First time travelling to Hoi An, Vietnam and you are wondering what to do to have an awesome time there? Worry not! We are here to help you with some of the coolest things to enjoy your best time in town!
Hoi An is easily the most beautiful city in Vietnam. The place is a total package, from chilling beaches, aesthetic architecture, picturesque sites to wonderful food and budget shopping. It is really hard to not love the place, even harder to run out of things to see and do in Hoi An. Here are 10 recommendations you should not miss!
1. Try out Cao Lau – Hoi An’s best local food
Hoi An is often considered as the food capital in the country, the street food alone is so rich and diverse that you don’t even need to plot where or what to try first in advance. We kid you not! Just hit it any street vendor or Hoi An’s local restaurant you can find on your way, we are sure you will find your favourite nonetheless.
Among all the specialties, Hoi An’s Cao Lau is a one-of-a-kind culinary experience and a must-try in Hoi An ancient town, because if you try Cao Lau anywhere else, it just wouldn’t feel right! It’s a noodle dish topped with little sauce, slices of barbecue pork, pork crackling, bean sprouts, lettuce, herbs and greens.
Although it’s never been crowned but we’d like to call Cao Lau as Hoi An’s best dish, not only because it’s that tasty but also of its locally-sourced ingredients that can only be found in this ancient town. It is said that the water to boil the noodle with can only be retrieved from Ba Le Well, the ashes which are used to soak the noodle with have to be taken from Cu Lao Cham (Cham Island) and the greens from Tra Que Village, only then you can savour a complete Cao Lau in every mean of it.
If you have a day to spare, try another equally famous local food – Banh mi Phuong, internationally known as “The world’s best sandwich”. See our review for it here!
2. Soak up the sun at An Bang Beach
Given its prime location on the coast, Hoi An’s beaches are ones of the best in Vietnam. Listed as top 100 beaches on earth in 2011, An Bang Beach is 3km from the Hoi An old town and would make a perfect hideaway if you are looking for peaceful and “chillax” moments.
An Bang beach remains serene, organised and quite rustic compared to most of other Vietnam’s overcrowding beaches in well-known destinations. A relatively unspoiled 4km sandy white shoreline stretches out through the seascape with the rugged outline of Cham Islands being the only disruption between the boundary of the sea and the sky. Relax in between swims with a good book and a short nap, the umbrellas are free as long as you drink or eat something. Honestly, there’s nothing can stop you from grabbing your towel and heading down to An Bang beach.
3. Book a cycling tour to the countryside:
If your ideal image of Vietnam in your head is about rice paddy fields, a great blue sky and water buffalos, then the countryside in Hoi An is exactly your dream land. But if you think it sounds boring just riding around on a bike, then get ready to be mind-changing!
Exploring Hoi An by bicycle allows you freedom, flexibility and an escape from all the motorized traffic pollution. Imagine getting your mind lost amongst the lush and the clouds while watching the local life on display. The tour guide seems to always have some interesting stories to tell about each rock, each tree, not to mention you will never know what will be around the corner to surprise you. It would be the most exciting off-the-beaten-track things to do in Hoi An.
If you don’t know where to find the best service supplier, our Hoi An Bicycle and Relaxing Tour (Tour guide, Tickets, Bicycle, 60-min Body Massage, Meal with Local Delicacies included) will be an ideal choice. Contact Belle Maison Hadana Hoi An Resort & Spa for more details.
4. Sip coffee on the most sought after rooftop balcony
Hoi An Ancient Town is unmistakably striking in every angle and half the fun of the trip is finding your own favorite. Ours is from above.
If we are talking about view, Faifo Café is probably the most Instagrammable café in town for its beautiful balcony. It’s not an exaggeration to say almost everyone who have traveled to Hoi An took at least a picture at this divine corner of Faifo Café, where the balcony sets up high above intruding onto the busy streets and looking out over the tiled roofs of Hoi An ancient town. Decorated in simple yet cozy style with 3 main colors (red, yellow and brown), the café shop is appealing to the eye itself with wooden tables, Hoi An’s lanterns and cute tea pots and little cups.
The best time to visit the café is in the morning or late noon, make sure to wake up early so you don’t have to queue for long! You can find Faifo Café at 130 Tran Phu, Hoi An.
5. Visit Ba Mu Temple
If compared to more iconic sites in Hoi An Ancient Town namely Japanese Bridge, Hoai River, rich yellow walls, etc., Ba Mu Temple is relatively new to tourists although it was built way back in 1626, but only until did it get restored last year, it has grabbed the attention of tourists.
Ba Mu Temple worships a life-protecting god, 36 heavenly protectors, a goddess giving safety and health, and 12 midwives involved in creating babies and keeping them from harm according to folk belief. The complex contains two temples, a Vietnamese traditional gate, a pool, flower beds arranged in patterns and paths for strolls flanked by lawns.
But what makes Ba Mu Temple shoot to fame overnight on Instagram and Facebook is the three-entrance gate locally called “Tam Quan” gate. It is designed in Vietnam’s classical style of architecture, often seen before the pagodas or temples. The gate was restored to its original beauty with elaborate designs of mythological spirit creatures and lotuses carved in stone, a circle embodying the moon lying in between two entrances.
Although Ba Mu Temple has not been overly swarming with group tours and tourists wandering around, at least for now, but it is one of the most beautiful structures in Hoi An in our opinion. If you’re staying in Hoi An, do check it out and make your Instagram feed pop.
