If you haven't visited Hoi An (Hội An), considered the most beautiful city in Vietnam, now is your time to do so! Hoi An is a coastal city well known for its beauty, its history, and for how well preserved its old center and its many canals are. Perhaps you already know, but Vietnam has recently become one of the most touristic countries in the last 10 years and, along with this, the city Hoi An has become one of the most visited locations in area.
Situated halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and the capital Hanoi, we find Hoi An, one of the most visited and beautiful cities in the country. Walking through its streets is breathing tradition and culture, truly one of the treasures of Vietnam. You cannot miss a spectacular tour of its old town full of places of interest and hundreds of spiritual temples around the entire city that will undoubtedly transport you to ancient times, full of history and ancient culture. Its atmosphere of an old port city is in the air!
This is one of the most suitable trips for lovers of history, Asian culture and also a mandatory stop if you are visiting Vietnam. It really is one of those spots that you don't regret visiting for a second. If you are thinking of visiting Hoi An we remind you that it is not an extremely large city, so spending a few could be enough to fully explore and enjoy it. But I'm sure you'll want to schedule more time and lengthen your itinerary!
Full of old buildings, historic houses, stores and shops selling fabrics, porcelain or souvenirs, Hoi An are still very well preserved in the streets near the river, which are incredible to admire when you go for a walk . Although the best part is when night falls, at which time hundreds of colorful lanterns in round and cylindrical shapes like large pumpkins, light up along the streets while hanging on each side of the buildings. Quite a spectacle really!
Are you ready to learn a little more about the most beautiful city in Vietnam? Read on and find out what the experience of visiting the town of Hoi An is like!
How to get to Hoi An?
You can get to Hoi An in many ways: you can do it by private vehicle, by bus, by train or by plane. Because the city has become one of the tourist destinations par excellence in the country, there are many agencies that offer transfers, you just have to choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.
You must take into account that Hoi An does not have a train station or airport. That is why you should travel to Da Nang, a sister city located about 45 minutes away. In any case, you can opt for the possibility of hiring a minibus service that offers transfers to Hoi An for about 110.000 VND (around €4).
If you want the cheapest option, you can get to the city by bus, with which you can get to any point in Vietnam. For example, from the city of Hue it will take about 3-4 hours while from Nha Trangs it takes 8-9 hours, although it has more comfortable reclining seats for the trip. Both can be taken in the afternoon shift (1:30 p.m.) or at night (8:00 p.m.). These two options oscillate between 180.000 and 190.000 VND In addition, you can opt for the Open Bus Tour, which connects Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh, with stops in different cities, including Hoi An.
What to see in Hoi An?
As we mentioned before, its architecture, mixture of eras and varied styles is what defines and differentiates Hoi An from the rest of Vietnam. This coastal city is filled with wooden Chinese and Japanese temples, colorful French buildings and ornate Vietnamese houses. Although without a doubt, among what stands out most in the city, we can mention the tranquility of its streets, its iconic Japanese bridge with pagoda and its proximity to its long beach. But we'll talk about this later!
How to visit its temples and areas of interest?
If you want to visit the temples, you should go to the Tourist Information Center of Hoi An, where you will have the option of buying the cultural ticket corresponding to the access to the temples of the city, since it was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1999. Visiting 5 temples will cost you about 120,000 Dons, which is equivalent to about €4.50, which is very good and very accessible. If you do not buy the ticket there you would have to buy the individual ticket to each place, and it would be more expensive.
In the information center you can find a list with hundreds of temples to see and learn about. This ticket, as we say, is worth you to choose the 5 that you most want to visit between museums, cultural centers, temples and traditional houses, which are very quiet and very colorful. In them, of course, the traditional lamps abound, but also beautiful ponds of water, internal bridges, sculptures of ceramic dragons, and also other iconic animals that light up at night.
How to get around the old town of Hoi An?
