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7 Things To Do In Hoi An


Located along the coast in the central region of Vietnam, Hoi An is a quaint, historic city characterized by its unique blend of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and French architecture, a throwback to the city’s past as an important commercial trading port from the 15th to 18th centuries.

Located along the coast in the central region of Vietnam, Hoi An is a quaint, historic city characterized by its unique blend of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and French architecture, a throwback to the city’s past as an important commercial trading port from the 15th to 18th centuries.

When its usefulness as a port declined in the 19th century, the once-flourishing city was all but forgotten as Vietnam’s other major cities began to modernize. Because of this, what remains in Hoi An today is a charming, well-preserved time capsule to an influential period in Vietnam’s past.

Once welcoming traders from all corners of the globe, these days, it’s tourists that flock to Hoi An, keen to explore the city’s UNESCO-designated Ancient Town and take advantage of its sleepy, slower-paced lifestyle for a while.

We spent just under a week in Hoi An, sampling the region’s famously flavorful dishes, learning about the city’s history, and actually doing some relaxing on a trip for the first time in ages. Not surprisingly, we left wishing we could have stayed longer.

If this is your first visit to Hoi An, I have recommendations below for a few ways you might want to spend your time, as well as Hoi An travel tips to help you plan your own trip. I hope you’ll enjoy this surprisingly tranquil city as much as we did. (If you’ve ever visited Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, you’ll understand why I was so surprised to discover a quiet city in this country!)

7 THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN

Pretty street in the Ancient Town of Hoi An

EXPLORE THE ANCIENT TOWN

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city with a more picturesque Old Town. Here in Hoi An, the streets of the Ancient Town are lined with shops and cafes all painted in cheerful shades of yellow. Multi-colored lanterns sway in the breeze over every shopfront and every street.

Instead of motorcycles which dominate the roads outside the Ancient Town, here you’re more likely to find people lazily peddling along on bicycles or simply walking from place to place. Add in the sporadic appearance of a number of ancient temples, pagodas, and old homes full of character, and you have yourself a place you could easily spend days wandering around in and taking photos.

Technically, entrance into the Ancient Town is ticketed. I say technically because we were never once asked to show our tickets at any point other than when entering the historic houses and temples, but just to be on the safe side, I recommend purchasing a ticket on your first day in Hoi An and keeping it on you for the duration of your visit.

Tickets cost 120,000 VND (around $5 USD) and children are free. With your ticket, you’ll also be allowed entrance into your choice of five different historic sights out of the 22 that are available. For tips on which sights to visit in the Ancient Town, check out the link below.

Fresh fruits and vegetables sold at the Central Market in Hoi An

VISIT THE CENTRAL MARKET

Located at the eastern end of the Ancient Town, the earlier you can get to Hoi An’s Central Market, the better. Not only because you’ll avoid the tourist crowds, but because you’ll be able to witness all the exciting action that happens at this market during its prime period.

The first time we visited the Central Market, we arrived just before noon (when the above photo was taken) and found the whole experience a little underwhelming. I mean, the market was big, sure, but nothing to write home about.

Determined to give it another go, the next morning we forced ourselves to get up a little earlier and make the Central Market our first stop and were rewarded with a much more exhilarating, albeit absolutely chaotic experience.

Motorbikes zip through the narrow passages between market stalls carrying bundles of fresh produce to nearby restaurants. Everyone is shouting to be heard over the noise of the motorbikes as well as each other. If you linger for even a moment near someone’s pile of vegetables, they’ll latch onto you, determined to make a sale. And it smells like fish. Like, a lot of fish.

It’s definitely more fun to visit the Central Market in the morning if what you’re coming for is a cultural experience, but if you actually want to buy things and aren’t used to making purchases in such an intense environment, I suggest visiting the market later in the day when business has quieted down a bit. Also, don’t forget to haggle, it’s how things are done here.

Touring the rice fields in Hoi An, Vietnam

TOUR THE RICE FIELDS IN HOI AN

Although not quite as dramatic as the rice paddies in Northern Vietnam, the rice fields in Hoi An are still beautifully scenic and relatively easy to get to from the main part of town.

We chose to stay in a hotel in the countryside, so reaching the rice fields for us was as simple as walking out our front door and crossing the street. But if you’re staying in the Ancient Town and aren’t sure how to reach the rice fields or where to go once you have, joining a half-day bike tour of Hoi An’s countryside is a great way to see the rice paddies.

