Bright pops of color whichever way you turn, heritage buildings lining ancient alleyways, and iconic Vietnamese lanterns lighting up the street corners – if the thought of this doesn’t immediately make you want to scoot off to the Vietnamese coastal town of Hoi An, we don’t know what will. An important center of trade from the 15th to 19th centuries, Hoi An’s strategic location and well-preserved heritage has become a major crowd-puller in Vietnam over the years.
A UNESCO World Heritage City, getting to Hoi An is also very convenient, despite the city not having its own airport or train station. The only way to get here is, thus, by road. Da Nang is the nearest city to Hoi An that has an airport, so if you’re starting your Vietnam journey in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, first take a direct flight to Da Nang then take a bus, minivan or private car transfer from Da Nang to Hoi An, a journey of about 1-1.5 hour, depending on which mode of transport you choose.
Planning to visit Hoi An is one thing, and deciding how many days to spend there another thing. It’s no easy task given that there are so many other destinations to visit in Vietnam. If you ask us, we would say you can easily spend a week in this vibrant town steeped in history, but since that’s not possible for most travelers with limited holiday time (and because we may be a little biased), it’s a good idea to keep at least 3 days for Hoi An.
Now that you are armed with three days in hand, it’s time to explore Hoi An at a relaxed pace, taking in all its enchanting sights, sounds and smells. Let the food, shopping and sightseeing fiesta begin!
Hoi An itinerary – Day 1
Morning & afternoon: Go back in time at Hoi An’s old town
The Hoi An Ancient Town is where traders came in from China, Japan, India, and Europe and settled during the 16th and 17th centuries. Being the most fascinating and well-preserved part of Hoi An, the old town deserves at least half a day, if not more, in order for you to explore some of its most important landmarks. There are dozens of old buildings, markets, and temples to see here, but if you only have about six hours on hand, we suggest you start with the following attractions:
- Cantonese Assembly Hall, as the name suggests was built by merchants from Canton, China, to pay respect to Quan Cong, a famous Chinese general. Complete with traditional Chinese carvings, statues, and designs, the colorful Canton Assembly Hall is a feast for the eyes.
- The Old Town Central Market is a hub for shopping enthusiasts to find almost everything, ranging from local handicrafts to custom-made tailored suits. The market is brimming with energy and is a great place to simply soak in the eclectic vibes of Hoi An.
- The Japanese Covered Bridge is an iconic structure in the city, although it is unlike usual bridges you may have seen before. Built to connect the Chinese and Japanese communities living in Hoi An back then, the bridge is intricately carved and also houses a small shrine dedicated to the deity, Bac De.
- Get transported back to the 18th century at the Phung Hung Old House, an ancient house occupied by the same family since it was constructed. Inspired by Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese design styles, this is one of the most well-preserved old houses in the area.
There are several other things to see in Hoi An’s old town, but no matter which ones you choose to visit, make sure to keep some time out for a relaxed stroll through the nostalgia-laced lanes and alleyways before you leave. It’s the best way to get a sense of the city’s past.
Entry fees: All attractions in Hoi An Old Town can be visited using a common ticket that can be purchased at small ticketing booths you’ll find scattered around town. However, one ticket worth 120,000 VND (approx. $5.20 USD) allows entry to only five attractions, and there are definitely more than five attractions in total.
If you want to enter more attractions, you’ll simply have to buy another ticket. It is also worth remembering that not all attractions need a paid ticket. A good way to maximise the value you get out of one ticket is by including a few free attractions in your day’s plan, like the Central Market or the Japanese Bridge.
Evening: Bring on the self-love with an indulgent spa session
After a long day of walking around the old town, end your day with a relaxing massage therapy at one of the innumerable spas in Hoi An. It goes without saying that there is no lack of options in Hoi An but not all spas are equally good or reputable. When making an inquiry, use your gut feeling to judge if the place is right for you.