The Old Town of Hoi An, also known as The Ancient Town, is really magnificent to visit and you can explore it on foot or by bicycle. In fact, one of its most essential characteristics of this place is that access to cars is not allowed, so traffic will not affect your walk at all. Only the passage of bikes is allowed and although after three in the afternoon local time it is completely pedestrian. The best thing you can do is walk through its old town, and enjoy its shops with iconic objects and its buildings that really reflect the passing of history. It's a great way to travel through time! To think that this city has been preserved in such good condition because, during the Vietnam War, most of the battles took place in the neighboring city of Hue, and Hoi An was permeated by many of the attacks, allowing it to stay in better condition.
Something essential in cities like Hoi An is to visit the local markets, it is there where you really come into contact with the locals and you can get to see the culture of the city up close. Right next to the main market of the city is where the center of Hoi An begins, which if you look closely you will notice that it is made up of three main streets painted yellow decorated with lanterns, in which you feel and you feel the passing of time as you are guided directly to the old town.
It is highly recommended to take a night walk through the streets of the Ancient Town. From sunset until 10:30 p.m. the streets are filled with classic lights and lanternss, which invites you to take a pleasant and quiet walk through the center of town city. Take into account that until approximately that time the establishments, restaurants and shops remain open.
We remind you that it is very common for it to rain in Hoi An, although the truth is that it is one of the charms that most defines this city. So, pack a raincoat and umbrella, and don't let the monsoons stop your adventure! This is in fact one of the most ideal moments to take refuge among its cafes and restaurants to relax a bit and then go out to enjoy the night in Hoi An, a colorful and illuminated spectacle with little lights and lanterns that freak out throughout the city . Although, if you want to avoid this situation, you can consider visiting the city in summer instead of winter.
VISIT THE JAPANESE BRIDGE / CAU CHUA PAGODA
This is the most famous bridge in Hoi An, and one of the most emblematic spots in the city. The Japanese Covered Bridge reflects the unique mix of local and foreign influences, and is also curiously guarded at each end by iconic figurines: a dog and a monkey. As the story goes, this is because many of the Japanese emperors of the time were born in “monkey” years and “dog” years. However, other theories indicate that it is because construction began in a "monkey" year and finished its construction in a "dog" year.
The Japanese Hoi An Bridge is made of wood and was built by the Japanese in the early 17th century. This is undoubtedly one of the most visited spots in the town. We found it located at the west end of Tran Phu street, one of the streets parallel to the city canal.
We must take into account that we must include the Japanese Bridge pagoda as part of the monuments in our ticket when we are at the tourist information center, since it is a requirement to pay for it when you have to cross. It is the only bridge in the world that has a temple and its entrance has a cost. Inside the bridge we will see that the structure is entirely made of wood, full of old photographs and colored lanterns that decorate it.
Once you cross the bridge to the other side, you will see that everything is really amazing, brilliant and very indigenous. In fact, you will notice that the shops and stalls are a little cheaper on this side of the bridge, so if you are interested in buying things from the market this will be your best option. Stall after stall, one next to the other, you will find little treasures, pieces of art, colored kites, souvenirs and an endless number of great lanterns that you will surely want to take home as a souvenir.
GET TO KNOW THE OLD HOUSE OF TAN KY
“Tan Key” means “Shop of Progress”. This is perhaps the traditional houses of the entire city, and is one of the best known and most visited by tourists in Hoi An. We find it located on Nguyen Thai Hoc street (101) just three minutes from the Japanese bridge. In the back of the river area we locate it on Bach Dang street.
It was originally built by three different architects; one Chinese, one Vietnamese and one Japanese, so it is impressive to recognize all the different nationalities reflected in the same construction. Although the truth is that this diversity is very typical of Hoi An , and for this reason it is considered one of the most representative characteristics of the city.
ENJOY WATER PUPPET SHOWS (WATER PUPPETS)
The water puppets or water puppet shows are one of the biggest attractions in Vietnam. Even if you don't know Vietnamese, for context you're sure to get the story perfectly! They are incredibly entertaining and also emblematic in the country. Its tradition, which dates back to S.XI, is originally from the north of the country, when the villagers used this as a form of entertainment when the rice fields flooded after the monsoons, representing in an entertaining and different way the stories of daily and rural life in different locations, such as the fishing and harvest.
