10 Essential things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam
Cradled between rivers, rice paddies, and beaches, Hoi An has all the elements of a timeless destination. Its yellowing shop houses, riotous blossoms, and green countryside set the tone for enriching days and magical nights. If you find yourself in this former trading port, round out your visit with these 10 inspired ideas.
Cycle the countryside
Snag a bicycle from your hotel or any rental shop on the street (~VND50,000/day) and pedal your way from the Ancient Town toward the open roads of Cam Thanh and Cam Chau. Here you’ll get a firsthand look at Vietnamese life in the countryside, plus countless leafy vegetable gardens, adorable duck ponds and greasy repair shops.
TIP: If cycling is not your thing, you can still get up close with Hoi An’s beautiful countryside lanes on a vintage sidecar tour from Victoria. Climb inside and enjoy a full hour of being shown around the vegetable plots of Tra Que, the rice paddies in Cam Chau, and the sand dunes near An Bang Beach.
Get on the water
‘Water, water everywhere’ might just be Hoi An’s unofficial slogan. Don’t leave without taking a sunset cruise on the Thu Bon River.
TIP: If you’re an early riser, try sunrise stand-up paddleboarding at An Bang; or join a kayak tour to see more of Hoi An’s quiet waterways.
Every city in Vietnam has heaps of cafes, but Hoi An’s cafes have tangible charm. Some ideas: Fresh-pressed juice and avocado toast at Rosie’s Cafe, caramel coffee or mango shakes at Le Fe, tea and snacks at Reaching Out. If you’re the type who likes people-watching, claim a seat on the balcony at Hoi An Roastery and watch the world go by.
Have a beach day
An Bang Beach, just 7km outside the Ancient Town, is one of the most pleasant stretches of sand anywhere in Vietnam. In the main area, you’ll find beachfront favourites such as Soul Kitchen and The Hmong Sisters, as well as a string of seafood restaurants. A little ways down, things get more languorous, and local sellers trade on sun loungers, cheap coconuts, and cold beer.
TIP: Want a little space from the crowds? Salt Pub & Restaurant and Sound of Silence are perfect for leisurely breakfasts followed by lazy hours on the sand.
Shop for souvenirs
Hoi An is known for its tailors. If you need a new suit, dress, leather bag, or anything custom-made — you’ve come to the right place. Apart from the tailor shops, it’s worth spending a few hours checking out the boutiques in town. Look in stores such as Cocobox (Vietnamese jams and coffee), Metiseko (fashion and accessories), Artbook (posters and stationery) and Reaching Out (ceramic tea sets and jewelery) for high-quality items to take home.
TIP: OZU by Tadioto is the coolest new retail space to open in Hoi An. Check them out at 54 Phan Boi Chau.
Taste regional dishes
You’ll probably have some of the best meals of your trip in Hoi An, thanks to the unbelieveably fresh produce delivered dails from farms and seas nearby. Get your fix of authentic local specialities — Cao Lầu, White Rose, Hoành Thánh, and Mì Quảng – at Morning Glory Restaurant, Miss Ly, or Mai Fish. More contemporary? Visit Nu Eatery for Hoi An’s best fusion fare.
TIP: For a snack that can’t be beat, the banh mi at Madame Khanh are outrageously good.
Stroll the Ancient Town
While pretty during the day, the Ancient Town really comes into its own after dark. Don’t miss the chance to stroll this UNESCO-listed heritage site in the evenings, when thousands of brightly lit lanterns illuminate the streets and set the Thu Bon River aglow with twinkling reflections.
Revisit Hoi An history
From the 15th to 19th centuries, Hoi An was a thriving trading port, welcoming merchants from China, Japan, and Europe. Today, a sprinkling of ancestral houses and pagodas are in easy walking distance of each other inside the Ancient Town. You’ll need a ticket to enter these sites, but the fee is worth the opportunity to experience Hoi An’s multi-layered past. Three stops for your list: the Japanese Bridge, Tan Ky House, and Phuc Kien Assembly Hall.
Take a cooking class
You don’t have to be pro in the kitchen to enjoy Hoi An’s fantastic cooking classes. Here you can follow the entire process, from the fishing net and public market to the claypot and frying pan, while learning local techniques along the way. After a full morning of fun, eating the results of your labours is the best part.
TIP: A session at the Red Bridge cooking school is a must-do for foodies in Vietnam.
Sample the nightlife
Leading the pack of places to party in Hoi An is a one-of-a-kind venue, Mango Mango. This alluring gathering place promises punchy cocktails, mouthwatering dishes, and nightly live music. For delicious bar bites and drinks in a casual setting, visit The Happy Buffalo on Cua Dai St. Out on An Bang beach, take your pick of live bands and DJ sets at Soul Kitchen, or its sister venue, Soul Beach.
TIP: If you happen to be in Hoi An on a Saturday evening, duck into Le Fe for a front-row seat to Vietnamese vocal talents you won’t soon forget.
BONUS: Catch a cultural show
Lune Production is known for staging world-class contemporary circus, dance and musical performances in Vietnam and around the world. Don’t miss the chance to watch a show at their new performance centre in Hoi An. The Mist, Lune’s first show to debut in Hoi An, is a gorgeous, riveting hour-long spectacle that’s as Vietnamese as it gets. From evocative scenes of countryside life to spellbinding ballets, you won’t be able to tear your eyes from the stage. See what’s on, as well as schedules and ticket prices at the Lune Production website.