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riverside buildings in hoi an ancient town lit by lanters

You can’t help but fall in love with Hoi An. With its mustard coloured buildings and riverside location, I dare say it’s Vietnam’s most charismatic little town. Whether you’re gazing at whimsical lanterns, wandering the UNESCO listed ancient town, or devouring some of Vietnam’s best eats, you’ll never run out of amazing things to do in Hoi An.

You can give it your best shot though, with these suggestions for what to do, restaurants to try, and sites to see in Hoi An in 3 days. Good luck!

things to do in hoi an - see the UNESCO ancient town at night

Is 3 days in Hoi An enough?

You could happily spend a month here, really getting to know it, but 3 days in Hoi An is definitely enough time to get a feel for the place. It’s not huge, and the main sites are concentrated in and around the UNESCO Ancient Town. You could reasonably wander the streets of the ancient quarter, have some decent meals, and even get some clothes tailored in those 36 hours.

If you’re someone who likes full travel days, you could probably also squeeze in a day trip to An Bang or Cua Dai beach or visit My Son Sanctuary.

see hoi in in 3 days with a toddler

If we can cover Hoi An in 3 days with a toddler, you can do it too!

I spent 3 days in Hoi An during Tet, which is one of the busiest and craziest holidays in the country. The streets were absolutely heaving with tourists from all over the world. Despite this AND the fact that we were traveling with a 3 year old, we still managed to check out almost all of these wonderful things to do in Hoi An. You can totally do it too.

Things to see in Hoi An

From heritage buildings to silk lanterns, there’s a lot to satisfy the senses in Hoi An. It’s about as picturesque a town as they come.

things to do in hoi an, lanterns and authentic buildings

There are so many things to see in Hoi An, and it’s just so damn pretty.

UNESCO Ancient Town

Sure, Hoi An’s Ancient Town is touristy. There might even be a slight theme park vibe to it all. But it’s so lovely, you’ll overlook the trinkets, touts and crowds, and fall in love anyway. I certainly did.

Hoi An is one of the rare places in the country that was left completely untouched by the horrific Vietnam War. And as you wander the delightful streets, you’ll see influences from China, Japan and France, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, back from when it was a major SE Asian trading port.

thu bon river hoi an

Visiting the UNESCO listed Ancient Town is one of the best things to do in Hoi An

It was rightly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, with over 1100 original buildings to admire along it’s narrow streets and canals. There’s so many authentic things to see in Hoi An, from historic architecture to religious buildings, you’ll really feel that you’ve stepped back in time.

You can join a half day guided walking tour through Hoi An’s Ancient Quarter or go on an evening food adventure, to discover some of the Old Town’s best dishes.

Lanterns, lanterns, lanterns

Gorgeous silk lanterns adorn many of the streets and buildings in Hoi An for a truly romantic effect. I’m not complaining though. They’re incredibly photogenic and walking beneath them at night is a definite highlight.

They’re not just for tourists though! These lanterns have been around since the late 16th Century, when Chinese and Japanese settlers used them to light and decorate their homes.

lantern shopping is one of best things to do in hoi an

Take home your very own lantern from Hoi An

You can easily see these lanterns all over the UNESCO Ancient Town, but if you absolutely must have one for yourself, head to the Hoi An Night Market. It’s located right across the river from the old town, and you can buy lanterns for as low as 20,000VND.

If you’d like a super-personal souvenir, the best thing to do in Hoi An, is assemble your very own lantern to take home with you. Sign up for a lantern making class here.

