Top 7 Things to Do in Hoi An

art gallery hoi an vietnam

              Hoi An has become a favorite destination for tourists to Vietnam; many of them making it a must see stop on their trip north or south.  The Ancient Town is packed with sights to see, old world architecture, and delicious food.  The canary yellow painted buildings with ropes of silk lanterns swooping across the tree covered roads, and all located along a slow-moving river make it an ideal location for a tourist getaway.  Not to mention that it is often touted as the ‘tailor capitol’ of Vietnam. 

museum folklore hoi an vietnam
Museum of Folklore.

Hoi An is the only ancient town in Vietnam that has remained mostly unchanged throughout history.  This is due to the fact that it was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1999; safeguarding its history for generations to come.  Once one of the busiest commercial ports in Southeast Asia, the Ancient Town has preserved its incredible legacy of Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples, ancient warehouses, and its commercial pulse.               

What to Do

Walk Around Hoi An Ancient Town

streets hoi an vietnam

              Walking around the Ancient Town of Hoi An is a joy all in itself.  The town is small enough to walk around with ease and most hotels are within walking distance the Ancient town as well.  That coupled with the fact that car and motorcycle traffic are restricted during the day make it a tourist paradise.  The entire town, with its yellow buildings, lantern draped roads, and historic buildings and bridges are all part of the UNESCO Heritage Site.  Although it is free to enter the town to walk around, shop, and eat, you will need to buy a ticket if you plan to enter the handful of preserved historic buildings.  Ticket booths can be found at the main entrance roads around the Ancient Town and aren’t hard to find.  A ticket costs 120,000 VND/5.45 USD and is good for entry into five locations. 

japanese bridge hoi an vietnam
The Japanese Bridge

              There is an array of old houses, museums, assembly halls, and temples that you will need the ticket to get into.  The ticket both will give you a pamphlet that will describe each location, allowing you to make a decision on where you would like to visit.  My personal suggestions are to at least visit the Japanese Bridge, Museum of Folklore, and at least one of the assembly halls.  The Japanese Bridge is free to cross, but you will need a ticket to enter the pagoda located on it. The Museum of Folklore has some interesting displays inside, but it also shows the architecture and wood work of the buildings of that time period. 

Do Some Shopping

shopping hoi an vietnam

              It goes without saying that shopping rules the day in Hoi An.  You may come to walk the streets of the Ancient Town to see its UNESCO Heritage sites, but you can’t help but doing some shopping along the way.  The homes and warehouse in this town have for the most part been replaced with shops and restaurants of all sorts.  Whether you are searching for some souvenirs to take back home or looking to get some clothes tailor-made for you, this town is overflowing with shops for just that purpose. 

Get a Tailored Made Suit

              Hoi An may be known for its historic significance, but it is famed for its tailors.  People come from far and wide to get suits and wardrobes tailor-made for them in Hoi An.  With this influx of commerce hundreds of tailors have popped up all over town offering an array of tailoring options.  Many of them have clothes already made ready to sell, be duplicated in a different material, or be altered to better fit the customer.  Others focus only on the creation of tailor-made clothes made to the specifications of the customer.  And then there are the shops that will tailor make all of the accessories needed for your new duds, from leather shoes to belts and anything else you might need.

be be tailor hoi an vietnam
One of Be Be Tailor's shops.

             Having hundreds of choices of tailors can make it hard to choose the right one.  And with these many choices you can be sure that not all of them are good or reputable. My personal recommendation is, and that of many others, is Be Be Tailor.  They have three stores in the Ancient Town and are very professional with their work.  You should plan a few days to have anything tailored, no matter who you choose, as you will need to discuss what you are wanting to have made and get measured, come in for a fitting or two once it is made, and then pick it up (though many of them will deliver it to your hotel).  It is also a good idea to have a picture or drawing of what you are wanting to make it easier for the ladies to determine what exactly you are looking for. 

Explore the Markets

trieu chau assembly hall hoi an vietnam
Trieu Chau Assembly Hall.

              Shopping isn’t all about souvenirs and tailored clothes in Hoi An.  When you get ready to venture out of those shops, make your way to the Hoi An market in south eastern Ancient Town.  The market is split into two sections.  The section closest to the river is regular market where vendors come to sell fresh vegetables and fruits.  Buy some fresh fruit while you walk around and take in the sights and sounds of the market.  The northern section of the market is full of food stalls serving up some of Hoi An’s best dishes at low prices. 

Eat Some Delicious Food

central market hoi an vietnam
Food court at the Hoi An Market.

              When it comes to Hoi An there is no lack of incredible food and great restaurants.  It’s hard to go wrong when searching for food in the Ancient Town.  One place I highly suggest checking out is the Hoi An Market located in the southeastern section of the Old City.  Inside you will find rows of food vendors with an array of different cheap dishes set out under a glass cover.  Don’t worry if you don’t speak Vietnamese or know the names of the dishes; just point at the ones you want and they will put them on a plate for you. 
              Pro Tip: Always go to the vendors that look busy with locals.  They always know the best places to eat!

white rose dumpling hoi an vietnam
White Rose Dumplings.

