15 fun things to do in Hoi An
Hoi An is a lovely town in Vietnam. This UNESCO ancient town with more than 2,000 years of history, was once the main port of the Cham Kingdom. The town shows a fusion of local and foreign cultures, mostly Chinese and Japanese with later European influences, giving it a very unique feel! Especially the Old Town (the city’s historic district) is very well preserved. The 18th century Japanese bridge is one of our favorite sights. However, what we enjoy even more, is going into the little Backstreets of Hoi an! Read more for our favorite things to do in Hoi An!
1. Hoi an ancient town
Ok, so we cannot really consider the ancient town the backstreets of Hoi An. However, it is the most popular place for a reason! Walking in this old preserved city you can wander around, looking at the beautiful architecture and if you get tired, you just take a rest in one of the small cafes or restaurants and enjoy a lovely snack! When you are there, don’t forget to have a stroll over the beautiful old Japanese covered bridge also known as Chua Cau (see picture)!
2. Hoi An Night Market
You cannot miss the Hoi An night market! If you go over a bridge from Old Town to Hoi An Islet you come into lantern heaven! The colors are simply amazing! They give the whole market a warm and happy glow. The Night Market itself offers a large array of snacks and souvenirs to choose from. They are mostly mass-produced souvenirs. Therefore the shop keepers will do their best to make you feel special.
3. Lantern Making
After spending the evening at the night market these lanterns need no description! They make the entire town look beautiful but they also hold a deeper meaning for the local community. The local community believes that hanging lanterns in front of their houses will bring luck, happiness and wealth to the family living in the house.
And who doesn’t want that right!? Now, you can buy one at the store but we believe it is much nicer to make one of these bad boys yourself! So if you are still looking for things to do in Hoi An, we suggest to book the Lantern making workshop!
The lantern is foldable so it is convenient to carry along on your trip.
4. Farm, harvest and cook on a Vegetable Farm
After spending time at the Old Town and the Night Market you might want to take a break from the crowds and spend a charming day with local farmers. You will learn how to loosen soil, administer fertilizers, sow seeds, then harvest and cook the famous Hoi An Tôm hữu. Curious to find out what Tôm hữu is? Book go to the vegetable farm experience and find out! (Yes, we know you can also google Tôm hữu but it’s much more fun if it stays a surprise right?!).
5. Fishing With A Local
There is no better way to get to know a place than through meeting the local community! Mr. Tran Gai and his family kind-heartedly invites you to join them for a day of fishing!
Spend the day on their boat and enjoy the peaceful village of Kim Dong! After you caught the fish, go back to Mr. Tran Gai’s house for a delicious family BBQ and some nice fresh spring rolls! To go fishing with Mr Tan Gai have a look here.
6. Bamboo Root Sculptures
The humble and versatile Bamboo has always played an integral role in Vietnamese culture. The Bamboo is used for anything from building housing to cooking. Even the root does not go to waste!
Huynh Phuong Do, is an artist who has taken them to give his wood carving skills a unique twist incorporating the little hair-like shoots that accompany the roots of a Bamboo into his art. What could easily have been discarded as waste, he has turned into either the hair or beard of the bust that he carves on the main stump of the root. Join him and he will help you to make your own bamboo root sculpture! You will be surprised how beautiful it will turn out!
7. Home-Cooking class (including a Market Visit by Boat!)
If you are looking to sample some of the finest fare Vietnam has to offer, Hoi An makes for the ultimate gourmet getaway! Not only can you rampage your way through regional cuisine, you can learn to cook it too!
We chose this Home-Cooking class (including a Market Visit by Boat!) because this cooking class takes place in the household of a local housewife (Mrs Pham) whose passion for cooking is palpable not only in her food but also when you interact with her. She will teach you local dishes that truly represent the local flavors as the locals appreciate it.
What’s even more special about this experience is that you will have a unique opportunity to visit the market by boat to buy the local ingredients for the class. As you can see, you can even try rowing there yourself! We have to warn you, it seems easier than it actually is so be prepared to have your ego bruised just a little! 🙂
8. Vegetarian Cooking Class
For the vegetarians among us we there is even a special vegetarian cooking class. But we have to say, this cooking class offers such a rich and diverse mix of flavors and textures that even meat lovers would appreciate the wholesomeness of the meal. The clever ways flavors are heightened or diminished, textures achieved and the dish put together is so simple and sincere that it all makes for a delightful experience. Vegetarian food in the restaurants might be a convenient option for all the vegan travelers on the road, but to really experience an exalted form of vegetarian cuisine, this Vegetarian Cooking Class is a must do, must try in Hoi An.
