Whenever I travel to a new country, there is usually one city or town that manages to outshine the competitors running for the role of the places-I-have-had-the-most-fun-in for that destination. Well, Hoi An has definitely won that title and really managed to crawl its way into my heart. There are so many attractions all over Vietnam and on paper, Hoi An may seem like it doesn’t compare at times. However, it is such a fun place with so many attractions to offer, especially if you love photography or are a foodie at heart so I would definitely put it on my Vietnam itinerary! Hoi An is located in Central Vietnam on the north bank near the mouth of the Thu Bon River. The most well-known attraction is the old town of Hoi An which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city itself is charming and colorful with many tasty restaurants, colorful markets and street vendors, charming hotels and of course lots of lanterns! Strolling around the city’s streets at night is a magical experience and we just couldn’t get enough of the sights and sounds. It was by far one of our favorite places in Vietnam and I would go back to Hoi An in a heartbeat. So what should be on your Hoi An bucket list?
Top Things to See and Do in Hoi An
Explore the Town on Foot
First of all, just strolling around the city’s streets during the day and especially at night time is a MUST. Give yourself some time to truly explore this charming city by foot with all the colorful and unique buildings and of course the enchanting lanterns.
It's Time to Devour the Local Delicacies or Try a Cooking Class
The Vietnamese cuisine is one of my favorites, so Vietnam was a foodie heaven for me. Hoi An in particular is the perfect place to awake your taste buds and visit as many restaurants as you can. We had the best meals here and personally I couldn’t get enough of the Banana Leaf Salad and the steamed fish in banana leaf. An additional bonus are the lovely coffee shops you can find all over Hoi An. If you are interested in taking a cooking class – this is the place to do it! There are many restaurants and schools that offer cooking classes. Read their reviews and choose one. You can read all about my Hoi An Cooking Class here if you wish.
Grab your Camera and Visit the Old Town
Hoi An’s Old Town is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You need to buy a ticket in order to enter the old town although most times the tickets are only checked if you wish to enter some of the old buildings and museums inside. It is a great opportunity to admire the mixture of local and foreign influences that are displayed in the architecture of the buildings here.
Cross the Japanese Bridge
The Japanese Bridge has to be part of your Hoi An bucket list. The bridge was built in the 1590’s by the Japanese community to link them with the Chinese quarters across the river. It is the most famous tourist attractions in Hoi An and you should visit it both during the day, when you are able to admire its intricate ornaments as well as at night time when it is lightened by many colors. Crossing the bridge itself is free but sometimes you might be asked for a ticket since you need a ticket to enter the temple on its other side.
Don't Forget to Explore the Villages in the Area
The visit to the villages surrounding Hoi An gave us a totally different perspective. Relatively speaking Hoi An is quite big and many people in Hoi An work in the tourism industry, however, to truly get the feel of the area you need to explore the surrounding villages. They are set in beautiful green scenery (photo ops anyone?) and it is so nice to leave the city for some countryside fresh air, agricultural landscapes and the opportunity to mingle with the local population. Many tourists rent bicycles and go explore the countryside by themselves. You can also go on a guided tour – a bicycle tour or a trekking tour (for the “bicycle challenged” like me), whatever suits you.
Get Lost in the Local Markets
Hoi An’s markets are wonderful so make sure to pay a visit! For the photography lovers, early morning is the best time of course to visit the Central Market. Strolling around the market I had such a hard time choosing whether to immerse my senses in the luscious variety of fruit and vegetables or lose myself while trying to capture the perfect market scenery with my camera (all while trying not to get run over by one of the hundreds of motorbikes). You can also find here some small kitchen utilities. I must confess I bought a few items (my cooking class included a tour of the market and the chef stopped at some of these shops) and they turned out to be a great purchase. At night it’s time to cross the bridge to the enchanting night market with its colorful lanterns and many souvenir and jewelry stands.
Buy yourself a Tailor-Made Outfit
Fine it’s not exactly the perfect attraction for photography lovers or foodies but you must buy yourself a tailor-made suit/outfit in Hoi An. There are many tailors all around the city and we bought a few dresses that were well worth the price.
Take a Photography Tour
I just couldn’t wait for my photography tour in the nearby fishing village (yes, had to wake up at 5 am again). The tour was quite a unique experience and we were so glad that we were the only tourists in that village. The guide was professional and helpful. However, it reminded me of why I do NOT like to take photo tours with too many people – a group of photographers congregating around young girls and old folks, almost elbowing one another to get the best picture. I preferred trying to find the different angle when possible. Nevertheless, I recommend this experience to anyone who likes photography, especially if you are a beginner – the location, organization and the photographer guiding it were all pretty good and professional. If you have a bit more experience and you can afford it, do yourself a favor and just take a guide to the local more unique and secluded spots around Hoi An.
Explore the Thu Bon River
It goes without saying but you must take a boat ride down the Thu Bon River. Breathe the fresh air, feel the wind caressing your face and enjoy the local views and picturesque sights of this charming area. Many photo ops along the way…
So if you had any doubt, I just LOVED my time in Hoi An and that’s why you’d better make sure to put Hoi An on your Vietnam bucket list!