It’s hard to talk about the most beautiful places to see in Vietnam and not mention Hoi An. Located in the central part of Vietnam, this city has become one of the most visited places in the country. The big culprit is its beautiful historical center, full of low houses with yellow facades and numerous streets where lanterns hang. Walking around during the day is a wonder. However, the magic happens when the night falls and the streets are lit thanks to these lanterns.

Before I visited Hoi An (Vietnam), I had heard some very good opinions about this city. The expectation was real. I was looking forward to walking the streets of the historical centre, cycling around and visiting some of the beaches in Hoi An. If it is true that the centre is quite touristy, Hoi An and its charms will manage to captivate you. In this post I will not only talk about the essential places to see in Hoi An, but also about when is the best time to go and advice on where to stay in Hoi An, Vietnam.

WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE IN HOI AN, VIETNAM

Hoi An was the sixth stop on my trip to Vietnam in three weeks. Not only did I do some sightseeing, but I took advantage of this beautiful city to slow down a bit, rest and plan my next stops. I ended up staying 5 nights but with less days you can see and do everything I’m going to show you below:

  1. Historical center of Hoi An

vietnam in 3 weeks

Hoi An owes much of its fame to its historic centre. Although there is much to do in other areas of the city, this is the big reason why hundreds of tourists arrive every day. The historical centre of Hoi An was a booming commercial port between the 15th and 19th centuries. Its decline at the end of the 19th century did not prevent it from being preserved in good condition.

Its famous low houses with yellow facades have a combination of Asian, especially Chinese and Japanese, and European style influences. The walls are smooth and the wood is also very present. The lanterns further adorn the city by hanging between the buildings on both sides of the street. According to UNESCO, a total of 1,107 buildings make up the historic center of Hoi An, Vietnam. You will find houses, shops, charming cafes, religious buildings, etc.

I could tell you many details about this place but the best thing is that you experience it yourself by walking around the streets. A very positive aspect of Hoi An’s historical center is that the traffic is not like in other places in Vietnam. In fact, during most of the day and night, cars are forbidden to enter. You’ll only see a few bikes or motorcycles.

The historical center at night is a must see in Hoi An. The sunlight goes away but hundreds of lanterns provide light to the streets, creating an atmosphere full of magic. I highly recommend the whole area around the river as it has the most atmosphere.

what to see in hoi an

On your walk through the historic center of Hoi An, don’t forget to stop by the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall and Duc An Old House.

  1. Japanese bridge, a must see in Hoi An

hoi an vietnam

One of the most emblematic places in the historical centre of Hoi An is Chùa Cầu, known as the Japanese bridge. This covered bridge was in charge of connecting two historical districts of Hoi An, the Chinese and the Japanese. It was built between the 16th and 17th century.

On one of the sides inside the bridge, you will find a shrine to Tran Vo Bac De, god of time. In this place many locals usually pray to prevent earthquakes. You will also see the statues of a dog and a monkey protecting the bridge. There are a couple of theories around these sculptures. One of them is that it is because the construction of the bridge started in the year of the dog and ended in the year of the monkey. However, another theory explains that many Japanese emperors were born in both the year of the dog and the year of the monkey.

  1. Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum

what to see in hoi an

An American couple I met at Ninh Binh and had met again in Hoi An recommended a small museum called Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum. It is an exhibition of photographs by Réhahn, a French photographer who has spent a lot of time touring the most remote areas of Vietnam, visiting many ethnic groups and photographing hundreds of faces.

The photos are truly beautiful. It also tells you the story behind each photo and each person. There is also an exhibition about the typical clothes of each of the ethnic groups you have visited and interesting facts about how they live.

I found this to be a very interesting thing to do in Hoi An and I highly recommend it. The entrance is free. It is open from 8 am to 8 pm.

  1. Hoi An Central Market

what to see in hoi an

Next to the Thu Bon River, you can find the Central Market of Hoi An (Vietnam). Very early every morning, the vendors prepare their stalls since they must be ready at 6:30 in the morning. You will find stalls both inside the building and on the street parallel to the river. They sell all kinds of food (vegetables, fruit, noodles, fish, meat…) and other products.

I recommend you to go very early if you want to walk around the market with more tranquility (if you arrive very early you will be able to see how the fishermen bring the fish). Normally, there are a lot of people. So many that it is difficult to even walk. Once I thought of going by bike along the river in the middle of the day and it was a bit of an impossible mission. By the way, if you are going to buy something, don’t forget to bargain.

Inside the market building, you’ll see shelves where you can go for breakfast, lunch or dinner with local food.

  1. Rent a bike and explore the surroundings

Something that I enjoyed very much and that I recommend you to do is to rent a bike and get lost around Hoi An. Riding your bike through the historical center is also highly recommended but what I liked best was the ride from the center to the coast, passing through several fields. Don’t miss Tra Que Vegetable Village, a village full of orchards where they grow many types of vegetables and herbs. We also crossed the bridge located in Hoàng street Diệu and took a bike ride on Cam Nam island, located in the river.

The good thing about Hoi An is that the traffic is not as abundant as in other Vietnamese cities. Besides, the territory is very flat, which makes the bike ride more pleasant.

  1. Making a tailor-made suit

One thing many tourists do during their time in Hoi An is buy custom-made suits, as they are usually much cheaper here than in their home countries. It is difficult to walk around Hoi An without finding a tailor’s shop along the way. Really, there are hundreds of them. I met people who bought wedding dresses, swimsuits, shirts, etc. Whatever! If you need something tailored and you’re in Hoi An, don’t miss the opportunity.

