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What to Do in Hoi An?

Discover Hoi An, a true gem in Vietnam, through the eyes of someone who has been a long-term resident. This city, miraculously preserved from wars and frozen in time, has been my home for over a decade. Here, the old quarter of Hoi An breathes a history that the development of Da Nang hasn’t overshadowed, thanks to a once-silted port.

Over the 12 years that I’ve spent exploring every nook and cranny of Hoi An, I’ve uncovered fascinating activities and hidden spots that escape the pages of traditional travel guides like the Routard or Lonely Planet. It is my pleasure to share with you these discoveries, shaped by a life of local experiences and adventures.

In this detailed article, I reveal a selection of 21 essential places and activities to do in Hoi An. Whether you are passing through for a few days or considering an extended stay, these recommendations will guide you towards authentic and memorable experiences for visiting Hoi An.

So, what to do in Hoi An? Follow me for a personal exploration of Hoi An, through the eyes of a passionate resident and lover of his city.

1. The Japanese Bridge

hoi an pont couvert japonais

The Japanese Covered Bridge is the symbol of Hoi An and one of the most famous landmarks in Vietnam. It is said that if you come to Hoi An and haven’t seen it, you haven’t truly visited Hoi An.

It was built in the 17th century by Japanese merchants to connect their district with that of the Chinese. At the entrance, you will find a statue of a dog on one side and a statue of a monkey on the other. According to legend, this corresponds to the year that construction began (year of the dog) and the year it was completed (year of the monkey).

There is a fee to cross the bridge, and you need a ticket from the old town pass to be able to cross it and also visit the temple located in the middle of the bridge.

2. The Old Town of Hoi An

vieille ville de Hoi An 1

Described as a living museum of history and culture, the old town is a wonderful throwback to its glorious past. Built in the 16th century, Hoi An was an important trading port for the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Europeans. However, due to the silting of its port, the city was abandoned in the early 19th century in favor of Da Nang.

Yet, its buildings have remained intact, and it is this preservation that led to its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The old town includes 1,107 timber-framed buildings, comprising houses, shops, pagodas, and religious edifices, all arranged side by side in tight rows within narrow pedestrian streets. By decree of UNESCO, over 800 historic buildings in Hoi An have been preserved. As a result, much of the old town looks as it did centuries ago.

ancien quartier de hoi an

For instance, the original street plan is still in place. There are two main roads – Bach Dang, which runs parallel to the Thu Bon River, and Tran Phu, parallel to Bach Dang and leading to the Japanese Covered Bridge.

Visiting Hoi An cannot be complete without an understanding of its majestic cultural history. Step into private family homes that have existed for centuries, take a moment to reflect on history in a museum, and another moment of silence in the religious temples. Discover the folk traditions of theater and learn how to paint a theater mask.

For the best experience, I recommend waking up early (5 AM) to feel the atmosphere of the old town without the tourists.

visiter hoi an vietnam 3

At night, a boat ride on the Thu Bon River is a must, while a cyclo tour is an interesting experience during the day.

The old town of Hoi An is free to enter. Only the museums, communal houses, and ancient houses have an admission fee.

To visit them, you will need to purchase a pass with 5 tickets (price 120,000 VND | approximately 4.5€).

Lantern Festival
Each month in Hoi An, there is a festival, the Full Moon or Lantern Festival. During this event, electricity is turned off in the city, which is illuminated by lanterns. There are also various activities such as folk singing, dancing, and traditional games.
Entry to the city’s pagodas is free.

PLACES TO SEE IN HOI AN

  • The Japanese Bridge Pagoda is the symbol of Hoi An.
  • The most famous and oldest house in Hoi An, Tan Ky House.
  • The Chinese assembly halls
  • Đức An House

3. Tra Que Vegetable Village

tra que hoi an 2

Located 3km from Hoi An and on the road leading to An Bang Beach, the vegetable village of Tra Que (pronounced Cha Weh) is an exceptional and timeless place.

Here, you can learn how to farm in the traditional way using double watering cans (see the photo above). The village grows over 20 different types of vegetables that are sold in the best restaurants of Hoi An.

As with the old town, I recommend visiting very early in the morning (5 am – 6 am) to avoid the tourist groups that arrive around 9 am. By coming at 5 am, you can see the village bustling with activity, and it’s a great time for photography.

The area around the village is surrounded by rice paddies, and it’s easy to go for a bike ride through the scenic landscape.

