UNESCO Listed Hoi An in central Vietnam is a historic former merchant trading post, famed for its beautifully preserved Old Town with distinctive architecture, ancient cobbled streets and picturesque riverside location. The influence of past traders from Japan, China and Europe is evident in Hoi An with backstreets lined with large, attractive merchant houses, quaint tea stores and colourful pagodas. Walking through the Old Town is like travelling back in time several centuries. Over 800 historical buildings have been preserved, a handful of which are accessible to the public, and there are restrictions on modern development with no cars or motorbikes allowed in the Old Town.Read More
Hoi An is awash with art stalls and markets, fabulous restaurants and cooking schools, not to mention streets lined with tailor-shops (there are said to be over 300), all catering for the town’s thriving tourist trade. Nevertheless Hoi An still manages to retain its traditional character and charm and Hoi An’s quiet and relaxed pace of life adds to its effortless appeal and this picturesque town is undoubtedly one of Vietnam's finest gems.
Within striking distance of Hoi An lies gorgeous countryside ideal for exploring by bicycle. Here you'll find small villages where farmers tend their fields with age-old methods. Out of town you'll also fine the white sand expanses of Cua Dai Beach where you can soak up some rays. Spending time strolling through the Old Town, exploring the merchant houses and museums, relaxing on the beach or by the river and experiencing rural life in the neighbouring villages is the perfect way to relax and unwind.
Best sites to visit in Hoi An
Hoi An Old TownView on map
Dating from the 15th to 19th centuries with a wealth of cultural influences, the old town of Hoi An is a beautiful example of a South-East Asian trading port. The UNESCO-listed centre is home to some 800 historical buildings that display the city's unique heritage with Chinese temples, Japanese architectural designs and European-style buildings. Visitors can tour eighteen of these buildings with an admission ticket that gains entry to five different sites over the course of 10 days. The majority of the ticket funds go towards maintaining and renovating Hoi An's Old Town.
Japanese Covered BridgeView on map
True to an original design that dates back as early as the 16th century, the Japanese Covered Bridge is one of Hoi An's most recognisable sights. Originally built to connect the Japanese and Chinese communities once separated by the stream on which it stands, the bridge features weathered statues of dogs and monkeys guarding the entrances. Unlike typical Chinese and Vietnamese bridges that are often highly ornamented, it's an elegantly simple and functional structure with the arched roof providing shelter from the elements while the open sides allow for views of the stream.
Fujian Assembly HallView on map
Originally built in 1960 as a place for Chinese residents from Fujian province to gather and socialise, the photogenic Fujian Assembly Hall was later transformed into an important place of worship with the addition of the Thien Hau temple, dedicated to the goddess of the sea. Entrance to the complex is via a green-tiled triple gateway that leads onto a colourful courtyard with fountains and murals. The main hall contains a shrine and central altar with numerous statues, bronze drums and bells. The temple comes alive during Chinese festivals.
Tan Ky HouseView on map
Hoi An is brimming with traditional merchant houses but few are as wonderfully preserved, both inside and out, than the old Tan Ky house. Built two centuries ago, seven family generations have ensured the property's survival, lovingly restoring the building after rising water levels that Hoi An frequently experiences. Typical of a Vietnamese merchant house, Tan Ky's features a courtyard, bedroom, living room and space for welcoming guests with architectural details that display the influence of Japanese and Chinese traders including the beam-supported ceiling and calligraphy of Chinese poems.
Quan Cong TempleView on map
Adorned with elaborate artwork and colourful statues, the small Quan Cong Temple is one of Hoi An's most famous with a history dating back to the mid-17th century. The temple is dedicated to a well-respected Chinese general known for his integrity and loyalty, and after several restorations is a shining example of southern Chinese temple architecture in Hoi An. A partially gilded idol of General Quan Cong is housed in the temple, flanked by a statue of his guardian and administrative mandarin, with a large-sized white horse at the temple's entrance.
