Are you looking for most exciting day trip from Da Nang? Look no further than the charming town of Hoi An! Hoi An is one extremely colourful and well-preserved historical city, a living-museum only half an hour distance from Da Nang.
From the 16th to the 19th century, Hoi An served as a crucial stopover point on the trading routes between Europe and Asia. Undoubtably, Hoi An has been shaped for centuries by the cultural influences of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Dutch merchants.
And this has resulted in a unique blend of architecture, customs, and traditions.
Hoi An Old Town Water Canal, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
Today, the town’s historical core remains well-preserved. The picturesque streets, lined with traditional one or two-storey houses, are defined by winding water canals and adorned with lush greenery and flowers. They are still following the old urban fabric as a testament to the town’s rich history and cultural heritage.
Hoi An is all about lit up lanterns, lots of ancient-craft activities, wooden Chinese shophouses and temples, colonial buildings and more. A small-height Vietnamese village that features an idyllic landscape with a backdrop of wild beaches on the East Vietnam Sea Shore and exotic vegetation along the estuary of Thu Bon River.
For me, it was the most magical of the many getaways near Da Nang.
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Things to See in Hoi An
Hoi Quan Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall, Hoi An, Vietnam, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
The heart of Hoi An, the Old Town, is a UNESCO site that recreates the atmosphere of a Middle Ages oriental city. This means well-preserved traditional markets and architecture, including wooden Chinese shophouses, temples, and merchant houses. Plus, an iconic Japanese Covered bridge, one of the oldest structures in Hoi An.
To be able to visit the Old Town of Hoi An, you need to buy a ticket. It is around VND 150,000 to be allowed access to the old town and only 5 landmarks of your choice out of the 23 highlighted on the maps.
This includes assembly halls, temples, art galleries, Chinese heritage houses, folklore and craft museums and a 400-year-old Japanese bridge, all decorated by thousands of lanterns.
Hoi An Old Town Map
I personally chose the Japanese bridge, the Museum of Folk Culture, the Hoi Quan Phuoc Kien / Assembly Hall and two ancient houses (Quang Thang House and Duc An House). All worth the time spent. The particular fact about the houses, is that you get to talk to the actual owners who are also living on the premises. And they are the descendants of the people who came and settle here more than 5 centuries ago.
🪵 The Japanese Covered Bridge
The Japanese Covered Bridge (Lai Vien Kieu) is a wooden, covered bridge that spans a small river in Hoi An, Vietnam. Built by the Japanese community in the 16th century, it’s one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and a must-see for visitors.
It’s decorated with colorful wooden sculptures of dragons and monkeys, wooden plaques and couplets, and two temple-like structures at each end. It’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and it’s an important part of Hoi An’s cultural heritage. It would be a loss not to check it out as it is loaded with history and good luck!
🏮 Quang Thang House
Quang Thang Ancient Chinese House, Hoi An, Vietnam, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
The lovely Quang Thang House is a private residence built in the early 18th century. It was originally owned by a Chinese merchant, Captain Quan Thang. Also, it is one of the oldest and most beautiful houses in the city, a must-see when visiting Hoi An.
Thought as a series of rooms and inner courtyards, in the style of old Chinese shophouses, the building has preserved its original architecture, as well as an extremely intricate furniture and decoration. Beams, auxiliary arched roof, wattles, shutters, and balusters are all examples of the ancient Oriental style.
The walls surrounding the courtyard are adorned with intricate and colorful Chinese ceramic decorations, adding to the beauty of the house.
🐉 Fujian Assembly Hall
The Fujian (Phuc Kien) Assembly Hall is a grand cultural and spiritual two-story building, preceded by a series of courtyards. Similar to a secret garden overcrowded with lots of bonsai trees.
It features traditional Chinese architecture with intricate wooden carvings and colorful paintings, and it is decorated with sculptures of dragons, lions, and other traditional Chinese symbols. Inside, there are several altars dedicated to different deities and ancestors, as well as a library and a stage for traditional performances.
The lovely hall was built in the 18th century by Chinese merchants from the Fujian province in China, as a place to worship their ancestors and gods.
📌 Other must-see attractions in Hoi An’s Old Town:
- Old house of Duc An – historical Chinese pharmacy and library;
- Museum of Folk Culture – a magnificent wooden house turned into museum about traditional, daily life aspects;
- Quan Cong Temple -370-year old Chinese shrine;
- Lune Center – a bamboo theatre for shamanic performances;
- Hoi An Memories Land – lovely theme park.
Things to Do in Hoi An
Lanterns By Day / Diep Vu’s Workshop – Lanterns By Night / Boat Trip on Thu Bon River, Hoi An, Vietnam, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
Apart from endlessly walking on the charming, colour streets and filling your tummy with Vietnamese delicacies, there are plenty of activities to be done. As a cultural city, you have access to some of the loveliest traditional Vietnamese experiences.
I’ve spent more than a day. So I had time to try multiple things to do in Hoian. But while including any of this activities in your one-day-only schedule, you must consider the duration of each.