TO KNOW

The gardeners work early in the morning and late in the afternoon. From 11 am to 4 pm, the village will be almost empty, mainly due to the heat. If you want to see the village bustling, you should either come at 5 am or at 4 pm.

4. Cam Kim Island

cam kim hoi an a voir

Cam Kim Island is a uniquely charming place in Hoi An.

Few tourists venture here, which means that the island is not very touristy and retains its authenticity. You’re more likely to encounter a buffalo than a tourist or a car. In fact, the island isn’t mentioned in any of the various travel guides.

The island is accessible by a bridge and is located 500 meters from Hoi An.

It’s my favorite place in Hoi An after the old town because the location is not yet overrun with tourists. You won’t be disappointed, believe me.

hoi an cam kim atelier nattes
@ Rehahn Photography

Rent a bike, cross the bridge, and wander through the island and the rice fields. It’s pure bliss.

You will be able to see the Kim Bong woodworking village, the boatyards, and also a number of craftsmen such as mat weavers, makers of traditional Vietnamese round boats, makers of Mi Quang noodles (a dish from the Hoi An region), as well as fantastic landscapes with endless rice fields and buffaloes. It’s the place to be, a paradise on earth.

5. The Cham Sanctuary of My Son

my son hoi an a visiter 1

Located 1 hour from Hoi An, the My Son Sanctuary is not comparable to Angkor, and if you have visited the said temple, you might be disappointed. Why? Because it is much smaller than the Cambodian temple. But also because during the war against the Americans, it was bombed and lost several temples.

Otherwise, the Cham sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is truly a must-see, important, and exceptional place. You will be able to see various temples, some of which are magnificent.

As a lover of history, I can spend entire hours there. To really appreciate the site, a guide is recommended to understand why the sanctuary is so important.

TO KNOW

Price: 150,000 VND / per adult
Hours: 6 am – 5 pm

Cham dance shows: in the morning and early afternoon (9:30 am – 10:30 am and 2:30 pm)

6. The Precious Heritage Museum

Le musée Precious Heritage à Hoi An

The Precious Heritage Museum was opened by French photographer Réhahn (shoutout to France), but it is primarily a museum where you can see most of the original costumes of the 54 ethnic minorities of Vietnam. You can also see various ethnic accessories such as earrings, pipes, among others.

In the first part, you can view a photo gallery where you can see the photographer’s pictures that glorify Hoi An and Vietnam. Some have been published by National Geographic.

What I liked is that the museum is personal; you truly live the story that the photographer tells, and it is very comprehensive.

Even though I visited the Ethnology Museum in Hanoi, I found this museum to be superior in many ways, especially since the costumes are not behind glass, which really allows you to see them, and the museum’s ethnic music recorded by the artist adds to the ambiance.

Address: 26 Phan Boi Chau Street – Hoi An

TO KNOW

The museum information is in English
Entrance free

7. The beaches of An Bang, Ha My, Hidden Beach, and Cua Dai

Plage de An Bang à Hoi An

The beaches of Cua Dai, Ha My, and An Bang are destinations for relaxation and leisure in the late afternoon after spending a full day in the rice fields.

  1. I have a preference for An Bang Beach where you can find excellent bars and restaurants like Soul Kitchen for live concerts, as well as the French-run La Plage restaurant. You can also eat directly on the beach with the locals from 5 pm onwards. A great experience.
  2. Cua Dai Beach has regained its former beauty in 2023 and is currently one of the most beautiful beaches in Hoi An. Although I prefer An Bang Beach because there are more interesting restaurants, Cua Dai is an excellent beach that is more local.
  3. Located between Cua Dai and An Bang, Hidden Beach has unfortunately suffered from erosion and is no longer practicable in 2024.
  4. Situated between An Bang Beach and the Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Ha My Beach, which is still relatively unknown, is a quiet and very local spot. Unfortunately, it is not well-maintained, which is a real shame. But it remains a hidden gem, and if you’re someone who prefers to avoid crowds, it’s a beach to add to your travel list.

8. Cam Thanh Village

Batelier dans le village de Cam Thanh à Hoi An

Leaving Hoi An, the village of Cam Thanh is located just 3km from the city center and is ideal if you want to go for a bike ride. The place has developed a bit too much for my taste, but if you leave the main roads and take the small streets, you will find a calm Hoi An.

In this village, the leaves of submerged coconut trees are cultivated and worked on. If you come around 4 pm – 5 pm, you can see the locals working with the leaves by collecting them and spreading them out on the roads. The leaves are used, among other things, to make the umbrellas you find on the beaches of Hoi An.