Japanese Covered Bridge

Built by the Japanese in the 18th century as a way to reach the Chinese quarter on the other side of the river, this ornate bridge is probably the most well-known attraction and thing to see in Hoi An. Look out for the sculptures of 2 dogs on 1 side, and 2 monkeys on the other, which represent the Chinese calendar years in which work on the bridge began – and was completed.

things to do in Hoi An: see the iconic Japanese bridge

Take a stroll across Hoi An’s iconic Japanese Bridge

Foodie Things to do in Hoi An

My exposure to Vietnamese food has mostly been limited to pho, bahn mi, and spring rolls. I’m not complaining. I’ll take a flavourful bowl of pho any day… because just yum. But the food in Hoi An was a real awakening to the vast variety of tastes available in Vietnam.

street food cart in hoi an, vietnam

There’s good food all over Hoi An.

I’m not ashamed to admit that chasing down all these incredible dishes I’d never heard of, quickly became my favourite thing to do in Hoi An.

Try Cao Lao at Morning Glory Hoi An

If there’s one dish you have to try in Hoi An, it’s cao lao. This very special dish can ONLY be found in Hoi An, due to a complicated preparation process, using water from ancient Cham wells hidden in the region. The noodles must be pre-soaked in a combo of that specific water and lye made from Cham Island wood ash to be authentic. The result? A chewier texture and unique taste – which I can personally attest to.

Try it at Morning Glory Restaurant. It’s a Hoi An institution known for its mouthwatering takes on traditional Vietnamese street food. Their version is made up of cao lao noodles, BBQ pork, greens and a few crispy cracklins, and it’s DELICIOUS. Cost: 65,000VND

Eat Banh Xeo at Bale Well

I’d never heard of banh xeo before, but was hooked from the first crunchy bite. These crispy Vietnamese crepes are made from rice flour, water and tumeric, and rolled around any combo of meat, seafood or non-meat that you prefer. Layers of greens and rice-paper are then used to wrap the whole thing up into a tempting roll of flavourful perfection.

Bale Well is one of the most famous places to eat banh xeo in Hoi An. There, banh xeo is offered as part of a set menu, which comes with satay skewers, shrimp spring rolls, a ton of greens and more. It’s an insane amount of food and should totally be added to your foodie list of things to do in Hoi An. Cost 100,000VND per person.

Sip Cà Phê Trứng at Phin Coffee

Vietnamese coffee is a world all its own, and discovering the many different types is a ton of fun. You’re probably familiar with Cà Phê Sữa Đá or Vietnamese iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk, but have you heard of egg coffee?

Cà Phê Trứng or egg coffee is made from super strong Vietnamese drip coffee, whipped egg yolks, condensed milk and sugar. I admit it sounds kinda weird, but the whipped egg makes the froth on top incredibly thick and creamy. And no, it doesn’t taste like egg at all. Definitely give it a try! It’s one of the most unique things to do in Hoi An and the rest of Vietnam.

unique things to do in hoi an: drink vietnamese coffee

How pretty is this coffee? (It’s also strong enough to put hair on your chest) 😉

I recommend heading to Phin Coffee for a break from the busy main thoroughfares. It has an idyllic garden setting on the backstreets of Hoi An Ancient Town, where you can try your Cà Phê Trứng or egg coffee in peace.

Looking for more foodie activities? Check out these awesome tours in and around Hoi An.

  • Learn how to make deep fried spring rolls, papaya salad with shrimp crackers, clay pot pork or fish in and my favourite, Banh Xeo. You’ll also shop at the local market, ride a basket boat, catch fish in the traditional way, and row through a coco palm forest. Book your cooking and basket boat tour here.
  • Cycle through Hoi An’s Old Town and beyond, before trying 9 delicious street foods in 5 different locations around the city. Great for families as there’s child seats available for the bikes upon request. Book your tour here.

Things to do in Hoi An

After you’ve drunk in the sites and eaten your fill, check out these unique things to do in Hoi An to complete your experience.

Get clothes custom tailored

Ever wanted to get clothes custom made? Well, this is one of the absolute best things to do in Hoi An. There are over 400 tailors lining its narrow streets, and it’s possible to get custom clothes made at a super reasonable price. Even better, you can do it in as fast as 24 hours!

