Get your camera ready, because you are going to need it in charming Hoi An. Meet the most photogenic city of Vietnam. A popular stop on almost every Vietnam itinerary. Hoi An’s Old Town looks like something straight out of a Lonely Planet travel guide. Pastel yellow colonial buildings, colorful lanterns from building to building, and lots of green. No wonder this city is a tourist magnet. In this blog post, I am sharing 10 things to do in Hoi An and I will give you recommendations for some lovely cafes.
Read next: Hanoi guide: 10 great things to do
Old Town ticket dilemma: should you buy it?
Officially you can only visit the Old Town of Hoi An with an entrance ticket. The ticket price is 120,000 VND. You can buy this ticket at the booths on the main street. However, this is not the only entry point. There are many other streets leading into the Old Town without any ticket controls. So, is it worth the money to buy an Old Town ticket? Yes, if you want to visit some of the temples in the Old Town, then you will need an Old Town ticket. The ticket will give access to five attractions. However, if your goal is to just walk around, have a bite, or to do some shopping, then you can also choose to enter the Old Town through one of the side streets. It is not according to the rules, but it is possible.
Great things to do in Hoi An
1. Take a stroll in Old Town
I already said this in the intro: Hoi An’s Old Town is super photogenic. Not surprisingly, it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1999. So without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Hoi An is to stroll around, admire the colonial buildings, and get a sense of the place. I recommend going in the early morning to avoid the big tourist groups.
Hoi An was up until the 19th century a trading port with a wide mix of merchants passing through the city. This resulted in an interesting mix of buildings in the old center: typical Asian shophouses, French colonial architecture, and Chinese temples.
2. Walk across the Japanese covered Bridge
Also part of Hoi An’s architecture melting pot: the Japanese Covered Bridge. In Vietnamese, it is called Chùa Cầu. It is not exactly clear when this pedestrian bridge was built, but it must have been somewhere between the 16th and 18th century. As the name suggests, the bridge was built by a local Japanese community in an attempt to connect their area with the Chinese quarters.
Be warned: the only ticket control that I have seen, was at the Japanese Covered Bridge. This area is known for its ticket control, mostly in the evening. If you don’t have an Old Town ticket, it is best to avoid the bridge or to only go when it is super busy. They cannot check everyone.
3. Have lunch at Hoi An Market
All that walking will make you hungry. For a nice local lunch, I would recommend going to Hoi An Market (Chợ Hội An). This is quite an authentic market with the sale of vegetables, meat, fish, spices and so much more. The stands with benches in front of them are the places where they serve food such as a tasty noodle bowl. For vegetarians and vegans: they can also make a chay version (without any meat). Drinks are served separately.
Address: 19 Trần Phú.
4. Take a look at the Fuijan Assembly Hall
If you only have the time to visit one temple in Hoi An, make sure it is this one. The Fuijan Assembly Hall (in Vietnamese: Phúc Kiến) with its pink, green, and gold color pallet is truly stunning. It is strongly linked to the Chinese roots of Hoi An. Originally, it used to be a small Vietnamese temple, but in the 17th century, it was sold to merchants from the Chinese province Fuijan.
Address: 46 Trần Phú. To enter the temple, you need to show an Old Town ticket.
Looking for a comprehensive tour to show you the Old Town? Check out this 90 minute ‘kickstart’ tour.
5. Taste the best of Hoi An during a food tour
The Vietnamese cuisine in itself is already a valid reason to visit Vietnam. A food tour is a great way to try a variety of local dishes. In Hoi An we booked a Street Local Food Tour at Eat With. There were 10 stops on our itinerary, but one was almost immediately crossed off. None of us was interested in trying the Balut Egg (boiled egg with an almost fully developed duck embryo). What we did try, was Xi Ma (sweet sesame soup, not a hit with everyone), Hoi An White Rose (dumplings), Bánh bèo (steamed rice cake), Quang noodle, and so much more. In all honesty, it was actually too much food. If you book this tour, skip lunch and dinner, because this is all you need for the day.
6. Snap a picture of the Ba Mu gate
Another gorgeous temple on this list: Ba Mu. The most striking feature of this temple is its broad photogenic temple wall. Its reflection in the pond is simply stunning. Ba Mu has a three-entry gate, which is quite common with Buddhist temples and is called Tam Quan. However, the Ba Mu gate is slightly different than other temple gates. The three entries are not next to each other, but they are spread out. Two large doors, and one small one (all the way to the left).
Address: Hai Ba Trung, free entry (I think, it wasn’t open when I was there).
Another temple with quite an impressive gate is the Quang Dong temple. Just like the Fuijan Assembly Hall this temple was also built for a specific Chinese community: merchants from the province Guangdong. The temple is also called the Cantonese Assembly Hall, because Guangdong is originally a Cantonese-speaking district. Quite a beautiful temple and located near the Japanese Covered Bridge, so easy to combine the two.
