Hoi An has a reputation for being one of the prettiest and most visited towns in Vietnam. While all times of day are stunning, nothing compares to seeing this town at night. The paper lanterns glow above your head, contrasting the dark night sky and casting a dull glow on the yellow shops that line the street. You’ll feel as if you’re walking through a beautiful dream. There are so many great things to do in Hoi An!
Hoi An is my favorite place in the world and once you go there you will see why. I have lived in three different countries, including Vietnam, and I’ve been to over 45 countries, but Hoi An keeps calling me back. There’s nowhere else like it in the world and it has my heart.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to the 800 historic buildings that sit within the city and were not destroyed in the war. Exploring the ancient town of Hoi An makes you feel as if you have taken a time machine back to the 17th century. The city also sits between the luscious countryside and the sunny coast. There are plenty of things to see and do, below you will find a list of the very best things to do in Hoi An.
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Table of Contents
Hoi An: Things to Do
1. Savor the Specialities
Travelers all around Vietnam will tell you that Hoi An has some of the very best food in the country. With influences from the Chinese, French, and Japanese, the food in Hoi An is incredibly unique. Your first stop should be Banh Mi Phuong. Anthony Bourdain visits this spot on his show “No Reservations” after hearing that it has the best banh mi in town. I went there on both trips and I was completely satisfied by the crispy baguette filled with the delightful combination of veggies, chili sauce, and pork.
Additionally, you can’t leave the city without trying the famous white rose dumplings and Cao Lao noodles. The dumplings are handmade by one family, who focus on shaping the delicate white dough around the meat. The family distributes the dumplings to most of the restaurants in town. Cao Lao noodles are brown rice based noodles topped with pork, herbs, and crispy rice crackers sitting in a delectable meat broth. Morning Glory is a great restaurant where you can get both of these dishes. No matter where you eat, you’re sure to be happy.
#2 Treat Yourself to Tailored Goods
People travel far and wide to get a tailor-made suit from Vietnam, but the tailors in Hoi An are the very best. Dreaming of a particular fabric or design but you don’t want to break the bank? This is the perfect place to go. You can show pictures of what you want, get measured, and pick up your item within a few days for a very affordable price. There are many different tailors so spend time shopping around for the best prices. You can also get customized leather goods of great quality.
If you’re only going to be there for a couple days, then you should go immediately so that the tailor has time to make the item before you leave. I got a leather backpack, a leather duffel, a romper, and a two piece outfit when I was there and I was super happy with all of my purchases!
Best Tailors Hoi An:
- A Dong Chic
- Be Be Tailor
- Blue Chic Tailor
- Vanda Tailors
- Kimmy Tailor
#3 Lounge on An Bang Beach
Hoi An is warm year round, so there is plenty of time to soak in the sun at the beach. There are many beaches near Hoi An, but An Bang is the best one. This beach features beautiful white sand and is much less crowded than other beaches. There are plenty of sea-side restaurants to try or you can rent a chair for the day and get food and drinks brought to you. It’s a peaceful way to spend the day.
If you are staying in the Ancient Town, then you can rent a bike or walk to An Bang Beach. The beach is about 3 kilometers from the center of Ancient Town. It’s beautiful stroll as you pass by rice paddies and farms to get there.
#4 Roam through Ancient Town
Once you walk through the streets of town, you will understand why I fell in love with this magical city. You will feel like you are transported back in time as you walk along the narrow streets lined with yellow houses and colorful paper lanterns. Take some time to just wander and stop along the way at things that interest you.
There is nothing better than nighttime in Hoi An. The streets are lit up by the magnificent paper lanterns and people come out on the streets to walk amongst them. If you roam the streets at night, then you will feel as if you are in a dream. I wish I could transport myself back there.
#5 Explore the History
Hoi An is one of the few towns that was relatively spared from bombing during the Vietnamese War. That is part of where its charm comes from and one of the reasons you can still explore much of its history. Learn about Hoi An’s ancient past at various historical sights.
One of the best and most famous stops is the Japanese Covered Bridge. Here you will find ornate wood carvings of monkeys and dogs and you will see Vietnamese couples taking photos together as it is considered a romantic spot. Some of the tourist sights in Hoi An require a ticket, but you can purchase the Ancient Town entrance ticket for 120,000 VND that will give you admission to five of the attractions, so choose the ones that interest you most!
Sights in Ancient Town:
#6 Boat Down the River
The Thu Bon River runs right through the center of town. You can rent a boat for a short 15-min ride and view the city from the water. If you go during the day you can see the fishermen cast their nets wide into the river or you can go during sunset and watch as lanterns begin to light up the water’s edge.
#7 Shop at the Central Market
This market sits in the middle of town right along the river. There are plenty of different stalls that sell things from fresh seafood to handicrafts. I enjoyed stopping at the fruit stands and picking up plenty of local varieties to eat during my stay. It’s Vietnamese custom to bargain, so make sure to practice before you show up!
#8 Bike Around Town
Hoi An is a pretty small town, but there is so much to see right outside of it. There is a verdant countryside that sits right next to the downtown area. Renting a bike or a motorbike is a wonderful way to see the rice paddies and villages nearby. Most rentals will only cost you a few dollars and you can take them around for hours. You do not need to make any reservations in advance.
If you’ve always wanted to try to drive a motorbike, this is the perfect place to go because the streets are quiet. You can’t bike in designated parts of Ancient Town, but you can spend the day cycling around and exploring the beautiful landscapes that sit directly outside of the city.
#9 Learn to Cook Vietnamese Food
One of the most popular activities in Hoi An is taking a local cooking class. You will learn all about Vietnam’s distinct flavors deriving from mint leaves, coriander, lemongrass, and nuoc nam (fish sauce). There are so many unique foods to try and it’s even better to learn how to make them for when you get back home.
My parents and I took a class at Brother’s Cafe and we learned how to make delicious spring rolls, scallion pancakes, and stewed eggplant. You can find more classes on Cookly, but it’s a great way to learn more about Vietnamese culture, while having fun!
#10 Drink a Beer on An Hoi Island
If you want to experience the nightlife in Hoi An, then all you have to do is cross the footbridge from Ancient Town to An Hoi Island. Once there, you can grab a bia hoi (local brewed beer) at one of the cocktail bars and restaurants along the Thu Bon River.
You can also spend some time exploring the daily Hoi An night market on the island where you can purchase delicious street food and handcrafted lanterns. Don’t leave An Hoi without taking in the magical view of Old Town aglow with paper lanterns across the water.
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