightly homesick.
A funky place for some comforting grub. The veggie burger was slightly plane, but the blue cheese burger – fabulous. Chunky chips are a delight.
Are you going to Hoi An any time soon? What are you going to see and do? Drop us a line in the comments below.
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