I didn’t buy anything but I’ve done my research on what the best tailors are in Hoi An in case you’re interested: BeBe, Yaly Couture, A Dong Silk and Bao Khan Silk.

  1. Hoi An Night Market

One of the places to see in Hoi An at night is the night market. When the sun goes down, this market appears on the other side of the river Here you can find several souvenir and food stands. Although the reason I liked this place so much was because of its lantern shops. There are several of them located next to each other. The lanterns are all lit, which makes the stalls full of colored lights. I thought they were very nice. I would have liked to buy some, but there was no room in my rucksack. If you’re going to buy any souvenirs or food, don’t forget to bargain.

what to see in hoi an vietnam

All around this area you can enjoy a great variety of restaurants, bars and live music. It is a good area to go out at night.

  1. Take an excursion to My Son Sanctuary

One of the most interesting excursions you can make from Hoi An is to visit My Son Sanctuary. These ruins are only an hour’s drive from Hoi An. These abandoned and ruined Hindu temples were built between the 4th and 13th century by the Champa Kings. They are dedicated to the god shiva. During World War II and the War of Indochina, many of the temples were damaged. At present, work is being done to preserve them.

The easiest way to visit this place is by booking a tour from Hoi An. If you want to avoid the crowds, I recommend going at dawn or in the afternoon, after the other tours have left.

↠ Hire your tour to My Son Sanctuary.

  1. The best beaches in Hoi An, Vietnam

Another plan that cannot be missed if you are going to spend a few days in Hoi An is to go to the beach. They are not the typical white sand and crystal clear water beaches you find in other parts of Southeast Asia but they are not bad for relaxing, bathing and sunbathing.

I went to An Bang beach several times. It is 3 km from the center of Hoi An. It’s very easy to get there by bike. There are lots of restaurants, hammocks, etc. I recommend you to walk a little bit in one of the directions once you get to the beach to enjoy a little more tranquility. I also advise you to go to a beach club called Kahuna’s. They have a bar where they serve food and drink, a swimming pool, hammocks on the sand… It’s very nice.

hoi an beach

Another popular beach is Cua Dai, located 4 km from downtown, right next to An Bang Beach. Another option is to go to the Cham Islands by ferry.

TIPS FOR VISITING HOI AN

hoi an vietnam

Here ends the list of things to do and see in Hoi An. Here are some tips to make your visit to this beautiful city the best it can be.

How to get to Hoi An

The closest airport to Hoi An is Da Nang Airport (DAD), located 30 km from Hoi An. There are direct flights from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Haiphong or Nha Trang. Once you arrive at the airport, you can get to Hoi An by bus or taxi.

Another option is to travel to Hoi An by bus. If you are in a nearby city, you can take a bus during the day. However, if you are going from a more remote area, I recommend you to take a night bus. I came by bus from Hue.

Lantern Festival of Hoi An

You may have heard of the Lantern Festival in Hoi An, held every month on the night of the full moon. The city is dark, the streets smell of incense and the river is filled with paper lanterns. Having said that, I don’t recommend throwing one of these lanterns into the river because they might end up in the sea…

I was looking forward to spending tonight in Hoi An and I did. If I’m honest, I liked it but I expected more The atmosphere is not very different from other nights, with the difference that everything is very dark and there are too many people. If it doesn’t change your plans too much and you can coincide tonight, go ahead, but if not, don’t worry, any night in Hoi An is magic.

While there I learned that the real celebration is the first full moon of the lunar new year. The other months, this celebration is more focused on tourism than locals.

Typical food of Hoi An

You can’t leave Hoi An without trying Cao Lau, a typical dish of the city. It contains noodles, pork and several local green leaves. I don’t eat meat, so I tried several vegetarian versions I loved all of them. It was one of my favorite dishes from Vietnam.

vietnam on its own

How many days to spend in Hoi An

If you want to know only the historical center of Hoi An, I would say that you can visit it in just one day, but it would be a pity to spend so little time in such a beautiful city. This city is not only its historical center, there is much more to see in Hoi An. Get lost with your bike, relax on one of the beaches, go on a tour, take a cooking class, enjoy the gastronomy, etc. Hoi An is a city to live in. I would recommend spending at least 2 nights in Hoi An. However, I think 3 nights would be ideal. More is better.

Travel insurance for Vietnam

During your visit to Hoi An and the rest of the country, you will need travel insurance in case any incident occurs. I’m giving you a 5% discount on Mondo travel insurance. It’s the insurance I use and it’s worked out very well.

Where to stay in Hoi An

If it is true that the historical centre is very beautiful, it can become a bit overwhelming because of the number of people there. My recommendation is that you stay just outside the historical centre, so that you are not inside it but can get there in a few minutes on foot.

I stayed at a hostel called Tribee Ede. I liked it very much. It also had a pool (which was great because it was so hot), a buffet breakfast and free activities in the evenings.

If you prefer a hotel instead of a hostel near the centre, I recommend Hoi An TNT Villa or Silk Luxury Hotel & Spa.

If you want to stay near the beach, check out An Bang Beach Dolphin Homestay or KA Villa Hoi An.

RELATED POSTS:

Where to stay in Hoi An – Best areas and hotels
Travel to Vietnam on your own – Organize your trip step by step
Travel Itinerary to Vietnam in 3 weeks
My accommodations in Vietnam – Low budget

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I hope this post about places to see in Hoi An and tips for visiting Hoi An (Vietnam) was very useful. If you have any questions, I encourage you to leave a comment or contact me by email. See you next time, travelers!