Located in central Vietnam, Hoi An is one of the most popular places in the whole country. I’ve visited twice now, and would still go back again if the opportunity arose. There is something a little bit magical about this town. It has such a relaxed feel to it and is a bit of a respite from the big crazy cities. Here are, in my opinion, the best things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam.
- 1 Visit the Night Markets
- 2 Release a Lantern to Float Down the River
- 3 Take a Bike Ride to Explore the Countryside
- 4 Relax on the Beach
- 5 Get some Custom-made Clothes
- 6 Explore the Old Town
- 7 Get a Massage
- 8 Eat ALL the Food
- 9 Take a Cooking Class
- 10 Watch the Water Puppet Theatre
- 11 Visit the Tomb of the Japanese Trader
- 12 Visit Tra Que Village
- 13 Row a Basket Boat
- 14 Do a Photo Shoot
- 15 Take a Day Trip
Visit the Night Markets
The Hoi An night markets might be very touristy, but that doesn’t mean they are not good for a stroll. They are a great place to pick up souvenirs and try some of the local foods. The stalls start appearing on the streets a little before the sun goes down and goes until around 10 or 11 in the evening, depending on how trade is going. The night markets can be found on the opposite side of the river to the Old Town, right near the bridge that you will use to cross over.
Release a Lantern to Float Down the River
As the sun goes down you will find people selling small lanterns all along the bank of the Thu Bôn River. These little lanterns are shaped like flowers and have a tea light candle instead. Visitors can buy one of the lanterns and float it down the river. As you place it in the water, make a wish as the lanterns are said to bring you good luck. As an alternative, you can also take a boat ride with your lantern and release it out in the middle of the river. All the lit lanterns floating down the river make a beautiful sight and add to the ambiance of Hoi An.
You will likely need to barter a little for the lantern, which should be between 5 000 – 10 000VND ($0.25-$0.50USD)
Take a Bike Ride to Explore the Countryside
Both times I have visited Hoi An, the places I have stayed in have offered bicycles for free. Many other places do the same. If you don’t have access to a free bike, there are also plenty of places all over the town that will hire you a bike for the day for only a couple of dollars a day.
Once on your bike, head towards the outskirts on Hoi An and explore some of the countryside. There are interesting things to see in any direction, whether it’s simply exploring the rice paddies or heading to the beach. There is very little traffic on the roads, sand bike riders are common, so you can be sure to feel safe riding around the area.
Relax on the Beach
While Hoi An is not located right on the seafront, there are two beaches located just a couple of kilometres away. The two beaches are Cau Dai and An Bang. Cau Dai is slightly closer to town, and is a big long stretch of sand lined with palm trees. There will be a few vendors nearby to refill your drinks and supply you with snacks. An Bang beach is more developed with dozens of umbrellas and lounges lining the beach. Right behind them are a whole strip of cafes, restaurants and bars. Either beach would be perfect for a whole day relaxing in the sun.
You can easily get there by taxi or Grab, riding a bike or even walking. On our last trip we spent an afternoon walking down to An Bang beach and back. It was January though, and it was cold and raining, but it was still a nice afternoon. Our first visit to Hoi An was also in January. It was warm and sunny, and we enjoyed a lovely couple of hours on Cau Dai beach.
Get some Custom-made Clothes
Hoi An is famous for it’s clothes. This is the place to come if you would like to get a custom made suit at a great price. There are literally hundreds of stores where you can get clothes custom made. During our first visit I got a dress made and was happy with the results. We went to Be Be Tailors, which were the most recommended at the time. It’s been a few years since then, so I have done a little research, and it seems that they are still okay, along with A Dong Silk and Kimmy Tailor. I suggest doing your own research though to find a tailor that makes the kind of clothes you like.