Recommended things to do in and around Hoi An
Tra Que VillageView on map
Located a short distance northeast of Hoi An, the charming village of Tra Que is the ideal place to immerse yourself in rural Vietnam. Here you can join in with age-old farming practices and learn how the locally-grown herbs are used in traditional medicine and sample some of the delicious vegetables in a home-cooked lunch. The products grown in Tra Que are known for their vivid colours and delightful taste thanks to the algae used as a natural fertiliser, and sell particularly well in local markets. An added bonus of visiting Tra Que village is the chance to enjoy a pleasant bicycle ride there from Hoi An.
My SonView on map
Situated in a verdant jungle valley backed by mountains, the ruined Cham city of My Son is Vietnam's most impressive archaeological sight. The numerous Hindu temples were built between the 4th and 14th centuries by the Champa kingdom, a unique culture in Vietnam with spiritual roots tied to one of India's most important religions. Of the 60-odd tower-temples that would have once filled this ancient political and religious centre, only 20 structures are still standing with walls slowly being claimed by the encroaching vegetation. This enigmatic spot can be visited from Hoi An in a day's excursion.
Hoi An's BeachesView on map
Within easy reach of the ancient streets of Hoi An lie a number of beautiful, powdery sand beaches making the merchant town the perfect place to combine culture with seaside leisure time. One of the most popular spots is Cua Dai beach, a 3km stretch of white sand fronting beautifully clear waters and backed by an excellent choice of cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a cocktail or something lighter. Further north of here is Cam An beach, which receives fewer visitors and has a more ramshackle offering of bars and dining spots. A number of hotels take advantage of the central Vietnam's coast with good options if you prefer to stay closer to the beach.
My LaiView on map
It's hard to avoid the history of the Vietnam War when visiting the country and nowhere is it presented in more harrowing detail than at the Son My Massacre Memorial in the village of My Lai. This tranquil rural spot was the scene of one of the war's most defining moments as over 500 villagers - women, elders and children as well as men - were massacred by US troops. Constructed to honour the memory of their deaths, the memorial features a stone sculpture of a woman and child, plaques listing the names of the original villagers and a chilling collection of photographs of the massacre taken by a US military photographer.
Bespoke TailoringView on map
With nearly 400 tailor stores crammed into the atmospheric streets of Hoi An it's the best place in Vietnam to have a suit tailored, or any other garment of clothing for that matter. A varied range of tastes and budgets are catered for with items made from scratch in just a few days with tailors working from a pattern book or copying an item you take along. With so much choice it's worth doing a little research before you arrive so you know which tailors specialise in the sort of garment you're looking for and which come highly recommended by recent visitors.
Cooking ClassesView on map
After you've enjoyed some of Vietnam's most delicious dishes from spring rolls to pho noodle soup, why not try your hand at cooking them from scratch with a local cooking class? As well as a haven for tailoring, Hoi An is also a great place to sample Vietnam cuisine with bustling markets and street stalls and a number of cooking schools offering fun half-day to full-day classes that often include a shopping trip to the local market with plenty of hands-on participation. The Green Bamboo Cooking School is highly recommended.
Eating out in Hoi An
Mango MangoView on map
Located in a picturesque spot overlooking the Thu Bon River, the Mango Mango restaurant serves the best Vietnamese ingredients with creative fusions and unexpected flavour combinations for a unique and memorable dining experience. The first floor offers wonderful riverside views with lanterns providing a magical atmosphere. You'll also find some of Hoi An's best cocktails on the drinks menu.
Meal prices: USD $25-35 per person
Morning GloryView on map
With charming premises in Hoi An's historic district, the sought-after Morning Glory restaurant is known for its delectable Vietnamese cuisine with a range of traditionally prepared dishes taking inspiration from various regions across the country. Specialties include the best of Central Vietnam's street food with noodle soups featuring prominently. Vegetarians are well-catered for with wonderful salads and side dishes.
Meal prices: USD $5-15 per person
Miss Ly CafeteriaView on map
This small restaurant in the heart of Hoi An has been specialising in typical Vietnamese fare for over 20 years. Run by a Vietnamese-North American team, diners will also find a number of popular Western dishes on the menu though the cao lau - a noodle dish with pork and greens - comes highly recommended. The regional taster menu is a great way of sampling a range of local dishes and authentic Hoi An flavours.
