Hoi An is one of the most beautiful and special destinations in Vietnam. Its yellow facades full of illuminated lanterns give it a unique character . Although it is a very small city, you will not lack things to do in Hoi An : from falling in love with its historic center and its lanterns to photographing the beautiful Japanese bridge a thousand times. In this post we tell you 20 things to see and do in Hoi An. We also leave you the best areas and hotels to stay in the city. Enjoy your visit to Hoi An!
1. Photograph the Japanese bridge, the Hoi An icon
An essential visit to do in Hoi An is the Japanese bridge . It is not only the icon of the city, but also one of the most emblematic buildings in Vietnam . It is quite common to see Japanese bridges in the country, but this one is clearly the most famous and beautiful.
Japanese Bridge pagoda
It was built in the 18th century by Japanese people residing in Hoi An to reach the Chinatown , which was on the other side of the water. In this way the Japanese bridge linked the Chinatown with the Japanese. And because of its proximity to the South China Sea, Hoi An was an important commercial port for merchants from several countries . And the Japanese were dominant at that time. Hence, many Japanese resided in Hoi An and implemented its architecture.
It was opened in 1719 . As you will see it has sculptures of two dogs and two monkeys . Some say that it is because the bridge began to be built in the year of the dog and ended in that of the monkey. And others that the two animals were chosen to protect the bridge because many Japanese emperors were born in the year of the dog or monkey, which gave them a sacred meaning.
As a curiosity, during the French colonization the bridge was remodeled so that motorized vehicles could pass . However, in 1986 it was remodeled again for pedestrian use .
2. Discover the old house Phung Hung
In the historic center of Hoi An you can discover several old houses . One of the most interesting is that of Phung Hung.
The building is a typical commercial house of the time. It was built in 1780, during a period of prosperity in the city . The house is made mainly of wood. But the curious thing is its architectural mix between the Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese styles . As we have said before, when hosting such an important port, many Japanese lived in Hoi An who had a lot of influence.
If you have time it is a curious visit to do in Hoi An . More than 8 generations have passed through the house!
3. Get lost in the streets of the historic center
The historic center of Hoi An is a real beauty. Wherever you look you will be fascinated with its beauty. It is like an open-air museum! In fact it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. And it is well deserved!
Hoi An ancient town
The city has been able to preserve over the years the great heritage that it acquired in its period of commercial splendor . And is that walking there is like going back several centuries. In its historic center you will find beautiful Chinese temples, pagodas, French colonial houses and streets with lanterns that give it a lot of charm .
The historic center of Hoi An is not too big . Walk aimlessly , get lost in all its streets and stop for a coffee or to look at its cute shop windows. Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Hoi An .
If you want to explore it calmly, we advise you to get up early and visit it around 7 am. Then you will only cross with locals! During the evening the streets of the historic center become impassable.
4. Get a custom suit
One of the most typical things to do in Hoi An is to order a custom suit . So if you read this from home, we advise you to leave an extra hole in your suitcase. In Hoi An (and in many other places in Asia) they will make you suits and dresses to measure in a very short time, even a few hours. And most importantly, much cheaper than in Europe.
There are more than 400 tailor shops in the historic center of Hoi An . A real mockery! Of course, keep in mind that many times you get what you pay for. So don't always keep the cheapest one. Bhao Kan Silk is one of the best value for money. So we recommend it!
5. Sparkling lantern night market
Lanterns are one of the main icons of Hoi An . And if the city is already beautiful by day, at night play at another level! The truth is that the lanterns bring a very romantic atmosphere to the city.
Hoi An night market
So another of the essential visits to do in Hoi An is to browse in its night market of lanterns . Every night, Nguyen Hoang Street, dresses in many colors and offers a very interesting market. There you will find everything: from typical food to fake watches through, obviously, lanterns .
The market is open every day from 19h to 00h.
6. Watch the locals in the Hoi An market
One of the most interesting things to do in Hoi An is to visit this market to observe the locals . Hoi An is a super tourist destination where it is easier to cross with tourists than with locals. However, it is curious to see what the Vietnamese do in their day to day. The Hoi An market is one of the best sites for this.
Hoi An's local market
It is far from as touristy as lantern. Although we advise you to go first thing in the morning to live this experience since it is full of tourists. The locals go to the market every day to buy fresh produce . And what surprised us the most is that many buy a motorcycle! Yes, you read it right. Neither park nor milk, they pass the motorcycle through the stops and go shopping on the fly . Without a doubt, one of the most curious visits to do in Hoi An.
7. Watch the sunset from the Thu Bon river bank
Hoi An is magical at all hours. With daylight, at night with the lanterns on ... But when the sun goes down, you can enjoy a beautiful light . And the best place to spend this magical moment of the day is from the Thu Bon river bank itself .
Thu Bon river
As we have said, Hoi An grew thanks to its ideal location for international merchants. And the Thu Bon River played a very important role in the growth of the city. So on its banks you can see some of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
The yellow facades are reflected in the river while dozens of candles float on the water . Is there anything nicer than that? And best of all, it's free! If in the end, the best pleasures of life are free.
8. Take a boat ride on the river and get to know the city from another perspective
One of the most popular things to do in Hoi An is to take a boat ride on the Thu Bon River . You only need to walk along the banks of the city to get to know it. Every three steps, a local stops you and offers you “boat ride, boat ride”.
We believe that the best time to do this activity is also during the sunset . Try to avoid the weekends as there will be many more boats on the river and you will not be able to enjoy the moment so much.
9. Know the Quan Thang house
With over 150 years of history , the Quan Thang house is one of the oldest in the city.
Quan Thang house
It was built in the early 18th century and was originally owned by a captain named Quan Thang (hence the name of the house). It is surprising to find this little piece of history so well preserved in the center of Hoi An. And it is that the family has maintained it in an excellent way for generations . Inside you can breathe peace and tranquility and imagine how they lived there centuries ago.
