The boat in Hoi An
The boat in Hoi An @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

The town of Hoi An is located in central Vietnam, just a few kilometers south of the modern city of Da Nang. The name Hoi An translates literally to 'a peaceful meeting place' and the reason for this dates back to the 15th century when Hoi An was known as a strategic trading post between ancient Southeast Asian societies. It attracted merchants from Japan, Laos, Thailand, and numerous other ethnic groups from inside what is now known as Vietnam.

Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site, which is a list of protected locations and landscapes that have great cultural importance. This badge of honor has also been given to the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Egypt among others. While the these landmarks are grand in design and gesture, Hoi An is quaint and cozy so holidaymakers can easily immerse in its rich history and culture.

What is Hoi An known for?

Hoi An is known internationally for its frozen-in-time examples of ancient Vietnamese and foreign culture that is displayed around every corner, in the architecture of buildings and bridges, and in the local cuisine. Present-day travelers will find Hoi An to be packed full of clues to its vibrant ancestry.

Some of the most notable things to see and do are:

  • Visit the historical 300-year-old Japanese covered bridge
  • Wander through the enchanting old town on foot or by bicycle
  • Cruise along the Thu Bon River on a lantern decorated boat
  • Take a trip to the nearby majestic Marble Mountains
  • Relax on the beach in utter tranquility
  • Day trip into Da Nang City for a taste of modern Vietnam

How many days do you need in Hoi An?

The number of days needed to see and enjoy Hoi An can be anywhere from just 2 days on a whirlwind weekend trip or 2 weeks at a slower pace. The liveable nature of the town has meant it wouldn't be hard to find tourists there who have become residents, and for expat communities, Hoi An is a top destination.

See for yourself in Hoi An

There are several fascinating things to see when you visit Hoi An, Vietnam. Many of these experiences are just steps away from your Hoi An hotel, while some require a day trip. First, here are the best things you can see from within Hoi An.

Discover the Hoi An old town

What to see: Well preserved examples of life in Vietnam from centuries ago

Where: Bach Dang road is the hub of the old Town

Also known as the Hoi An ancient town, the old town of Hoi An was historically the cultural center of Vietnamese merchants and noblemen going back 2-3 hundred years. This heritage can be seen in the unique buildings that feature bright yellow stone walls and ornamental wooden carvings. Bridges in the old town are especially picturesque are decorated in traditional Indochinese lanterns and patch together the cobbled streets between the Thu Bon river and the Hoi An canal system. It is this particular area that puts Hoi An on the UNESCO world heritage site list with most of the must-see things contained within just a few hundred square meters.

Lantern Coffee Shop in Hoian
Lantern Coffee Shop @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

A walk through the Hoi An old town is even more enchanting at night when the streets come alive with food stalls selling traditional Vietnamese fare, and cyclo bikes peddle people around the riverside. It's so charming, especially for couples and families. Solo-travelers can find solace in the fact that there lively bars and cafes along the river teeming with like-minded adventurers. Areas of the ancient town are pedestrianized during the evening, so take your time and let the waves of culture wash over you!

Cross the Japanese covered bridge

What to see: A beautiful and ornamental bridge steeped in history.

Where: On Tran Phu street next to the river.

Inside Hoi An's old town is the famous Japanese bridge with an architectural design dating back 300 years. Careful preservation has meant the bridge is still operational and enchanting to this day. You may have seen this Japanese bridge proudly printed on the 5000 VND Vietnamese note, or on the Instagram of your travel-savvy friends. It exhibits two large statues of a monkey and two of a dog representing the Chinese years during which many Japanese Emperors were born and also denoting when the bridge was built.

Japanese covered bridge
Japanese covered bridge @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

Become enchanted with Hoi An's lantern culture

What to see: Hanging lantern displays

Where: All along the street of the old town. Souvenirs can be bought on Nguyen Hoang street

As Hoi An has been an ancient melting pot of various south-east Asian nations, there are many residual traditions and customs set in Hoi An's cultural DNA. A good example of this is the brightly colored lanterns that hang like vines from house to house. Influenced by the Chinese and Japanese equivalents, Vietnamese lanterns feature flowery patterns and artistic natural landscapes on silk fabric. They can be purchased from local sellers with the best location being in the night market on Nguyen Hoang street.

Beautiful lantern in Hoi An
Beautiful lantern in Hoi An @ Alessia Galimberti / Unsplash

Wander through Hoi An's local markets

What to see: Bustling markets offering anything from local produce to tailor-made suits

Hoi An night market

Where: Nguyen Hoang street

The night market is located inside the Hoi An old town. Here tourists can find anything from delicious street food to designer fashion labels at discount prices (products may or may not be genuine). This local market is a one-stop-shop for trinkets and gifts for friends back home. In addition, it's a great training ground to sharpen your negotiating skills with most sellers expecting to broker deals with savvy tourists. After doing business, take a break on the riverside where numerous food stalls and restaurants offer traditional Vietnamese food and nightly entertainment.