If you can, I suggest visiting the rice fields just after sunrise. The light is gorgeous this time of day, plus the roads are less busy which makes biking or walking much easier. Morning is also when you’ll be able to spot more farmers working out in the fields, and even some water buffalo if you’re lucky.

All that said, if it’s rained recently, you might want to skip the bike tour and do some rice field exploring on foot instead. The roads in the countryside, and particularly the paths that wind through the paddies, get extremely muddy and soggy after a heavy rain making them quite difficult to cycle over. For best results, cross your fingers for a sunny day.

An Bang Beach in Hoi An during the summer

RELAX ON AN BANG BEACH

Of the two beaches in Hoi An, An Bang Beach is likely where you’ll most enjoy filling up your Vitamin D reserves and playing in the waves.

A pretty stretch of sand with a view of the mountains, An Bang Beach is wonderfully quiet and uncrowded. No loud music bumping out of bars, very few touts making the rounds, and a coastline you can walk without tripping over sunbathers every step of the way – this was definitely the most peaceful beach we’ve visited in Southeast Asia so far.

Several restaurants line the coast, all offering the use of their sun loungers and umbrellas for the day if you purchase a drink. I suggest choosing a place where the food looks great as well, so you won’t have to lose your spot to go in search of a lunch venue. We liked Wind and Moon Restaurant – the food was delicious and we were never pressured to keep ordering food or drinks on either day we used their loungers.

FYI: If you want to visit An Bang Beach when it’s a little livelier, come at sunset. That’s when all the locals come out since the sun isn’t as harsh and you’ll find parties and barbecues happening all up and down the beach.

Lanterns hanging in the Night Market in Hoi An

CHECK OUT THE NIGHT MARKET

Even if you have no intention of shopping, you can’t miss the Night Market in Hoi An.

Located across the river in An Hoi, the lanterns are the star of the show here. Hanging overhead by the thousands and displayed in shops for sale, their colorful glow creates a delightful ambiance as you wander through the shops selling everything from silk products to tasty banh mi sandwiches.

Just like at the Central Market, bargaining is the name of the game here, so if you’re shopping and not just wandering through in awe of the glowing lanterns, be prepared to haggle for a decent price. I usually offer under half of whatever the original price was and work up from there until I hit my maximum. If you find someone who is unwilling to budge, just move on. There are plenty of vendors and many are offering the exact same products for sale.

The Night Market is open every day from 5pm until 11pm, but be sure to time your visit sometime after the sun has gone down to see the lanterns illuminated. Definitely take a walk along the Thu Bon River on this side of the city as well. There are lots of great restaurants to check out if you didn’t fill up on street food at the market.

  • Find the Night Market on a map here.

Renting bicycles in Hoi An, Vietnam

RENT BICYCLES IN HOI AN

One of my favorite things we did in Hoi An was wake up early one morning and take a leisurely bike ride through the rice fields, the Ancient Town, and along the river while the rest of the city was just beginning to wake up.

This early in the day, we were the only tourists out and about and were able to witness many things you don’t get to see once the city really gets moving and grooving – fishermen getting their nets ready for the day, women hanging the washing on the line, an elderly couple enjoying the sunrise. We felt so much more connected to Hoi An after getting a peek behind the curtain into what daily life for its residents is like.

Your hotel will likely offer bicycle rentals on a first come first served basis, but if they don’t, bicycles can be rented for as little as $1 USD for the entire day from cycle hire businesses in the Ancient Town.

FYI: If you’re not completely confident in your bike-riding skills, try to stay off the main roads outside of the Ancient Town. Traffic moves fast and typical rules of the road don’t necessarily apply here.

Delicious shrimp dumplings - what to eat in Hoi An

TRY AS MANY FOODS AS YOU CAN

And last, but certainly not least – you must take advantage of the food scene in Hoi An. Fresh seafood. Bowls of noodles served piping hot. Dumplings filled with juicy pork and shrimp. My stomach growls just thinking about it! You’ll have so many delicious local dishes at your disposal while you’re here.

Besides the usual Vietnamese fare (banh mi, pho), you’ll also have the opportunity to try several foods specific to central Vietnam and even Hoi An itself while you’re in the city. A few of our favorite were com ga (Vietnamese chicken rice), banh bao vac (shrimp dumplings), and cao lau (a pork dish unique to Hoi An), but truthfully everything was good.

You won’t have any trouble finding places to eat either. Hoi An is somewhat of a foodie destination in Vietnam, so the amount of cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants in the Ancient Town is almost equal to that of tailors and souvenir shops, which is to say there are plenty. For a few suggestions on where and what to eat, check out the post linked below

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