15 things to do in Hoi An – the most charming town in central Vietnam.
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WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT HOI AN, VIETNAM
In the centre of Vietnam you’ll find the most charming town of Hoi An. It’s a popular choice of destination for most backpackers I’ve talked to over the years, and once I arrived there myself it wasn’t hard to see why. Filled with old yellow houses, self-crafted lanterns, no heavy traffic and a calm atmosphere, Hoi An struck us like a breath of fresh air after spending some hectic days in Hong Kong and Da Nang. This lovely town is the perfect place to relax and explore.
After backpacking Cambodia and the southern half of Vietnam, Hoi An remains the place I wish I got to spend more time in and I advice anyone to go there. There are so many fun things to do in Hoi An and it is simply a must when if you ever find yourself in central Vietnam. Keep reading for my best tips on where to stay, where to eat and things to do in Hoi An!
PLACES TO STAY IN HOI AN
How much time you should spend in Hoi An depends on how much you want to see and do while you’re there and on your travel style. We only got to spend one day there which was far from enough for such a great town, so I highly recommend spending a few nights there at least if you have the chance.
There is a great selection of places to stay in Hoi An and you can choose between hostels, hotels, resorts, b&b’s and homestays. We were located in Da Nang, a 45 minute drive north of Hoi An, which is also an option. Here are some great options for places to stay in Hoi An:
- Almanity Hoi An Wellness Resort: High quality hotel resort with a pool in the heart of Ancient Town.
- Vinh Hung Heritage Hotel: Elegant boutique hotel with antique furniture
- The Mansion Hoi An: Gorgeous bed & breakfast with an outdoor swimming pool
- Tribee Ede Hostel & Bar: Lovely hostel in a quiet location surrounded by nature
- Acacia Heritage Hotel: Great hotel with an outdoor pool and fitness centre.
15 UNFORGETTABLE THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN
There are a ton of great things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam. Here are 15 of my best ideas:
1. ENJOY A WALK AROUND HOI AN
One of the best of many great things to do in Hoi An is to simply enjoy a walk around the city. No goal, no purpose, just see where your intuition takes you. Observe local culture at its finest, talk to kind strangers on your way and truly explore – you never now what you might stumble upon. We found ourselves wandering in secluded neighborhoods of Hoi An, and it was very interesting to see how local people live outside the most hectic tourist areas. Suddenly we ran into a group of young school children who wanted to practice their English skills with us, such a fun experience.
2. REVEL IN VIETNAMESE FOOD
One of the best parts about traveling through Vietnam is all the incredible food and drinks. Hoi An is no exception and you’ll find it has a wide selection of restaurants and cafés to consider. Wherever you choose to eat & drink, make sure you won’t leave Vietnam until you’ve tried some authentic pho, a few local beers, one of the many delicious passionfruit drinks available, and egg coffee.. (Yes, egg. Trust me). Places worth visiting:
- Cocobox Vietnam: Rustic café, juice bar & farm shop in one. This lovely place has a passion for organic and local produce, and they even make homemade chocolate truffles. Definitely stop by!
- Ngon Villa Hoian: Hoi An dining experience at its finest.
- Pasteur Street Brewing Company: When you’re in the mood for great local beers with food from the west
- Red Bean Restaurant: Known for their amazing local food in a great environment.
- Brother’s Café: Beautiful place to dine in Hoi An, right next to a wonderful garden.
- Rosie’s Cafe: The best smoothie bowls in town
- Cabanon HoiAn: Adorable place. Great food with a french twist!
- Vy’s Market Restaurant: A fun concept restaurant with 6 different food stations to choose from. They often host live music and arrange cooking classes.
3. EXPLORE HOI AN OLD TOWN
Hoi An has a rich and interesting history. It was declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1999 for being one of the best preserved ancient trading ports in South East Asia, and if you take a walk through Hoi An Old Town you’ll be able to observe more than 800 examples of ancient architecture. French-colonial houses, Chinese temples, a variety of pagodas and a Japanese bridge from the 1590s are among the architectural gems you may stumble upon in Old Town.
4. RELAX BY THE BEACH
A mere fifteen minute drive outside of Hoi An centre you’ll find the coastline, which in Vietnam is basically a synonym for a gorgeous white sandy beach. Grab a book and a towel and relax by the ocean, or check out one of the many restaurants and resorts in the area. Don’t forget to hydrate! (The perfect excuse to order a large number of fruity drinks, right?).
5. SHOP FOR LOCAL GEMS
As much as I love to collect my precious fridge magnets, shopping for more authentic souvenirs was a lot more fun while backpacking through Vietnam. Local gems like clothes, toys, jewelry and art were easy to find in Hoi An, and there are adorable shops or street vendors on literally every corner. I just wish those lanterns weren’t too fragile for my backpack! They are simply gorgeous.
