Hoi An Ancient City :: Sightseeing Guide

Old Town

Chinese shophouses and Communist propaganda

Entry to all historical sites in Hoi An is via a coupon system, where 90,000 dong (US$5) gets you a ticket that can be used to enter five attractions: one museum, one old house, one assembly hall, the handicraft workshop (and traditional music show) or the traditional theater, and either the Japanese Covered Bridge or the Quan Cong Temple. Tickets are sold at various entry points into the Old Town, including Hai Ba Trung Street, and also at some of the attractions, including the Cantonese Assembly Hall. The city requests that visitors dress “decently” while visiting sites in the Old Town, as in men wear a shirt and women don’t wear a bikini top, sleeveless blouse or skirt above the knees. Respect the local culture and remember that you are not on the beach.

First, you may choose one of the two landmarks of Hoi An:

  • Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau or Lai Vien Kieu), on the west end of Tran Phu Street. The bridge was constructed in the early 1600’s by the Japanese community, roughly 40 years before they left the city to return to Japan under the strict policy of sakoku enforced by the Tokugawa Shogunate, and renovated in 1986. Today, it’s the symbol of Hoi An. Entry is one coupon, but it’s possible to cross back and forth several times without meeting a ticket-checker. If your scruples are bothering you, feel free to leave tribute for the pig statue or the dog statue who stand guard at opposite ends of the bridge.
  • Quan Cong Temple, 24 Tran Phu Street.

The ticket allows admission to one of the four museums in the Old Town:

  • Museum of Folk Culture, 33 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. Some may be put off by the bizarre-looking plaster sculptures of Vietnamese peasants, but this museum documents the dress and culture of rural Vietnam.
  • Museum of Trade Ceramics, 80 Tran Phu Street. The dusty, unlabeled displays of broken pottery are eminently forgettable, but the house itself is nice enough, and it provides a better opportunity to explore the shape and layout of an old Hoi An home than you’ll find at any of the Old Houses (below).
  • Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, 7 Nguyen Hue Street. The museum contains some old black and white photos of Hoi An taken in the early 20th century. It also houses an old canon, some two-thousand year old pots from the Sa Huynh period, and a case full of 9th century bricks and tiles from the Champa period.
  • Museum of Say Huynh Culture, 149 Banc Dang Street. The museum’s main collection consists of pottery and urns from the 1st and 2nd centuries. Upstairs is another museum, the Museum of the Revolution. Its main collection consists of pictures from war heroes and a collection of weapons such as grenade launchers, machine guns and AK 47s.

There are three old houses that exist in an awkward halfway state between museum show-piece and somewhat shabby residence for the family that lives there. Your ticket allows admission to one.

  • Phung Hung House, 4 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, just west of the Japanese Bridge. Traditional two-story wooden house, inhabited over 100 years by eight generations; and the current one attempts to guide you around in hope of a tip.
  • Quan Thang House, 77 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.
  • Tan Ky House, 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. As above, a younger member of the family will provide a cup of tea and a “tour” that doesn’t stray from the front room of the house, as you’d need to step over sleeping members of the older generation to go anywhere else. The design of the house shows how local architecture incorporated Japanese and Chinese influences. Japanese elements include the crab shell-shaped ceiling supported by three beams in the living room. Chinese poems written in mother-of-pearl are hanging from a number of the columns that hold up the roof.

Numerous congregation halls, where Chinese expatriate residents socialized and held meetings, are dotted about the town. They are typically named after the home region of their members, such as Fujian and Canton. Your ticket allows admission to one. Some do not have ticket-takers, so it’s up to your conscience if you want to try wandering into a second.

  • Cantonese Assembly Hall (Quang Dong), 176 Tran Phu Street. Built in 1885, it has a calm courtyard with ornate statuary. Take a peek at the half-hidden back yard and its kitschy pastel dragon statues.
  • Hokien (Fujian) Meeting Hall (Phuc Kien), 46 Tran Phu Street. Built in 1757.
  • Chinese All-Community Meeting Hall (Trieu Chau), 157 Nguyen Duy Hieu. Built in 1887. It’s near the Fujian hall, also spanning the block.

Finally, you can choose one of the following to get some “Intangible Culture”:

  • Hoi An Handicraft Workshop, 9 Bach Dang Street.
  • Folk music performances are offered at 10:15AM and 3:15PM every day except Monday.
  • Traditional Theatre, 75 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.