Street food at night market Hoian
Street food at night market @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

Hoi An central market

Where: Between Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu street

The Hoi An central market is a focal point of everyday life for fishermen, farmers, and shoppers alike. This little center of local trading is one of the best things to see in Hoi An. On the surface, visitors will see a huge offering of fresh produce ranging from homegrown vegetables to well-preserved condiments like pickled garlic and chili.

Hoi An local market
Hoi An local market @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

Further beyond the threshold, you will find anything you could imagine possible. Bounties of fresh fish are displayed along the side of the river while local fishermen haggle a deal for their catch. Seamstresses offer tailor-made suit or dress services for very affordable prices, based on your bartering skills. When energy levels are low, shop around at the food stalls that sell delicious spring rolls and other awesome Vietnamese cuisines.

Relax along Hoi An's beautiful beach

What to see: Picturesque tropical beaches and crystal clear waters

Where: Anywhere along the coastline, especially An Bang beach

Hoi An sits on the eastern coast of Vietnam and enjoys a beautiful stretch of coast that runs all the way up to Da Nang. With the sun rising in the east, early birds will get a great sunrise view from anywhere on the beach. The most popular beach is An Bang beach. This is at the end of Ha Ba Trung street, just a short 10-minute bike ride north of Hoi An. Parking and other food and beverage services are available and this is also a popular location for hotels.

An Bang beach is very popular in Da Nang
An Bang beach is very popular in Da Nang @ SURAWONG WONGPRAT / Getty Images

As you head south from An Bang beach, other spots are worth checking out. These are known as An Bang south beach, Hidden beach, and Cua Dai beach. Though these beaches are less crowded, space is very thin due to coastal erosion. This is why there is less commercialism and services are more sparse. They are still worth the visit, and a tour of all these beaches by bicycle is highly recommended.

Hire a vintage bicycle to see iconic Vietnam in style

What to see: Rice paddies, traditional village life, beaches, and more!

Where: Head north towards the coast

A top recommendation is to rent a bicycle, this can be from your hotel or any local agent. Once you're on a bike, must-see things come thick and fast. Nearby beaches, villages, rice paddies, and the old town are at your fingertips. A popular loop is to head out of town on Ha Ba Trung street towards the beach. Within moments you will be whizzing between gorgeous rice paddies and the traditional village communities that tend to them. After a quick stop off at the beach, return via Lac Long Quan and Cua Dai street for the full loop.

Hoi An Street with cyclo @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

A lot of areas of the old town are closed for motorized transport in the evening so a bike tour is the best way to get around in style. They usually come with a handy little basket on the front, and they are very economical too, only a few dollars for the day!

Take a cooking class

What to see: Cooking classes instruct how to make delicious and vibrant Vietnamese food.

Where: Many culinary schools operate in the old town with Gioan Cookery being a favorite.

If you are a keen chef or want to take home a taste of Hoi An, Vietnam, then join a cooking class. From informal demonstrations in your hotel to more serious instruction in a school, cooking classes are available for all levels. Established culinary schools offer bespoke classes that include guided tours of the local market to gather ingredients for a menu that you choose. After only a few hours, students will be able to recreate some of the most signature dishes in Vietnamese cuisine. A little training in Vietnamese cooking is one of the best souvenirs you can take home for everyone.

Cao Lau - one of the signature dishes in Hoi An
Cao Lau - one of the signature dishes in Hoi An @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

Get a tailor-made wardrobe at the source

What to see: Beautifully tailored clothes ranging from traditional to office wear.

Where: Tailors are around every corner with Blue Chic Tailor being a favorite.

Vietnam is known as one of the world's biggest textile producers, and Hoi An is considered the center of fine fabrics and professional workmanship in the whole Southeast Asian region. Tourists and locals alike travel here for all their wardrobe needs. Tailors can be found on every street, alleyway, and market with services ranging from world-class to affordable.

Hoi An Tailor Shop @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

With the ability to pick your style on the fabric of your choice, those interested in a custom-made suit or dress have just entered paradise. The average turnaround time from measurement to delivery is about 3 days, so get measured up early enough to allow time for adjustments and the like.

Partake in ancient Vietnamese fashion

What to see: The traditional and contemporary clothes of Vietnam

Where: All along Tran Phu street

Hoi An is the best place to buy a traditional Vietnamese dress known in Vietnamese as an 'ao dai'. Featuring grand designs on smooth silk fabric, ao dai is worn by Vietnamese people for all kinds of customary and religious reasons, in addition to being the standard school uniform, usually for girls. Many domestic tourists take a trip to Hoi An specifically to have an ao dai custom made, and numerous variations of the Ao Dai can be bought off-the-shelf. Men usually wear Ao dai for weddings where they are considered the pinnacle of handsomeness.

Ao dai in Hoi An town @ venusvi / Canva Pro

Jump on a lantern boat for a tour of the Thu Bon River

What to see: All the spectacular scenery of the old town from unique viewpoints.