Explore the Old Town
Everyone who comes to Hoi An will explore the Old Town in some capacity. This part of Hoi An is UNESCO listed and is where the beautiful, decaying yellow buildings and streets covered in lanterns are to be found. Before you start exploring the Old Town, be sure to visit one of the ticket booths at some of the main entrances to the area and purchase your entrance ticket. This will give you free entry to five of the various attractions in the area. Sure you can probably avoid paying for a ticket if you don’t want to visit any of the attractions as you don’t really need to show it anywhere, but at 120 000VND ($5.20USD/$7.30AUD), it’s a small price to pay to go towards the maintenance and preservation of the Old Town.
When you purchase your ticket, you will also be given a list of the old houses, temples and museums that can be visited. If you want to visit more than five, you can buy extra tickets. One of the most popular attractions is the Japanese Covered Bridge. While information was a bit vague when we visited, we were able to walk across the bridge without using a ticket, but you will need a ticket if you want to see the museum. If asked for a ticket when you just want to walk over the bridge, just explain that and you should be allowed to do so.
Get a Massage
Since you are in South East Asia, it’s almost compulsory to get a massage. You will be able to find somewhere to get a massage on just about every corner in Hoi An. It can me as simple as a cheap foot massage, or you can go all in and spend a whole day having an indulgent spa treatment. With so many options available, here’s a few suggestions that can be booked in advance
- VN Spa Massage Package
- Traditional Vietnamese Massage
- Half-Day Ultimate Relaxation Tour in Hoi An
- Ylang Ylang Scrub and Wrap Experience
- Five Senses Package
Eat ALL the Food
Do not be afraid of trying as much of the local food as you can in Hoi An. A great place to do this cheaply, is to head to the Central Market and visit the street food stalls. You can also get much of the food at the Night Markets too.
Two of the local specialities are Cao Lau, a delicious noodle dish, and White Roses, a delicate dumpling filled with meat and shrimp. Both of these are only found in Hoi An.
The best place to eat Cao Lau is from a street vendor who specialises in only Cao Lau. Look for one among the stalls around the outside of the Central Markets. It should only cost about 20 000VND for a bowl.
For white roses, try them at any restaurant in town. Only one family has the recipe, and they make them and supply them to all of the restaurants. If you want to eat at the restaurant of this family, head to the White Rose Restaurant. But don’t expect to find too much more on the menu.
Another thing to try in Hoi An is the Banh Mi. After all, this is where Anthony Bourdain declared to have eaten the BEST Banh Mi. If you want to go to the place he ate at, look for Madam Phuong Banh Mi. If the crowd is too much there, another good option to try is Banh Mi Queen.
While you are in Vietnam you have to try the coffee, and Hoi An is as good a place as any to do that. You will find dozens of cafes lining the streets serving all sorts of coffee, some with very western styles, others more traditional. I suggest you at least try Egg Coffee and Coconut Coffee of the Vietnamese styles while you are here.
If you prefer to do a food tour to try all the local foods, click on the suggestions below
- Hoi An Food Tour
- Hoi An Cheap Walking Food Tour
- Hoi An Old Town Food Tour by Night
- Hoi An Vegetarian food tour – Hoi An Motorbike Tours With Lady Bikers
Take a Cooking Class
Once you have tasted all of the food, then you will want to learn how to cook it so you can relive Hoi An at home. There are dozens of different cooking classes in Hoi An, and you will have to sift through them all to find the one that suits your needs. Some of the things to think about include how long you want the class to be, what time of day you want to do it, your skill level, do you want a market tour, and of course, your budget. You can also get cooking classes combined with other tours and attractions
Click through these suggestions to get you started
- Cooking Class in Hoi An
- Morning Cooking Class in Thuan Tinh Island depart from Hoi An Old Town
- Half-Day Hoi An City Bike Tour Including Cooking Class
- Vietnamese Cooking Class and Hoi An Ancient Town Walking Tour
- Cooking Class and Eco Tour
- Full-Day Hoi An Countryside Bike Tour Including Thanh Nam Fishing Village, Lantern Making and Cooking Class
Watch the Water Puppet Theatre
Hanoi is well known for it’s water puppet show, and there is one here in Hoi An too. Unfortunately it has not worked out that I have been able to see it, as it is only on three nights a week – Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. The show starts at 6:30 and goes for around 45minutes. Tickets are 80 000VND ($3.50USD/$5AUD) for adults and 40 000VND for children. The tickets can be purchased from the same ticket booths around town as the Old Town entry tickets or bought at the door.