Others

  • Swan Boats, On the river (Head for the main river area near the footbridge). Make sure you check out the swan boats on the river. These are literally passenger boats shaped like giant swans whose eyes light up at night and which play ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ at double speed.
  • The Hoi An Orphanage is located right next to the Roman Catholic church.
  • Cooking lessons are offered at several restaurants around town. If you enjoyed your meal there, it can’t hurt to inquire.
  • Cham Island Diving [4] has been operating from Hoi An since 2002. The Dive Center and international team offer daily boat and speedboat tours to Cham Island for scuba diving and snorkelling activities. Boat tours can be booked at our Dive Bar and restaurant in Hoi An old City where our diving and snorkeling team will be happy to help you, regardless of your ability or experience.
  • Karma Waters [5] operating in Hoi An since 2005 and now in the Ancient Town opposite Anh Phu Hotel 213 Nguyen Duy Hieu tel. +84 510 3927632 is a unique vegan restaurant and Responsible Tourism operator who in 2009 created Cooperative and Homestay in Bai Huong, Cham Islands. Focused on UNESCO culture tours and low impact tours and activities such as kayaking, cycling, hiking & sailing Karma Waters provides sustainable, authentic and real experiences. Vegan cooking classes.
  • Hội An Eco Tour [6]is a unique cultural tourist attraction. Learn how to catch fish, row a basket boat with local fisherman through the coconut palm paradise. Rather than focusing on historical artifacts of Vietnam, the eco tour focuses on the historical, and living culture of the people of Hội An. Very friendly tour guide and staff. All drinks and a great dinner included (Fisherman to Coconut palm paradise tour). A bit more expensive than other tours but a very nice experience (doing rather than seeing).
  • Gioan Riverside Restaurant Cooking Lessons, 94B, Bach Dang Street (Along the river in Old Town), ☎ 0510. 3863899, [7]. Offers cooking classes that do not require an advance reservation and they will accommodate a single person whereas many other places have a two-person minimum for classes. A class for one person and three dishes of your choice off their menu is US$12. Of course, you get to eat what you cook. Add another dollar for each additional dish and/or trip to the market to buy ingredients. They will offer to sell you some of the cooking tools used at the end of the class. Price varies depending on number of students and number of meals.
  • Lifestart Foundation Tour & Craft Lessons, 77 Phan Chu Trinh, [8]. Lifestart Foundation, a charity founded in Australia, offers a half day tour to find out more about the Lifestart Foundation Workshop and take part in lantern making and art classes. The Morning includes the opportunity to make Hoi An lanterns, one-on-one dialogue with Lifestart Foundation workshop members and a traditional painting class. At the end of your experience you’ll have two miniature Hoi An lanterns and your hand painted notecard to take home and share with friends. All of the money raised goes towards helping local people in difficult situations become self-sufficient. $20 US.
  • The Kianh Foundation, 140 Nguyen Truong To, ☎ 0510 3917993, [9]. A UK charity that has worked in Hoi An since 2001, providing health and education services to disabled children. It is building a day centre just outside Hoi An to provide vital special education and physiotherapy services to some of the 900+ children that are without access to these essential services. Visit their Hoi An office to find out more about their work and how you can help to make a difference.
  • Bicycle tour to Cam Kim Island with Hoi An volunteer student, [10]. 3 hours. Cam Kim is a scenic rural island which is almost entirely free of tourists. Stunning rural scenes, rice paddies, villages, fields of water buffalo and quiet roads are the big draws of Cam Kim. With your bike, you will be able to explore numerous picturesque pathways along with some marvellous bamboo bridge. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for taking photos and just taking in the wonderful scenery.

Beaches

  • An Bang Beach, An Bang Beach (2.5 km from town. Take Hai Ba Trung St. towards the sea.). An Bang Beach has long been popular with the locals – and more recently the expat community. It’s rarely shown on maps, but is actually closer and easier to get to than Cua Dai beach. It’s about 2.5 km from town. Just take Hai Ba Trung Street out of town. When you get to the big road back to Da Nang – go straight. Park your bike in one of the lots. The rate should be 2,000 for a bicycle, 3,000 for a motorbike and 10,000 for a car. There are about 12 restaurants – mostly Vietnamese seafood beach shacks. There are a couple of western managed places. La Plage (far right) serves tasty, fresh food (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner), has yoga classes and has a wonderful bathroom (flush toilet that’s even wheelchair accessible) and a shower. La Plage is open year-round. After 5 pm it turns into Phatties beachbar, which is a favorite hangout for the expats in town. On the left hand there are a few Western owned places as well. Luna D’Automno, where they make real Italian pizza’s (possibly the best in Vietnam), JBC part of the Alfrescos group, has a funky decor, decidedly Mediterranean feel and has got good cocktails and Australian food, Soul Kitchen is perfect for a long lazy beach day and a game of pool and the last one is Le Banyan where kitesurf lessons, stand up paddle boarding and surfboards are available and DJ’s play house music in the weekends. editThe government recently has made improvements to this beach… it retains a charm that is lost in Vietnam. All restaurants are grass, thatch and bamboo. Now still under the tourist radar it won’t take long for this beautiful beach to become one the most famous in the country.
  • Cua Dai Beach.

Events and Festivals

Festivals in Hoi An are based on the lunar calendar, so break out your lunar date planners and lunar PDAs to see if you’ll be there at the right time.

  • Full Moon Festival, aka Old Town’s Night – held on the 14th of every lunar month, one night before the full moon, when the Old Town becomes even more festive than usual (which is saying something). Usually starts around 6:30PM.
  • Fisherman’s Festival – held on the 16th of the February lunar month to pray for a good crop.
  • Mid-Autumn Festival – held on the 14th of the August lunar month.