6. CREATE YOUR OWN LANTERN
If you fall in love with Hoi An’s charming lanterns half as much as I did, chances are you will enjoy creating your own lantern while in Hoi An. Not only will you create the perfect gift or souvenir from your trip, you will also learn a lot by immersing yourself in local culture in the process.
Lantern Making Class: Read More
7. VISIT THE HOI AN NIGHT MARKET
If you think Hoi An is gorgeous by day just wait until the sun sets in this charming town in central Vietnam. After dark the lanterns of Hoi An finally shine the way they were meant to, creating the most amazing atmosphere. Head over to the Hoi An Night Market on Nguyen Hoang Street after dark for the ultimate experience. Here you can walk among hundreds of colorful lanterns while shopping for clothes, jewellery and delicious street food. Should not be missed!
8. LEARN TO COOK THE LOCAL CUISINE
Enjoying all the delicious Vietnamese food is fun and all, but how about learning the skill yourself while you have the chance? It’s a fun activity while traveling and something that will come in handy once you’re back home. Attending a cooking class is also a great way to meet locals and learn about the culture in a way you’ll never be able to from reading a travel guide.
9. ENJOY HOI AN FROM THE THU BON RIVER
One of the reasons why Hoi An was a popular trading post in central Vietnam was due to its location by the Thu Bon River, flowing into the East China Sea. The Thu Bon River still plays a great part in Hoi An’s city life and it’s almost impossible to visit the town without walking along the riverside at some point. If you want to experience Hoi An from the river itself you can book a lovely dinner cruise, where you also get to release candle-lit lanterns into the water and make a wish. Perfect plans for a romantic night with your significant other or an eventful evening with friends or family.
10. GET YOURSELF A TAILORED OUTFIT
One of the things to do in Hoi An that everyone keeps talking about is getting yourself a tailored outfit while you’re there. Why? The local tailors are known for being extremely talented and it’s also very reasonably priced. The perfect souvenir to bring home that you’ll actually use, while supporting local businesses – what a win-win! We never did and I’ve regretted it ever since.
11. TREAT YOURSELF TO A RELAXING MASSAGE
Treat yourself to a relaxing massage after a long day of exploring wonderful Hoi An. Get the best possible experience at Ylang Ylang – they offer 9 different packages to choose from, and even arrange pick up and drop off from your hotel.
Read more: Here
12. VISIT MY SON SANCTUARY
An hour drive west of Hoi An you’ll find another UNESCO World Heritage site as of 1999. My Son Sanctuary is a spiritual center of the ancient kingdom of Champa. The temples were used to worship and make offerings to the Hindu gods between the 4th and 13th centuries. Surrounded by mountains and the sacred Thu Bon River, My Son Sanctuary is also known to be one of the most stunning sights in the Hoi An area. The best way to visit My Son from Hoi An is by booking a guided tour.
13. WALK THE GOLDEN BRIDGE
A couple of hours north west of Hoi An you’ll find the Golden Bridge of Bana Hills. This architecture gem rose to social media fame quickly after construction was finalized in 2018 and with good reason. It’s a pretty cool sight isn’t it? The easiest way to visit the Golden Bridge from Hoi An is with a guided tour. That way all you need to worry about is remembering to charge your camera prior to going.
14. EXPLORE BEAUTIFUL DA NANG
45 minutes north of Hoi An you’ll find the beautiful city of Da Nang. Da Nang was my first destination in Vietnam and holds a special place in my heart. It is often overlooked, but is truly worth your time if you’re headed to central Vietnam. It’s coastline is to die for, the locals are incredibly nice, and there are a ton of great things to do there. I recommend spending at least a couple of days there, but if you can only spare one day you should book a day tour from Hoi An.
>> Read: My Guide to Da Nang
15. CLIMB THE MARBLE MOUNTAINS
The Marble Mountains are a cluster of five mountains or hills located 30 minutes north of Hoi An. The five mountains consist of marble and limestone, and are named after the five elements: Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Tho (earth), Hoa (fire) and Kim (metal). It’s a really cool area to explore as all mountains have caves, tunnels and grottos. Perfect for an adventure!
There are also several Buddhist sanctuaries for you to discover and you can even climb the summit of Mount Thuy. We did and the view was amazing, I highly recommend it! The Marble Mountains are easily reached from Hoi An by local bus or through a tour company. Remember to bring cash to get in ($1 entrance fee) and in case you need additional water while climbing all 156 steps to the Thuy Son summit in the heat.
MORE HOI AN ACTIVITIES
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