Hoi An (which translates to “peaceful meeting place”) is a coastal city in Vietnam with a strong history of spice trading going back to the 10th century. Because of its strategic location, Hoi An was a major trading port with China and also attracted commerce (and eventually settlers) from Portugal, the Netherlands, and Japan. By the 18th century, the city was considered the best merchant destination in Asia.
Hoi An’s ancient history is still very much alive in the attractions and narrow alleyways of the Ancient Town, where medieval two-story wooden buildings remain frozen in time. In fact, getting lost on the streets of Hoi An is one of the best things to do when visiting–you’ll end up discovering traditional markets, crafters selling their wares, and some of the best street food in Vietnam.
For more ideas on places to visit in one of Vietnam’s oldest cities, see our list of top tourist attractions in Hoi An.
1. An Bang Beach
An Bang, Hoi An’s whitest and softest beach, is just minutes from the town center. It offers amazing open views over the ocean, with the Cham islands dotting the turquoise waters in the distance.
Although the shoreline offers plenty in the way of resorts, restaurants, and entertainment, the beach itself remains quiet and unspoiled. In fact, some of the best seafood in the area comes from small shacks set on the sand, many of which will also rent out sun beds if you don’t feel like sitting at one of their tables.
An Bang has excellent conditions for surfing between September and March, and you’ll find a larger foreigner presence during these months because of it. Otherwise, visitors can also try paddleboarding and parasailing or simply take a swim in the clear waters.
The locals don’t arrive until the sun starts to set, and beach sellers offering souvenirs are rare, so this is the perfect beach for sun worshippers looking to relax and just enjoy the sound of the crashing waves.
2. Cua Dai Beach
White sands sloping into the turquoise waters make Cua Dai one of the most popular and most happening beaches in the Hoi An area. Located just five kilometers from town, Cua Dai offers soft blue waves that are perfect for swimming.
There isn’t much to do here in the form of water sports, but visitors can rent a sun lounger, get a bite at a seaside restaurant, or grab a cold drink or souvenir from the many sellers walking up and down the beach.
Even during the high season (between April and August), the beach isn’t busy during weekdays–and if you arrive early in the morning, you’ll probably just share it with a few long-tail fisherman boats on their way out into the ocean. The palm-fringed coastline offers plenty of shaded spots if you arrive during the hotter part of the day.
The beach is fighting erosion since a tsunami hit the coast in 2004, so you might encounter machines and workers at some corners of the island throughout the year–remember they’re here to keep the beach beautiful, so just find another spot to enjoy the sun and sea.
3. Phung Hung House
Perhaps the most famous building in Hoi An, the Phung Hung House dates back over 200 years. Originally a merchant house for a family selling spices, silk, and chinaware, the house features colorful hanging lanterns, dark red and brown colors, a Japanese-style roof, and bright wall hangings and Chinese inscriptions.
The house itself is somewhat of an architectural marvel–the 80 columns that keep the structure up are set on a special lotus-shaped base that protects the columns from moisture and termites. The back of the house (which has a balcony right over the canal, where goods could be grabbed right as they arrived by boat) can be completely closed off in case of a flood, protecting the rest of the house against the damaging waters.
Although the shop that once occupied the first floor of the house is no longer here, you can still find little details from it here and there–from the handicrafts on tables and windows to the altar that honors the owner’s ancestors to the Yin/Yang tiles harmonizing the house.
4. Hoi An Ancient Town
The entire old center of Hoi An is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, a melting pot of cultures, architecture, and monuments in one of the busiest ancient trading ports in Southeast Asia.
Over 30 hectares and 1,107 timber frame buildings make up the well-preserved historical center, with a mix of religious buildings, monuments, and family homes. Rows of beautiful wooden and brick 15th-century to 18th-century houses line up the pedestrian streets here. The covered Japanese bridge is also part of it.
Walking through the old streets of Hoi An is like traveling back in time. Chinese and Japanese influences are obvious here, with gilded red Chinese characters on rooftops and pagoda-like buildings lining up the canal.
There are plenty of places to eat and shop in the Ancient Town, as well as plenty of spots to watch the sunset falling over the old buildings.
5. Fukian Assembly Hall
Originally a pagoda, this building complex has undergone a series of transformations and restorations since it was first built in the 17th century. It was eventually converted into an assembly hall for the Fujian ethnic group, the largest ethnic minority group in Vietnam. Traditional assembly halls (which are common in China) act as both temples and cultural centers, where events and festivals are held.
At the Fukian Assembly Hall, colorful and ornate dragons, gardens, and gates dominate the space. Mythical animals–including dragons and a phoenix–mix in with turtles, fish, and other creatures in the design around the many bells and statues that occupy the main hall.
Look for the statue of Avalokitesvara (the bodhisattva who embodies the infinite compassion of the Buddha), incense burners, and another large statue of Thien Hau Holy Mother, the deity that blesses and helps sailors and fishermen. A small chamber in the back contains figures of important Fujian clan leaders.
6. Hoi An Museum
Temple bells at the Hoi An Museum
Also known as the Museum of History and Culture, this small, unassuming attraction is housed on the same grounds as the Quan Yin Pagoda. Originally built in the 1600s for the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, the temple remains beautiful even though you can see how the centuries have slowly erased details here and there.
Both the temple and the museum are worth a visit to get a better understanding of the history of Hoi An and the historical and religious events that have shaped the city over the course of 2,000 years.
The museum’s collection is divided into four sections, covering the history of Hoi An as a trading port, through the Vietnam War, and the rebirth of the city until modern times. The last section focuses on art depicting life in Hoi An through the years.