It is also here that you can try the basket boat, those famous round fishing boats, in the middle of the 7-hectare mangrove of submerged coconut trees (almost unique in Vietnam, although they can also be found in the Mekong Delta). It costs between 100,000 VND to 150,000 VND for a 1-hour basket boat tour.

TO KNOW

Be aware that there are two places to go for basket boat tours. One is crowded with Asian tourists (near the Cua Dai bridge), and the other is popular but quieter and less crowded.

9. Prao Village

Dans une maison des minorités Co Tu près de Hoi An

Prao Village is a place located about 2 and a half hours from Hoi An. It’s home to the ethnic minority of Central Vietnam, the Cotu.

The location remains authentic, and you can see the traditional houses as well as the Co Tu costumes, which are still worn by the locals. As it’s not yet a tourist hotspot, I recommend visiting if you’re staying in Hoi An.

You should avoid the second village, Nam Hang, which is designed for tourists.

TO KNOW

Without a guide, the visit can be challenging. You might miss the most significant aspects of the village. Although the village has opened up to tourism, it is still difficult to navigate. You might consider consulting with English-speaking guides.

10. Hoi An Central Market

marche nourriture hoi an 4

The Central Market of Hoi An offers a truly total immersion where you can try the different culinary specialties of Hoi An, including the Cao Lau for a very reasonable price. Expect to pay between 30,000 VND and 50,000 VND depending on the dish.

There is also an excellent Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), which is much better than many restaurants in Hoi An. Despite the fact that the market is touristy, it still retains its authenticity since locals dine there too.

Avoid the central aisle where most of the tourist-targeted stands are located; instead, prefer the surrounding aisles.

It’s best to go early in the morning and have lunch with the Vietnamese to really appreciate this place.

11. Thanh Ha Pottery Village

hoi an thanh ha

The Thanh Ha Pottery Village, as its name suggests, is a village dedicated to pottery. You can see the entire process of pottery making there.
It’s an opportunity to try your hand at it because with your entrance ticket, you can attempt to make one yourself. I deliberately do not post a photo of my pottery, which doesn’t look like much :). I was waiting for Demi Moore (see the movie Ghost).

The village has a huge park, the Terracotta Park. You can learn a bit more about pottery there. I recommend visiting it because it features portraits of the village potters, whom you can meet afterwards.

Useful Information
Price: 35,000 VND per adult

12. Cham Islands

cham island beach

On the Cham Islands, you can practice diving, snorkeling, and/or trekking.

Honestly, although the island can be visited, it’s a bit disappointing because the main island is divided in two due to a military base on site. It is also difficult to get around since the roads are not in good condition and you are not allowed to drive a scooter there (in theory).

I recommend taking a boat to the surrounding islands where you can visit fishing villages.

TO KNOW

Two diving schools offer diving in the Cham Islands: Cham Diving and Blue Coral. They also offer several activities on site such as beach barbecues and camping.

13. Tam Thanh Mural Village

hoi an village fresque mural 1

Located a few kilometers from Hoi An, this village became famous when it was selected for a joint Korea-Vietnam art project. Since then, this village has attracted many tourists who come to admire the numerous murals hidden throughout the village.

The beautiful murals depict the villagers, whom you may also meet in person. It’s a great outing to get away from Hoi An.

As the village is situated along the coast, you can also enjoy a fine sandy beach without the crowds. A must-visit.

14. Duy Hai Fishing Village

village a voir hoi an

Looking for a less touristy spot? Just 10 minutes from Hoi An, the fishing village of Duy Hai is a truly local place.

Here, you’ll have the chance to see an authentic fish market without the tourists. It’s a real pleasure to stroll through this village which was once only accessible by boat.

No one will pay much attention to you, and you can take photos without anyone asking for a dollar. It’s the fishing village to visit for any self-respecting photographer. You are truly in the midst of Vietnamese culture. You can even settle down in one of the many cafes on the docks to watch the morning frenzy.

Also not to be missed is the Nuoc Mam factory.

TO KNOW

Like any fishing village, it’s best to arrive early. I recommend coming around 4:30 AM to witness the frenzy of the village. If you go during the day, you won’t see anything out of the ordinary.

15. Hoi An Memories

spectacle hoi an memories 10

Hoi An Memories is a grand show located in the Hoi An Impression Theme Park on Cam Nam Island (accessible by a bridge).

On a 25,000 square meter stage with 500 actors, you relive the history of Hoi An over 400 years. From a small town, it transforms into the most important port in Asia in the 16th century.

The show is narrated in English through screens on the sides of the stage, but the performance is easily understandable even for those who do not speak English.