Visit the Tomb of the Japanese Trader
During our last visit to Hoi An we heard about the “Tomb of the Japanese Trader”. It sounded like it would be worth seeking out, so we decided to take a walk and find it. The instructions were simple – walk along the road towards An Bang beach. Once you reach the paddy fields, you will soon see a sign showing the way to the tomb. Well, we got all the way to the beach and hadn’t seen the sign. Luckily we found the sign on the way back, so I can tell you, as you walk towards the beach, the sign is on the right hand side of the road. I am still kicking myself I did not photograph it to share. The pin on the map below shows the approximate location.
The Tomb is from 1647, and belongs to a Japanese trader who found love in Hoi An and stayed here to be with his Vietnamese lady. It stands as a symbol of the close relationship between the Japanese and the people of Hoi An. Honestly, it’s not much to look at, but it is fun to find it and walk out into the paddy fields to have a closer look.
Visit Tra Que Village
Tra Que village is often called the vegetable village or herb village as this is where many of the local vegetables and herbs are grown. Tra Que is special because they don’t use any type of chemical pesticides or fertilisers, so all the produce is truely organic. Instead they use the same algae from the nearby lagoon that has been used for generations.
You can spend some time in this picturesque village watching the farmers go about their day to day tasks. Another option is to join a tour and learn more about what is happening, and perhaps even have a go at farming yourself.
Click through to book a tour
- Half-Day Farming Experience from Hoi An
- Hoi An Sunrise or Sunset Photo Tour in Tra Que
- Full-day Rural Vietnam Farm Visit from Hoi An
- Half -Day Tra Que Herbal Village Tour from Hoi An
Row a Basket Boat
Vietnamese basket boats are are found all up and down the coast. Traditionally made out of bamboo, these boats came into existence when the French were in control of Vietnam. They implemented a tax on boats, so to get around it, the Vietnamese started to go out in these baskets.
It’s amazing to watch the fishermen row these boats. They can balance and spin them like a top. There are many opportunities for visitors to Hoi An to have a go at the basket boats themselves. Often it will be combined as part of a full day tour, but it’s also possible to book to do an entire tour in the basket boats. This is another unique way to see some of the area around Hoi An. Click here to book a Basket Boat Tour.
Do a Photo Shoot
Why not immortalise your visit to Hoi An by dressing up in traditional Vietnamese clothes and having a photoshoot done my a professional photographer in the streets of the old town?
Click here to book an Ao Dai Hoi An Photography Tour
Take a Day Trip
There are so many great day trips you can take from Hoi An. Here are some of the most popular places to visit
- My Son is a historical site covered in the ruins of traditional Hindu temples built by the Cham kings between the 4th and 14th centuries. Click here to book My Son Holy Land Day Trip with Lunch Cruise from Hoi An
- Ba Na Hills is a resort area in the hills of central Vietnam. It has become much more popular in the last few months as a new bridge has opened up. The bridge consists of a pair of hands holding up the golden pathway. Also here are a French Village where you could be mistaken for thinking you were in Europe, a cable car and a theme park. Click here to book a tour to Ba Na Hills.
- Visit Cham Museum and the Marble Mountains in Da Nang. You may have seen the mountains on your way to Hoi An, but now go and see them up close. Then visit the Cham Museum to learn about the history of the area and the Son Tra peninsula to see the huge lady Buddha. Click here to book a Da Nang Day Trip: Marble Mountains and Cham Museum
- Visit some of the villages of the ethnic minorities in the hills just inland from Hoi An. Click here to book a Full-Day Bho Hoong and CoTu Village tour.
- Visit the imperial city of Hue. Click here to book a tour to Hue
So there you have it! Plenty of things to do in Hoi An to keep you busy during your visit!
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.