Simply walk into a shop with a picture of what you’re looking for. The tailors will be able to copy and customize it into exactly what you’re looking for. Don’t walk into just any shop though. Ask around for recommendations or check reviews online to find a reputable one.

Getting clothes tailored is a must-do in Hoi An

Our hotel recommended Peace Tailor, but it was unfortunately closed during Tet when we visited. 🙁 It’s just one more reason to head back to Hoi An!

Take a lantern lit boat ride

Because we were in Hoi An during Tet, we were treated to a dreamy boat ride down the Thu Bồn River, surrounded by glowy lanterns. It’s undeniably one of the most touristy things to do in Hoi An, but also one of the best. The entire ride lasted about 20 minutes, and we were each given a candlelit lantern to make a wish on, as it floated down the river.

taking a lantern lit boat ride was one of the best things to do in hoi an

The Thu Bồn River aglow with lantern-lit boats

There are always boats available for rides on the river, and it’s a great way to see Hoi An from a different perspective. Try getting on one at sunset for unique views. Be sure to negotiate. We were initially quoted 300,000VND, but were able to get it down to 150,000VND for all 3 of us, including the lanterns to float down the river.

Get a massage / spa treatment

I’ve had body treatments all over Asia, and my 2 favourite countries for massage have got to be Bali and Vietnam. I’m not exaggerating when I say, we indulged every single day we were in Vietnam.

In Hoi An, we visited Clover Spa for incredible therapeutic massages and pedicures. The owner Ann, gave me one of the best 90 minute massages I’ve ever had. And my daughter Naia received a beautiful pedicure and manicure totally free of charge. Ann even helped us book a private car from Hoi An to Da Nang at a great price, just out of the goodness of her heart! (yeah, she’s basically amazing).

things to do in hoi an: pedicures and massages

Daddy-daughter pedicures at Clover Spa

Hoi An FAQ: Essential Information

What weather can I expect in Hoi An?

Hoi An has 2 seasons: wet and dry. The dry season lasts from March to September, and you can count on sunny days, with steadily increasing temperatures and humidity the closer you get to wet season. Wet season starts in October and lasts until February. Flooding is a distinct possibility, so plan accordingly.

What’s the best time to visit Hoi An?

You’re in luck! The best time to visit Hoi An coincides with some of the best weather and low season for tourists. Visit from April to July for the best of everything. You can enjoy discounts, fewer tourists, comfortable temperatures and sunny days. If you don’t like crowds, avoid major Asian holidays like Lunar New Year, when prices go up and tourist numbers swell.

How to get to Hoi An?

There’s no airport or train station in Hoi An. However Da Nang International Airport is just 30 kilometres away from Hoi An. If you’re on a budget, you can take the public bus to get to Hoi An. If you can afford it though, your best and most convenient option is to book a private air-conditioned car to transfer from the airport to Hoi An.

How many days in Hoi An?

Hoi An is one of those cities you could easily spend a month in. However, since most people don’t have that kind of time off… I’d say 2 or 3 days is enough to cover all the essential things to do in Hoi An. The UNESCO Ancient Town is a manageable size and easily walkable.

What’s the best place to stay in Hoi An?

I recommend staying walking distance to the UNESCO Old Town, but not exactly in it. We stayed at the Back Home Hotel, around the corner from the Ancient Town, and the location was perfect. Even though we were just a 5 minute walk away from all the action, the streets around the hotel were quiet, peaceful AND silent at night.

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Hoi An is Vietnam's most charismatic little town. From food to lanterns to a UNESCO Ancient Town, you'll never run out of things to do in Hoi An.

Comments:

  • June 12, 2019

    such a great little spot! Loved Hoi An. Nice summary!

    reply...
  • June 11, 2019

    Great info, Shelley! Can’t wait to go here someday.

    reply...
  • June 10, 2019

    Great post. You make me want to go back to Vietnam. I don’t know how we managed to miss Hoi An!
    Alison

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