16. Lune Production Shows

teh dar spectacle lune production

The shows of Lune Production are often compared to a Vietnamese version of Cirque du Soleil with high-flying acrobatics and dynamic performances. My favorite Lune Production show is Teh Dar.

You can see their shows in Hanoi and Saigon, but if you missed them, you can catch up in Hoi An since Lune Production’s shows are now playing at the Lune Performing Center.

The performances focus on Vietnamese life, legends, and more…

17. Lantern Festival

joueur echec festival lanternes hoi an

The Lantern Festival of Hoi An (also called the Full Moon Festival) is one of the most famous festivals in Vietnam. It takes place on the 14th day of each lunar month.

On this night, all the street lights in the old town are turned off for a few hours in the evening, creating a magical atmosphere. There are also various activities, such as chess players in front of some houses.

The 14th day is not only a festival but also an important day for the Vietnamese. You will see locals burning votive paper in front of their houses to honor their ancestors. On this occasion, the pagodas and communal houses of the old town are open to the public free of charge.

18. Getting Tailor-Made Clothes

tailleur hoi an

Hoi An is the shopping capital and is the city in Vietnam for getting tailor-made clothes. As you wander through the old town, you’ll literally find a tailor on every street corner.

The prices are reasonable and the quality is there if you avoid the less reputable establishments. There are many choices, but some tailors stand out like Mr Xe, Be Be Tailors, or A Dong Silk.

If you find tourists complaining, it’s because they’ve gone to the local market or they’ve tried to drive the prices down, and this is reflected in the quality.

19. Cooking Classes

Hoi An is also renowned for its excellent cuisine, and it is only natural that you will find cooking classes there. Most cooking classes include a visit to the central market.

From Cao Lau to Mi Quang and Banh Xeo, you can learn to cook the best dishes from Hoi An as well as from all over Vietnam.

I recommend My Grandma’s Cooking, Baby Mustard, or the cooking class at Tra Que Water Wheel.

The last two are in Tra Que village, which means you’ll have fresh vegetables, and the first is located away from Hoi An.

20. Making a Lantern

faire lanterne hoi an

As you walk through the old town of Hoi An, you’ll discover that, apart from the Japanese Bridge, lanterns are the symbol of Hoi An. So, why not make your very own lantern?

It’s less straightforward than it appears, and you will learn more about the origins of Hoi An’s lanterns. Many workshops offer low prices, but often that only involves placing silk on a pre-made frame, which can be disappointing.

There are more comprehensive workshops where you will learn to make the lantern from A to Z, including constructing the frame. You’ll be able to choose the style, color, material, and more…

Da Nang

pont du dragon danang 3

Da Nang, located just 30 minutes from Hoi An, is a seaside city and is inseparably linked to Hoi An. It is the third largest city in Vietnam after Saigon and Hanoi.

Da Nang boasts numerous famous attractions such as the Marble Mountains, Lady Buddha, the Cham Museum, beautiful beaches, and much more.

It is also a starting point for some road trips over the Hai Van Pass or to Monkey Mountain (Son Tra Peninsula).

The Cam Dong Bamboo Bridge

Vue d'un drone du pont en bambou à Hoi An

I didn’t include it in the top 21 must-sees, but visiting one of the last bamboo bridges in the region is definitely worth a visit.

At 120 meters long, crossing it is an experience in itself. If you are a photographer, you won’t want to miss it because the bridge is very photogenic, especially during the golden hours (early in the morning and around 4 PM – 5 PM).

My Opinion

I meet many tourists who only visit the Japanese Bridge and the old town. Most travel agencies only focus on these two spots, while Hoi An has so much more to offer in terms of sights and activities.

Whether it’s the surrounding villages like Tra Que, Cam Thanh, or the island of Cam Kim, the beaches like Cua Dai and An Bang, performances such as Hoi An Memories and Lune Production, cooking classes, or shopping—you can easily spend a week in Hoi An without getting bored.

Nearby, you also have the My Son sanctuary as well as Da Nang.

In 2011, I fell in love with Vietnam after traveling extensively across the country for a month. In 2012, I decided to settle in Hoi An. In 2014, I launched "Good Morning Hoi An," a tourist site that reflects my passion for this magical place. I dedicate myself to guiding visitors through authentic experiences, helping them discover the unique charm of Hoi An as well as Da Nang, from its exquisite cuisine to its age-old traditions. This is my story, that of a Frenchman who found his second home. My email: goodmorninghoian@gmail.com

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