              While in Hoi An you should also try two of its specialties; White rose (banh bao vac) and Cao lầu.  White rose is a shrimp dumpling that is bunched up to look like a white rose; hence its name.  Cao lầu is a rice noodle soup with a dark pork broth, topped with pork, herbs, and veggies.  The biggest difference to Phở is its noodles, Cao lầu’s being thicker, courser, and said to be made with water from a special well in Hoi An.  Both of these dishes can be found just about anywhere in Hoi An.

              If your out at night, then you might like to try out some of the food carts at the night market located just across the river, south of the Ancient Town.  Like many things in Hoi An, the night market is geared towards tourist with popular street food and souvenirs.  Because of this you should expect to pay slightly more than you would in other locations in Vietnam. 

Enjoy the Ancient Town at Night

hoi an night vietnam

              The Ancient Town of Hoi An is alight at night with hundreds of multicolored silk lanterns lighting its streets.  With the streets being clear of motorcycles until 9 pm, its easy to get lost in the surrealness of this ancient towns old school feel.  Take this chance to stroll threw the streets while the temperature is cool and do a little window shopping.  Or visit the night market across the river, south of the Ancient Town, for some great street food.  While on your way to the night market stop a while at the bridge to watch the lanterns as they float down the now darkened river or you can even set on afloat yourself for 20,000 VND/0.91 USD.  Don’t forget to stop by the Japanese Bridge to see it all lite up as well and grab a great pic of it reflecting of the water.

Craft Beer

lemongrass pilsner artisan brewery hoi an vietnam
A Lemongrass Pilsner by Artisan Brewery and their beer menu.

              I’ve mentioned Vietnam’s craft beer scene time and time again (maybe I should just do a post about it…) throughout my posts, but that’s just because they do such a great job at it…and I just love trying new craft beers.  Hoi An has one craft brewery in town and a few other places to grab some of Saigon’s craft beers or the local Bia Hoi (rice beer).  Ca Mai (Artisan Brewery), located in the western part of the Ancient Town, has three beers of their own and a handful of Pasteur and Heart of Darkness beers as well.  If beer isn’t your thing then I suggest trying some of their delicious cocktails (happy hour is buy 1/get 1). 

tap house beer menu hoi an vietnam
Tap House's craft beer menu.

              Tap House, located in the north eastern section of the Ancient Town, is also a great place to try some craft beer.  Although they don’t brew their own, you can get flights of beers from Pasteur, East West, and Heart of Darkness.  They also have 7 Bridges in bottles, but I suggest just travelling the 45 minutes north to Da Nang to visit their roof top bar and watch the Dragon Bridge shoot fire and water at night. As far as the local Bia Hoi, you can find it at any place that advertises ‘Fresh Beer.’ 

How to Get There

              Hoi An is a very popular tourist destination so it is really easy to get to from any of the larger towns in Vietnam.  The Sinh Tourist Bus is your best option for getting to Hoi An.  The only direct buses are from Nha Trang, Da Nang, and Hue; all other departure locations will have a temporary stop in these towns.   If you are taking a different bus company make sure that the ticket office lists Hoi An as a destination or that the bus itself says Hoi An.  If this isn’t the case then you may either get dropped off on the highway 10 km outside of town or taken all the way to Da Lat.  If you are wanting to travel by train or plane, then you will have to first travel to Da Lat and then take a 45-minute bus south to Da Lat. 

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              When you are leaving Hoi An it is easier to first travel to Da Nang and catch a departing bus from there, as there are many more options in Da Nang.  To get to Da Nang you can take a 45-minute local bus for 20,000 VND/0.91 USD.  The bus driver may try to get more money out of you by telling you that the price has changed or that they don’t have change, so make sure that you have exact change.  The bus stop is located on the main road, just northwest of the Ancient Town.  Just search for ‘bến xe Hội An’ in google maps for the exact location. 

Where to Stay

              Because Hoi An is such a popular tourist destination there are many hotels in all budget ranges, but this tourism has also inflated the hotel cost slightly higher than most of the rest of Vietnam.  You should expect to pay no less than 220,000 VND/10 USD for any hotel.  Since the whole of Hoi An Ancient Town is considered a UNESCO Heritage Site, strict bylaws prohibit new construction within its boarders to preserve the atmosphere and integrity of this age-old town. 

Because of this you will not find many places to stay within its borders and those that do exist are overpriced.  Luckily, just north of the Ancient Town are a tons of hotel options, many of which are just a short 10-minute walk away.  We stayed at the Quynh Nhan Homestay, it was a nice for my standards and was just a short distance from the Ancient Town and both bus stops.  If you are wanting a high-end hotel you are better off looking at the hotels that line the beach.  They are really nice, but they are also far more expensive and you will have to take a taxi to get to the Ancient Town.

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What was your favorite thing about Hoi An?

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