🏮 Outdoor Experiences
- Sun-bathing at the beach: as long as your heart desires and time allows. White sands, tall palm trees, and beautiful blue waters can be found 10 minutes away from the center, by car, towards the East Vietnam Sea. An Bang Beach, for example.
- Cooking class: 4-5 hours. This usually happens in the Cam Thanh Coconut Village. The experience includes a market walk, a short journey in rowing basket boats and cooking 4 or 5 Vietnamese dishes. Option 1 (the one I tried), Option 2 (most recommended).
Making Rice Paper, Cooking Class in Bamboo Village, Vietnam, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
- Playing local games: 2-3 hours. Between 18:30 and 21:30 there are a lot of folk games going on in the main square: bingo-in-huts, breaking pots and more.
- Taking a boat on the channels & lighting up your lantern: 30 minutes – 1 hour. During the day, prices are much lower than at night. But, at night, you can light up lanterns on the water. And the scenery is out of this world.
- Taking in the melting sun: a 2-hour long, romantic sunset dinner cruise on Thu Bon River on a vintage boat (Book here).
🏮 Art Workshops
- Making lanterns: 1.5-2.5 hours. Or more, if you are slow at crafting. I spent some time in Diep Vu’s workhop and it was the most unique thing I’ve ever done. Vietnamese silk and sturdy frames come out together as perfect oriental lanterns even from the most unskilful hands.
🏮 Unique Souvenirs
- Having your name calligraphically written at the Folklore Museum: 30-40 minutes. The magic happens in a perfect silence inside the calligraphy gallery of master Huynh Dong.
- Shopping in the tiny stores for propaganda posters and other local souvenirs such as conical hats, lanterns, magnets. I had a little Miss Sunshine T-shirt, a funny Vietnamese edition!
- Getting custom-made traditional clothing tailored for you: a process that takes about half a day to complete. But getting your measures, plus choosing the material, 30-60 minutes.
🏮 Art shows
- Watching a dance and music show at Hoi An Traditional Art Performance House: 1-2 hours. This can be one of the 5 activities included in your Old Town ticket. Check out twice the show hours!
- Attending a water puppet show: 1 hour of puppets floating and dancing above the water while illustrating ancient folk stories. (You can book your ticket here.)
- Experiencing the captivating world of Vietnamese highlanders with Teh Da, a stunning bamboo cirque and daring acrobatics, accompanied by live music from traditional instruments.
Best Food in Hoi An
Shrimps Dumplings, Famous Hoi An Dish, Vietnam, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
Most locals would recommend you a very simple, traditional venue called the White Rose Restaurant, famous for a dish with the same name. White Rose is a Vietnamese original recipe of shrimp dumpling, a secret kept by the one family preparing it for generations. The menu includes also Fried Wonton which is similar to a pizza. Prices are around 100,000 – 150,000 / person for food and drink.
Besides this one, there are plenty of extremely bohemian waterside cafes and restaurants inside the Old Town that can make your day trip to Hoi An even more unique. Hoianian Wine Bar & Restaurant is pretty popular. Costs are much higher, but also the ambiance is exquisite.
However, my favourite restaurant is out of the Old Town, next to the sea. It’s called Tan Thanh Garden. Its interior is made as a series of wooden pavilions interrupted by tiny pond gardens and fountains. The menu is huge, food is cheap and they have a wonderful terrace above the beach.
Getting to & Around Hoi An
Pedestrian Street in Hoi An, Vietnam, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
Inside Hoi An Old Town, the charming streets will make you want to have the longest walks ever. But when the feet start hurting, there are plenty of rickshaws and boats. Taxis operate outside the Old Town.
You can get from Da Nang to Hoi An by motorcycle, bus or taxi. The most economical option is the obviously the bus. There is a bus route that runs directly from Da Nang to Hoi An, with cars leaving every ten minutes. Even so, the last bus going back to Da Nang is around 17:30. Which is not a good option if you want to see the lanterns of Hoi An lit up in the evening.
Renting a motorcycle would cost around VND 150,000 / day.
But, in the end, the most convenient and comfortable way to get to Hoi An is by taxi. You can ask your hotel to arrange the trip. And it should cost around VND 300,000-350,000 / one way / car.
You can also hire a tour guide for a day trip to Hoian.
One Day Itinerary For Hoi An
If you’re going to go on your own, planning an itinerary for a day in Hoi An can be a fun and exciting process. But it’s important to take into account your interests and the time you have available.
I did my best to put together some feasible, optional itinerary plans, for one day only, based to my previous trips to Hoi An. Still, of course, these can be adjusted according to your preferences.
🏮 Cultural Day Out Hoi An Itinerary
- 09:00 AM: Start the day with a 1.5 hour lantern making class in the heart of Hoi An. You learn how to make your own traditional lantern and take it home as a souvenir.
- 10:30 AM: Have a coffee or a tea and a snack at one of the charming coffee houses in the center, on Tran Phu Street.
- 11:00 AM: Go on a walking tour of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to see the well-preserved ancient houses, temples, and pagodas.