9. Hoi An Evening Food Tour
If you don’t feel like cooking or if you have an extra day, we strongly suggest the Hoi An Evening Food Tour! This is great way to spend your very first days in Hoi An. You’ll find out more on this single tour than in a month of random wandering.
You go off the usual tourist trail, and straight into foodie heaven. A local food-loving guide will uncover hidden treasures and snacks favored by locals, such as bread, sweet soup and savoury coconut pancakes.
10. Tailor a suit or dress
Hoi An is covered in shops dedicated to tailoring, dresses, suits, t-shirts and even shoes (yes, shoes)! If you are traveling through Asia this is the place to finally spend some money on clothes! Even if you are only in Hoi An for a short time it is still possible to get some stuff custom made (they can make a suit within 24 hours!)
The most difficult thing is to decide which shop to choose. I can tell you, it is never the first one! It can be a bit annoying but it is totally worth your while to shop around and negotiate the price!
11. Buy Leather goods and art pieces
Two other things to do in Hoi An are buying leather goods and buying art pieces! Sorry to make you carry more stuff around, but it is totally worth it!
There are many places to buy leather bags! The shops that get their leather from China are usually cheaper, the leather is thinner and you usually cannot customize your bag. If you go for more quality you have to pay more but you also have more options, often you even get to choose your type of leather, the model, even down to the zipper! So, again.. Another tailored product! If you cannot carry an extra bag you can always take some tiny leather products, like pictured above, and you will still have your souvenir!
If you still have enough space in your bag, then you can go and buy Vietnamese Art! The best places to go are Hay Hay Design store (really good for presents) and Art House Vietnam Gallery (if you are looking for something to hang on the wall).
12. Woodcarving workshop
Woodworking is one of our favorite things to do in Hoi An. It is a fine art highly valued throughout in Vietnam, since ancient times, countless communities practiced the craft and churned out items after items for the elite.
This woodcarving workshop takes place in Kim Bong woodworking village. To deal with decline of interest in the woodworking profession during the 20th century, the village successfully offered training and other incentives to young apprentices. Community-based tourism projects in Kim Bong have allowed more people to get in touch with and appreciate the craft, bringing in recognition and income for the village.
You will also play a part in this by participating in a woodcarving workshop with a master and learn to create something amazing of your own!
Don’t worry if you have never even touched a wood carving before, you’ll be up and running in no time with help from your host where you will carve your own mango shaped tray/plate, a respectable and personalized souvenir to take home at the end of the woodcarving workshop!
13. To He (Toy Figurines) Workshop
“To he” (toy figurines) is a toy that almost everyone in Hoi An grew up with. The toys are made of glutinous rice powder in the form of edible figurines such as animals, flowers or characters in folk stories. In Hoi An you will find many people to still pursue the art of To He and maintaining the traditions set by their forefathers, with a strong passion.
This course is a bit like playing with clay toys with a Vietnamese twist. If you’re travelling with your children then this To He Workshop is definitely something to do in Hoi An as a family!
14. Countryside Bicycle tour
Spend a day leisurely cycling though the scenic countryside of Vietnam, far from the traffic, the motor scooters, and the noises from the city. You will cross the islands on the Song Thu river delta using local transportation, including ferries and even this floating bridge!
If you do the morning tour you can have a traditional lunch with a local Vietnamese family at their house. They will tell you all about their customs and traditions. If you want to get to know the “real” Vietnam and the local community this Countryside Bicycle Tour is a clear choice!
15. Fujian Assembly Hall
This gorgeous structure was originally a traditional assembly hall. It was created as a place in which people from Fujan (China) could socialise when they were in Hoi An. Later this hall was transformed into a temple of worship of Thien Hau, a deity also from Fujian province.
The hall is actually a World Cultural Heritage site. Inside the hall there is the Jinshang Golden Mountain temple which is dedicated to Thien Hau (the goddess of the sea and caretaker of sailors). Childless couples also come here to pray for offspring and leave fresh fruit as offerings. This is because behind the altar there are figures representing the 12 ba mu (midwives). Each of them teaches newborns a different skill necessary for the first year of life. This can be smiling, sucking and so forth. It is a beautiful temple which is definitely worth seeing.