Hoi An has become a favorite destination for visitors to Vietnam in recent years, and with good reason. The ancient city is packed with sights to see, wonderful food, colorful architecture and surrounded by gorgeous countryside. Here are 10 things to see and do in Hoi An.
The Gioan Restaurant and Cooking School not only offers great meals – but also an opportunity to learn how to replicate Vietnamese flavors when you return home. Classes at Gioan include a trip to the local market to pick up ingredients, and personalized tutoring from one of their three friendly in-house chefs. You will learn to make an entire Vietnamese meal, including dishes like pho noodles, spring rolls, banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe), and green papaya salad.
Built in the 18th century for a Vietnamese merchant family, the Tan Ky house is one of the most historically important buildings in Hoi An’s picturesque old town. The architects drew on Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese building styles for inspiration, and a tour of the fully furnished and ornately decorated rooms will give you a glimpse into what life was like for over seven generations of Hoi An merchants. Watch out for details like columns decorated with mother-of-pearl Chinese poems, and carvings under the eaves.
Hoi An has been important to Southeast Asia’s textile trade for centuries, so it is no surprise that the city’s streets are filled with skilled tailors and leather goods workshops where you can have any item of clothing or accessory you like made to order. Many shops have been open for generations, producing top quality garments, but recent years have seen an explosion in poorer quality workshops – make sure to take precautions against unscrupulous business practices. Always go to the tailor’s with the specific details (material, fit, stitching, etc.) of what you want, shop around for the best rates, and never depend on hotels’ or taxi drivers’ recommendations, if you want the best of Hoi An’s craftsmanship.
The Japanese Bridge is the only covered bridge in the world to house a Buddhist temple, and was built in the 16th century as a symbol of goodwill between Chinese and Japanese merchant communities. Unlike most other buildings in the old town, which are decorated according to flamboyant Chinese and Vietnamese architectural styles, the Bridge has retained a distinctively Japanese character, with subdued ornamentation and references to Japanese history.
Vietnam is known for its coffee culture, with Vietnamese drip-brewed coffee gaining popularity among coffee connoisseurs in recent years. Mia Coffee takes things a step further, offering excellent espresso and roasting their own blends of beans. Head barista Ci has found a way to work with strict coffee laws that restrict the import of coffee beans, depending instead on a handpicked selection of locally sourced beans for a rich, clean flavor. Step into the cafe for a break from sightseeing, or take a bag or two of Mia’s beans home for a unique, tasty souvenir of Hoi An.
Hoi An is surrounded by lush, green countryside, and it would be a shame not to venture out of the city during your stay. Numerous cycling and trekking tours are on offer in Hoi An, which take participants out to rice paddies, hills, villages, and pristine beaches. More adventurous travelers can opt to rent a vehicle and try a day trip out of the city, and perhaps even head north to nearby Danang, where the beautiful Nui Son Tra peninsula is located.
An Hoi, across the river from the central Hoi An, is home to one of the most beautiful night markets in Vietnam. Lanterns of all shapes, sizes, and colors, made of the famous Hoi An silk, are on display here almost every night. Even if the idea of taking home a silk lantern as a souvenir is too cliched for you, the sight of thousands of lit-up lanterns in the dark is well worth the river crossing.
Hoi An’s most famous beach is Cua Dai, west of the city, but you should head to An Bang instead if you want some peace in the sun away from hordes of tourists. Slightly north of Cua Dai, An Bang is home to stretches of pristine white sand, and beachside restaurants. Visitors can even opt to stay in a beachside villa, for a romantic getaway or some time to meditate in beautiful surroundings.
The 17th century Fujian Assembly Hall is one of the grandest buildings in Hoi An. Constructed as a social and sacred space for the Fujian Chinese community of Hoi An, the Hall features features a massive gateway adorned with colorful carvings of Chinese mythological figures, and an impressive main courtyard. Local people frequently come to pray at the Fujian Assembly Hall when they want luck in conceiving children, and you will find twelve “midwives” among the pantheon of statues and carved figures throughout the Assembly Hall grounds.
My Son is a collection of 4th to 13th century Hindu temples west of Hoi An that have largely been abandoned in the past millennium. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the site is remarkably well preserved, and visitors will get to explore over 140 hectares of ruins, learning about the influence of Hinduism on early Vietnamese culture in the process.