6. Make your own ceramic pieces at Thanh Ha Village
Thanh Ha Pottery Village is a small village located in the Thanh Ha ward of Quang Nam province, just off one of the tributaries of the Thu Bon River and about 3 kilometers from Hoi An Ancient Town. The village is quiet, peaceful with full of pottery work in variety stages of production stacked everywhere. Best thing about Thanh Ha ceramic is that nothing is mechanised in this village, all potter are made manually, using traditional clay mixing, moulding and baking technique. Although the products may seem the same in every store, but none really is because they made by hand from different craftsmen.
Taking a stroll around the village and watching the people working diligently on their creation is a must-try in Hoi An besides visiting the old town. You are also invited to try the pottery experience, the craftsmen couldn’t be more welcome, helpful and patient to help you mould your own piece for free, you could always shop for some beautiful ceramic products to return their hospitality. After then, head for the museum and the Terracotta Park where they replicate world wonders, they are surely fun!
Thanh Ha village is quite small even for a half day trip, about 2 hours of wandering is sufficient enough so we suggest you should add the destination into your cycling tour to be more convenient. Also please be mindful of a small entrance fee of VND 35,000/ticket (about $1.5) and pushy shop-sellers which could be avoided if you’ve got a tour-guide with you. Overall, it is still a lovely place that’s worth for a short visit when traveling to Hoi An.
7. Get a massage at Maison Spa
Traveling to Hoi An, spa and massage spots can be found at every corner you turn, so many as it is proclaimed “No massage = No Holiday”. Why is it so popular here?
While Hoi An has so many things to see and to do, it can get overwhelmed sometimes when the walking under excessive heat can get to you. Vietnamese massages mostly focus on kneading and working on knots in the muscles, so the deep pressure massage is exactly what your body needs to feel refreshed and reinvigorated after a long tiring day of travelling.
Looking at the location, customer service, quality, ethics and facilities, then Maison Spa at 538 Cua Dai, Hoi An comes highly recommended. It has such a comprehensive range of treatments, modern steambath and Jacuzzi with its natural and organic products and ingredients. Among its many spa packages, a therapy worth mentioning is the most favoured treatment “Maison Hoi An Signature” – a 60-minnute body deep massage with smooth, nutrient-rich oil that works wonder to release muscle tension, relieve pain and soreness and reduce your stress level. A plus for Maison Spa is that day visitors of the spa can also use the lovely outdoor swimming pool covered in lush green right beside the spot, which makes this space a tranquil hideaway, a hidden gem from the hustle and bustle of the town.
You can find out more about Maison Spa in this link.
8. Spend time shopping and try Ao Dai
Hoi An was once the biggest port to Southeast Asia’s textile trade so it is no surprise that the city’s streets are filled with skilled tailors and wonderful workshops where you can find yourself top quality tailor-made clothes. Especially if you have an endless love for Ao Dai – a traditional costume of Vietnam, Hoi An is the best place to get one, either to purchase a ready-to-wear Ao Dai to bring back home after the trip as a memory of the journey or rent for a couple of hours to twirl it in glimmer for some Hoi An’s instagrammable photo shots. Wearing the traditional costume wandering around the perfectly preserved ancient town easily makes you think you are travelling back in time to 19th century, definitely an once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are about 400 tailor shops in town so finding your desired Ao Dai should be as easy as falling off a log.
Now getting the actual clothes made for you is a lot trickier. We suggest it’s best to go for the credible and famous tailor shops instead of cheap, unscrupulous business. Some are highly recommended namely A Dong Silk (62 Tran Hung Dao), 5 stitches (339 Nguyen Duy Hieu str.) and Bao Khan Silk (101 Tran Hung Dao str.). Even then, make sure to be specific about the details (material, design, fitting, etc.) and the tailor understands what you want, then it should be all good.
9. Learn to cook a local dish in a cooking class
There’s no better way to discover and understand a culture than going through its original taste of culinary delights. That being said, a cooking class is a must-do in Hoi An to explore just how delicious Vietnamese cuisine really is as well as to bring a little of that flavor when you return home. We promise this is going to be more fun than you expect!
Usually, a cooking class is split into 2 parts, one shopping for the ingredients needed for the cooking lesson at the local market, and the second getting tutored step-by-step to replicate the dish. The trip to the market is unique and unlike anything you have seen before, where you can watch how the local life of Hoi An unfolds in its authentic neighborhood and hand-pick the freshest and cleanest ingredients with lots of food samplings.
The cooking class is led and personally instructed by the local chefs which is very easy to follow, you can even replicate the given recipe at home regardless of how terrible of a cook you are. Almost all of the cooking classes in Hoi An are pretty the same so those in-house programs offered at the hotels you are staying at are also worth taking advantage of, after all it’s about the experience that counts.
10. Enjoy Hoi An’s cultural spectacles
In a land filled of cultural heritages like Hoi An, it would be a shame if you travel the Ancient Town without enjoying an art performance or gallery exhibition.
If you are a fan of fine art photography, don’t miss out on Precious Heritage by the internationally renowned French photographer Rehahn! The art gallery includes an accumulation of his works during 7 years of staying in Hoi An where he now calls his home. With people being his main subject of his collection, Precious Heritage gives visitors a chance to see images of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups, their people and traditional costume.
While Lune Performing Center’s weekly performances combine the groundbreaking theatrical production with exotic live music to present Vietnam’s timeless heritages, Hoi An Memories is a must-see cultural art show that brings such unforgettable experience to visitors with its extravagance of an 25,000 km2 open-air area and 500 performers’ participation, marking it as the largest and the most ambitious show anywhere in Vietnam.
And that wraps up the 10 best things to do in Hoi An for a first visit. We hope you could have a wonderful time in Hoi An! Although we couldn’t recommend enough to try all these aforementioned, but do take every chance you get there to wander and explore more, Hoi An is always big enough for new adventures.