Meal prices: USD $2-10 per person
White Marble Restaurant and Wine BarView on map
As Hoi An's very first wine bar, the White Marble Restaurant & Wine Bar knows what it's doing. Set in a double-storey heritage building with plenty of traditional character, it is a superb place to kick back with a glass of vino (around $5 per glass) while soaking up views of the Thu Bon River. The unparalleled wine selection is complemented by tapas-style dishes and set lunch and dinner menus featuring local fare as well as international favourites.
Meal prices: USD $10-20 per person
Shopping in Hoi An
A Dong SilkView on map
Established in 1997, A Dong Silk is one of the most highly recommended tailors in Hoi An with a vast collection of high quality fabrics and highly skilled workforce. The men's collection features the usual business and tuxedo suits with a range of similar clothing items available in the women's collection along with more casual attire. A Dong Silk also offers bespoke bridal dresses and a staggering choice of ties.
Reaching Out Arts and CraftsView on map
Enjoy guilt-free shopping at the fair-trade Reaching Out Arts and Crafts centre, which stocks a range of exquisitely handmade homeware, jewellery, toys, clothes and much more. Reaching Out seeks to empower those less-able by employing local artisans with disabilities and using a network of handicraft producers from across the country. Visitors can also tour the workshop and see artisans at work.
Lac Viet JewelleryView on map
Excellent craftsmanship and reasonable prices make Lac Viet one of the best places in Hoi An to shop for jewellery from earrings to necklaces and everything in between. Lac Viet specialises in silver but gold items are also readily available with a variety of off-the-shelf jewellery to buy. A team of silversmiths are on hand to create your own bespoke items (allow 24 hours), working from pictures, and can fix older pieces of jewellery.
Friendly Shoe ShopView on map
Those in need of a new pair of shoes will find no end of choice at the popular Friendly Shoe Shop with over 600 models on display in a charming UNESCO classified building in the heart of Hoi An. For those looking for something more bespoke, feet are measured and shoes fitted to your exact requirements based on the models on display and their online catalogue. As the name suggests, Friendly's is known for its great customer service.
Transport links in Hoi An
Flying InView on map
The closest airport to Hoi An is Danang International Airport with a road transfer time of around 40 minutes depending on traffic and time of day. It's the most important transport hub in Central Vietnam with a new terminal building completed in 2011. The national carrier - Vietnam Airlines - operates a number of daily flights to Hanoi, Saigon, Nha Trang and other destinations in Vietnam as well as international flights to cities across Asia.
By RoadView on map
The transport hub of Danang is located 30km away from Hoi An and by car is reached along either Highway 1A or the scenic China Beach coastal road. Travelling on the latter route can be combined with a few pit stops visiting China Beach (Bac My An beach) where Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now was filmed. The driving time between Hoi An and Hue is around 3 hours and Danang can be avoided altogether.
Railway ServicesView on map
The city of Danang is an important stop on the Reunification Express train line, which connects Hanoi in the north with Saigon in the south. The journey between Hanoi and Danang takes around 15 hours and the journey from Danang to Saigon takes a similar time. It's a great option for those wanting to experience train travel in Vietnam with comfortable 4-berth compartments that have doors and linen provided. From Danang you can then transfer to Hoi An by road.
Best Time to Visit Hoi An
Vietnam experiences a dry season and a wet season and it's better to visit during the drier periods when the skies are largely clear, especially if you're planning on spending time on the beach. The monsoon rains affect parts of Vietnam at different times of the year but for Central Vietnam and Hoi An, the dry season is between March and August with near constant sunshine and high temperatures. September is a month of transition as rainfall starts to increase with the months between October and December experiencing the most rainfall with flooding in the Old Town fairly likely. January and February is the tail end of the wet season so the rains are easing and some nice weather is possible so it's not a bad time to travel to Hoi An.