Picture perfect Hoi An

Hoi An is an essential stop on any tour of Vietnam and can be enjoyed as a destination in itself.

Picture perfect Hoi An

Fact: it is impossible to take a bad picture in Hoi An. I would know because I tried, and failed. The perfect combination of culture and colour, Hoi An is the supermodel of cities, it has no bad angle.


Situated halfway down the east coast, between Hanoi in the north and Saigon in the south, Hoi An is a rich architectural fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences. Originally the international trading centre for Southern Vietnam in the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1999. 

Stubbornly traditional, a dedicated effort has been made to preserve Hoi An’s old-world charm. With narrow streets lined with wooden-fronted shop-houses, it is the only place in Vietnam that places restrictions on motorbikes – walking and cycling are most definitely encouraged.

The ancient town of Hoi An has a tourist scheme whereby, with one ticket, you can visit any five of the 23 listed sights and streets in the Old Town. Valid for one day, the proceeds of all tickets contribute to presevering the Old Town.

Japanese Covered Bridge

The Japanese Covered Bridge is, without doubt, the most photographed sight in Hoi An. Built in the former Japanese quarter, this small arched red bridge has been adopted as Hoi An’s emblem.

Merchant houses

The most famous merchant houses are along Tran Phu, many of which are more than 200 years old and are still inhabited by the descendants of prosperous Chinese traders. Visit the houses of the Phung Hung, Tan Ky, QuanThang and Duc An families.

Family chapels

Similar to the merchant homes are the two family chapels, built by wealthy Chinese merchants in the eighteenth century, reflecting their individual spiritual focus.

Assembly halls

Hoi An’s ethnic Chinese population organised themselves according to their place of origin, with each group maintaining their own assembly hall. Both a community centre and a house of worship, these assembly halls can still be visited today.


Comprising of four fairly modest historical museums, choose between the Museum of Trade Ceramics, Folk Culture, Sa Huynh Culture or Hoi An History and Culture.


Calling Hoi An vibrant is an understatement. Local businesses are required by law to dangle lanterns from their facades, so every street in Hoi An bursts with colour.

Taking inspiration from the primary colour palette, jolly yellow buildings with red lanterns contrast against green foliage and blue skies. Temples are a technicoloured dream, as are the endless sea of multi-coloured lanterns strung high above most of the main streets.

Colour isn’t confined to the streets either. On the Thu Bon River, bright blue boats with yellow flowers proudly fly the red Vietnamese flag, instantly recognisable by its yellow star.

Between the culture, colour and a culinary scene that ranks among the best in Asia, Hoi An is an essential stop on any tour of Vietnam, or is enjoyable as a destination in itself.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    10th Jan 2015
    We've lived in Vietnam for a good part of the past decade or so and can confirm that Hoi An is one of the few remaining places where you can still find the "old culture" of Vietnam - but even though they've stipulated no changes to the "old town", the rest of Hoi An is zooming into the 21st century nearly as fast as the rest of the country - so hurry before it's too late and "progress" takes over! You can fly to Hanoi (north) or Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south, then either fly domestically or catch a train to Danang, then a mini-bus for the short'ish ride down to Hoi An. I wouldn't recommend taking a tour bus from Hanoi or Saigon to Hoi An because you will have to travel on the notorious Highway 1A, scene of far too many accidents often caused by truck (and sometimes bus) drivers who simply won't give way to anyone or anything! If it's your first time in the country, I'd recommend at least 3 days in Hanoi (old quarter) or Saigon (Pham Ngu Lao tourist area) before heading to Hoi An via Danang. Not sure, but it's probably much cheaper to fly to Saigon than Hanoi - and that means you could also spend 1-3 days in the Mekong Delta if you had time! Talking of which, another 3 days up your sleeve would allow you to include seaside resort town Nha Trang in your itinerary on the way to Hoi An. No, I'm not a tour guide - we just love the place!
    Happy Wanderer
    11th Jan 2015
    What a timely article! I've just returned from the beautiful Hoi An, and have to agree - you can't take a bad photo. I was on a very rushed 9 day Christmas tour of Vietnam from north to south - who was I kidding? - we dubbed it 'The Amazing Race'. But fell in love with Hoi An, so much so that I ditched the last two days of my tour (after a cancelled flights debarcle due to rain) so I could stay in Da Nang and return to Hoi An for another taste.
    Love it so much that I've just booked a return trip in March - literally booked my flight a week after I got home!
    It is every thing you say it is, and more. The people are such gentle souls, authentic and helpful. I can't wait to return and explore this beautiful town at leisure.
    23rd Jan 2015
    I have just become aquainted with Life Choices once again. My friend and I are on a Vietnamese tour in a month. We begin in Hanoi and visit places on the way to Ankor Wat. We travel from Hue to Hoi An by tour bus!! Hope all goes well for us linhmartin. We are going to have a ball. I have read many V history, cultural and fictional books and feel I know a tiny bit about the country. Thanks for your wonderful comments. Cheers
    23rd Jan 2015
    You'll be fine, Mardi - it's only 2 hrs from Hue. I was warning against the much longer bus trips from Hanoi and Saigon. Enjoy the stunning views from the top of Hai Van pass!

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