It is also a form of expression of Vietnamese folklore and popular stories of the time. At that time, the puppeteers hid behind bamboo in waist-deep water, using long poles to “pop out of the water” the puppets. Today, there are theaters in several cities created especially for these events, always accompanied by a traditional Vietnamese orchestra to complement the scenes. However, some traditional ponds are still used improvised in villages surrounding Hoi An, as well as in the town itself, although many also set up portable ponds to make shows in the town more accessible to tourists.
If you like these kinds of traditions, in the upper part of the city of Hoi An there is a theater (one of the most recognized in the country) no more than 1km from the historic center, following the main road. You can find it open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, days on which they present a single function open to the public at 6:30 p.m. You can't miss it!
THE MAIN SITES OF INTEREST IN HOI AN
The Tran Family Chapel
We find it located at number 21 of Le Loi. It was built in 1802 by Tran Tu Nhac, a highly respected Mandarin during the Gia Long reign. In this chapel you can see photographs of the ancestors of the Tran family, which became an iconic and symbolic reference to the "Vietnamese family" of the time. Currently, it functions as a place of worship for the family's ancestors. It also has a unique Vietnamese souvenir shop, very emblematic in the city.
The “Cantonese Assembly Hall” / Quan Trieu
The Cantonese Assembly Hall is a colorful temple built in 1885 by a Chinese Cantonese merchant. Just the entrance to this spot is truly impressive and unforgettable, because you are greeted by a large dragon figure, which usually generates a great impact on visitors. It also has a large collection of small dragons more in the Cantonese style that is spread all over the place. According to legend, its parts were individually manufactured in China and then transported and assembled in Hoi An. The Cantonese assembly hall is about 50m to the left of the Japanese bridge.
The Phuc Kien Assembly Hall
This museum house, also used as an assembly house, is distinguished from the rest mainly by its attractive and colorful façade, surrounded by a beautiful garden. It is one of the most visited museum houses of all in Hoi An due to the history it houses and how well maintained it is on the outside and also inside, which stands out for housing the model of a ship 1875, a grandiose altar and beautiful paintings of the time. Its construction dates back to the 17th century and was made by Chinese merchants who dedicated the place to the goddess of the sea and sailors.
THE THU BON RIVER
The Thu Bo Rivern, which crosses the middle of the city and is one of the main attractions of Hoi An. In addition to bringing beauty and freshness to the city, many of the inhabitants of this town based their lives on itl, for example, the fishermen who go fishing every day, or simply because it is a great way to move from village to village.
One of the main activities that you can do during your visit to Hoi An is to take a boat trip to learn more about the life and idiosyncrasies of the fishermen on the outskirts of the city. Just over half an hour before sunset is a more than ideal time to start this tour. It will be quite a spectacle and also, you will have a different point of view of the city! Especially after dark, when the festival of lights, colors and lanterns begins.
GO TO THE BEACH IN HOI AN
Hoi An offers up to 20 kilometers of beach to relax in a different environment. It is ideal for cooling off in the hottest times of the year, especially if you visit the city in summer. On the shores of the beach you will be able to see some round Vietnamese boats, very typical and charming called “thúngs”. In general, the beaches of Hoi An are calm and the water temperature is usually relatively high. There are mainly two, close to Hoi An: “An Bang Beach” and “Cua Dai”.
- An Bang Beach: A long beach with all kinds of services and beach bars just 5 kilometers from Hoi An, taking the Hai Ba Trung road. The recommendation is to get to the last car park, which is the one closest to the beach.
- Cua Dai: You can find it right next to An Bang Beach, about 6 kilometers from Hoi An, and it also has all kinds of services. You can reach either of them by motorbike, taxi or by renting bicycles, since there are parking lots for it.
The experience of visiting Hoi An is definitely one of the most exciting when you visit Vietnam! You will see that it is ideally preserved and is also incredibly picturesque and charming from whichever way you look at it. And it is that you can breathe its history and culture from all fronts! It is really a mandatory visit for all adventurers who love relaxed walks and ancient culture. And you, are you ready to include Hoi An in your next vacation?