Where: Boats depart from Bach Dang road.

An excellent way to see Hoi An from a different perspective is by lantern boat. Simply a wooden rowboat dressed in candles and lanterns, tourists can jump aboard and cruise past some of the most iconic landmarks of Hoi An, including the Japanese bridge, the central market, and rows of gorgeous-looking stone houses. A trip can take 30 minutes to over 1 hour depending on the tour itinerary and is breathtaking at night with all the lantern light dancing on the water.

Tourist on lantern boat in Hoi An @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

Take a trip outside the city

Staying in Hoi An provides a great base for activities that are further afield. Day trips out of Hoi An are easy with private transport available through ride-sharing apps such as Grab, or simply hire a scooter for $5 a day.

Explore the marble mountains

What to see: A stunning network of caves and pagodas nestled in limestone mountains

Where: Along the Truong Sa highway with entrances on Huyen Tran Cong Chua street

The marble mountains are located 30 minutes north of Hoi An towards Da Nang. Made up of five huge limestone and marble monoliths, Vietnamese folk law holds that they are the remnants of a dragon egg. When it hatched it bore a beautiful girl. Now, being a holy site, a complex of temples and pagodas have enveloped the mountains with several contingents of monks leading prays and ethereal chants for pilgrims.

Marble Mountain @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

Now visitors can take a tour of this historic site to have a first-hand experience of the breathtaking pagodas, grand cave sanctuaries, and stunning viewpoints. A tour, self-guided or organized through a tour company, usually takes around 2-4 hours at the cost of a few dollars.

Enjoy a basket boat ride

What to see: Navigate river ways engulfed in jungle by traditional basket boat.

Where: Along Vo Chi Cong street before the Cua Dai bridge

A few clicks east of the city in Cam Thanh district is where tourists can find an array of opportunities to get on the water. Where the mouth of the Thu Bon river fragments into little mangrove forests, travel companies have set up shop offering basket boat rides through the jungle. Floating by, visitors get a great view of traditional fishing village life and even get the chance to hop off for an exclusive cooking class or train to harness the power of your own buffalo to work the rice fields.

Street View Basket Boat
Street view basket boat @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

Day trip to Da Nang

What to see: Perfect beaches, and fashionable restaurants at the foothills of the Son Tra peninsula.

Where: Around 30kms north of Hoi An. A 45-minute taxi will cost roughly $10 - $15.

The modern city of Da Nang is only a mere 30 kilometers away from Hoi An and has several famous attractions itself with most travelers planning at least one day there to explore. Some of the best things about this city are the beautiful white sand beaches, the easy access to spectacular mountain roads, and the 5-star casinos, hotels, and golf courses.

Son Tra peninsula in Danang city @ Canva Pro

Explore the My Son Sanctuary

What to see: Stone-built temples and historical artifacts of a lost society.

Where: In Duy Xuyên district. About 40km west of Hoi An.

The My Son temples, also another UNESCO world heritage site, are evidence of an ancient civilization that inhabited much of Vietnam between the 4th and 14th centuries. Akin to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but smaller, visitors can roam through the ruins and discover up-close the cryptic sculptures and inscriptions of the lost Champa society.

My Son Sanctuary @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

When is the best time to visit Hoi An?

Hoi An is set slightly inland from the coast in central Vietnam. The weather is consistently tropical with only two distinct seasons being the dry and the wet season.

The Dry Season

The dry season in Hoi An, Vietnam, is generally from March to September. During this time, the hottest months are from June to August with temperatures in the 30s (degrees Celsius). This is also peak tourist time and all services and hotels will be open.

The Wet Season

From October to March, tourists can expect heavy rain and the odd typhoon. While the sky may be gray, temperatures are still hot, and the vibrant colors of Hoi An keep the experience cozy. In the later months of the season, January to March, rain is less likely and temperatures hover around 25 degrees celsius.

Nice building on the river
Nice building on the river @ Alan Brownbridge / Vietnam Is Awesome

How can I get to Hoi An?

Plane/train: If you are flying into the region by plane you will arrive at the Da Nang City airport. If you want to travel by train, the main station is on Hải Phòng street, not far from the airport. From either of these locations, you can book a taxi or use a ride-share app like Grab to travel the 50-minute journey over to Hoi An. The taxi should cost around $10-15.

Coach/minibus: Tourists can arrive from other nearby cities in Vietnam such as Hue in the north, or Nha Trang in the south. Coaches usually have sleeping berths for long-haul comfort and will terminate in Da Nang, whereas minibuses can drop off tourists directly at the door of their hotel in Hoi An.

That concludes our guide to the best things to see in Hoi An and the surrounding area. When in Vietnam, make sure a trip to Hoi An is top of your list. Though there truly are some magical places in Vietnam, Hoi An is undoubtedly a centerpiece of culture, history, and beautiful architecture. As you get ready for you trip there, make sure you also check out our comprehensive listing of Hoi An's top attractions!