10. Marvel at the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation
This assembly hall is the most impressive of the remaining halls of this type in Hoi An. It was built in the 17th century by the Chinese Fujian community residing in the city. It was a social and sacred space for the community .
Fujian Chinese Congregation
One of the best things to do in Hoi An is to try to understand the meanings of the statues in the building . And it is that each animal has a different meaning . For example dragons symbolize power and turtles symbolize longevity.
As a curiosity, there are many couples without children who come to visit the statues of the goddess of fertility and leave an offering of fresh fruit to see if it gives them luck.
11. And also visit the Canton Assembly Hall!
In Hoi An there are many attractive assembly rooms. And this is another good example! As the name implies, the hall was built by Cantonese settlers during the 19th century . It is dedicated to the Holy Mother of Thien Hau. During its history it has been a meeting place for worship and communication between visitors and Chinese residents .
12. Enter Tan Ky's old house
The house of Tan Ky is an almost perfect example of how the residences of the merchants were in the era of maximum splendor of Hoi An . At present, more than seven generations of the same family have already passed. Almost nothing! However, the current name was given by the second generation. "Tan Ky" means "store of progress . " And in large part, it expresses the wills of its owners so that their businesses continue to grow.
13. Discover the chapel of the Tran family
In Hoi An there are so many historic and beautiful houses that nobody dares to say which one is the best . But we are sure that the Tran family ranks quite high on the list . And that's why visiting it is one of the best things to do in Hoi An .
The Chapel of the Tran family is another of the historic houses of this city. It dates from the early nineteenth century and was built by Tran Tu Nhac, a highly respected Mandarin . Originally, it served as a place of worship for the ancestors of his family and to remember the family tradition for the following generations.
14. Visit the Chuc Thanh Pagoda
Another historical visit to do in Hoi An is this Buddhist pagoda, the oldest in the city . It was founded by a Chinese monk in 1454 , which is why it mixes Chinese and Vietnamese architectural features. Its interior has a very elaborate decoration, with animals carved in wood, statues of deities, traditional paintings, Chinese characters ... Despite having six centuries, its structure remains intact .
It is about two kilometers from the center, so enjoy a privileged tranquility . It has a beautiful garden where several very distinguished monks are buried. It can be easily reached by bicycle.
15. Hallucinate with the history of the most famous monk of the Phuoc Lam pagoda
Phuoc Lam is another of the many pagodas to visit in Hoi An. It stands out for the number of monks that live there . You can see them especially in the morning. But if there is a famous monk it is Am Thieu, who made monastic life since he was 8 years old. But at 18 he decided to join the army to avoid having to go his brothers. After getting a good military rank, he decided to become the main monk in the Phuoc Lam pagoda . An amazing story, right?
16. Photograph the doors of the Ba Mu Temple
One of the most impressive stops to make in Hoi An is the Ba Mu temple. We found it by chance, but its entrance left us speechless . The doors with three arches have a beautiful decoration. In addition, just in front there is a small pond with water lilies. The temple was originally built in 1626, but the Vietnam War damaged it and had to be rebuilt almost completely. It is dedicated to the gods that protect newborns .
17. Bath on the beaches of Hoi An
Apart from being a very romantic destination, Hoi An is also known for its beaches. Basically there are two interesting parts in the city: its picturesque historic center and the coastal area. About 4 kilometers from the center you can find really interesting beaches . The most famous is Cua Dai , but if you are looking for more tranquility we recommend An Bang .
18. Enjoy as a small child in Ba Na Hills
Not all visits to do in Hoi An are ancient places. In 2013 they opened a new theme park about 70 kilometers from Hoi An: Sun World in Ba Na Hills. Getting there is a tourist attraction in itself: you will have to take the cable car that saves a greater elevation around the world . Ba Na Hills Station is 1500 meters high.
Upstairs you will find a medieval castle-like resort, but the really beautiful are the views of the surrounding mountains. But without a doubt, the most impressive part of Ba Na Hills is the Golden Bridge . It is a bridge that seems to be supported by two giant hands , a work of art!
19. Get to know the My Son Sanctuary, one of the best excursions to do in Hoi An
If you have several days in Hoi An we advise you to take a trip to My Son . This complex houses ruins of several Hindu temples . They were built between the fourth and fourteenth centuries by the kings of Champa (an ancient Hindu state that disappeared in 1832). In his day he came to have 70 temples . In addition to religious ceremonies, it also served as a burial place for royals and national heroes.
My Son Holyland
The comparisons are odious, but we could say that it is the Vietnamese Angkor Wat . My Son is the most important historical temple complex in the country and one of the most prominent in Southeast Asia. And it was recognized a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 .
Unfortunately, a fairly important part of My Son was destroyed by a bombing of the Americans during the Vietnam War . The ruins are only one hour away from the city and it is one of the most interesting excursions to do in Hoi An.
20. Go on an excursion to Cham Island, a paradise for divers
And finally, to end this list of the best things to do in Hoi An we could not forget to recommend an excursion for sea lovers . It is clear that Vietnam is not the best destination for a beach holiday. However, it has a real paradise for divers very close to Hoi An .
Just 90 minutes by ferry you can enjoy Cham Island , a group of eight islands off the coast of Hoi An. Its reefs attract more and more tourists to enjoy its great marine life. In fact, one of the islands is a World Biosphere Reserve recognized by UNESCO .
There are several ways to get from Hoi An to Cham Island. Everything will depend on your budget. The islands are about 30 minutes from the beach of Cua Dai in a speedboat , which costs about € 10 per person. You will have to take a taxi to get there. But the most practical is to go with a day trip .