The collection of objects here is slightly chaotic, with bells sitting next to ceramics, Cham sculptures, and maritime artifacts–thankfully, there is enough information in English to help you understand the pieces here. The top floor of the museum offers breezy open views over the old town.
7. Thanh Ha Pottery Village
Whether you’re just looking to buy some pottery or ready to get your hands dirty and learn how to shape some pottery yourself, the beautiful Thanh Ha Pottery Village won’t disappoint. The village dates back to the 15th-century and it was originally created to supply decorative pottery for the Imperial City of Hue.
Over the centuries, the village has developed a number of techniques that allow crafters to create everything from bricks and tiles to bowls and pots–and to do it all by hand in a stunning rainbow of pinks, greens, and blacks. Today, Hoi An’s ceramics are sold all over the world.
While the village is a popular tourist attraction, it has remained very low-key. As you walk through the narrow pathways around the colorful clay homes here, the villagers you’ll see really do produce pottery for sale–so whenever you see somebody working on a potter’s wheel or burning and baking the finished product, you’re seeing an ancient art in progress. Everything you see is for sale at local, not tourist, prices.
8. Tra Que Vegetable Village
Tra Que is an organic vegetable farm that grows not only veggies, but also herbs (both culinary and medicinal) that have been central to Vietnamese culture for centuries. In addition to growing and selling to local restaurants and residents, the village also offers programs that teach visitors traditional techniques on hoeing soil, planting, and harvesting vegetables and herbs–these programs are hands-on, and you can get your hands and feet dirty while sipping a glass of homegrown mint tea.
Cooking classes are also available here, and you can then sit down and enjoy the food you make while you watch a traditional music and apsara dance performance.
Tra Que also offers a special form of therapeutic massage using boiled Vietnamese herbs–an ancient treatment meant to help with all kinds of aches and pains connected to joints and bones and a perfect way to end a long day of walking.
Tra Que is only three kilometers away from Hoi An, and while there are tours available to get here, the best option is to rent a bicycle and find your own way through country roads surrounded by rice paddies.
9. Japanese Covered Bridge
This 18-meter-long bridge dates back almost four centuries, and it’s one of Hoi An’s most famous landmarks–even though it’s small enough that you could easily miss it if you weren’t looking for it.
Although the bridge’s architectural style is definitely Japanese, Chinese symbols and now-weathered statues of astrological animals have been added to the arches over the years to commemorate important dates.
The red details and pagoda-like roof made of lacquered wood are a mix of styles and look particularly stunning at night, when the lights from the buildings around reflect on the water and the structure.
A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, the pedestrian bridge leads directly to a small temple dedicated to Tran Vo Bac De, the Taoist God of weather, who protects believers during earthquakes and floods. Since this is an area of Hoi An that’s prone to floods (some of which have damaged the bridge in the past), the location of the temple is particularly relevant.
The bridge is part of the Old Town protected area, which requires a ticket in order to be accessed.
10. Quan Cong Temple
A unique temple not dedicated to a god or goddess but to a general, this 17th-century pagoda has elaborate décor and has been recognized as a National Historic and Cultural Site.
General Quan Cong was born around the year 196, during the Eastern Han dynasty. He is remembered as a courageous military leader, but also as a protector of the people, helping during famine times and providing shelters for refugees escaping poverty in central China. Today, his memory is honored in this temple with a three-meter-tall paper mâché statue with red skin and golden eyes.
To enter the temple grounds, visitors walk through a massive Chinese gate, decorated in bright colors. Inside the temple, poems about loyalty and righteousness adorn the walls.
11. Street Markets
Hoi An markets (just like most Vietnamese markets) are noisy, crowded, and a little bit chaotic–but that’s all part of their charm. Whether you just want to see how the locals shop, pick up some souvenirs, or try some of the best local food, a visit to one of the city markets should be on your must-do list.
Hoi An’s Central Market near the river is the largest and busiest market, as locals shop here as much as tourists. Aside from produce, fresh fish, and ready-made food, this market also sells clothes, souvenirs, and handicrafts.
Tiger market is a smaller version of an everything market, including some extras like homewares and second-hand products–a sort of flea market great for discovering little gems.
For the best souvenirs, nothing beats the Night Market, with many stalls selling Hoi An’s signature silk and paper lamps, as well as some of the best street food you’ll taste in Vietnam.
12. Tan Ky Old House
Built in 1741 as a merchant’s home, this wooden building (built without using a single nail) contains both Japanese and Chinese design influences – two cultures that had a strong presence in Hoi An at the time.
The interior of the home is beautifully decorated with poems written on mother-of-pearl hangings and original Bat Trang bricks, while the balcony showcases stunning hand-carved woods.
While the home itself belonged to a family, the back of the house – which opens right over the river – was rented to merchants who needed a place to dock when arriving with goods via boat.
Today, the house is a stunning testament to the beauty of yesteryear. Original lacquered boards containing sayings (such as, “Keep the mind to always be quiet”) are still on the walls, and much of the original 18th-century antiques remain in the house.
13. Hoi An Impressions Theme Park
As the first cultural themed park in the country (and one of the first ones in Asia), Hoi An Impression sure knows how to bring Hoi An’s history and cultural legacy to life.
The park covers 10 hectares, where you will see reproductions of ancient architecture, Buddhist temples, and artisan villages, and even a small-scale port. But it’s the people and live shows – which take place on the streets throughout the park – that make this place so magical.
See ancient folktales played out through theater and dance, join traditional games being played in random corners, or take part in arts and craft workshops so you can leave with your own paper lantern or pottery creation as a souvenir.
The main attraction here, however, is the Memories Show, set on a 25,000-square-meter outdoor stage. More than 500 performers, state-of-the-art lighting technology, and a grand story that transcends languages and cultures – this is a show that will leave you breathless.