Hoi An is a stunning coastal city in Central Vietnam, located about 30 kilometers south from Da Nang. It’s known for its exceptionally well-preserved ancient town, its multicultural architecture and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a small city with a population of about 150,000, covering an area of 61km2.
The city has all the elements to become one of the most famous destinations in Vietnam, including the wonderful coastline, the poetic Thu Bon River flowing through the city, the delicious local cuisine, not to mention the charming historical Old Town with its unique architecture.
Formerly known as Faifo, many of the shops and eateries nowadays have adopted this name. You will sometimes see many shops/eateries called Faifo when walking through the Old Town.
Before the 16th century, the land belonged to the Champa Kindgom. The vestige of the old culture disappeared when the Champa people gradually moved to the South. Hoi An’s culture is an intersection of Buddhism and Hinduism.
The current name – Hoi An officially came up in the middle of the 16th century. The 16th and 17th centuries were the most flourishing periods of Hoi An. The city was one of the busiest Southeast Asia ports. Goods from India, China and Japan were traded and exchanged here.
Japanese Street was formed during that time. In its peak time, up to 60 out of 100 houses along the Thu Bon River belonged to Japanese merchants. After the Japanese, the Chinese, especially those coming from Fujian city, settled down here. Japanese community then decreased to about 10 families. Houses by the river were replaced by newcomers.
In the 18th century, the civil war occurred. As a result, business activities in Hoi An ceased to trade.
In the 19th century, together with changes in geography, the Thu Bon estuary was narrowed down. Hoi An was no longer a trading port. This was a “blessing in disguise”. Hoi An was a small unnoticeable village and did not belong to any big city. Hence, it was not affected during two wars with the French and the US, which is why the architecture has remained almost intact.
By the 20th century, Hoi An became one of the most popular tourist destinations around the world, especially after being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
These historical factors have strongly influenced Hoi An’s culture and architecture, making it special and unique. The architecture that best reflects the intersection of the three cultures (Vietnam, Japan and China) of Hoi An can be seen on the Japanese covered bridge (called Chùa Cầu).
The Ancient Town or Old Town of Hoi An is only about 2km2. Every step you take is a glimpse of a historical site. Here are some of the destinations in Old Town you should not miss:
Assembly halls – The five halls are Phúc Kiến (Fujian), Quảng Đông (Guangdong), Duong Thuong, Hải Nam (Hainan), Triều Châu (Chaozhou). Except for the Chaozhou Assembly Hall which is located on Nguyen Huy Lieu Street, the other four are located on Tran Phu Street. Fujian is the biggest Assembly Hall. Therefore, it is the most crowded destination among these five assembly halls.
Japanese Covered Bridge – This bridge was constructed by the Japanese in the early 17th century. The design is originally Japanese. Its roof is of typical Vietnamese construction (Yin Yang). Inside the bridge lies a temple of Bac De Tran Vo, the northern God of China.
Ancient Houses – Phung Hung, Tan Ky, Quan Thang, Tran’s house, Nguyen Tuong’s house were built about 100 to 200 years ago.
Pagodas – Quan Cong Temple, Cam Pho Temple, Ong Pagoda
Museums – Hoi An Museum, Ceramics, Sa Huynh Culture, Folklore
When buying a ticket to visit the main attractions in the old town, you can visit up to 3 places out of the aforementioned places. To get a sense of the differences between the cultures and architectural styles, you should choose one assembly hall, one ancient house and one cultural work or museum to visit. If you have more time to spare, do buy 2 or 3 tickets to explore more of it.
Central Market – You can find all the typical dishes of Hoi An at reasonable prices. The market is open from 8am to 7pm. It is an ideal place for breakfast and lunch. The market is packed with food stalls inside. Outside, they sell fresh products such as vegetables, fish and meat. Food prices are fixed, but fresh stuff is up for bargain so don’t hesitate to haggle.
Lantern Street – Lanterns are hung everywhere in the Old Town. The lantern shops are located mainly on Tran Phu Street. At night when the lanterns are lit, Hoi An is extremely sparkling and vibrant. You can also explore the night market to check and buy lanterns.
Night Market – It operates from 5 pm to 11 pm on the other side of the river. From street foods to souvenir stalls or traditional performing arts theatres, everything can be found here.
Beaches – Cua Dai and An Bang are about 4km away from the Old Town. If you like green palm trees, you will love Cua Dai! If you want to chill at a local beach, An Bang is for you. Both beaches are super busy on the weekends.
Cham Island – This is one of the most beautiful islands of Hoi An. If you like swimming, soaking up the sun and snorkeling, you should spend some time here. You’ll be able to book a day tour to the island via the tourist office in the Old Town or your hotel reception. If you want to spend all day scuba diving professionally, try Cham Island Diving Center for a fun experience.
Tailoring – Get some custom-made clothes as Hoi An is very famous for its high quality and quick tailoring services. It takes between 2 hours and 3 days to get yourself from a shirt to a suit. Anything you can think of goes: from shoes to three-piece suits and garments.
