My friend, Michelle, and I spent roughly five days in Hoi An, in between visiting Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Before getting to Vietnam, it was the place most of our friends or online acquaintances raved about. We were pretty excited to see what all the fuss was for! And while I wasn’t as enchanted as I was hoping to be, there’s still so many things to do and see (and eat), you’ll more than enjoy your stay.
Simply fly in or grab a train to Da Nang and hire a taxi (or have your hotel/hostel schedule your one) to drive the 40-50 minutes to Hoi An.
There are quite a few things we didn’t get to do (check out the beaches or head to Hue), but in the five days we were there, we managed quite a bit of eating, exploring, and, ultimately, relaxing, so I thought I’d make a (very long overdue) post on some of the best things to do.
Top Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam
1. Drink all the iced Vietnamese coffee.
Okay, so this is a tip for all of Vietnam, but it’s worth mentioning for Hoi An as well. Vietnamese coffee is essentially drip coffee made with condensed milk, and it’s delicious. We must have had at least three a day! Ancient Faifo: the Cafe (66 Nguyen Thai Hoc) is a cute place with its decor and 9 Grains Bakery & Cofee (441A Hai Ba Trung) was right near our hotel. Of course, our favorite place was #2.
2. Find some peace and quiet at Reaching Out Teahouse.
Of all the coffee shops I’ve visited in the last few years, Reaching Out Teahouse has been one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had. Hoi An’s Old Town can feel incredibly busy and even a little chaotic, but stepping into Reaching Out was like stepping into an utterly peaceful oasis. See more about it here. Also if you want souvenirs, their craft shop has plenty of options. Rest assured, their artisans are paid extremely well.
3. Get clothes tailor made, of course!
If there’s one thing Hoi An is known for, it’s its tailors. There are probably more tailor shops in Old Town than in all of Vietnam (don’t quote me on that). Of course, it’s really easy to get ripped off, so I read about a million posts about getting clothes tailor-made before choosing where to go. Both Michelle and I were pleased with our experiences at Yaly Couture, and you can read the post about it here.
4. Then go to Tuong Khang and get a bag made.
Now, this was a bit of risk because we could have easily gotten scammed, but I’m glad we didn’t because the owner and his family were too sweet! We actually stopped by the shop because the owner’s son was playing and Michelle LOVES little kids. We wound up talking (in a mix of English and Vietnamese) and then decided to get some bags made. I wanted a bucket style cross body bag in black but more casual than most bucket bags I see, and I was pretty pleased with the results. I still use my bag today, and it’s one of my go-to bags! Address: 69 Nguyen Thai Hoc St.
5. Roam around My Son Sanctuary.
One of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, it’s great for an afternoon trip from Hoi An. A cluster of Hindu temples, many destroyed in the war, it was pretty important to the Champa dynasty. Give yourself about 2 hours to walk around and take your time at the difference sanctuaries. If you plan around golden hour, you’ll really see the temples come to life. Our hotel helped us with getting a driver.
6. Go for a little hike in the nearby Marble Mountains.
Looking to get a hike in? Head about an hour away to Danang’s Marble Mountains. They’re a cluster of mountains that have served as a place of Buddhist worship for over four centuries. We went mid-morning and only stayed for ninety minutes, which was a mistake. Go much earlier in the morning and give yourself at least two hours. Check out my guide here.
7. Eat all the street food.
If you do nothing else, sit down on one of those blue plastic stools and eat all the street food. Even if you have no idea what you’re eating, just try it! Michelle introduced me to Thit Nuong (skewers), Dau Hu (dessert tofu), and Cao Lau (a noodle and pork dish), and I highly recommend.
8. Treat yourself to a meal at the Intercontinental Danang’s Citron Restaurant.
On the flip side, for something more luxurious, head to the Intercontinental Danang’s Citron Restaurant. I saw the hotel featured on a few different blogs, and I just knew I had to experience some part of it. I really wanted to sit outside on Citron’s balcony, but it was sadly too windy when we went. Of course, the meal is more expensive, but it’s still a lot cheaper than if you were to get something similar in the U.S. or Europe, and the service was so incredibly kind. If you use the overnight trains, I’d schedule lunch here before you hop on your next ride. See their menu here.
9. Visit the Japanese Bridge early in the morning.
Perhaps the biggest “landmark” in Hoi An’s Ancient Town is the Japanese Bridge. Built in back in 1593, its pinkish decorations are elaborate and gorgeous. Of course, as a bridge, it’s hopelessly crowded as the sun goes down, so if you really want a clean shot, go in the morning.
10. Pamper yourself at Pandanus Spa.
If this wasn’t the best spa experience I’ve had in SE Asia, I wouldn’t recommend it. But it was. For $40 each, we got four hours of massages, facials, snacks, and manicures. We did have to make an appointment, so if you can, try emailing them ahead of your visit to make sure you get the day you want. Address: 21 Phan Dinh Phung
11. Bike (or walk) over to the An Hoi Islet.
If you want a really lovely view of Ancient Town, cross the bridge to look at it from afar. A bit less crowded, and you can see all the yellow buildings in their full glory! Grab a coffee at one of the cafes and enjoy the view.
12. Float around the Cam Thanh Water Coconut Village
We had a beautiful time here. Basically, on Valentine’s Day, we decided to treat ourselves to a day at the spa and then some sort of sunset cruise (our treats for being single, haha). Michelle wanted to ride in a basket boat, and we asked our hotel for recommendations. They then arranged a trip with Hoi An Family Tours. While it’s typically meant to be a full day experience with a cooking class, we only just went out to on a basket boat and enjoyed drifting down the river.
What NOT to Do
- Ancient Town at Night | I hate crowds. If you don’t mind them or even love them, then, by all means, explore at night. I found Ancient Town to get more and more crowded with each passing hour, and by the time night hit, it was just too much. Michelle enjoyed going out to experience the nightlife, but I opted to stay at our hotel more than a few times.
- The River at Night | This is an especially crowded place at night, and you’ll be haggled by everyone. Those paper lanterns are unfortunately not nearly as magical an experience as one would think, and after a while, the river just looks littered with paper and trash.
- Central Market | There’s this marketplace in Hoi An, and if you look on a map it’s about two blocks wide. We walked through it once, and I tried to bike through it super early in the morning, and it’s almost impossible to get through smoothly. Plus, while buying all the flowers in sight would have been fun, they wouldn’t exactly transport well, so the temptation was a bit rough :p. But yeah, unless checking out marketplaces are your thing (I’ve seen some beautiful photographs emerge from them!), you’re not missing out on much by avoiding the area.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Salute Hotel & Villa (see full review here) and would overall definitely recommend it. Luckily, there are a ton of highly rated, beautiful hotels in Hoi An, so you’ll be pretty spoilt for choice.
If you don’t mind noise, there are plenty of places to stay in Ancient Town. Salute Hotel was nice because it was about a ten-minute walk and thus incredibly peaceful at night.
You can also stay in Danang, about an hour away, especially if you want more of a beach setting. One of my goals is to stay at Intercontinental Danang someday — it was seriously gorgeous. I remember messaging my friends after Citron and telling them we needed to go on a girls’ trip in the future and stay here.
Have you been? What are some of your top things to do in Hoi An?