- 01:30 PM: Join a 4-hour cooking class in Bamboo Village, where you will learn how to prepare traditional dishes and enjoy a delicious Vietnamese lunch made by your own hands. It includes a rowing boat trip!
- 05:30 PM: Take a relaxing bike ride along the Hoai River, where you can enjoy the beautiful views of the city and the countryside.
- 06:00 PM: Attend a traditional performance such as a water puppet show or a traditional music and dance show.
- 07:00 PM: Have dinner at one of Hoi An’s many restaurants, where you can sample local specialties like grilled meats, seafood, and traditional Vietnamese dishes. You can choose one of the many restaurants along the water, on Nguyen Phuc Chu or Bach Dang streets.
- 08:00 PM: Take a stroll through the Old Town at night, where the streets are lined with colorful lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere.
- 09:00 PM: End the day by taking a boat ride along the Thu Bon River and admire the colorful lanterns that illuminate the night sky.
💰 Budget-Friendly Itinerary
- 09:00 AM: Start the day with a 1.5 hour lantern making class in the heart of Hoi An. You learn how to make your own traditional lantern and take it home as a souvenir. It is one of the most price accessible and fun activities in Hoi An.
- 10:30 AM: Have a coffee or a tea and a snack at one of the charming coffee houses in the center, on Tran Phu Street.
- 11:00 AM: Get your Old Town Pass and go for a stroll around the UNESCO World Heritage site, to see the well-preserved ancient houses, temples, and pagodas.
- 02:30 PM: Go have a late lunch at Tan Thanh Garden, out of the city center, and enjoy the nearby wild and less touristy An Bang Beach. Entrance is free, a sun lounge is just 50 VND, but there are also a lot of trees for shade. .
- 06:00 PM: Head back for a stroll through the Old Town at night, where the streets are lined with colorful lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere.
- 07:00 PM: Eat a Vietnamese pizza or the famous local shrimp specialty at the White Rose Restaurant.
- 08:30 PM: Play for free some folk games going on in the main square: bingo-in-huts, breaking pots and more.
- 09:00 PM: End your day in Hoi An by taking a boat ride along the Thu Bon River and admiring the colorful lanterns that illuminate the night sky.
Tips & Tricks
When visiting the charming Hoi An, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind to make the most out of your trip. Tried to answer some of the questions below.
🎟️ Hoi An Old Town Entrance Fee in 2023
Visiting Hoi An Old Town won’t break the bank!
For a slight fee of only 6 bucks (150.000VND), you can access all the charming streets and historic buildings in the area. Plus, this entrance fee helps preserve the city. Just remember to grab your ticket at one of the designated yellow huts before exploring.
☁️ Best Time to Visit Hoi An
At night: when the Old Town gets surrounded in the mysterious light of the lanterns spread across the estuary, on the small streets, on the water, along the bridges. Everywhere. And from March to May, when temperatures are mild and little rain. The temperatures can be around 25 – 35 degree Celsius.
Hoi An at Nighttime, Vietnam, Copyright © Cooltourismical.com
The monsoon season is from June to August, during this time the town will be more humid, making it less pleasant to explore the town. December to January can be a little bit chilly, so you may need a jacket during the night.
💸 Where to Exchange Money in Hoi An?
In Hoi An, exchanging currency can be tricky as there are limited options for exchanging money.
ATMs are scarce and not all banks accept all types of currency. For example, one option to exchange EUR is MB Bank. The others did not accept. Alternatively, some larger hotels and gold/jewellery shops also offer currency exchange services. A cluster of such gold stores are on Hoàng Diệu street, near the Hoi An Fabric Market, and they provide relatively good exchange rates.
Try to avoid souvenir shops exchanging currency. And always compare rates before making a decision.
🥥 Hoi An Half Day Tour
If you don’t want to explore Hoi An on your own, there are plenty of organized half-day tours to take you there from Da Nang. Private, during the day, during the evening, combined with other places to see, depending on your preferences.
🔥 Is Hoi An Worth Visiting?
Yes, Hoi An is worth a visit. Or more! Because it is one of the cultural cities you fall in love with easily.
Hoi An is a popular tourist destination known for its well-preserved ancient town, colorful lanterns, and traditional, Chinese & Vietnamese mixed architecture. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And one of the most charming and picturesque places to visit in central Vietnam.
🤨 Is it better to stay in Da Nang or Hoi An?
Both Da Nang and Hoi An are great options, just depends on your vacation style.
Da Nang is a modern and bustling city, perfect for those who want to mix it up with history, culture, and beach fun. Plus, Da Nang has a growing nightlife scene. Meanwhile, Hoi An is a more peaceful place, for those who want to chill and enjoy the traditional vibes: culture and ancient architecture, small cafes and river cruising.
And they are only a 30-minute driving distance from each other.
Other Day Trips From Da Nang
However, Da Nang is not just about Hoi An. Other day trips from Da Nang can take you to explore ancient ruins of My Son, the scenic Marble Mountains, imperial capital Hue, theme parks such as Ba Na Hills, beautiful beaches, and nature reserves. All of which are just a short trip away!