Read about the Top Things To Do in Hoi An.
Hoi An Suburbs
Tra Que Vegetable Village – This is the place that supplies vegetables for many Hoi An residents and visitors. Rent a bicycle and cycle around the village. You can also join a cooking class here; all vegetables are harvested from local home gardens.
Other Craft Villages – Kim Bong Carpentry Village, Thanh Ha Pottery Village, Phuoc Kieu bronze Casting Village
Tam Thanh Mural Village – About an hour drive from Hoi An, Tam Thanh is a tranquil fishing village. Going there, you’ll enjoy not only the beautiful murals but also the nice, quiet beach.
My Son Sanctuary – 40 km from Hoi An you’ll experience the relics of the Champa kingdom.
Hai Van Pass – Rent a motorbike or car and drive along the coast to the most beautiful pass of Vietnam, you won’t regret it.
Lune Production – These are established interpretive shows that describe Vietnamese culture through the language of cirque, dance and music. They bring on stage four shows: Á Ố, My Village, Teh Dar, Palao. Each show takes place for 1.5 hours, being held at the Lune Center by the river.
Hoi An Memories – It’s an elaborate outdoor art show with the participation of about 300 artists. As its name implies, 400-year history of Hoi An is reimagined through five performances. It is held in VinPearl Land Hoi An Theme Park, about a 20-minute drive from the Old Town.
In Hoi An you can find everything, from low-budget hotels to luxury resorts. The Old Town is for culture or shopping lovers.
Vinh Hung Old Town – It is located on Tran Phu street where you can reach the most important attractions within a 5-minute walk.
La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa has a great customer friendly service.
The most luxurious accommodations are beach resorts along the coast from Da Nang to Hoi An. In addition, small resorts alongside the coast of Cua Dai and An Bang are for budget beach-lovers.
Nam Hai is a 5-star resort, which is the closest to Hoi An. You can always use their free shuttle bus to get to the Old Town.
Read about the Best Luxury Hotels in Hoi An.
The raining season is from August to December and the dry season from January to July. It is rarely extremely hot here. The average temperatures are between 28-35°C between June and August. From December to March these are about 18-25°C.
The most beautiful time to travel to Hoi An is from January to March with milder temperatures and little rain. During this periods, local people decorate their houses for the traditional Tet holiday and the city becomes even more beautiful.
Full Moon Festival – According to the ancient tradition of Hoi An, it’s a symbol of good luck when you lay flower lanterns on the river on the 14th of every lunar month. This is the most magical and symbolic time in Hoi An. It’s often referred to as the Hoi An Lantern Festival.
Mid-Autumn Festival – This is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar. You’ll experience the best lion dancing shows on the street. The Moon cake is traditional food that is served only on this occasion. During this time, the Old Town wears the best decorations ever.
Tet Festival – It’s the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, the most important of all festivals. It’s also celebrated in a very special way in Hoi An. It’s certainly beautiful at this time. However, please bear in mind that this is the busiest time in Hoi An in particular and in Vietnam in general as locals will be busy preparing for their New Year and family gathering time. There might be less open shops, restaurants and the price might increase a bit.
Ceremony of Madam Thien Hau – It’s held by the Chinese expatriates at the Fujian Assembly Hall on the 23rd March of the lunar year.
Cau Bong Festival – This is held on January 7th of the lunar calendar, in Tra Que village. Locals pray for a bountiful harvest season.
Hoi An is renowned around Vietnam for its excellent food, especially street fare. There are many types of noodles that you can try, such as Cao Lau and My Quang. Also taste the white rose dumplings, wonton, Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and chicken rice.
For dessert, consider the sweet soup, sticky rice or any other interesting food you can see on the street are all worth a try.
There are many good restaurants, too many to name. Stop by the Central Market for a large selection of fresh made food in one place. In Vietnam, when it comes to food, the motto “the busier, the better” applies.
One of the most common street foods in Vietnam are baguette sandwiches or “bánh mì” in Vietnamese. You’ll encounter little food vendors and shops all over the city selling these. Banh Mi Phuong and Madam Khanh are the two best in town.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Nuoc mot (herbal tea with lemongrass and lime) is specially found in Hoi An. Another hit is Coconut coffee, which is a a great combination of traditional coffee, coconut water and coconut milk.
Old Town is for pedestrians only and bicycles only, no cars or motorbikes. But motorbikes are permitted on the rest of the streets.
Bicycle – In most of hotels, you are free to use their bicycles. If not, you can rent in one of the many bike and bicycle shops in town.
Motorbikes – If you know what you’re doing, you can rent a motorbike at shops around town. It’ll cost between 100,000 and 200,000 dong per day, $5-10 US.
Taxi – For longer distances such as to the suburbs, beaches or to the airport, choose Mai Linh as it is a reliable taxi company or Grab – a platform similar to Uber.