Hoi An, nicknamed the “City of Lanterns,” is small, magical city in Central Vietnam most well known for its preserved Ancient Town. It was a former trading port city for 4 centuries with canals running through the town. You’ll find Chinese, Japanese, and French influences in its food, architecture, and bridges. Hoi An is such a charming and romantic city, identifiable by its colourful buildings and streets adorned with lanterns. The bustle and excitement of Hoi An continues after dark, which is when it comes the most alive. All of the lanterns are brightly lit while people stroll along the river banks and shops. Hoi An was one of my favourite stops in Vietnam and I strongly suggest you don’t miss it!
How To Get To Hoi An
Hoi An doesn’t have an airport or train station, so getting here by car is the only option. Most people visit here after seeing its neighbour Da Nang (20-30 minutes away) City. It has an airport receiving daily flights from large cities in Vietnam. You can book a taxi or book a car through “Grab,” which is how we reached Hoi An from Da Nang. Read my guide here on how to visit the Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills.
Where to Stay
There are 5 main areas that you can stay in Hoi An. You can choose where to stay based on your interests.
- Where to stay in Hoi An for the first time – Stay in Old Town. It’s home to the most famous attractions and arguably the most charming part of Hoi An.
- If you want to be able to stay between the city and the countryside – Stay in Cam Thanh or Cam Chau (also a great option for families)
- If you’re a backpacker or on a budget – Stay in Cam Pho, located downtown and in easy reach to the most popular attractions. It has several budget-friendly accommodations to choose from.
- If you’re into nightlife – Stay in An Hoi, located South of Old Town, you’ll find the famous Night Market and lively nightlife.
We stayed at in the heart of Hoi An at Hoi An Dream City Hotel. It was clean and close walking-distance to Old Town, making it really easy to explore. I’d recommend if it if you’re on a budget.
How to Get Around
The best way of getting around town is by foot. Most hostels/hotels provide bicycles for free, which is also great way to explore the city. You can rent a motorbike if you want to visit the beach or explore the countryside.
What to Do
Walk Around Old Town
Explore this charming and colourful area of town. There are so many restaurants, coffee shops, and photogenic spots! You’ll find lantern-covered buildings and trees everywhere!
Visit Ancient Town
Entrance Fee: 120,000 VND
Ancient Town is an amazingly well-preserved part of Hoi An where the fusion of many cultures is evident. There are no cars allowed here and is only comprised of one main pedestrian street. It’s an extension of what you’ll see in Old Town, located at the edge. Since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee. I personally didn’t feel like this was a must-see since it looks exactly like the streets in Old Town. There are a few temples in there to visit and a historic home called Phung Hung House with antique furniture if you’re interested in seeing older homes!
See the Famous Japanese Bridge
Back in the 1590’s, the Japanese Bridge was built to connect the Japanese community and Chinese town over the river. To actually walk on the bridge, you’ll have to pay the Ancient Town fee of 120,000 VND. You can take photos of it for free.
Go On A Bamboo Boat Tour
These traditional, round, basket boats, locally named “Thung Cai,” are made completely of woven bamboo and used for fishing in Central Vietnam. You can take a tour on one of these boats with the locals as your guide and paddler. They’ll take you through a water coconut forest and give you insight on how the locals catch fish and crab! You’ll even get an opportunity to try it yourself! We didn’t take this tour since we had already done a boat tour in Ninh Binh, but we went to take some photos at Hoi An Eco Green Tour. They’re well-rated online and provide other tours as well. You don’t have to book ahead of time. Many tourists were just showing up and renting a boat for 500,000 VND/boat. They’re located a 20-minute drive from Old Town.
Take A Stroll By The River – An Hoi Bridge
Visit this Japanese-covered bridge to reach the Hoi An Night Market. It’s a really great spot to watch the sunset along the river. There are plenty of cafes that line the river near the bridge to have a drink while sunset-watching. This bridge gets PACKED before sunset as it’s a popular spot and also because it’s the only way to reach the market side. There are lots of vendors around selling lanterns, candles and souvenirs. You can also take a small row boat river tour. At night, this whole area is lit up by candles and it’s such a magical place to take a stroll.
Hoi An Night Market
Hours: 5pm – Midnight
This night market becomes very busy! It’s not as large as other night markets, but has its fair share of local food stalls, trinkets, souvenirs, clothing and etc. It’s also where the lantern market is located. Here, you’ll find a small line-up just to photograph the lanterns. Be aware that the shop owners charge 20,000 VND to take a photo. They will enforce it if you try to sneakily take a picture. In my opinion, the food here wasn’t the best as it’s not as authentic due to its touristic nature. However, it’s a great place to walk every night since it has such a vibrant atmosphere. If you’re looking to eat more authentic food, have dinner at other local spots outside of Old Town. Don’t forget to bargain when shopping!
Shop For A Custom-Made Dress or Suit
Hoi An has over 400 tailor shops and is the most famous place in Vietnam to get top quality custom-made suits/dresses for a reasonable price! Do some research or ask a local at your hotel for shop recommendations!
Visit The Central Market
Hours: 5 am – 4 pm
Located on Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu Streets, this is a traditional Asian market full of fresh seafood, fruits, spices, flowers, and local food stalls to shop from! This market is also renowned for its silk tailors who can whip up a fresh suit within 24 hours! If you plan on walking through the seafood section, make sure to wear close-covered shoes since the ground is damp.
Go Beach Hopping – An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach
We didn’t go to the beach during our stay, but An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach are considered the most popular and best beaches near Hoi An. They’re within a 3-4 km drive from the main city.
Take a Day Trip to My Son Ruins
My Son Ruins are pretty much the Vietnamese equivalent to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. It’s a beautiful collection of abandoned Hindu Temples, partially ruined during the Vietnam War. We never visited this site since Cambodia was our next destination, but I’d recommend a sunrise tour if you’re interested! It looks beautiful!
Where to Eat
Banh Mi Phuong
Address: 2b Phan Chu Trinh, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam 560000, Vietnam
Hours: 6:30 am – 9:30 pm
Probably the most famous Banh Mi restaurant in Hoi An, made famous by the late Anthony Bourdain. You will find a very long queue when you arrive. You can order a delicious banh mi for only 20,000 VND. There is a dining area inside the shop if you don’t want to order for take away. You’ll have choices of pork, beef, or vegetarian.
Madam Khanh, Banh Mi Queen
Address: 115 Trần Cao Vân, Phường Minh An, tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
Hours: 7 am – 8 pm
Considered Banh Mi’s rival, the menu is quite similar, and just as popular as Banh Mi Phuong. This restaurant also has indoor seating and can get extremely busy. I’ve read mixed reviews due to it’s busy nature and service. Just make sure to be a bit aggressive when it comes to ordering or you’ll have people ordering before you.