If you are unsure, it’s a good idea to ask the staff at your hotel reception to recommend reliable spas. Some of the most highly-rated spas in Hoi An that you can check out are: Akoya Spa for their luxurious therapies and the signature 30-minute express massage and Ginger Spa for their reasonably priced treatments using natural products.
Hoi An itinerary – Day 2
Morning: Learn about local art at Hoi An Silk Village
Just about an hour away from Hoi An city center lies a silk weaving and production facility, popularly known as the Hoi An Silk Village. Known for preserving and showcasing ancient silk weaving techniques, it is possible to visit the village for a tour in order to get a glimpse of the entire silk production cycle starting from feeding silkworms to creating a finished silk product. The weaving facility is entirely run by local artisans who are happy to welcome you and help you understand what goes on behind the scenes.
Tour fees: 100,000 VND (Approx. $4.30 USD) per person
Tour times: 8 am to 5 pm daily
Tour duration: 45 minutes
Afternoon: Ride the waves at An Bang Beach
Located just 3 Km outside of Hoi An, An Bang beach is your best bet if you’re looking for some quiet downtime. Known for its pristine shoreline and fine sandy beach, it’s easy to lose track of time when spending a laid back day here. However, do keep in mind that if you truly want to enjoy the serenity of the beach, head over early in the day or afternoon and avoid the evening crowds.
Entry fees: There are no entry fees but if you want to park a vehicle, there are parking fees of 100,000 VND ($4.30 USD)
Evening: Follow the lights to the Hoi An Night Market
With hundreds of bright, colorful lanterns illuminating it, it’s hard to miss the Nguyen Hoang Night Market in Hoi An, even from a distance. Lively, chaotic, fun and a treat for all your senses, this night market truly embodies the spirit of Hoi An. With 50+ stalls selling local handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, lots of food, and of course, gorgeous silk lanterns, you can easily spend an entire evening walking through this 300-meter long market that only comes alive after sundown.
However, when searching for the Hoi An night market, don’t confuse it with Hoi An’s Central Market, which sometimes stays open in the evenings to attract customers. The official night market is much bigger and more reasonably priced, so it’s worth checking out even if you’ve been to the central market already.
Opening hours: 5 pm to 10 pm
Hoi An itinerary – Day 3
Morning: Get close to your roots at Tra Que Vegetable Village
Here’s your chance to connect with the people that are responsible for bringing you all the delicious food you’ll be tasting in Hoi An. The Tra Que Vegetable Village is a tiny hamlet that grows most of the fresh vegetables that are sold in Hoi An’s markets. Spend a day amidst the local farms, as you learn about the daily life of a farmer in this region and what really goes into growing all the fresh produce. Feel free to get your hands dirty and join the friendly farmers in planting a few crops and wrap up the tour with a quick cooking session using the local farm products. There is truly no better way to enrich your stay in Hoi An than spending a few hours with the people who bring food to our table.
Entry fees: 700,000 VND or $31 USD per person
Tour times: 8:30 am to 2 pm
Later afternoon/evening: Explore the nuances of Vietnamese cuisine in a cooking class
What’s the best way to acquaint oneself with a new cuisine (other than of course, eating it)? An interactive cooking class! Hoi An’s cooking classes have made a name for themselves for being one of the best ways to introduce travelers to local food. Family recipes handed down from one generation to the next or modern flavors fused with age-old cooking techniques – whichever way you prefer to learn about Hoi An’s food, you’ll find a suitable cooking class to match your needs.
Some of the most popular cooking classes in Hoi An are: My Grandma’s Home Cooking for the variety of options available on top of the cooking course itself and Red Bridge Cooking School for their modern approach led by professional chefs.
Hoi An provides a great base for exploring the culture and heritage of Vietnam and a trip to this part of the country is well worth the little bit of extra effort needed to get here. 3 days of delicious food, beautiful sights and rich cultural experiences will definitely make you wish the trip never ended!