Address: 176 Trần Phú, entry only possible with Old Town Ticket.
7. Get a banh mi on the go at Banh Mi Chay
To get yourself a treat on the go, I would recommend buying a banh mi. The popular Vietnamese crunchy baguette with meat, pate, cucumber, and carrot. Vegetarians and vegans don’t have to worry. There are always chay stands available where you can get a banh mi with mock meat. In Hoi An my favorite was the Banh My Chay stand. Are you not a fan of cilantro? Then let the vendor know before they start preparing the banh mi. Cilantro is a standard ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. Another place for a good banh mi chay is Phi Banh Mi.
Address: Phan châu trinh, close to Banh Mi Phuong.
8. Go take a look at the Cao Dai temple of Hoi An
Ever heard of Caodaism? It is the third-largest religion of Vietnam (mainly popular in the south) and is only founded quite recently, in 1926. The purpose of Vietnamese founder Ngo Van Chieu was to unite the big religions in one faith: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and elements from Islam and Christianity. The Cao Dai believe in unity, harmony, and peace. One of the most interesting elements in Caodaism is that they also worship non-religious celebrities, such as Roman emperor Julius Ceasar and the first president of China Sun Yat-sen.
Just like the religion, the Cao Dai temples are an eclectic mix of colors and elements. Yellow stands for Buddhism, blue stands for Taoism, and red stands for Christianity. On the front, there are many paintings from various religions. From Confucius to Jesus and Buddha.
Address: 88 Hùng Vương.
9. Keep an eye out for street art
I love street art and I am always on the lookout when I am in a new city. However, Hoi An has very little street art. Most of it is located in one alley near Madam Khanh Banh Mi. Sadly, I don’t remember the exact location.
To see more street art, you should consider visiting Tam Thanh Mural Village, a little seaside village 40 km from Hoi An. In 2016 a group of Korean volunteers turned this village into mural heaven. In South Korea, mural villages are quite popular. They tell the story of the local community and daily local life. You can visit Tam Thanh Mural Village by scooter, taxi, or with a tour. Unfortunately, scooters aren’t my thing and I found a taxi or a tour to be quite expensive. So maybe next time when I have a bit more travel budget.
10. Where to stay: War & Peace Homestay
Lastly, a hotel tip. We stayed at War & Peace Homestay, a 15-minute walk from Old Town. A lovely place inspired by the Vietnamese war. War might not sound very appealing, but it is a part of Vietnam that simply cannot be ignored. The homestay has 8 rooms and all of them are unique. What I also loved was breakfast. It took place at a large shared table where we ate together with other guests. A fun way to meet people from all over the world. Definitely, one of the best places we stayed in Vietnam.
Click here for an overview of accommodations in Hoi An.
List of cafes: good places for coffee or lunch
The Espresso Station
The day that we decided to go to The Espresso Station, it was pouring. One of those showers that you only see in South East Asia. We were soaked when we arrived at The Espresso Station. That warm cup of coffee tasted even better. The Espresso Station has all sorts of interesting coffee varieties on its menu. What about a Dark Soul Latte, coffee ice cubes in warm milk, or a Pink or Blue Latte? Definitely worth a visit and they have plant-based milk options.
Address: 28/2 Trần Hưng Đạo.
Avos & Mango
An avocado and mango-inspired café, two ingredients I very much like. However, I came to this place for coffee. They have plant-based milk and can make a good vegan coconut coffee. They also serve food, but I read that there aren’t many options for vegans.
Speaking about avocados, avocado coffee was also pretty popular when I was in Hoi An. This is an avocado smoothie with espresso. I tried it at a cafe near the Japanese Covered Bridge, but it didn’t blow me away.
Address: 80 Thai Phien.
Even though the internet told me that Rosie’s cafe was located in the Old Town, it was still quite a walk to get there. But worth it, because Rosie’s is super cute and it has a great menu with quite a lot of vegan options. Muesli bowl, smoothie bowls, vegan pancakes, and more. So if you’re in the mood for western food, then this is the place.
Address: 02 Mạc Đĩnh Chi.
From Rosie to Ellie. We only discovered this cafe on our last day, and that was a shame. Such a charming little gem! Very small, but the atmosphere was super welcoming. It is run by a Vietnamese family with a focus on serving healthy and vegan food. However, please note the opening hours. They close in the afternoon, at 2 pm. So you can only go here in the morning and early afternoon.
Address: 11/4 18 Thang 8.
Minh Hien is a vegetarian restaurant with three openings in Hoi An. We went to Minh Hien 3 where we enjoyed a great dinner. The place was very charming, located in a historical house with a lush green courtyard garden. Highly recommended for couples! Unfortunately, I saw that Minh Hien 3 is closed now. Hopefully, the other Minh Hien locations are still open.
Address: 25 Đinh Tiên Hoàng.
And there you have it, a list of 10 things to do in Hoi An plus cafes for lunch or coffee. Would you want to visit charming Hoi An?
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